Gentle and Lowly: Discussion of Chapter 7 — What Our Sins Evoke

Hi @Interested_In_Book_Studies,

This week we will meditate together on Hosea 11:8, “My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.”

This chapter begins on a more sobering note as Ortlund invites us to consider the nature of our sin:

The reason we feel as if divine wrath can easily be overstated is that we do not feel the true weight of sin.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, reflecting on this, said:

You will never make yourself feel that you are a sinner, because there is a mechanism in you as a result of sin that will always be defending you against every accusation. We are all on very good terms with ourselves, and we can always put up a good case for ourselves. Even if we try to make ourselves feel that we are sinners, we will never do it. There is only one way to know that we are sinners, and that is to have some dim, glimmering conception of God.

In other words, we don’t feel the weight of our sin because of: our sin.

When we do reckon with our sin, and God’s judgment upon it, we are preparing our hearts to understand the grace of God.

Which raises the question: what is the grace of God?

Ortlund peels away one important misconception, writing:

But the grace of God comes to us no more and no less than Jesus Christ comes to us. In the biblical gospel we are not given a thing; we are given a person.

So there is no way to experience grace apart from Jesus.

Therefore, we see a great divide based on whether or not we belong to him:

For those who do not belong to him, sins evoke holy wrath. How could a morally serious God respond otherwise?

But to those who do belong to him, sins evoke holy longing, holy love, holy tenderness.

For us, this is hard to hear and even harder to believe… or to have it settle into our hearts and lives.

As Ortlund summarizes:

The key observation is this: it is in consideration of his people’s sins that God’s heart goes out to them in compassion.

God looks at his people in all their moral filth. They have proven their waywardness time and again—not occasionally, but they “are bent on turning away from me” (v. 7). This is settled recalcitrance. But here’s the thing: they’re his.

It does take work - hard work - to understand God’s heart for us.

It is intellectually and willfully challenging to understand that when God sees us in the midst of sin so great we cannot comprehend it, he is drawn towards us in holy tenderness.

But what other hope do we have? Our sins cannot be resolved by a weekly visit to church, though of course that is an important and joyful routine for followers of Jesus. A daily quiet time will not be enough, though again, dedicating time each day to commune with God in his word is a blessing.

Nothing less than God’s constant commitment to us, and to our holiness, even in the midst of our sin and rebellion, will be enough. Our journey to maturity in Christ is dependent upon his constant compassion.

Discussion questions:

  1. What strategies do you employ to avoid the seriousness of your sin?
  2. How does God’s permanent commitment to you help you trust him?
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Busyness. Any kind of distraction. I will work until I am completely exhausted with intervals of contemplating all that is wrong in my life. I work even harder to get out of my own head with moments of relief but then go right back to the thoughts of my own “falling short of.” When I lay my head down on my pillow, I feel the distance I have created by avoiding that time of reflection where I sit before the Lord and pour out my heart.
When I awake, I can either repeat the madness of avoiding that time or, as I did this morning, go to my quiet place and ask God to speak to my heart. At first it is awkward. I’m expecting rejection but without fail, my trust in God is reinforced as I open my bible, my devotional, and a message that was prepared beforehand and tailor made for me this day. I am always blown away by this! “So unworthy, of such blessings.” Not because I am good but because He is good. Not because I am faithful but because He is faithful. I am so very very thankful and can enjoy the beautiful day that is before me because I am forgiven, because I am His!

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Greetings to all,

What strategies do I employ to avoid the seriousness of my sin? I focus on the finished work of Jesus when he declared, “It is finished.” Jesus came to fulfill the law, destroy the power of sin by becoming sin for us, and to destroy the works of the devil. Years ago, I declared to Jesus that I was a sinner in need of a savior. I asked him to forgive me of my many sins, and I invited him to take up residence in my heart. I believed in my heart, and I confessed with my mouth making me a child, adopted into the royal family of God. As Christ followers we must focus on our forgiveness, our righteousness, and our justification, and not on sin. If we have confessed our sinful state, and asked Jesus to forgive us, we are forgiven. God says that he does not remember our sins and lawless deeds; they are gone forever. As a disciple of Christ, I am not only declared righteous, but even flawless. By focusing on these things, and God’s mighty love for me, my heart sings of praise and thanksgiving to him throughout my day. His love, joy, peace, and contentment are my daily companions. He is very good!

How does God’s permanent commitment to me help me trust him? I focus on Jesus, who is “grace and truth,” which John declared in John 1:17; and what is written above. When my focus is on Jesus I cannot focus on guilt, shame, condemnation or fear. We live in a sinful, fallen world that is incredibly narcissistic, and in this life we will have troubles. But by casting my cares on him I experience peace, even in the trials of life. Like many others, I have experienced considerable pain in this life, but as my faith in Jesus grew, so did his abundant supply: a great career, a wonderful wife, healing of cancer and a severed tendon in my hand, and so much more. Jesus is lovely, and so worthy of our love, praise and thanksgiving. By focusing on Jesus, and my eternal home in Heaven, the trials and tribulations of this life seem to lose their disruptive power. Jesus is more than good, he is very good. May you be richly blessed!

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Like @sig, I employ business as an avoidance strategy. I will use anything to occupy my mind. I eventually tire, though :tired_face:, and God says, “You ready to deal, son?” :smirk: The funny part is God does not worry about how long it takes me to come around. He just waits…and waits…and waits…until I stop struggling. He is there the whole time, though. He never leaves me.

I also point my finger at other people. That is a not-so-great avoidance strategy because people seem to like me less when I do it :thinking:. These are times when God says, “All right, you asked for it. Let me hold the mirror in front of you.” He usually uses the victim of my finger-pointing as the mirror. This is no fun, but it usually takes less time to fail than the first strategy.

These are techniques that I try to use with my own son! This is very interesting to me, because it reveals just how much God loves me. He never rejects me or forces me. He just uses spiritual (psychological?) judo, using my own proclivities and selfishness to teach me. Oh, he dunks me in the ol’ spiritual lye-bucket every now and then, but I always come out a lot cleaner than I went in!

This is not to say that purification from sin is easy. It is not. In fact, I am a very sick man. (I hope not sicker than the average person, but like St. Paul, I am the foremost of sinners…). I am amazed that Jesus is drawn to heal my sickness, like he healed the lepers. It is interesting that he healed those who came to him, though. I do not recall reading about any occasion where he healed anyone against his or her will. I am sure that there were many who did not come to see him who consequently he did not heal. This seems to fit with Ortlund’s thesis in this chapter. He heals all who come to him for healing; he leaves those who do not come to him to their own devices. In fact, the pictures of people suffering the torment of the End Times in Revelation who shake their fists at him is a logical extension of Ortlund’s thesis. God must cleanse Creation of sin because he will not allow it to continue in sickness forever. He will not allow it to continue in sickness forever because he loves those who he made in his image. His wrath destroys those who reject his offer of eternal life because it must.

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Dear Sig,
Your opening sentences remind me of my own life from several years ago, which is in effect living on the hamster wheel of life. You see every believer is faced with the same choice that Peter faced when Jesus invited him to come to him walking on the water. Peter did walk on the water–for a short distance, but then he made a fatal mistake. He changed his focus. Rather than keeping his eyes focused on Jesus he began focusing on the tumultuous waves. Most Christians do as Peter did by choosing to focus on their concerns of life rather than focusing on their Savior & Lord. When we do this the result is we begin sinking beneath the waves of trials & tribulations of life. Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that we have an enemy whose goal is to steal, kill and destroy, but he came that we may live our lives abundantly. How do we live the abundant life? We must keep our focus on Jesus, who we are through him, and what we have in him. If we believe right, we will live right. Do not focus on the waves. Keep your focus on our beautiful Savior. You are righteous in his eyes!

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Feeling oh so the same @sig. I feel like I have so many work fires to extinguish. I get busy then tired. But when I slow down, especially in the mornings, and soak Christ is so very good that it can be overwhelming at times. Blown away describes it.

This book has been so very good especially for those who do fight busyness and choices of prioritization which could be far better. And, we know it! And, nevertheless, he is so faithful everything wanting us each and every day! And, when we prioritize in the spirit we never complain. We are desired and overwhelmed by it.

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I found Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ reflections on the sinfulness of the human heart to be disturbing and yet familiar. I often find myself wanting to justify my sin, because it makes so much sense to my wayward heart to sin. I think it can be so easy to push past the promptings of the Holy Spirit, as He seeks to convict me, while I rush through daily living, oblivious to the things of the spirit. But what pulls me up short is that glimpse of Jesus and the awful cost to Him of my “smallest” sin.

In gazing at Him I see my true self exposed and my need for Him laid bare. I have come to trust that He is always there in that moment. What I had not considered prior to this study, is that the pause in the midst of my scurry, to turn and reach for Him, brings Him such joy. My repentant heart is but a mere reflection of His persistence in pursuing me, because only through Him am I even moved in spirit to turn again and reach for the Lover of my soul.

How undeserving, and yet how blessed to be the object of His deep affection!

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There is a poem that comes to mind when I read what @CarsonWeitnauer wrote above, “Our journey to maturity in Christ is dependent upon his constant compassion.” The poem is called “Children Learn What They Live” - A Poem. If a child lives with criticism, He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, He learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, He learns justice.
If a child lives with security, He learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.

We seem to understand that love and compassion are necessary ingredients when raising our children. And yet, we marvel that God would employ the same reasoning. I often wonder why? Even Adam and Eve hid themselves when they sinned against God…and they WALKED with Him in the garden. Like many have mentioned, I stay busy, I blame-shift, I hide! I ask myself, do I respond this way because of how I think of others when they fall short? Am I reaping what I sow in my thoughts? I think for me there is truth in that. But as this book points out, God is not like us. God is love. When I sit in the truth of who HE is, healing and peace and whatever is needed brings such sweetness. It’s then that I find strength to see others through different eyes.

I am learning and renewing my mind as I read through this book. But it’s the meditation of the truths and applying them when the enemy is busy at work that I get to experience the truth. I don’t picture that on that day when we stand before Him that anyone will be holding onto their crown saying, “nah, I think I’ll keep this for myself; I deserve it”!!

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I love this poem. I realize that my son learns from everything that I do both to him and to others. Sometimes he asks me about things or says things from I do not know where. I just know that I need to stay alert at all times to my own spiritual warfare or he will learn the wrong things very quickly!

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[quote=“CarsonWeitnauer, post:1, topic:39649”]

  1. What strategies do you employ to avoid the seriousness of your sin?
    I have to agree with sig and so many others.
    Busyness helps me to not have to face my sinfulness and it is also a way of trying to make up for it. I also have an amazing amount of qualifiers and extenuating circumstances that somehow apply to me more than others!

2.How does God’s permanent commitment to you help you trust him?

His Covenant of Love for me, His Chesed, is
what continually draws me to Him. It is how I see myself with absolutely nothing to offer, ‘throwing myself on the mercy of the court’,
and receiving unending waves of grace upon grace. It’s my only hope and it is my security.
His commitment to love me makes trusting Him possible and it is what renews my love for Him morning by morning, as I see His new mercies for me.

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