Friday, July 24, 2020

Gentle & Lowly Good News: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers




In the four Gospel accounts given to us in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John89 chapters of biblical textthere's only one place where Jesus tells us about His own heart: 'I am gentle and lowly in heart' (Matthew 11:29). + Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly 


In continuing to consider the Gospel of Jesus after reflecting on 
Praying Good NewsSharing Good News, Working Good NewsReconciling Good NewsForgiving Good NewsBefriending Good News
World-Altering Good NewsExperiencing Good News, and Groaning Good News, we are now going to take a deeper look at another crucial aspect of the abundant life Jesus offers: Gentle and Lowly Good News that is aligned with His gracious and gently heart.

In what is sure to be one of my favorite books published in 2020,  Dane Ortlund captures the gentle and lowly heart of Christ in Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers anchored in 3 key texts for me (among others):

I am gentle and lowly in heart. + Jesus (Matthew 11:29) 
(Jesus) can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward (Hebrews 5:2). 
Whoever comes to Me I will never cast out. + Jesus (John 6:37)

As he writes in his introduction, Ortlund invites you and I to receive these truths even if we are ...

... the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty. Those running on fumes. ... Those of us who find ourselves thinking: "How could I mess up that bad again?" It is for that increasing suspicion that God's patience with us is wearing thin. For those of us who know God loves us but suspect we have deeply disappointed Him. Who have told others of the love of Christ yet wonder if—as for us—He harbors mild resentment. Who wonder if we shipwrecked our lives beyond what can be repaired. ... Who have been swept off our feet by perplexing pain and are wondering how we can keep living under such numbing darkness.

If that feels like you, or that intrigues you to learn more about such a Christ who can deal with all of us in the midst of our doubts, fears, and failures, I invite you to keep reading the adapted excerpts below from Chapter 5: He Can Deal Gently and Chapter 6: I Will Never Cast Out.

Chapter 5: He Can Deal Gently


The deeper into weakness and suffering and testing we go, the deeper Christ's solidarity with us. 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. ... 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 Him, 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.

Chapter 6: He Will Not Cast Out


In the course of pronouncing Himself the Bread of Life giving to the spiritually hungry (John 6:32-40), Jesus declares: All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out. ... Consider what Jesus says:

"All ... ," not "most": Once the Father sets His loving gaze on a wandering sinner, that sinner's rescue is certain. 
" ... the Father ... ": Our redemption is not a matter of a gracious Son trying to calm down an uncontrollably angry Father. The Father Himself ordains our deliverance. He takes the loving initiative. 
" ... gives ... " not "haggles over": It is the Father's deep delight to freely entrust recalcitrant rebels into the gracious care of His Son. 
" ... will come ... ": God's saving purpose for a sinner is never thwarted. He is never frustrated. He never runs out of resources. If the Father calls us, we will come to Christ. 
" ... and whoever comes ... ": Yet we are not robots. While the Father is clearly the sovereign overseer of our redemption, we are not dragged kicking and screaming into Christ against our will.

John Bunyan further elaborates on our potential responses:
But I am a great sinner, say you. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. 
But I am an old sinner, say you. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. 
But I am a hard-hearted sinner, say you. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. 
But I am a backsliding sinner, say you. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. 
But I have served Satan all my days, say you. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. 
But I have sinned against light, say you. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. 
But I have sinned against mercy, say you. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. 
But I have no good thing to bring with me, say you. "I will in no wise cast out," says Christ. 
The promise was provided to answer all objections, and does answer them.  
+ John Bunyan, Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ

Fallen, anxious sinners are limitless in our capacity to perceive reasons for Jesus to cast us out. We are factories of fresh resistance to Christ's love. Even when we run out of tangible reasons to be cast out, such as specific sins or failures, we tend to retain a vague sense that, given enough time, Jesus will finally grow tired of us and hold us at arm's length. Bunyan understands us. He knows we tend to deflect Christ's assurances.

"No wait"—we say, cautiously approaching Jesus—"you don't understand. I've really messed up, in all kinds of ways." I know, Jesus responds. 
"You know most of it, sure. Certainly more than what others see. But there's perversity down inside me that is hidden from everyone." I know it all.  
"Well—the thing is, it isn't just my past. It's my present, too." I understand. 
"But I don't know if I can break free of this any time soon." That's the only kind of person I'm here to help. 
"The burden is heavy—and heavier all the time." Then let Me carry it. 
"It's too much to bear." Not for Me. 
"You don't get it. My offenses aren't directed toward others. They're against You." Then I am the One most suited to forgive them. 
"But the more of the ugliness in me You discover, the sooner You'll get fed up with me." Whoever comes to Me I will never cast out.  
With mouth-stopping defiance Bunyan concludes his list of objections we raise to coming to Jesus. "This promise was provided to answer all objections, and does answer them." Case closed. 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 resume 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.   
Fatherlike He tends and spares us. 
Well our feeble frame He knows. 
In His hand He gently bears us. 
Rescues us from all our foes. + H.F. Lyte, 1834

Previous Good News posts: 

Praying Good News: Believing the Simply Good News of Praying the "Our Father" or Lord's Prayer 
Sharing Good News: Getting Beyond the Awkward and Talking about Jesus Outside Our Comfort Zones 
Working Good News: Discipling for Monday through Friday in Our Work and Workplaces 
Reconciling Good News: Moving with God in Welcoming Justice and Building Beloved Community 
Forgiving Good News: Making Peace Through the Divine Dance of Forgiveness  
Befriending Good News: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission with Friends Who Live Life on the Margins
World-Altering Good News: Partnering with God to Rebirth Our Communities  
Experiencing Good News: Celebrating the Presence of Christ in Communion Together  
Groaning Good News: Making Peace with Creation and Each Other Through King Jesus, Our Creator and Reconciler

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

No comments:

Post a Comment