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The Cost of Discipleship

September 15, 2015 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Discipleship

Over the next few weeks, the blog will highlight some of the community groups that will be offered at NewLife this fall. Today’s post will highlight Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. Part I of this book, called Grace and Discipleship, will be discussed over five Wednesdays in October and November in a group led by Pastor Eric.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46)

One of the books that has been most challenging and influential in my faith has been Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic book The Cost of Discipleship, published in 1937. There are many Christian books out there, but few carry the weight and integrity behind them that this book does. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who actively opposed Adolf Hitler, even to the point of returning from England to Germany in order to stand in solidarity with his countrymen who were suffering under Hitler’s reign. At age 37, he was arrested, and at 39, he was killed for his resistance. As Bonhoeffer wrote before returning to Germany:

"I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people… Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose; but I cannot make this choice in security."

The Cost of Discipleship is perhaps best known for a phrase Bonhoeffer coined: cheap grace. “Cheap grace,” as Bonhoeffer puts it, “is the grace we bestow on ourselves.” It is proclaiming ourselves forgiven without actually repenting of our sin, declaring that God loves us and favors us without actually living as His disciple, seeing ourselves as okay in God’s sight without actually confessing our sin and following Jesus. Cheap grace is choosing to live in sin because “God will forgive us,” and claiming that God loves us even though we have no intention of making His will the priority in our lives.

Costly grace, on the other hand, is the grace given by Jesus to those who repent of their sins, trust in Christ, and leave all to follow Him. As Bonhoeffer writes, “The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.”

I have found in my walk with Christ that it is important to have two kinds of voices: those who remind you of the unconditional love and undeserved grace found in Jesus, and those who remind you that His love and grace is not a license to sin and live as you please, but must lead to a life of single-minded obedience and service to God. Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship is one of the best of the second kind of voices. I would encourage you to consider joining that community group this fall, or getting your hands on a copy so that you can read it on your own and be challenged in your walk with Christ.

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