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In the first chapter of Costly Grace, author Jon Walker writes on the connection between grace and discipleship.  Right away, he referred to Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s famous 1937 statement that “cheap grace” is the deadly enemy of the church.  Bonhoeffer said: “We are fighting for costly grace.”  Walker then points out:

We are in that same fight today.

Bonhoeffer defined “cheap grace” as the arrogant presumption that we can receive forgiveness for our sins, yet never abandon our lives to Jesus. We must alter our lives so that we can live in obedience to Jesus.  At this point, Walker links true discipleship with God’s grace. Grace does not make our holiness automatic.  Both Luther and Bonhoeffer made it clear that that we must take the narrow road from self-centered to other-centered.

However, we will compromise and play games with God.  By playing games, Walker explained we can pretend that we haven’t sinned when  we have; deluding ourselves that we are not that bad; and being stuck at the immaturity stage.  Grace doesn’t mean that we can keep on sinning.  Grace means that we abandon everything in order to follow Jesus.

And just like in the days of Bonhoeffer, cheap grace becomes the norm for the Christian life.  Walker reminds us that the grace of God is a transforming power:

Grace is powerful, audacious, and dangerous, and if it ever got free reign in our churches, it would begin a transformation

Walker rightly point out that many Christians misunderstand the coming to Jesus.  Jesus did not come and suffer and die to give us a “code of conduct.” Nor did he come to offer grace so we can keep on living as before.  No, the incarnation of Jesus is immensely personal:

Jesus paid personally to provide for us with free grace and we must pay personally to live within that grace.

The problem, according to Walker, is that unless we come face-to-face to Jesus, cheap grace will be the norm.  True discipleship is when we abandon ourselves and give ourselves totally to Jesus.  That is the message of Jesus.  It is the message that Bonhoeffer wrote about in The Cost of Discipleship. And it is the same message that Jon Walker wants to remind the twenty-first century church.

Costly grace means that we alter lives so that we live in obedience to Jesus. As Luther pointed out, we must take the narrow road from a self-centered life to an other-centered life.  But we have become so use to cheap grace, that it has become the norm for our lives.  Walker then reminds us that grace is a transforming power…

Grace is powerful, audacious, and dangerous, and if it ever got free reign in our churches, it would begin a transformation so rapid and radical that it would cause skeptics to beat a path to our door.

Grace will change us into the image of Jesus.  It is much more that just the forgiveness of sins.  Grace gets us beyond ourselves to “other-centered.”

Grace is powerfully other-focused.  It gives without fear of depletion.  Love, forgiveness, and mercy are handed out with no thought of exhausting the supply.  Someone enveloped by grace is rooted deeply in soil next to a river that never knows drought.

Walker concludes the chapter by simply writing that Christians must get taught about God’s grace…

As we receive his grave, we then pass his grace to others.

October 2010


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