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I recently finished the book "Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners" by Dane Ortlund. Here are some of the parts that stood out to me most as I was reading:


Christian growth is bringing what you do and say and even feel into line with what, in fact, you already are.


You will not change until you get straight who Jesus is, particularly with regard to his surprising tenderness. And then spend your whole life long going deeper into the gentleness of Jesus. The only alternative to the real Jesus is to get back on the treadmill—the treadmill of doing your best to follow and honor Jesus but believing his mercy and grace to be a stockpile gradually depleted by your failures, and hoping to make it to death before the mountain of mercy runs out. Here is the teaching of the Bible: If you are in Christ, your sins cause that stockpile to grow all the more. Where sins abound, his grace superabounds. It is in your pockets of deepest shame and regret that his heart dwells and won’t leave.


Christian growth is, among other things, growth in sensing just how impoverished and powerless we are in our own strength—that is, just how hollow and futile our efforts to grow spiritually are on our own steam.


Despair is not an end in itself, of course. But it is a vital element of healthy spirituality. It cannot be bypassed. One reason some Christians remain shallow their whole lives is they do not allow themselves, ever more deeply throughout their lives, to pass through the painful corridor of honesty about who they really are.


Healthy despair is an intersection, not a highway; a gateway, not a pathway. We must go there. But we dare not stay there.


The New Testament refers to our being united to Christ over two hundred times. That averages out to about one reference per page in many Bible layouts. If a book loops back to the same theme on every page, wouldn't you consider it a major point the author intends to get across?


Keep peeling away layer after layer, everything that makes yot you. What do you find at the core? You are united to Christ. That is the most irreducible reality about you. Peel everything else away, and the solid, immovable truth about you is your union with a resurrected Christ.


Everything that washes into your life, no matter how hard, comes from and through the tender care of the friend of sinners. 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.


Your suffering does not define you. His does. You have endured pain involuntarily. He has endured pain voluntarily, for you. Your pain is meant to push you to flee to him where he endured what you deserve.


…the gospel is not a hotel to pass through but a home to live in. Not only a gateway into the Christian life but the pathway of the Christian life. Not jumper cables to get the Christian life started but an engine to keep the Christian life going.


…the commands of the Bible are the steering wheel, not the engine, to your growt They are vitally instructive, but they do not themselves give you the power you need to obey the instruction.


All over the New Testament the apostles brought the gospel to bear on believers lives. Paul told the Roman Christians, "I am eager to preach the gospel to you" (Rom. 1:15); he exhorted the Colossian believers to live "not shifting from the hope of the gospel" (Col. 1:23); and he reminded the Corinthian believers that they were to "stand" in and hold fast to" the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-2). Apparently the apostles considered the gospel not a one-time vaccination that spares us from hell but food to nourish us all the way to heaven.


What we all tend to do is walk through life amassing a sense of who we are as an aggregate of what we think everyone else thinks of us. We walk along, building a sense of self through all the feedback pinging back at us. We don't even realize we're doing it. And when others are critical, or snub us, or ignore us, or ridicule us, that builds our sense of who we are. It inevitably shapes us. And so we must constantly hold the gospel before our eyes. And as the gospel becomes real to us, the need for human approval loses its vice-like grip on our hearts, because we're no longer putting our heads down on our pillows at night medicating our sense of worth with human approval The doctrine of justification frees us not only from the judgment of God, in the future but also from the judgment of people in the present.


We are fearful of not succeeding in a job, or not impressing someone we respect, or botching the date, or failing the test, or missing the shot. We fantasize about succeeding in those real-life situations and have nightmares about failing. Why? Because we treat the gospel as the ignition but not the sustaining reality to our inner life. We are not walking “in step with the truth of the gospel." We haven't let the radioactive nature of the doctrine of justification by faith destroy our malignant need for human approval. Sensing our inadequacy, we set up our career, our relationships, our studies, our public speaking, our athletic abilities as functional gods to which we are looking for justification—to know we’re okay.


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.


Are we trying to develop spiritually in the dark? Is there someone in your life who knows you are a sinner not only generally but also specifically? Not just in the abstract but also in the concrete? It is scary to go there with another brother or sister. But surgery is scary too. Yet is it not worth going through with it, given the healing and restoration and life and health awaiting us on the other side?


Here's what happens when we begin to get honest, even with just one other person. The two circles of what we know ourselves to be and what we present ourselves to be overlap. Rather than the private [me] being one person and the public [me] a different person, there's just one [me]. We become whole. Integrated. Strong. But the keep: ing up of appearances is an exhausting way to live.


When you trust God enough to speak your sinfulness to another human, the channels of your heart are opened to feeling forgiven. This is because the same pride that stops us from confessing our sins to a brother or sister also hinders our felt belief in the gospel. Pride hinders fellowship both horizontally and vertically. Evading honesty before another Christian is more fundamentally a rejection of the gospel itself. Refusing to be honest with another is works righteousness in disguise; we are believing that we need to save face, to retain uprightness of appearance. But in conversion to Christianity we have dready acknowledged that we are hopelessly sinful, with nothing to contribute but our need. The gospel says we have nothing within usto commend us to God; why would we leave that theology in Christian fellowship and pretend that we do have virtue within to commend us? We must be consistent.


Pain is not the islands of our lives but the ocean; disappointment or letdown is the stage on which all of life unfolds, not an occasional blip on an otherwise comfortable and smooth life. And what I want to say in this chapter is that a crucial building block in our growth in grace is a humble openness to receiving the biternesses of life as God's gentle way of drawing us out of the misery of self and more deeply into spiritual maturity. Through pain God is inviting us up into "mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:13).


None of us is ever in neutral. 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. There's no cruise-control spiritually. 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, even if we don't notice.

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