by Mike Ratliff
Right at the beginning of my “revival” or “restoration” or whatever it was in 2004, I discovered an author and preacher named John Piper. I was teaching an adult Sunday School class at the time and, for Christmas, our director gave me Piper’s book titled “Don’t Waste Your Life.” It took me a while to get into it, however, once I got comfortable with his style I discovered that he had something important to say and God was making that clear to my heart. In that book he talked about his own spiritual journey. When he was in college a popular book among his friends was “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietreich Bonhoeffer. A few months later, I was preparing for a trip to Seattle for some training. I wanted a book to read at the airport and while flying so part of my preparation was to buy Bonhoeffer’s book. I already knew, from Piper, that its theology was not exactly “pristine,” but I was eager to dig into one particular chapter, also recommended by Piper, titled “Grace and Discipleship.” In this chapter Bonhoeffer presented a contrast between something he called Cheap Grace with something else he called Costly Grace.
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 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 at 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. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
Costly grace is the sanctuary of God; it has to be protected from the world, and not thrown to the dogs. It is therefore the living word, the Word of God, which he speaks as it pleases him. Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
From “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietreich Bonhoeffer
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