During Jesus’ ministry on earth, he made some remarkable, demanding, and often not fully comprehended statements about what he expected of those who chose to follow him. To the rich young ruler who came to Jesus, wanting to know what he had to do to have eternal life, Jesus responded: “Go, sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.(Luke 18:18-23 ESV).
Another time, when great crowds were following Jesus, he turned to them and said, “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25-27 ESV).
In a similar vein, Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-25 NIV)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young Lutheran pastor, was only 39 when he was executed in a German concentration camp, martyred for his unwavering faith and uncompromising stand for Jesus Christ and against the evil regime of Hitler which he lived under in Germany. Bonhoeffer literally demonstrated in his own life his bold declaration: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
In one of Bonehoeffer’s best known books, The Cost of Discipleship, he shares some important insights and concerns on what he describes as “cheap grace” versus “costly grace.” Many years later, his words are still very timely for us. Quoting from The Cost of Discipleship:
“Cheap grace is the enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares…..Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost. The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the cost has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities for using and spending it are infinite…..
“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.”
In contrast…. “costly grace” calls us to intentionally follow Jesus Christ. “It is costly because it cost Jesus Chris 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: ‘you were bought with a price,’ and what has cost God much, cannot be cheap for us.”
Bonhoeffer lived out these words with a devotion and passion to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, even to his literal, physical death. Today, Christians in many places around the world (think Syria!), like Bonhoeffer, are also literally dying because they claim and embrace the name of Jesus Christ. In our own country, sadly, there is a growing hostility and intolerance in some areas toward Biblical values and those who seek to live by God’s truths in their daily lives. Also sadly, many who claim to be Christians, want to live by cheap grace, having the assurance of God’s love and a home in heaven when they die, but not wanting to daily die to self, to call sin what God calls sin, to pursue holiness in their lives, and to take up their cross and live a totally surrendered life to Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul clearly exhorted the early Christians: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not our own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV)
God’s grace, though freely and generously offered and bestowed upon all who will receive his Son, Jesus Christ, was extremely costly to him. It is his deep desire not only that we humbly receive that grace and become his sons and daughters, but that we then live in the reality of Roman 12:1 & 2: “…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” May he enlighten the eyes of our hearts to give us a deeper understanding and appreciation of his great love for us and the privilege that is ours of being totally devoted to Jesus Christ and living daily by his Word. (Ephesians 1:17-20 ESV)
Not only does our loving Father want to enable us by his Sanctifying Grace to live in “costly grace,” but he also wants us to know and experience his “Sustaining Grace” as we encounter the trials and tribulations of living in a fallen world.