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Jon Walker‘s book, Costly Grace is a contemporary view of Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s classic work, The Cost of Discipleship.

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.

October 2010
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