Many of us have been impacted by an old book written by a young brilliant German theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the book, The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer could have left Germany to teach in America and avoid what was happening in Germany in the 1930’s. He struggled with the decision. Ultimately he declined the teaching offer, choosing to stay in Germany because he felt an obligation to be with his own people during that time of national crisis. Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested. It was in 1937, that this thirty-one year old German theologian wrote the book entitled, The Cost of Discipleship.
This book established Bonhoeffer as a rising star for Christianity. Tragically he was killed, martyred at the hands of the Nazi regime just a few years later. His death gave to his book an even deeper significance. Bonhoeffer announced his theme in the opening sentence of the book. “Cheap grace,” he declared, “is the deadly enemy of our church.” And then he went on to define what he meant by “cheap grace.”
Page 47…“Cheap grace,” he wrote, “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.”
Many people today have agreed with Bonhoeffer and are really concerned about the shallowness, the hypocrisy, and the lack of genuine faith in the men and women who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. Many of our churches are imploding because of immature decisions by immature leaders who have not been discipled.
Rick Warren, for example, talks about “bunny believers” who hop around from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. George Barna produces surveys that confirm little difference between the way believers and non-believers live their lives. Richard Foster identifies Christians who so desire to maintain religious respectability that they have domesticated their faith. So afraid of falling off the deep end of excess, says Foster, they end up in the shallow end of superficiality.
Grace without discipleship, grace without Jesus Christ, living and active in us – cheap grace – that is still a problem in today’s church.
If every Christian in America were to truly stand up for their faith and belief on this July 4th week-end and the days ahead, we would be a totally different country. We would change this culture. Will you stand up for Jesus? Are you willing to experience costly grace?