Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners by Dane Ortlund. Crossway. 193 pages. 2021
This excellent book by Dane Ortlund, author of Gentle and Lowly, is a part of the Union Series. A concise edition of the book, titled How Does God Change Us? is also available. My wife Tammy and I heard the author speak about the book at a seminar at the recent 2021 Sing! Conference.
Ortlund tells us that this is a book about growing in Christ, or using the theological term, sanctification. His resounding theme in the book is that the Christian life is at heart a matter not of doing more or behaving better but of going deeper. He tells us that growing in Christ is not improving or adding or experiencing but deepening. Implicit in the notion of deepening is that we already have what we need. Christian growth is bringing what we do and say and even feel into line with what, in fact, we already are. The nine chapters of the book are not sequential steps in growing; they are different facets of the one diamond of growth.
The author tells us that the book is for the frustrated. The exhausted. Those on the brink. Those on the verge of giving up any real progress in their Christian growth, which could be the majority of us. He encourages us not to consume this book but to reflect our way through it. I found that to be a good approach. Much like Gentle and Lowly, I read this book slowly.
Among the topics covered in the book include self-despair, union with Christ, the Bible, prayer, the Holy Spirit, mortification of sin and the Psalms. Throughout the book the author shares quotes from figures from the past such as C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Martin Luther, Robert Murray McCheyne and others.
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Below are my favorite quotes from the book:
- If you are not growing in Christ, one reason may be that you have drifted out of the salutary and healthy discipline of self-despair. Pave the way for real growth in Christ through deep, honest, healthy despair.
- Union with Christ is the umbrella doctrine within which every benefit of salvation is subsumed. When we are united to Christ, we get all these benefits.
- Our sins loom large. They seem so insurmountable. But Christ and your union with him loom larger still.
- The whole Bible is a united storyline of our need for a Savior and of God’s provision of one.
- If Jesus himself was willing to journey down into the suffering of hell, you can bank everything on his love as you journey through your own suffering on your way up to heaven.
- The process of sanctification is, in large part, fed by constant returning, ever more deeply, to the event of justification. We grow by going deeper into the justification that forgave us in the first place.
- You are restricting your growth if you do not move through life doing the painful, humiliating, liberating work of cheerfully bringing your failures out from the darkness of secrecy into the light of acknowledgment before a Christian brother or sister.
- In the gospel we are united to Christ not because of any loveliness in us but only because of his own capacious loving heart.
- Pain will foster growth like nothing else can—if we will let it. When pain comes, it is not simply to hurt us, to teach us a lesson, to whip us into shape; it is from a tender Father, for our healing.
- Our tears do not hinder growth. Our tears accelerate and deepen growth. Let your tears, and the wounds they reflect, take you deeper with Christ than you could ever otherwise go.
- Sin feels like riches, but it is counterfeit riches, and one very quickly hits bottom on its pleasures. It doesn’t deliver. Christ, on the other hand, is real riches, and one never hits bottom on them. They are unsearchable.
- There is no special technique to mortifying sin. You simply open your Bible and let God surprise you each day with the wonder of his love, proven in Christ and experienced in the Spirit.
- Reading the Bible is inhaling. Praying is exhaling.
- The Bible is different from other books in the way rainfall is different from your garden hose—it comes from above and provides a kind of nourishment far beyond what our own resources can provide.
- The Bible is good news. It must be read as gospel. And the result of this approach is transforming reading. We grow.
- Make the Bible your central daily ritual.
- The most effective way to pray is to turn your Bible reading into prayer. And the best way to read the Bible is prayerfully.
- I propose to you, as you grow in Christ, that you form the vital habit of making the book of Psalms your lifelong companion. Befriend the Psalms deeply. Never go too long without making them your own prayers.
- Everything that we experience of God is the working of the Spirit. That is true at conversion, as the Spirit opens our eyes to our sin and Christ’s saving offer. And it is true of our growth.
- The third person of the Trinity does his work by spotlighting the second person of the Trinity.
- The Spirit is the effectual cause of your growth, but Christ is the object to contemplate in your growth.
- Look to Christ. You will grow in Christ as you direct your gaze to Christ. If you take your eyes off of Jesus Christ and direct your gaze to your own growth, you will prevent the very growth you desire.
- Be astonished at the gracious heart of Jesus Christ, proven in his atoning work in the past and his endless intercession in the present. Receive his unutterable love for sinners and sufferers. Stop resisting. Let him draw near to you. Gaze upon him.
- On Gentle and Lowly (with Dane Ortlund). On this episode of the Pastors Talk podcast, Jonathan Leeman and Mark Dever visit with Dane Ortlund about his book Gentle and Lowly, and how it ought to shape pastors and local churches.
- Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy recently published a book about HOW to study the Bible. The book is available on Amazon in both a Kindle and paperback edition. She writes “Maybe you’ve read the Bible but want to dig deeper and know God and know yourself better. Throughout the book I use the analogy of making a quilt to show how the Bible is telling one big story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Quilting takes much patience and precision, just like studying the Bible, but the end result is well worth it.”
- How Should Christians Think About Productivity? Brandon D. Crowe reviews Jordan Raynor’s new book Redeeming Your Time. He writes “Raynor has provided a solid addition to a growing list of explicitly Christian approaches on how to invest our time and labors most effectively for the glory of God and the benefit of others.”
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which he will be completely successful in the achievement of his ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries his plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
You can download the PDF of the book free from Desiring God.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book, and this interview with Dr. Joe Rigney of Bethlehem College & Seminary.
This week we look at Chapter 20: Israel’s Divine King Is King of the Nations. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:
- The people of God today, the Christian church, made up of those who trust the Messiah, Jesus Christ, does not have a single ethnic, political, or national identity.
- The church is not a nation, and therefore does not relate to nations the way Israel did.
- The Old Testament record of God’s providence over nations and kings is relevant—even urgent—for Christians today.