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If you liked Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly, you should also read his newer book, How Does God Change Us? (Crossway, 2021). It is remarkable, and the following quotes caught my attention as I read it. (For an expanded version, see Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners.)


Growing in Christ is not centrally improving or adding or experiencing but deepening. Implicit in the notion of deepening is that you already have what you need. Christian growth is bringing what you do and say and even feel into line with what, in fact, you already are. (15–16)

Perhaps [Satan’s] greatest victory in your life is not a sin you are habitually committing but simply a sense of helplessness as to real growth. (16–17)

One common reason we fail to leave sin behind is that we have a domesticated view of Jesus. Not an unorthodox view; we are fully orthodox in our Christology. . . . [But] we have a domesticated view that, for all its doctrinal precision, has downsized the glory of Christ in our hearts. (19, 20)

There is a strange though consistent message throughout the Bible. We are told time and again that the way forward will feel like we’re going backward. . . . The Christian life is one of repenting our way forward. (25, 29)

Nothing can touch you that does not touch [Christ]. To get to you, every pain, every assault, every disappointment has to go through him. You are shielded by invincible love. He himself feels your anguish even more deeply than you do, because you’re one with him; and he mediates everything hard in your life through his love for you, because you’re one with him. (36)

Your growth in Christ will go no further than your settledness, way down deep in your heart, that God loves you. (41)

Your suffering does not define you. His does. (43)

Just as we ruin the comfort of justification if we make it internal, we ruin the reality of sanctification if we make it external. (49)

One vital aspect of growing in Christ is coming back time and again to the doctrine of justification to do chemotherapy on the remaining malignancies of our craving for human approval. (52)

We consign ourselves to plateaued growth in Christ if we yield to pride and fear and hide our sins. We grow as we own up to being real sinners, not theoretical sinners. All of us, as Christians, acknowledge generally that we are sinners. Rarer is the Christian who opens up to another about exactly how he or she is a sinner. But in this honesty, life blossoms. Walking in the light is killing the preening and parading, the mask-wearing, the veneer, the keeping up of appearances. It is collapsing into transparency. (56)

The keeping up of appearances is an exhausting way to live. (57)

Jesus, the clean one, was treated as dirty so that I, the dirty one, am treated as clean. (59)

Refusing to be honest with another is works righteousness in disguise; we are believing that we need to save face, retain uprightness of appearance. This is why confessing our sins to another naturally makes the gospel itself more real to us. (60)

Pain is not the islands of our life but the ocean; disappointment and let-down is the stage on which all of life unfolds, not an occasional blip on an otherwise comfortable and smooth life. (63)

Idolatry is the folly of asking a gift to be a giver. (64)

Right now, every one of us who is in Christ is either killing sin or being killed by sin. Either getting stronger or getting weaker. If you think you’re coasting, you’re actually going backward. It may feel as if you’re currently in neutral, but our hearts are like gardens: if we aren’t proactively rooting out the weeds, the weeds are growing. (66)

The Christian life—our growth in Christ—is nothing other than the lifelong deconstruction of what we naturally think and assume and the reconstruction of truth through the Bible. The Bible reeducates us. The Bible makes sages out of fools. It corrects us. But the Bible not only corrects us; it also oxygenates us. We need a Bible not only because we are wrong in our minds but also because we are empty in our souls. (72)

We do not need the Spirit to live a moral life, but we do need the Spirit to live a supernatural life. In other words, we don’t need the Spirit to be different on the outside; we do need the Spirit to be different on the inside. (80)

To grow as a disciple of Christ is not adding Christ to your life but collapsing into Christ as your life. (82)

Closed vents can’t be cleaned, full cups can’t be filled, and the Spirit does not enter where we are quietly operating out of self-dependence. But the distraught, the empty, the pleading, the self-despairing, those tired of paying the tax of obedience to God and trying to live on what’s left over—theirs are hearts irresistible to the humble Holy Spirit. (83)

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