The following quotes caught my attention as I read Dane Ortlund’s breathtaking new book, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Crossway, 2020).

The gospel offers us not only legal exoneration—inviolably precious truth!—it also sweeps us into Christ’s very heart. (15)

Jesus is not trigger-happy. Not harsh, reactionary, easily exasperated. He is the most understanding person in the universe. The posture most natural to him is not a pointed finger but open arms. (19)

[The] high and holy Christ does not cringe at reaching out and touching dirty sinners and numbed sufferers. Such embrace is precisely what he loves to do. He cannot bear to hold back. We naturally think of Jesus touching us the way a little boy reaches out to touch a slug for the first time—face screwed up, cautiously extending an arm, giving a yelp of disgust upon contact, and instantly withdrawing. . . . This is why we need a Bible. Our natural intuition can only give us a God like us. (24)

As we go down into pain and anguish, we are descending ever deeper into Christ’s very heart, not away from it. Look to Christ. He deals gently with you. It’s the only way he knows how to be. He is the high priest to end all high priests. As long as you fix your attention on your sin, you will fail to see how you can be safe. But as long as you look to this high priest, you will fail to see how you can be in danger. Looking inside ourselves, we can anticipate only harshness from heaven. Looking out to Christ, we can anticipate only gentleness. (57)

We cannot present a reason for Christ to finally close off his heart to his own sheep. No such reason exists. Every human friend has a limit. If we offend enough, if a relationship gets damaged enough, if we betray enough times, we are cast out. The walls go up. With Christ, our sins and weaknesses are the very resumé items that qualify us to approach him. Nothing but coming to him is required—first at conversion and a thousand times thereafter until we are with him upon death. (64)

For those united to him, the heart of Jesus is not a rental; it is your new permanent residence. You are not a tenant; you are a child. His heart is not a ticking time bomb; his heart is the green pastures and still waters of endless reassurances of his presence and comfort, whatever our present spiritual accomplishments. It is who he is. (66)

Intercession is the constant hitting “refresh” of our justification in the court of heaven. . . . The Son’s intercession does not reflect the coolness of the Father but the sheer warmth of the Son. Christ does not intercede because the Father’s heart is tepid toward us but because the Son’s heart is so full toward us. But the Father’s own deepest delight is to say yes to the Son’s pleading on our behalf. (80)

In Jesus Christ, we are given a friend who will always enjoy rather than refuse our presence. This is a companion whose embrace of us does not strengthen or weaken depending on how clean or unclean, how attractive or revolting, how faithful or fickle, we presently are. The friendliness of his heart for us subjectively is as fixed and stable as is the declaration of his justification of us objectively. (115)

Left to our own natural intuitions about God, we will conclude that mercy is his strange work and judgment his natural work. Rewiring our vision of God as we study the Scripture, we see, helped by the great teachers of the past, that judgment is his strange work and mercy his natural work. He does afflict and grieve the children of men. But not from his heart. (144)

Not once are we told that God is “provoked to love” or “provoked to mercy.” His anger requires provocation; his mercy is pent up, ready to gush forth. We tend to think: divine anger is pent up, spring-loaded; divine mercy is slow to build. It’s just the opposite. Divine mercy is ready to burst forth at the slightest prick. (For fallen humans, we learn in the New Testament, this is reversed. We are to provoke one another to love, according to Hebrews 10:24. Yahweh needs no provoking to love, only to anger. We need no provoking to anger, only to love. Once again, the Bible is one long attempt to deconstruct our natural vision of who God actually is.) (148–49)

The Christian life, from one angle, is the long journey of letting our natural assumption about who God is, over many decades, fall away, being slowly replaced with God’s own insistence on who he is. . . . The fall in Genesis 3 not only sent us into condemnation and exile. The fall also entrenched in our minds dark thoughts of God, thoughts that are only dug out over multiple exposures to the gospel over many years. Perhaps Satan’s greatest victory in your life today is not the sin in which you regularly indulge but the dark thoughts of God’s heart that cause you to go there in the first place and keep you cool toward him in the wake of it. (151–52)

Our naturally decaffeinated views of God’s heart might feel right because we’re being stern with ourselves, not letting ourselves off the hook too easily. Such sternness feels appropriately morally serious. But this deflecting of God’s yearning heart does not reflect Scripture’s testimony about how God feels toward his own. God is of course morally serious, far more than we are. But the Bible takes us by the hand and leads us out from under the feeling that his heart for us wavers according to our loveliness. God’s heart confounds our intuitions of who he is. (166–67)

On the cross, we see what God did to satisfy his yearning for us. He went that far. He went all the way. The blushing effusiveness of heaven’s bowels funneled down into the crucifixion of Christ. Repent of your small thoughts of God’s heart. Repent and let him love you. (170)

Nowhere else in the Bible is God described as rich in anything. The only thing he is called rich in is: mercy. What does this mean? It means that God is something other than what we naturally believe him to be. It means the Christian life is a lifelong shedding of tepid thoughts of the goodness of God. In his justice, God is exacting; in his mercy, God is overflowing. (172)

The evidence of Christ’s mercy toward you is not your life. The evidence of his mercy toward you is his—mistreated, misunderstood, betrayed, abandoned. Eternally. In your place. If God sent his own Son to walk through the valley of condemnation, rejection, and hell, you can trust him as you walk through your own valleys on your way to heaven. (179)

That God is rich in mercy means that your regions of deepest shame and regret are not hotels through which divine mercy passes but homes in which divine mercy abides. It means the things about you that make you cringe most, make him hug hardest. It means his mercy is not calculating and cautious, like ours. It is unrestrained, flood-like, sweeping, magnanimous. It means our haunting shame is not a problem for him, but the very thing he loves most to work with. It means our sins do not cause his love to take a hit. Our sins cause his love to surge forward all the more. It means on that day when we stand before him, quietly, unhurriedly, we will weep with relief, shocked at how impoverished a view of his mercy-rich heart we had. (179–80)

There are two ways to live the Christian life. You can live it either for the heart of Christ or from the heart of Christ. You can live for the smile of God or from it. For a new identity as a son or daughter of God or from it. For your union with Christ or from it. The battle of the Christian life is to bring your own heart into alignment with Christ’s, that is, getting up each morning and replacing your natural orphan mind-set with a mind-set of full and free adoption into the family of God through the work of Christ your older brother, who loved you and gave himself for you out of the overflowing fullness of his gracious heart. (181)

There is an entire psychological substructure that, due to the fall, is a near-constant manufacturing of relational leveraging, fear-stuffing, nervousness, score-keeping, neurotic-controlling, anxiety-festering silliness that is not something we say or even think so much as something we exhale. You can smell it on people, though some of us are good at hiding it. And if you trace this fountain of scurrying haste, in all its various manifestations, down to the root, you don’t find childhood difficulties or a Myers-Briggs diagnosis or Freudian impulses. You find gospel deficit. You find lack of felt awareness of Christ’s heart. All the worry and dysfunction and resentment are the natural fruit of living in a mental universe of law. The felt love of Christ really is what brings rest, wholeness, flourishing, shalom—that existential calm that for brief, gospel-sane moments settles over you and lets you step in out of the storm of of-works-ness. You see for a moment that in Christ you truly are invincible. The verdict really is in; nothing can touch you. He has made you his own and will never cast you out. (185–86)

God didn’t meet us halfway. He refused to hold back, cautious, assessing our worth. That is not his heart. He and his Son took the initiative. On terms of grace and grace alone. In defiance of what we deserved. When we, despite our smiles and civility, were running from God as fast as we could, building our own kingdoms and loving our own glory, lapping up the fraudulent pleasures of the world, repulsed by the beauty of God and shutting up our ears at his calls to come home—it was then, in the hollowed-out horror of that revolting existence, that the prince of heaven bade his adoring angels farewell. It was then that he put himself into the murderous hands of these very rebels in a divine strategy planned from eternity past to rinse muddy sinners clean and hug them into his own heart despite their squirmy attempt to get free and scrub themselves clean on their own. (191)

God made the world so that his Son’s heart had an outlet. We don’t use a word like benevolence much today; it means a disposition to be kind and good, a crouched coil of compassion ready to spring. Picture a dammed-up river, pent up, engorged, ready to burst forth—that is the kindness in the heart of Christ. He is infinitely benevolent, and human history is his opportunity to “open and pour forth all that immense fountain of condescension, love, and grace.” The creation of the world, and the ruinous fall into sin that called for a re-creative work, un-dammed the heart of Christ. And Christ’s heart flood is how God’s glory surges forth further and brighter than it ever could otherwise. (207)