Some of our staff is slowly reading through Dane Ortlund’s Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners together. Like his book, Gentle and Lowly, it’s beautifully written and is simultaneously rich in theology, warm and pastoral in its tone, and immensely practical. I appreciate how he communicates deep truths in uncomplicated ways.
The thrust of the book is that to change or to grow, we grow in Jesus, meaning knowing more of who he is and then what means for us who are united to him. “Our growth is not independent personal improvement. It is growth in Christ.”
Chapter One focuses on Jesus and reminds us that too often we settle for a thin view of Jesus.He writes, “Let me suggest that you consider the possibility that your current mental idea of Jesus is the tip of the iceberg. That there are wondrous depths to him, realities about him, still awaiting your discovery.”
In this chapter, he focuses on seven facets of Christ (admitting many more could be explored). They are: ruling, saving, befriending, persevering, interceding, returning, and tenderness.
“The point of this exercise is to bring the living Christ himself into sharper, starker contrast, to see him loom larger and more radiant and more glorious than ever before—to trade in our snorkel and face mask for scuba gear that takes us down into depths we’ve never peered into before—and to seek Christian growth out of an accurate and ever-deepening vision of the Christ to whom we have been united.”
I found these seven facets such a helpful way to set our minds and hearts on Jesus that I typed up an outline. Feel free to use it to dive deeper into who Jesus is and as an encouragement to pick up this book.
Outline of Chapter One’s Seven Aspects of Jesus
1. Ruling—Jesus is reigning today as the Ruler of the cosmos, the Church, and my life.
Verses: Matt. 28:18; Col. 1:17; Phil. 2:10; Rev. 1:13-17.
“He is not hoping to be in charge; he rules supremely now. The world’s sidelining of his authority does not reflect the reality of that authority. From heaven’s perspective, everything is going according to plan. Jesus Christ is overseeing all that happens, both in the church and in world history at large…. This supreme reign holds true not only for the cosmos and for world history but also for your own little life. He sees you. He knows you. Nothing is hid from his gaze.”
“Have you reduced the Lord Jesus to a safe, containable, predictable Savior who pitches in and helps out your otherwise smoothly running existence? Have you treated what is spiritually nuclear as a double-A battery? Might one reason we stall out in our growth in Christ be that we have unwittingly domesticated the expansive authority and rule of Jesus Christ over all things?”
- Worship Jesus as the sovereign ruler over all things who is seated in power now.
- Trust Jesus with the details and circumstances of my life, both where He has me right now but also what I need in Him and from Him in the place He has me.
- Submit my entire life to Jesus as Lord and King and confess my dependence on Him in every area rather than asking Him to “pitch in” and help out on occasion.
- Do I see Jesus as the sovereign ruler of the world and my life, or do I often view my life and circumstances as accidental and without purpose or plan?
- Do I try to be the rule of my life and occasionally ask for assistance from Jesus, or do I surrender all things to Him?
2. Saving—We need more than Jesus to help us; we need Jesus to save us.
Verses: Eph. 2:1-6; Luke 7:36-50; 19:10.
“In our ongoing walk with the Lord now, do we functionally believe that the healthy Christian life is basically a matter of our efforts, baptized with a little extra push from Jesus?”
“One reason our spiritual growth grinds down is that we gradually lose a heart sense of the profound length to which Jesus went to save us…When we were running full speed the other direction, he chased us down, subdued our rebellion, and opened our eyes to see our need of him and his all-sufficiency to meet that need. We were not drowning, in need of being thrown a life-preserver; we were stone-dead at the bottom of the ocean. He pulled us up, breathed new life into us, and set us on our feet—and every breath we now draw is owing to his full and utter deliverance of us in all our helplessness and death.”
- Thank Jesus with gratitude for the fullness of our salvation in Him and the degree to which He pursued, sacrificed for, and saved us.
- Not ignore, hide, justify, or play down our desperation and dependence on Jesus as believers but lean into these things so they continually lead us to Jesus.
- Remember my own testimony as well as God’s continual mercy and grace to me as a believer, but also ask others to share their story of Christ saving them.
- Am I still grateful to God for His mercy and grace to me in my sin—both before Christ but also continually as a sinner and saint in Christ?
- Do I remain aware of my complete dependence on Jesus as Savior in every area of my life versus just seeing Him as a Helper when I can’t fix things?
3. Befriending—Jesus knows us, loves us, and draws near to us as his dear friends.
Verses: John 15:15; Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34.
“Around Jesus, sinners—those who know themselves to be sinners—feel safe. They find themselves both known to be guilty and embraced in love, rather than one or the other.”
“But if this is a Savior who draws near to us, who is repelled only by self-righteousness but never by acknowledged shame and weakness, there is no limit to just how deep a transformation is possible in us. It is at our point of deepest guilt and regret that his friendship embraces us most assuredly, most steadfastly. If he is the friend of sinners, and if you know yourself to be a sinner, then let him befriend you more deeply than you ever have. Open up to him as you do to no other earthly friend. Let him love you as the friend of failures, the invincible ally of the weak.”
- Fight lies about how God views us in our sin (if we’re in Christ) by remembering His great mercy, love, and forgiveness to us in our sin because of the gospel.
- Continually remind myself of both Christ’s transcendence and his nearness, that He is the sovereign, saving Lord but simultaneously my greatest friend.
- Take steps to draw near to Jesus—or allow Him to draw close—rather than keep Him at a “safe distance” because of fear, insecurity, pride, or shame.
- What keeps me from viewing and relating to Jesus as friend?
- When I sin and mess up, to I run from Jesus or run to Jesus? Why?
- If Jesus came, not to keep us at as safe distance but to draw near, how might I step into this by embracing His nearness rather than keeping Him at a distance?
4. Persevering—Jesus is a non-vacillating friend whose love and kindness does not dry up.
Verses: John 13:1; Rom. 5:6-10.
“Jesus binds himself to his people. No expiration date. No end of the road. Our side of commitment will falter and stumble, but his never does.”
“We will not grow in Christ if we view his presence and favor as a ticking clock, ready for an alarm to go off once we fail him enough. We can flourish into deeper health only as the truth settles over us that once Jesus has brought us to himself, he will never be looking for an off-ramp. He will stick by us to the end. In that knowledge we calm down and begin to flourish. One Bible scholar rightly called our growth in Christ ‘a strangely relaxed kind of strenuousness.’ We strain forward, but it is a straining that is at the same time relaxed, because it has been settled in our hearts that we cannot sin our way out of the grip of Jesus.”
- Do not let my understanding of myself or others in our flakiness and wavering love dilute my view of Jesus. He is constant, unwavering, enduring, and committed to me—and not because of who I am or what I’ve done but because of who He is.
- Rest in the gospel, which means Jesus is still for me and with me, even if it’s hard to imagine or I wouldn’t be “for me” if I was in His place.
- Do I think rightly about Jesus and His unrelenting grace and steadfast love to me at all times, or when I struggle, stumble, and sin do I think Jesus now relates to me based on my works rather than His grace?
- Do I believe that Jesus if fully and forever for me or do I often think He must be frustrated, disappointed, or angry with me? How does this affect my walk with Him?
5. Interceding—Jesus is interceding for and offering help to us right now.
Verses: Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25.
“We will grow in Christ only as we recognize the ally Jesus Christ is to us, now in heaven. He did not die and rise again on our behalf back then only to stand now with arms crossed seeing how we’ll do in response. He continues to work on our behalf—he goes “to the uttermost” for us—advocating for us when no one else will, not even we ourselves. He is more committed to your growth in him than you are.”
- Rest in Christ’s finished atoning work on our behalf that is continually present before the Father and assures us we are forgiven, justified, loved, and welcomed.
- See Christ as my Helper today I can turn too in time of need—and not someone who lived in the past or is out on retirement.
- Do I only think in terms of what Jesus did for me (in the past) or do I think and act in light of who Jesus is and what He does for me right now as my High Priest?
- If I believed Jesus was my Advocate, Intercessor, and High Priest working for me, how might that change the way I live today?
6. Returning—Jesus will return soon and we will receive judgment or grace.
Verses: 2 Thess. 1:7-8; Acts 17:31; Matt. 24:36, 42; 1 Thess. 4:16.
“It is hard to move forward in the Christian life if we allow ourselves to be lulled into the monotonous sense that this world will simply roll on forever as it currently is.”
- Live with a sense of urgency and prioritize now what matters for eternity.
- Be on guard against living as if eternity is way “out there” and life as we know it will go on forever, which leads to neglect of the eternal and prioritization of the present.
- If Jesus were to return in my lifetime, how might that change the way I live?
- What is faithful living and faithful waiting as we live now as Christ’s ambassadors?
7. Tender—Jesus is gentle and lowly, kind to us and drawing near to us in our weakness.
Verses: Matt. 11:29
“Peer down into the deepest recesses of Jesus Christ and there we find: gentleness and lowliness…. What we must see is not only that Jesus is gentle toward you but that he is positively drawn toward you when you are most sure he doesn’t want to be. It’s not only that he is not repelled by your fallenness—he finds your need and emptiness and sorrow irresistible.”
- View Jesus as gentle and lowly not just in general but toward me. His disposition toward me isn’t frustration that pushes me away but tenderness that draws near.
- Fight the urge to turn back to my works, my performance, and my religious deeds to “make God happy with me” but live by faith in the gospel, which says God’s smile is upon me fully and forever because of what Christ has done for me and who I am in Him.
- Am I convinced that Jesus’ posture toward me is of open arms rather than crossed arms?
- How should the tenderness, gentleness, grace, and lowliness of Jesus compel us to draw near to Him for mercy and help?