The Cost of Discipleship

Following Christ is like joining an exercise club. There’ll be dues to pay, sweat to shed, and a reward to reap. Discipleship is expensive, hard, gratifying work.

For today, let’s consider the expense of discipleship.

It’s easy to think grace is free. It’s far from free. We throw around that term—grace—like it’s a warm-fuzzy pat on the back to which everyone is entitled. This is cheap grace, grace that says, “Do what you want because you’re forgiven,” or “Live how you want, God is a God of grace.” Grace has become an excuse to reject moral absolutes, to feel good about our struggles, and to make those who stand up for truth seem stodgy and unloving.

Consider these words from The Cost of Discipleship, by German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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 the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ as which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such 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.

Do we need to say more? We must guard the expensive nature of grace. We must not water down such a precious gift from God. We must not cast grace to the world like a safety net for personal wellbeing. The church has the privelege of being entrusted with grace, all of its cost and depths included.


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