Costly Grace

I quote from the forward to a book I was just given on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. The forward to the book was written by Eric’s good friend Timothy J. Keller, author of New York Times best seller The Reason for God:

“It is impossible to understand Bonhoeffer’s Nachfolge without becoming acquainted with the shocking capitulation of the German church to Hitler in the 1930s. How could the “church of Luther,” that great teacher of the gospel, have ever come to such a place? The answer is that the true gospel, summed up by Bonhoeffer as costly grace, had been lost. On the one hand, the church had become marked by formalism. That meant going to church and hearing that God just loves and forgives everyone, so it doesn’t really matter much how you live. Bonhoeffer called this cheap grace. On the other hand, there was legalism, or salvation by law and good works. Legalism meant that God loves you because you have pulled yourself together and are trying to live a good, disciplined life.

“Both of these impulses made it possible for Hitler to come to power.”

As you might gather from the fact that I am quoting from the forward of Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy; I am challenged by Bonhoeffer’s life and legacy. I believe that the world today is not different than it was in the 1930’s when Hitler was allowed to come to power and during the time of Bonhoeffer (1912 – 1944). The only difference is that in 1930 there was a world population of less than 2.5 billion (The world population in 1950 was about 2.5 billion.) Today the world population is about 7.3 billion. With a growth rate of about 80 million per year it is estimated that we will have a world population of 8 billion in the spring of 2024. These figures, estimates, facts, and concepts are impossible for us to understand.

The conclusion that I am forced to come to given the current world situation, the current world population and growth rate, and the current attitude of the church is that if we do not accept the idea of costly grace we are lost. I will be more specific, if I do not accept the fact that I must “take up my cross and follow Jesus,” I am lost. The commentary I am writing today is from The Revelation of John and particularly centers on the letters to the seven churches. There are many warnings to the seven churches with a few words of commendation and encouragement. I am particularly impressed with one warning to the church at Laodicea that they were lukewarm and that Christ was about to spit them out of His mouth. On the other hand, I am encouraged by the encouragement to the church at Philadelphia that there is before them a door open that now man can shut.

I believe that I am called to live a life of sacrifice that I have not followed. I have accepted a life of ease in both the physical and spiritual realms. The result for me will be a life that slowly winds down as the main spring wears out and I leave this world without a legacy and with little or no change having been effected. Or I can repent! I can take up a sacrificial life and follow my Lord to the cross. I will then enter that door that no man can shut (Thank God that “no man” includes me!) and become the person God has called me to become and fulfill the destiny that He has in mind.

It is good to be challenged because the Scriptures teach throughout that God challenges us and disciplines us because He loves us as daughters and sons.