Grace and Discipleship

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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7 thoughts on “Grace and Discipleship

  1. I was online reading other documents and came up with a conclusion about every person living here on earth.

    No, Not one person will ever be as righteous and perfect in the eyes of the Lord until we remove the covering from our souls.

    You have to literally pour out your heart to Christ and ask him for forgiveness of your sins. Then you should be baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When I say my prayers at night, I start crying at the joy I feel inside when I praise him and worship him. I’m thinking about doing another piece on my blog about the dangers of the tongue. What do you think?

  2. Hi Mike,
    Those are really good words. I like the part when it says What it cost Christ, Oh Lord,thankyou for loving us that much take on our sin for the cost of your life. Mike, when I read John Piper’s book “Desiring God”, it was such an eye opener to me, it made me realize how much I desire to know God even more. When I read the first chapter, it made me realize more and more that what ever happens in this world good or bad God has a pupose for it. It’s hard to understand God’s Purpose sometimes, but I know He has one. When you look at the disaster, the tornadoes, Katrina…God ordains it all for …His Purpose. It is humbling.


  3. Sherry and Cristina,

    Thanks for the visit to my blog and taking the time to comment. I really like how God blends in what we get out of things like this as we come together to share. Great comments!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  4. Contemplating God’s infinite grace… Our finite minds can scarce comprehend it…yet our souls rejoice as we bathe in its lavish, life-breathing depths. How carelessly we often regard this treasure… Your site is aptly named, Mike.

  5. Jessica,

    We are always in danger of believing that this life is where our treasure is. You nailed it in your comment, as you do on your wonderuful site, Jesus is the treasure of those who are His. Why don’t we act like it?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. Mike,
    The Cross…we will never get over it…and we shouldn’t!!. The bigger one sees his sin the bigger one sees his need of a BIG and MARVELOUS SAVIOR! Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene..and wonder how he could love me…a sinner condemned uncleaned.” The amazing thing is that he DOES! We deserve hell…and get life and God! Yes…costly grace….but oh so presious…and sweet to the sinner who receives it…eh?

    I have missed so being here…thank you for your faithfulness to the call of God in your life to encourage the remnant!


  7. Brusiedreed,

    It seems like forever since I have heard from you. I have missed your presence, your insight, and your support. I saw a connection earlier from your new hometown and wondered if it was you.:-)

    I am not quite halfway through Job, I see no reason to hurry through it, do you?

    Welcome back,

    Email me when you have time.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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