Deitrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor martyred in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945. His death came by hanging in the gallows a few weeks before Germany’s unconditional surrender in World War II. Through his writing, Bonhoeffer warned against “cheap grace” which he described as “preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance….grace without discipleship, grace without the cross,…grace without Jesus Christ.”
Perhaps one of the most arresting statements Bonhoeffer made was in regard to the cost of discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Bonhoeffer’s words echoed the strong demands given by Jesus in the gospels, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23)
Those who heard Jesus teach understood that he was referring to a radical call of self-denial, including actual death, in the pursuit of following him as his disciple. The demands of discipleship require a daily, moment-by-moment surrender of our goals and aspirations in order to live for Christ. A perusal of the New Testament, as well as church history, reveal that this includes potential rejection, betrayal, mistreatment, severed relationships, the rage of crowds, physical mistreatment, and even a martyr’s death. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28; Acts 7:51-60) Jesus defined discipleship as bringing every area of our lives under the umbrella of his Lordship. Far from our best life now, to follow Jesus Christ is a call to live for him and to be willing to die for him, “So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8b)
The New Testament writers were unified in their message that if we would know Christ in a saving relationship, there was no getting around the complete presentation of ourselves to God through denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Christ in obedience through the life we live.
In the gospel accounts, we find a number who were either disgusted by the demands Jesus gave, or they left his presence sorrowful because they loved their life more than the prospect of following him. To be clear, we will never achieve complete obedience to Christ in this life. We will continually want to crawl off of this altar of obedience for offerings that are less demanding. However, true assurance of salvation is extended to every believer whose hope is in Christ alone, and in turn who live surrendered to him as the trajectory of their life. (more…)