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Surprised by Jesus: Dane Ortlund

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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March 7, 2023 5:15 am

Surprised by Jesus: Dane Ortlund

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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March 7, 2023 5:15 am

Ready to be surprised by Jesus? Bestselling author Dane Ortlund reflects on subversive grace as it uniquely emerges in each of the four Gospels.

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All right, let's play a little game here. I just thought of this. I thought this could be fun.

Oh, no. I'm going to give you five truths or things that you wanted to impart to Christian families. Like, what really, really matters that you don't want to get this wrong?

I feel so much pressure right now. And I just made this up. Like, of the five, which one do you think families misunderstand the most? And again, this could be a list of 50. I just thought the first five that came to my mind were the attributes. The attributes of God or the character of God. Ten commandments.

Like, you don't want to get this wrong. Hermeneutics or exegesis or interpretation of the Bible to really understand the word correctly. The grace of God. And as a pastor, I had to add this one, tithing. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at or on the Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. Now, I think the last one's the one you don't want to misunderstand. I'm kidding. But I mean, when you look at that— So, the ones that are most misunderstood. Which is the one—you've got to pick one. Oh.

Which one of those five you like, they can't get this one wrong? The first inclination would have been the attributes or character of God. Theology proper. Yeah. But, Dane Ortlund is here, and he's written a book about grace, and that would probably be number two is grace. I don't think we understand it, and we certainly don't live by it often.

I don't, personally, because I don't feel like I deserve grace. Wow. Well, I mean, Dane's here, and we can ask him, but I think—this is what I think, Dane. Tithing, correct. Yeah, exactly.

We're going to send this to your church and my church. No, I mean, I was thinking, the way you write, and even as we've talked to you, I think what Ann just said—I didn't connect this till she said it—theology proper, understanding the character and attributes of God and grace— Are the same. Are the same. Yes. If you don't get this right, you don't get the other right. I love what you just said. I mean, these are not two different things that we're talking about that are totally separated.

Yeah. Let's talk about it a little bit. You know, your latest book, Surprised by Jesus, is looking at that.

It's like, if you really look at him and study him, you're going to be surprised by what? At how relaxed and calm you can be as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whoa, whoa, whoa. What's that? I didn't expect to hear that.

Relaxed and calm. That doesn't even fit in my category. And I love how you said it so calmly. I mean, wouldn't you guys testify?

I would. If you shine a flashlight in my face at 2.30 a.m. and say, what does the Lord Jesus want from you? And I don't have time to get my wits about me first. I will certainly think, if I don't say, he wants me to do better. He wants me to sacrifice more. He wants me to get my act together. You are such a stinky disciple, Dane. When are you going to act?

You write books? What are you doing? The Lord Jesus Christ, he wants me to draw from the oxygen tank of his loving heart of grace and calm down. That's one way to put it. And let him be a friend to me and walk through life with his arm around me through the miseries of this beautiful but merciless world into the glories of the next with a friend who has died for me and rose again but is also right now loving me on terms of grace every day along the way. This is not the way many churches, I think, are talking about him.

It's not the way I've thought about the Lord Jesus for most of my life, guys. I'm growing. I feel like a toddler in this, stumbling along, falling down. Oh, get back up again.

But I'm loving what I'm learning. What hit me, Dane, when you said that right now is we are in a world coming out of COVID that is not calm. It's like the opposite. I have images in my mind as you say that when I pop on Facebook and I see fights and stands at football games. I'm like, that happened before, but it's at a level now that people are angry. They're hurt.

They're carrying stuff. Calm is not something you feel right now, but man, what a beautiful picture of what we need. It's the grace and gospel of the kingdom, of Jesus. And I also think every time we interview you, Dane, I just have tears coming down my face because I'm reminded of the beauty of the gospel. I'm reminded of his love. And I think about our sons. They're grown now, but when they come to my house, I have this overwhelming sense of joy, excitement. And if they came in and they're like, Mom, I'm messing up. I'm sorry for this. I'm sorry. I'm like, I'm just so happy to be with you. And I feel like that's what you're saying.

The Father is thrilled to be with us. And I don't live like that. I live in my achieving.

I need to do and do and do. And Ann, wouldn't you say if one of your sons walked in and actually they were doing worse than ever, or they were really despairing or they had really done something to royally screw up their lives, you would hug them all the more. Your heart.

I mean, there's an even deeper embrace of grace at that point. So I agree, guys, anger, anxiety. The counselors I talk to are booked and can't take anymore. The therapists, people are depressed, anxious.

The RPMs inside of us are way up high right now. And one thing I want to do through this book is just say, hey, take a breath. You're going to make it if the Lord Jesus Christ, as he's given to us in these four gospel accounts, is that way and he is. Well, as you wrote this book, you looked at the Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You're looking at gospel accounts of the life of Jesus.

Walk us through it because they're different lenses, each one. They are. Yeah, they are. And they're mutually complementary. These are not different. You know, if we all went outside of the building we're sitting in right now and we had four of us looking at it from four different angles, we would describe the one same building a little bit differently. That's good.

That's beautiful. So these are four accounts describing the one person, but they all are making a different contribution. And I'd just like to put it this way, guys. Matthew is showing us the surprise of disobedient obedience, the way we will actually try to follow the rules in such a way that is as much grace deficit as breaking all the rules. Mark is the surprise of the king as a criminal. First half of Mark is, hey, he is the king.

It's up, up, up. Everyone is embracing him. Everyone likes Jesus in Mark 1 to 8. Then he heals the blind man in two phases.

Why did he do that? To show the disciples, this is what you guys are like. You understand I'm the king, but you don't yet understand Mark 8 through 16.

I'm going to be treated as a criminal, and it's down, down, down. So it's those two halves. The disciples are like that blind man when he just sees men like trees walking. They understand the glory of Christ, but not the rejection.

Luke, the surprise of outsiders as insiders, it's this crazy social inversion of those whom you would think would get it. Scribes, Pharisees, the religious, the seminary prophets of the day are strangely obtuse because they don't understand grace as well as they know the scripture. And the prostitutes and tax collectors are entering heaven ahead of them. That's Christ's own words. And John, the surprise that the Creator would become one of us, which in Jewish thinking is impossible to comprehend. And so those are the four distinct surprises, and each one is showing us the grace in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yeah, what a beautiful image. So walk us through Matthew, this disobedient obedience.

What does that mean? Well, here's what we see in Matthew, guys. If we were to look at the middle portions of Matthew, like Matthew 18 to 20, where Jesus is describing life in the kingdom, people are coming to him, and they're saying to him, what's the least I can do? What's the tax I have to pay morally to get God off my back and hopefully I'll have enough left over to live on? This is how we all pay our taxes. And it's how we think of life with God.

It's bracketing out grace. It's how we all naturally, intuitively believe. Or what's the minimum I can do to get into heaven? What's the minimum I can do?

Just to get the C- and pass the class or whatever. And so, for example, Peter comes up to Jesus, how many times must I forgive someone? What's the minimum I can do, Ann, to forgive?

Seven? And the Pharisees come up to Jesus and they say, hey, about divorce and marriage and so on, what do I have to do in order to be able to send away my wife but not be on God's bad side? What's the minimum I can do with regard to marriage? Then the rich young man comes up to Jesus, hey, what do I have to do to earn eternal life?

What's the least I have to do? And Jesus, to answer all of them, tells a parable, and it really gets at the heart of the gospel in Matthew. It's the landowner who goes out and he hires workers at different phases. You guys remember this, different times throughout the day. First of all, the fact that it's the landowner going out instead of sending his manager is amazing. Secondly, it's the fact that the workers are not coming to him and applying for a job, but he's seeking them out, that's grace. And then he pays them all the denarius at the end of the day. And the guys who are hired early in the morning are raging mad.

What's going on there? And the answer is the landowner is not giving the tenants that he hires what they have earned, he's giving them what they need. One denarius was enough to feed a family for a day. The last ones, it says he went out at the 11th hour, that's 5 p.m., the workday is 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in that culture. It says he went out at 5 p.m. at the 11th hour.

So by the time they got back and actually got working, they were probably about ready to close up shop. They got one denarius, what is going on? He doesn't give us what we have earned or what we deserve. He gives us what we need. And this is upending to what the religious elite were expecting all through the Gospel of Matthew, which is us too. And so the Gospel of Matthew is confronting and deconstructing that lawish way that we all tend to react. Yeah, and the Pharisee in me never liked that parable. You know, I'm being honest. It's just, I'm the guy that thinks, and we all do, I'm the guy who was here at 6 a.m., and this yahoo walks in at 5.45 and gets the same thing I do. That is not fair at all. It's the thief on the cross.

Yes. Yeah, and what we're doing is we are looking not at the landowner and what he's giving us, we're looking laterally at what we're comparing. And we always mess ourselves up. Things go haywire inside of us when we look laterally.

We want to look just at him. And we can do that, I think, as parents with our kids. For sure. You know, we compare one being more obedient, one less obedient, and we dispense grace in proportion to their obedience. That's right. And we'll pour fuel on that bad fire if we say, you know what, your brother, your sister doesn't do that. Well, then we're encouraging them to go lateral. And that's dysfunctional.

What does that look like in parenting and in your marriage, that grace piece? Because you're still disciplining. Our kids are always saying things like that. That's not fair. Yeah.

Yeah, they are. And sometimes they're right. We had an issue with one of our kids recently, and I needed to sit down with him and talk it through. And I knew he was going to feel some shame. The first words out of my mouth to him were, and I won't use his name here, but I used his name talking to him, were, I do not condemn you. I have as much love in my heart for you right now as I have ever had. And then I testified to him of my own sinfulness. And then I explained how, because I love you, I would be a bad dad if I let this go and didn't have the hard conversation that we need to have right now.

And then we took some steps also to put some things in place to try to help this not happen again. But what I wanted was the wraparound category of what he was feeling in that moment. I wanted the wraparound category to be safety, grace, love, stability. My affection for him was not being diluted or taking a hit.

If anything, it was growing actually. And so that's what I want. It's like in Galatians when Paul says the law came 430 years after the promise. Promise is the wraparound category.

We invert that. We think that law is a wraparound category to promise. In other words, how we are doing and how we're performing dictates promise, how God's promise of grace to us. And what I want to do is be the kind of dad where Galatians 3 is believable, that God is the kind of Father for whom promise is the wraparound category.

And our up and down law keeping is not affecting his promise of embrace of us. I want to give them a taste of that. And I think that if Stacy and I can give them the taste of grace in that way, I don't think they'll ever leave that. Oh, that's a master's class in parenting. Parenting. Is that something you've felt from your dad? Yes.

And I would say increasingly over the years, yes. And my mom both. I had great parents. You've met them.

They're amazing. And I am so thankful for them. But I mean, if nothing else, that conversation of what that could look like with a hard conversation as maybe our kids are all going to mess up. But to frame it with the beginning of my love for you couldn't be any greater than it is right now. That would make me as a child want to go to my father again.

I wouldn't be afraid of his shame or his condemnation because I know that I am well loved. That is the picture of grace. That's right. And you modeled that it's a balance because there isn't just. There's still consequences. It isn't just lavish upon, no consequences, no hard conversation. It's a little both. It's a both and. But I want the culture of my home.

That's it. Aroma. The aroma. I want it to feel. We have rules. It's like a human being, a body is both hard skeleton and flesh and heart. Both. I want both in my home, but the heart and the flesh to be what is, you know, the sparkle in the room. That's beautiful.

Okay. Talk about Mark. Gospel Mark. I'm preaching through Mark right now, guys, and I am learning a ton.

I am loving it. The earliest gospel, the shortest gospel, the punchiest gospel, the most mystifying gospel at times. But when Jesus, you know, heals that blind man, as I mentioned ago, in two phases. Why did he do that? He didn't have to do that. He raised people from the dead. He healed people that he couldn't see who were miles down the road in another town. And someone from the household came and said, hey, heal my servant. He could have bam, just like that, healed this blind man. It's the one time in Mark where he's both teaching and performing a miracle overlaid on one another. He's performing a miracle, and that is the teaching. Because he's saying, hey, disciples, I'm going to hold up a mirror and help you to see where you are currently at in your understanding of me. You understand half of me.

I have finally convinced you. In Mark chapter eight, hey, who do people say that I am? Some people say this, some ask, who do you say that I am? You are the Christ. Ding, ding, ding.

A plus on the test. Good job, Peter, speaking for all the disciples. Now what? Then he begins four times in chapters eight, nine, and 10, four times, and he never did it before that, to say, I'm going to let you guys know something. The Son of Man is going to be rejected. Be killed and rise again on the third day. He had never said that in the first half of the gospel.

He starts looping back to that time and again when you get to chapter eight, because he's filling out the second half of what his mission was and what he came to do. Yes, he's the coming king, but he didn't come to deal with the circumstantial problem of the Romans. He came to deal with the problem beneath the problem. The disciples and anyone who had trusted him themselves and their sin and guilt. Which people didn't get that.

No. That was all about freedom from the Romans. Yes, that's right. And that was a problem, but it wasn't the real problem beneath the problem.

It wasn't the core problem. And so that's the gospel of Mark. So as you are even preaching it right now, is it affecting your home? Wow. Well. I mean, I know when I was preaching and I was working on these sermons all week, it was real easy for me to compartmentalize, like, this is a sermon. This is for our congregation. My life is separate.

And it never was. It's like that would, you know, it's going to boil over into how I treat my own wife and kids. Well, you're a better pastor than I am because I didn't spend all week on my sermons.

You don't have to. I start Friday morning. And for me, it's a immerse myself in it Friday, kind of noodle a little bit Monday to Thursday, immerse Friday, and then it's actually an emotional ramp up for me.

Friday into Sunday morning. I don't understand these guys. And if you could do it, God bless you. Who can like write the first draft of their sermon and it's done by Wednesday morning.

And then they kind of tinker with it. Did you do that? No.

No. He played with it in his mind too, didn't you? I sort of did what you did. I was playing all week, maybe for a month, you know, and I jot a thing or here or there. But towards the end of the week, I just dive in.

And then I'd run to the pulpit because you're so excited. Look what I discovered. You have to let it out. You're all fired up about it. And I hope it's changing me, Dave. I don't know.

I don't want to put my wife in here. I hope it is. I want it to.

I believe it is. And you know, one of the things we see all through Mark is, okay, he'll say, this is a one, two pattern all through. He'll say, the son of man came to suffer, be rejected, die.

Oh yeah. And you guys take up your cross and follow me. Uh, you guys, do you want to be, what were you, hey guys, what were you talking about on the road?

Uh, they don't say anything because they're talking about who's going to be the greatest, Mark nine. So he says, Hey, just so you know, if you want to be great, and he picks up a little kid and hugs him, it says, it says he took him up in his arms, children who were like bottom of the social totem pole in that culture. This is greatness receiving such one. Oh, and if you hug a kid like this, you're actually hugging me. You're receiving me.

Oh, and if you receive me, you're receiving the one who sent me. So he's constantly saying, I came for this mission and you who belong to me, actually, there's a parallel reality here in your life of taking up a cross of rejection, of suffering, of death. But don't worry, just like me, it's a pattern you plunged down into death and then it's going to blossom up into glorious life in certain ways here and certainly in the next life. I mean, the beauty of us, as I hear you say that, I can just picture Jesus doing that. And in the same image I have in my mind, I see me not doing it.

I was like, man, I just fall so short, talk about needing grace. Like, man, I know this, I preach this, I study this and yet to live it is our call. Yes, it is. It is. And we don't do a very good job living it, but Mark doesn't end at chapter eight or chapter nine. It goes all the way to the cross. So it's okay.

Yeah. What about Luke? The surprise of outsiders is insiders.

I mean, I don't want to be mutually exclusive like this, you know, they overlap. But Luke in particular has a focus on Gentiles, on women, on those who are more socially kind of on the periphery, the people in the nosebleeds. So right from the start, an angel shows up and says, hey, Zechariah, you're going to have a son. And an angel shows up and says, hey, Mary, you're going to have a son too. Here's an established male religious professional.

And here is a young, probably teen, unwed young girl. And he is struck mute for a certain amount of time because he operates in unbelief. She later says, blessed is she who believed, talking about Mary, she acted in belief.

They both had a question, wait, how's this going to be? But he had unbelief operating. She had belief operating exactly what you would have expected the reverse. You would have thought this guy, Zechariah, he would have really understood it and Mary wouldn't have known what was going on.

She wouldn't have any faith. That's Luke one. And it happens time and time and time again throughout the gospel of Luke, which is two things. It's a caution, maybe even rebuke for those of us who have a lot going for us as the world looks at social realities, upper middle class, maybe a lot of advantage, good education, whatever. And it's a comfort and consolation for those who just feel like the world's against me. I have four strikes against me coming out into life and how actually you are the perfect candidate for Jesus to notice in the crowd and summon into his heart and walk with you through life. So that glorious social inversion is a picture of gospel grace there. I love that in each chapter, you kind of point out Jesus pulling in and drawing in that outcast. I remember being in the Middle East as well, talking to a woman who was Muslim. She was an outcast.

She has no voice there. And I remember her saying, when I read the gospel, she was crying saying that Jesus would have talked to me. Yes. Amen. He would have seen me and that had never happened in her life.

And so how she related probably to so many of these stories in scripture of like, he would have seen me and noticed me. It's remarkable. Yeah. It's beautiful. And it should be what those outside the church, outside the community of Christ feel from the church.

They should be drawn. And I don't think we're doing a real good job. We need to grow in that, don't we guys? For our churches to be places where someone can walk in, any sincere-hearted person can walk in and say, this is really different. This is not like, wait a minute, there's no VIP section up there. I was noticed here. Not only in the church, on the streets with the homeless person that we notice them. We see them. We lift their heads. And as you say, Luke 15, when the Pharisees say, this man sits and eats with sinners, I think Jesus is like, yeah, that's my badge.

You just complimented me. And they're trying to say, this is wrong. You're saying, no, that was a picture of, this is the heart of God.

Yeah. This is exactly who Jesus is drawn to. Not because they're any better, but because their hearts are open, they're malleable. They have felt need for the Lord Jesus Christ and his grace. So his grace can come flooding in and it's an open channel.

It's a good picture for all of us. If there is one thing you could say to a husband or a dad, and it could be a wife or a mom, about understanding this grace and applying it in their home, this is your last shot right here. Wow. You got, you know, a minute. What would you say? Well, I'd say, can I have 10 more minutes?

We're going to do that because we're going to have another episode. No. No grace. No.

This is the law. We're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Dane Ortlund on Family Life today. He's just so delightful. I've had him on my podcast as well on Real Life Loading by Family Life.

And I love talking with Dane Ortlund, clearly the Wilsons do as well. Well, he's going to share some thoughts in just a second on how to apply God's grace in our homes. But first, his book is called Surprised by Jesus, Subversive Grace in the Four Gospels. And we'll send you two copies as our thanks when you partner financially with us at That's one copy for you and one to give away.

You can get your copies when you give at or by calling 800-358-6329. That's 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. You know, if you're enjoying Dane today, you won't want to miss the 2024 Love Like You Mean It Marriage Cruise. He's going to be one of our speakers on that cruise.

I can't believe it. Our biggest sale is happening right now for the cruise. You can join us next February. Seems like a long way away, but it's actually not that far. You can join us in the Caribbean with many of your favorite Christian speakers and artists for a romantic week you will never forget. I've actually been on this cruise before.

It's absolutely incredible. You can learn more by going to and joining us next year. All right, here's Dane with some helpful words on how moms and dads, husbands and wives can apply God's surprising grace in the home. I would just want any dad or mom to be drowning their kids in messaging that the Lord Jesus Christ above, God the Father, is not assessing you with the same kind of lens you are feeling at your school in terms of popularity and good looks, athleticism.

That scale is upside down. Help your kid to understand that as he or she is walking out the door to school riddled with anxieties, I sure was riddled with anxieties and insecurity and fears, feeling alone. To the degree that they are feeling those awful things, the heart of the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ draws close. They find that irresistible. They are with you. Help your child to understand that.

Don't make your child think if you make the varsity team instead of the junior varsity team, then there's an accordant pleasure over you from God. It's the reverse of that, and everything in them resists that. That's why I say drown them in that messaging. You can't tell them once or twice.

It's not a truth to download once and then, oh, okay, thanks, dad. Off they go, and for 18 years, they got it. We don't, so we just want to keep immersing them in that. So how can you have a home that creates curiosity about God and inspires those around you to be curious too? Well, Dane Ortlund will be back with Dave and Anne tomorrow to talk about how to create a grace-filled home.

I know I could definitely use that. On behalf of Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-07 06:19:15 / 2023-03-07 06:31:45 / 13

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