I have been reading “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer for my devotional time in the morning. Reading this book slowly is a blessing because there is so much to think about in it. I think this is my third or fourth time through the book. It is more powerful because I know it was written while Bonhoeffer was in prison. Shortly after the book was finished, Bonhoeffer was executed in Nazi Germany. Reading the book makes me think about my commitment to Christ and if I am following him unconditionally.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was killed for being part of a plot to assassinate Hitler. As a pastor, he worked actively against the Nazis in the country that he loved. In doing this he followed a Christ he loved more than his country or his life. I often wonder if I would have the courage to take the kind of stand Bonhoeffer did.
Because the book is so powerful and deep, I want to share some quotes instead of summarizing part of it. The first section of the book is called “Grace and Discipleship” and this is the part I always find most thought-provoking. Consequently, all the quotes will be from this section.
“It is not only my task to look after the victims of madmen who drive a motorcar in a crowded street, but to do all in my power to stop their driving at all.”
“The pure Word of Jesus has been overlaid with so much human ballast – burdensome rules and regulations, false hopes and consolations – that it has become extremely difficult to make a genuine decision for Christ. . . . It would be just as well to ask ourselves whether we do not in fact often act as obstacles to Jesus and his Word. . . . Does not our preaching contain too much of our own opinions and convictions and too little of Jesus Christ?”
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
“Costly grace is costly because it calls us to follow and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his son and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.”
“The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized Church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost. We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale. We baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition. We preached the gospel in such a manner as to make men rest secure in their ungodly living.”
“Is there some part of your life which you are refusing to surrender at his behest, some sinful passion, maybe, or some animosity, some hope, perhaps your ambition or your reason? If so, you must not be surprised that you have not received the Holy spirit, that prayer is difficult, or that your request for faith remains unanswered.”
“The Cost of Discipleship” is a powerful book to read or reread. If you have not read it, I encourage you to begin. If you read it long ago, read it again and listen for the voice of Jesus Christ calling you to discipleship, no matter what the cost.