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More Thoughts From Dane Ortlund

Dear Friends,

What’s the best way to seek to win people to Christ? The options are plentiful and the answers vary – as you surely know. Yet, today, I want to offer you an answer to that question which I have become more convinced of as I study the Gospel and read how the most effective of the saints preached it in the past.



This “thought” is taken from an excellent and rather recent book (2020). It is by Dane Ortlund, and is entitled “Gentle and Lowly, Christ’s Heart for Sinners and Sufferers.” If you want a really good read which is a beautiful combination of scholarly, down to earth, and devotional, I highly recommend it. In this excerpt he focuses on elements of two messages preached by Jonathan Edwards, one of the major players in the First Great Awakening that swept through all the colonies of early America in the 1730's and 40's. Given what little some people know of Jonathan Edwards, from only one of his famous sermons, you may be surprised at his answer. Enjoy.


“In the summer of 1740 Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon exclusively to the children in his congregation, those from one to fourteen… Here was Edwards main point: “Children ought to love the Lord Jesus Christ above all things in this world.” He took as his text Matthew 10:37, which in his King James Version, read, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” It was a short sermon, taking perhaps 15-20 minutes to preach. In it Edwards lists six reasons that children should love Jesus more than anything else in life. The first is: “There is no love so great and so wonderful as that which is in the heart of Christ…”

Human beings are created with a built-in pull toward beauty. We are arrested by it. Edwards understood this deeply and saw that this magnetic pull toward beauty also occurs with spiritual things—in fact, Edwards would say that it is spiritual beauty of which every other beauty is a shadow or echo. Throughout his ministry Edwards sought to woo people to Christ, and that is all he is doing with the kids in his church in August of 1740. Later in the same sermon he said, “Everything that is lovely in God is in Christ, and everything that is, or can be lovely in any man, is in him; for he is man as well as God, and he is the holiest, meekest, most humble, and in every way the most excellent man that ever was.”

In other words, it is Christ’s gentle heart that adorns him with beauty; or put the other way, what most deeply attracts us to Christ is his gentle, tender, humble heart… We are drawn to God by the beauty of the heart of Jesus.

When sinners and sufferers come to Christ, Edwards says in another sermon, “The person that they find is exceedingly excellent and lovely.” For they come to one who is not only, “of excellent majesty and of perfect purity and brightness,” but also one in whom this majesty is, “conjoined with the sweetest grace, one that clothes himself with mildness and meekness and love”... Given their sinfulness, they are shocked to find that their sins cause him to be all the more ready to plunge them into his heart. “They unexpectedly find him with open arms to embrace them, ready forever to forget all their sins as though they had never been.” In other words, when we come to Christ, we are startled by the beauty of his welcoming heart. The surprise is itself what draws us.


… Let Jesus draw you in through the loveliness of his heart. This is a heart that upbraids the impenitent with all the harshness that is appropriate yet embraces the penitent with more openness than we are able to feel. It is a heart that walks us into the bright meadow of the felt love of God. It is a heart that drew the despised and forsaken to his feet in self-abandoning hope. It is a heart of perfect balance and proportion, never overreacting, never excusing, never lashing out. It is a heart that throbs with desire for the destitute. It is a heart that floods the suffering with the deep solace of shared solidarity in that suffering. It is a heart that is gentle and lowly (Matthew 11:29).”

The Puritans (of which Edwards was a spiritual heir) stressed our need to dispel any fears in people that if they came to Jesus Christ with a penitent heart they would somehow still be cast out. Jesus sought to alleviate that same fear in people as well, in John 6:37. People must know that if they venture to come to Christ in faith they will not be cast out. They must know He wants them to come and will receive with open arms. In fact, they will rarely ever come unless they believe this, just as a child will almost never willingly come to a father who is breathing out threats to beat him, unless he believes he will get a worse beating if he doesn’t – an image entirely contrary to anything even faintly similar to the Gospel. Spurgeon was right, “There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar.”

The vast majority of people are brought to Christ by being made to see His gentle and welcoming heart, the beauty of His mercy and grace, and His great self-sacrificing love for lost sinners. Ortlund is right: “What most deeply attracts us to Christ is his gentle, tender, humble heart… We are drawn to God by the beauty of the heart of Jesus… In other words, when we come to Christ, we are startled by the beauty of his welcoming heart. The surprise is itself what draws us.”

In His Service, Pastor Jeff

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