Several years ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book called The Cost of Discipleship. The overarching theme of the book was that the grace of God is costly, demanding everything from the Christian disciple. He contrasts this costly grace with cheap grace, the type of grace that doesn’t transform the disciple, but allows the “Christian” to basically live like everyone else, maybe attend church on a regular basis.
Personally, I’ve never liked the phrase “costly grace.” Not that I disagree with Bonhoeffer, but the wording is unnecessarily confusing. The definition of grace, after all, is gift.
But, according to Jesus, discipleship does demand a lot of the Christian. For instance, hating our own family and renouncing everything we have. (See Luke 14:25-35)
I want to talk (again) about one of the most uncomfortable stories from scripture. This time, from a different angle.
A rich young man approaches Jesus and asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
His question ties the whole story together.
This rich young man believes that Jesus is a good teacher – the type of teacher who has the right answers to the most important questions in life. So he finds Jesus and essentially asks, “How do I live a good enough life to be saved forever?”
Jesus answers the young man’s question by listing some commands. Upon hearing the list, the man gets excited.
Because he had kept those commands since he could remember. Then…
“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” (Mark 10:21a, ESV)
It’s important for every Christian to understand that the story doesn’t end here.
Jesus, in his love for us, is not satisfied to simply feel positive feelings towards us.
So Jesus does something remarkable.
He offers the rich young man grace.
In love, Jesus says,“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21b, ESV)
The debate over whether or not every Christian needs to sell all their possessions is silly. Don’t go there.
Far bigger than that issue is this: When we say we believe Jesus is a good teacher that can save us forever, do we really believe it?
Or do we only believe it until he tells us to do something hard?
Or, even worse, do we convince ourselves that Jesus feels so many good feelings towards us that he would never ask us to do something hard in the first place? Do we put on special glasses that prevent us from seeing the reality of following Jesus?
The reality of Christian discipleship led Bonhoeffer to say, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
This quote isn’t just Bonhoeffer being extreme for shock value. It’s biblical.
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23, ESV.)
As we Christians wrestle with big questions, “What does God want me to do with my life?” or “How can I be sure I’m doing God’s will?” we need to start by understanding that Christ is calling us do die.
And his is not the call of a taskmaster or religious extremist.
His call is motivated by love.
Freedom from the destruction of a selfish life.
I want to keep exploring this over the next few weeks.
Is Jesus giving you a gift that you are having trouble accepting? Talk about it in the comments below.