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Chapter 13 is called “Becoming Like Jesus When Facing Enemies” Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:
“Love is defined in uncompromising terms as love of our enemies. Had Jesus only told us to love our brothers, we might have misunderstood what he meant by love, but now he leaves us in no doubt whatever as to his meaning.”
Walker put it this way:
The Sermon on the Mount can be summed up in one word: love. Jesus said we should love God, love our neighbor, love ourselves–and also love our enemies.
The author, referring to Steve Pettit (Director of One in Christ Ministries) , writes that the love of God is a love that need no “because.”
God doesn’t give his love because of something we’ve done; he doesn’t give his love because of something he might gain; and he doesn’t give his love because we deserve it. He just gives his love–because. God’s very nature is love.
Every Christian should know that God’s love is a love beyond our comprehension. God gave his own son as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins. God’s love in us and flowing through us is the only way for us to truly love our enemies. This “extraordinary love” proves that Christians operate in the kingdom of heaven. Christians believe that even their worst enemies are not beyond the power of God to transform.
Fallen men and women cannot do this, only those who carry Jesus within and who respond obediently to the commands of Jesus. Only those who obediently believe in Jesus can love with the love of God flowing through them. Otherwise, their love is a diminished love that lacks the power to overcome evil, a shadow loves that mixes selfish motives–perhaps in the face of an enemy the motive of self-preservation–with unqualified, godly motives.
In Matthew 5:42-48, Jesus commanded his followers to…
- Love our enemies.
- Do good to those who hate us.
- Pray for those who persecute us.
Again, only the love of God flowing through us and our trust in his word are we able to do such things.
An example of Fallen Thinking…
My enemies need to be sneered out of their fears.
A couple examples of Kingdom Thinking…
My enemies need to be loved out of their fears.
I will love others because they need it.
Chapter 12 is called “Becoming Like Jesus Through Redemption.” The objective of Jesus based on Matthew 5:38-42 is:
To teach us that our obedient trust in Jesus can be measured by our demand to get even!
But isn’t that the American way? If someone hurts us, we hurt back! Not for the followers of Jesus. We can either trust God to handle things for us or we can trust ourselves to take care of matters. There is a greater righteousness that an “eye for eye” mentality. Jesus did not abolish the Old Testament law, but came to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).
Even though we live in a fallen world, Christians are not to act like people in the world. They are not to…
…deploy weapons of revenge, such as manipulation, blame, shame, hatred, bitterness, pride, gossip, slander, ridicule, threats, deception, violence in anger, and violence with cold-blooded calculation. These are satanic weapons we use to get our own way without the help of God (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). They just keep us in a cycle of evil-for-evil. Jesus came to end that cycle.
According to Walker (and Bonhoeffer), Christians are to deal with evil with faith in the fact that God is in complete control of the situation. Christians must resist the thought that their situation is unique, and therefore, Jesus would not understand how “hurtful and aggressive others can be.” Such thinking is ridiculous…
Really? Doesn’t it show the depth of our delusional thinking that we would say to a man, half dead, carried a Roman cross through the streets of Jerusalem, only to have nails driven into his hands and feet before he was hoisted into the air to hang from the cross?…He wasn’t crucified for preaching cheap grace: Let’s all just get along. Can’t we just try to love each other. They killed him because his radical message challenged the basic foundation of a system that kept them in charge instead of God.
Walker writes that Christians need to realize that they have a “divine defense.” We are to let go of following our ego and trust Jesus completely. Bonhoeffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship when he was persecuted by Hitler. Bonhoeffer saw evil first hand. Even when he joined the German resistance, the principle still applies. Walker put it this way…
The situation in Nazi Germany dealt with the issue of how believers should respond when the government is part of the evil. That question does nothing to release us from placing our faith in God when it comes to personal injustice.
Walker then explained how Jesus came to earth for a “mission of redemption, not retribution.” Christians are not to take the path of Jonah who wanted judgement on his enemies. Rather, Christians follow the path of Jesus.
When we demand an eye for an eye, Jesus holds out his hand, yet does not demand a nail for a nail.
Getting even is an act without faith. Such a lack of faith will never see God come in and take care of the situation. In the same way that Jesus gave up his rights, his followers are to as well. It is more than that. Christians should even seek the welfare of those who want to hurt them.
Walker ended the chapter with examples of Fallen Thinking and Kingdom Thinking. An example of each:
Fallen Thinking: This person deserves to be paid back for the evil he’s done to me.
Kingdom Thinking: Jesus has better things for me to do than to chase after revenege!
Amen! May we all follow Jesus as he requires!
Today I want to continue my review of Jon Walker‘s recent book, Costly Grace. It is a contemporary view of German pastor, theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s well-known work, The Cost of Discipleship.
Chapter 11 is called “Becoming Like Jesus in Transparency.” Bonhoeffer put it this way:
“Complete truthfulness is only possible where sin has been uncovered, and forgiven by Jesus. Only those who are in a state of truthfulness through confession of their sin to Jesus are not ashamed to tell the truth wherever it must be told.”
No doubt, some are thinking right now that there seemed to be an element of “deceit” with Bonhoeffer because he knowingly participated in the organization that was ultimately responsible for the assassin attempts on Adolf Hitler. In doing so, his outward activities looked legitimate.
Walker began by stating the objective of Jesus based on Matthew 5:33-37:
To teach us that our ability to be honest in all situations is a refection of how much we trust Jesus. Jesus commands you to follow the truth no matter where it leads.
Will we lie or tell the truth? Telling the truth is nit just condemning the lies of others. Since Jesus is the “Truth”, our lies make us take a stand against Jesus. When we come to Jesus, we do not invite him to our “turf.” Rather, we must go to the “turf” of Jesus.
We can’t control the circumstances of the call; all we can do is respond.
And in the light of the truth, we cannot hide our sins from Jesus. Yet, we do need to realize that we have fallen short of the perfect standards of Jesus. Therefore (as seen in previous chapters), we fall on the grace of Jesus! Thus, a state of desperateness causes us to cry out for the grace of God. In the same way that the prophet Isaiah was cleansed and forgiven by the burning coal in Isaiah 6:7, we as well, can be cleansed and energized for the road of Christian discipleship.
Honesty with Jesus means self-denial and taking up our cross daily. This must take place on an individual level and a corporate (church) level. Walker writes:
The fact is we cannot have true, authentic, Christian community without truth because our relationship with Jesus, the Truth, effects the truthfulness and transparency of our relationship with others. It is only in this transparent community that we can see each other as we truly are, where we can grow up in Christ, speaking the truth in love as iron sharpens iron.
This kind of openness and transparency is probably the exception rather than the norm in twenty-first century American, evangelical churches. Yet, Jesus commands his followers to let their “yes be yes” and their “no be no.” This is possible because…
We are living, breathing extensions of the Truth, telling the truth–“so help me God”–because the Truth of God is truly helping us to tell the truth.
Walker explains that oaths will often corrupt the truth in some way. But if a person’s word cannot be trusted, then no oath is going to it make it truthful. We are not called to manipulate the facts. Rather, Walker writes…
- Say only what is true.
- Don’t imply that something is true when it isn’t.
- Hypocrisy is just another way to lie.
That takes us to the question…
IS IT EVER APPROPRIATE TO TELL A LIE?
Walker takes us back to Nazi Germany. Imagine if we are asked the question, Tell me, Christian, are you hiding any Jews in your attic?” It is easy to get in a debate over “small” lies and “big” lies. We can justify a falsehood because it saves a life. But Walker argues that Bonhoeffer would say that the real issue is that we need to be forgiven because…
A lie is a lie, and a lie is a sin, and that brings us short of God’s standards. Listen carefully to this:
Our arguments are to make the lie acceptable and we’ve long established that we cannot clean up our sin, even the little white lie that we tell. But we’re looking the wrong way and that is exactly Bonhoeffer’s point. When we look to Jesus, we see that our sins are forgiven, so stop arguing about the acceptability of any form of lie. Just fall on the grace of Jesus.
There is no easy answer to why Bonhoeffer went from pacifism to active involvement in the organization that plotted the downfall of the tyrant, Hitler. As I have stated in my Doctor of Ministry Thesis (much on it can be found on this blog site) that Bonhoeffer simply lived by the steps he outlined in his famous essay in 1933 where the third step of dealing with an oppressive government was to jam the spoke of the wheel, if needed.
In each and every situation, we are to listen to the voice of Jesus. Do we open the door when the Nazi’s bang on it? Only Jesus will let us know.
An example of Fallen Thinking…
This compromise won’t hurt anyone–in fact, it will help us all get along!
An example of Kingdom Thinking…
I have grace for God’s reality, n0t for my fantasies.
You didn’t become the salt of the earth by your good behavior.
You didn’t develop supernatural influence by keeping all the right rules.
You are the salt of the earth because of your connection to Jesus (89).
Today I want to review chapter 10 of Jon Walker‘s recent book, Costly Grace. It is a contemporary view of German pastor, theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s well-known work, The Cost of Discipleship.
Chapter 10 is called “Becoming Like Jesus in Purity.” The subject of purity is just as relevant today in the twenty-first century as it was in Germany back in the 1930’s. Bonhoeffer wrote:
To follow Jesus means self-renunciation and absolute adherence to him, and therefore a will dominated by lust can never be allowed to what it likes.
Walker stated the objective of Jesus based on Matthew 5:27-32:
To teach the disciples that lust is impure because it is unbelief, and therefore it is to be shunned.
To state it bluntly, momentary lust is like selling our birthright for a bowl of soup. Even worse, it forfeiting eternity in heaven when momentarily pleasures are more important. A life of lust forfeits much, including looking out for the interests of others. Also, according to Walker, “lust reveals we are distant from Jesus.”
Bonhoeffer was aware that it was impossible not to look at women, yet when our gaze is upon him, then we can look upon women (or men) with purity. Purity is a condition of the heart and thus, begins in the heart. The demands of Jesus are not unreasonable:
Jesus knows you’re fighting against natural instincts and he’s not insensitive to your plight. He was human; he struggled with the same temptations you do. Is he telling you to get tough and defeat the lust issue on your own?
Many people, including Christians, struggle with lust. If we fight the battle in our own strength, we will lose every time. That is why Jesus wants us to depend upon his grace. The power of the risen Lord will help fight the battle.
Jesus wants to replace your instinct with the Holy Spirit so that, instead of being a slave to impulse, you are free to make pure choices when it comes to lust and sex. Through the Holy Spirit, you have the power of the divine nature working inside you. You access that power through faith–believing the Spirit is there and at work to help you overcome the sin of lust.
When tempted, we can believe Jesus or believe lust has what is best for us. When we see the New Testament clearly teaches that Christian discipleship includes our entire bodies (Romans 12:1; Galatians 5:25-26; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5; 7-8).
This short chapter was clear in its theme: our bodies are to be used for immorality. Rather, we are to serve the Lord with them (1 Corinthians 6:13).
Will we possess Fallen Thinking?
Since my spirit is where Christ dwells, what happens in my body doesn’t really matter!
Or Kingdom Thinking?
Anything that morally or spiritually traps–that causes me to fall into sin or to stay in sin–should be eliminated quickly and totally!
Chapter 9 is called “Becoming Like Jesus in Authenticity.” The objective of Jesus is:
To teach us that life flows from God through Jesus into us and so our authenticity is measured in our hearts and not by our appearances.
God’s original plan was to have communion with humanity. That fellowship was destroyed by sin. Thus, God laid down the law to, as Walker states, “to push toward holy living.” But the law was never meant to restore that broken communion with God. Rather, it was laid down to show that we cannot meet God’s holy standards. Therefore, we must depend on God’s grace to “get us back to where we now belong.”
While people, and Christians, place more stock on on outward appearances, it is actually the heart that matters:
Jesus says the motivations of the heart are more important than appearance. When our motive is to hurt, destroy, or exclude others, we share the same motive with one who murders.
Walker goes on:
He declares that the slammed door; the if-looks-could-kill stare; the menacing tone; the threatening language; the cold shoulder; the pointed finger; the phrase that blames are all acts of murder against God’s creations; those who have been created by God as eternal beings; those who carry sin and shortcomings no different than the disciples of Jesus. There but for the grace of God go I.
Praise the Lord for the grace of God working in our lives. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus and in our love for God, we can “live accordingly!”
Walker emphasized that the followers of Jesus need to take seriously the words of Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount that murder can occur in our hearts when degrade and judge others. People, according to C. S. Lewis, are eternal beings. Thus, our concern with everyone–even our enemies–is their souls.
Walker then explained that Christians cannot truly worship God if they are in conflict with another believers:
Bonhoeffer says no matter how correct our liturgy, no matter how devout our prayer, no matter how brave our testimony, they will profit us nothing and, in truth, will even testify against us, if we do love other believers enough to make things right with them. God “wants no honour for himself so long as our brother is dishonoured,” says Bonhoeffer.
I like how Walker explains how corporate worship on earth is “the instruction manual of heaven’s reality.”
We show our oneness with God’s glory and our unity with other believers, praising God with our hearts as one.
In this chapter, Walker concludes:
I can no longer allow my heart to be counter to the character of Christ. I must be authentic in the way I live, keeping my actions in line with (my) heart and my heart in line with Jesus.
An example of Fallen Thinking–
I can hide what is in my heart, even from God.
An example of Kingdom Thinking–
God sees and knows all of me and loves me anyway (Hebrews 4:13).
This chapter was a critical reminder for twenty-first century Christians that the words of Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount were meant to transform our lives right now. The task of kingdom building is urgent. May the grace of the Lord Jesus flow through us.
Chapter 8 is called “Becoming Like Jesus in Righteousness.” Jesus said in Matthew 5: 20:
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of God.”
The quality of righteousness that Jesus calls us to is vastly different and higher than the extra biblical “righteousness” of the religious leaders. Bonhoeffer wrote that such righteousness is a gift from Jesus:
“Of course the righteousness of the disciples can never be a personal achievement; it is always a gift, which they received when they were called to follow him.”
Jesus’ Objective–To teach us that the gift of righteousness does not excuse us from righteous living.
Walker, like Bonhoeffer, makes it clear that just because died for our sins and we are forgiven, it does not mean that we can live anyway we want. That is exactly what Bonhoeffer calls “Cheap Grace”. Costly grace teaches us that the law points us to the fact that we are unable to fulfill the law’s requirements. Thus, we must depend of Jesus and Jesus alone.
…this doesn’t mean the law has been abandoned. It means the law has been fulfilled by Jesus and when we enter the realm of costly grace, we satisfy the law because the life of Jesus, who fulfilled the law, is flowing through us.
This lifestyle has nothing to do with legalism and keeping lists. The problem is that we follow lists rather than following Jesus! Lists do not require faith. A disciple must exercise faith in Jesus, and then grace will flow through that person. This allows holy living to be possible. No Christian will be perfect, but…
…when you slip, you fall into the safety net of grace, acknowledge your mistake, and climb back on the high wire–all the while with Jesus helping and supporting you.
Walking across the chasm on the high wire is now a perfectly reasonable request. If you try to walk across but you’re constantly afraid of slipping, then you deny the grace of Jesus–and you are living like a legalist.
On the other hand, if you walk across but have a cavalier attitude about your steps, even doing things that cause you to fall off the high wire, then you’ve embraced the concept of cheap grace.
Walker writes that Jesus provides us the “net of costly grace.” His grace goes hand in hand with obedience with the Word of God. We are to be doers of the Word. Doers of the Word equates to righteous behavior. Our union with Christ allows His holiness to be incarnated in us. Thus, His commandments can be obeyed.
This is real righteousness–true holiness–because we are one with Holy Christ and we obey our Lord when he commands.
An example of Fallen Thinking…
God’s grace allows me to live however I please.
An example of Kingdom Thinking…
I live holy because I trust Jesus and obey his commands.
Twenty-first century Christians need to hear the message that the Christian life is not a system of doing and trying harder and keeping lists.
Chapter 7 is called “Becoming Like Jesus in Influence .”
Jesus’ Objective–To teach us that our influence flows from God through Jesus to us, not from power, prestige, or even personal piety.
Walker makes it clear in this chapter the followers of Jesus are to make an impact for Jesus on the world.
If you are his disciple, then you are influential.
Christians and the Church are God’s means to keep the world from collapsing. Christians are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This is only possible through the power of Jesus in us. And it is not an option…
Our refusal to use our influence is nothing short of rebellion against God’s plan of salvation and grace. We are refusing to participate in God’s plan. We want the privilege of grace without the responsibility. We’re unwilling–and that doesn’t mean we’re unable–to pay the cost of discipleship.
Bonhoeffer wrote of the curse of “cheap grace” in the 1930’s German church. It also exists in the twenty-first century American church. But we can have a profound influence on the people around because of our close connection to Jesus. The American church does, I believe, want to represent Jesus well in the world. But Walker points out that we go about it the wrong way. The wrong way is to preach and teach that our focus should be on behavior rather than on Jesus.
To be a Christian and not be an influence is the revolutionary thought. Jesus says you are the salt of the earth and that makes you normal in the kingdom of heaven.
To quote Bonhoeffer:
“How impossible, how utterly absurd it would be for the disciples–these disciples, such men as these!–to try and become the light of the world! No, they are already the light, and the call has made them so.”
Simply put, Christians cannot and should be hidden from the world. We continually trust Jesus so that the light will be revealed through us. Being salt and light translates into good works. Those works are the result of God working in our lives; and thus, God gets the credit and the all the glory.
But God alone deserves glory. If we clothe the naked or visit the imprisoned or feed the hungry, we don’t deserve praise. If we are called before a tribunal and are punished for our faith in Christ, we deserve no glory. We are merely being the light Christ has made us to be; we are simply shining from the hilltop on which he has placed us.
Walker concludes the chapter by pointing out that it is God and God alone who engineers our influence on the world. Again, the author, gives several examples of Fallen Thinking and Kingdom Thinking. I will close with an example of each…
Fallen Thinking…My influence and visibility is a result of my own efforts or because of my own goodness.
Kingdom Thinking…My influence and visibility is a result of who lives in me, not because of what I do.
May Jesus live his life in us!
You must give up your double mindedness and give a singular focus to following focus to following Jesus into the kingdom of heaven.
You must quickly and tangibly obey the commands of Jesus and give up distracting debates that keep you from doing what Jesus has already told you you to do (58).