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Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners | Book Review

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

book cover deeper real change for real sinners on a black leather chair

“How do Christians grow?

The question itself immediately elicits different feelings among us. Some of us feel guilt. We’re not growing, and we know it. And the guilt is itself self-perpetuating, further paralyzing us in spiritual stagnation.”

Does this resonate with anyone?

The question for Christians isn’t whether or not we should grow, but how.

You think about all the things you “should” be doing, and, yes our habits in the Word and in prayer play a part, but a big part of our maturity is knowing and loving Christ.

Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners by Dane Ortlund outlines biblical truths to help us gaze on the person and work of the Lord Jesus.

book cover real change for real sinners

Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners | Book Review


My Take

quote from deeper real change for real sinners


Purpose of the Book

The question facing believers is not if we should grow, but how. The author sets out to show you that “change is a matter of going deeper,” not a compilation of outward improvements, but an inner conviction that you already have everything you need in Christ.

Table of Contents


CHAPTER 1 Jesus CHAPTER 2 Despair CHAPTER 3 Union CHAPTER 4 Embrace CHAPTER 5 Acquittal CHAPTER 6 Honesty CHAPTER 7 Pain CHAPTER 8 Breathing CHAPTER 9 Supernaturalized



With each chapter, the author gently guides you to gospel truths for reflection. This book isn’t intended to be read through quickly. You won’t find fast food here, it’s more like a full-course meal sitting around the table with family and friends, with necessary time to digest and relax between courses. There aren’t reflection questions, but I’d recommend journaling alongside your reading to let biblical truths seep in and to give your life an honest look.

quote from deeper real change for real sinners by dane ortlund

My Take

On Healthy Self Despair

I’m a recovering perfectionist.

It took until my 30’s until I learned perfectionism wasn’t actually a good thing, I’ve been on the road to recovery since then.

Don’t misunderstand me to say I thought I was perfect, I knew I definitely was not, but rather that I expected myself to be perfect.

High aspirations, eh?

What happens as sin runs its course day in and day out, results in a difficult and frustrating journey of unmet expectations.

(Granted they were unrealistic to begin with).

I despaired of my inability to stop sinning, particularly the ones that came up time and again with no end in sight. Feeling frustrated and hopeless, there were moments I came to feast on the Word but couldn’t taste it’s delight with my inadequacies hanging over my head.

As I peeled back the layers of my insecurities and shortcomings came a renewed understanding and joy in the grace of God.

The author writes, "healthy despair is an intersection, not a highway; a gateway, not a pathway. We must go there. But we dare not stay there." To truly find joy in the gospel, we must remember exactly who we are and what we bring to God: that’s ourselves and our sin.

He reminds us, "the gospel does not take our good and complete us with God’s help; the gospel tells us we are dead and helpless, unable to contribute anything to our rescue but the sin that requires it. Christian salvation is not enhancing. It is resurrecting." Here we find our daily hope in the face of ongoing struggles with sin. In repentance we’re given grace, not only for our salvation but also our sanctification.

Isaiah 61:3 tells us the Lord’s people are given beauty from ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning and are clothed with garments of praise instead of despair. As we fix our eyes on the sustaining grace of Christ, we recognize we cannot become more like him without it. We repent and are embraced by his loving arms with grace and forgiveness.

From Doing to Enjoying

From a very young age, I’ve loved checklists.

This is the reason I read through my Bible in my childhood, because it had a reading checklist in the appendix. (add in a few colored pens and I was living my best life).

My perfectionist tendencies also create a do-er mentality, where tasks become the measure of success. The author writes, "the nuclear core of authentic Christianity is not simply doing what God says but enjoying God."

And suddenly all my ‘doing’ doesn’t mean so much anymore.

My relationship with God can function as a checklist. Read my Bible, check. Pray, check. Share a word of encouragement, check. While sometimes we need to discipline ourselves toward relationship with God even without all the feels, it’s significant for me to remember that the point of our relationship is to enjoy each other, that the Lord enjoys me and wants me to enjoy him.

This mindset peels away the ‘must-do’ attitude, and shifts it toward a ‘want-to’ desire. The Lord has graciously given us his Word, his Spirit and his presence to enjoy him and this helps us to live with him and experience joy and peace.

quote from deeper real change for real sinners by dane ortlund

My Recommendation

This isn’t a long book, but it’s beautifully rich.

If you’re curious about how we as believers grow deeper in Christ, buy this book!

If you’ve got your sanctified life all figured out, you won’t find this helpful.

“This 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.”

When we wonder about what to do with the time we’ve got left and how we can love the Lord Jesus more, you will find the words bringing you back to biblical truths, directing you to gaze wholeheartedly on Jesus. This will be on my pile to read again next year.

Quick Stats

# of Pages: 192

Level of Difficulty: Easy

My Rating: 5 stars

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Scriptures About Spiritual Growth

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Pe 3:18)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil 1:6)
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Col 1:9-10)
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Ps 1:1-3)

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*No disclaimer, I bought a copy :)

1 Comment

What a great/helpful review. This was one of my favorite books I've read in a long time. It's thoroughly marked up.

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