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You must stop seeing Jesus as an add on to your life and begin seeing Jesus as the reason for your life.  You must give up serving Jesus on the basis of common sense and begin the hard task of listening for his specific direction.  You must give up sentimental thoughts of Christian goodness and service and live from the vision Jesus provides of the Christian life (45).

Jon Walker‘s book, Costly Grace was released on October 1.

It is based on Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s classic work, The Cost of Discipleship.

Jon Walker‘s book, Costly Grace was released on October 1.  It is a wonderful book based on Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s classic work, The Cost of Discipleship. The title of chapter 6 is “Becoming Like Jesus by developing His Character.”

The objective of Jesus is:

To teach us the characteristics of Jesus develop in us because we obediently trust God to fulfill his promises, not because we try hard to be like Jesus.

Walker develops this chapter by turning to the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 6.  For the beatitudes to be a reality, one must exercise faith and learn to depend on God.  Faith is not a weakness.  Rather, it is like air which sustains life.  Walker does a good job of explaining the contrast Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount between the self-righteousness of the religious leaders and the true righteousness that is ours when we depend on Jesus.

Walker then describes what life will look like when we follow Jesus.  It is a life that will be characterized by the beatitudes:

  • Dependant based on Matthew 5:3–“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need fro him, for the kingdom of God is theirs.” (Walker the New Living Translation for these verses.  Like his friend, Rick Warren, Walker will switch between various translations of God’s Word).
  • Mourning: “God Blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
  • Meek: “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth” (Matthew 5:5).
  • Just: “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
  • Merciful: “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
  • Pure: “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).
  • Peaceful: “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
  • Righteous: “God blesses who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5:10).

Walker wrote that when we decide to follow Jesus and abandon everything to do so, we will actually find true life:

Jesus calls us into a community of believers, where Bonhoeffer says, “the poorest, meekest, and most sorely tired of all men is to be found–on the cross of Golgotha.” With Jesus we lose it all, but with Jesus we find it all.

As in previous chapters, Walkers concludes by giving examples of Fallen Thinking and Kingdom Thinking…

An example of Fallen Thinking:

I become like Jesus by trying harder to act like Jesus.

An example of Kingdom Thinking:

I become like Jesus by obediently trusting him.

American Christians are prone to try harder and harder to better Christians.  Yet, the formula of Jesus in Sermon on the Mount guards us from the mentality that hard work will transform us into better. We do need to work hard in the spiritual disciplines but we need to remember that Jesus taught us that by wholly depending on God’s grace, we will have the strength to live for him.  But, how many of us will begin our days by approaching God in poverty of spirit and mourning and meekness?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw the urgent need for the Church in 1930’s Germany to understand this message of Jesus.

Jon Walker, in a very fresh way, brings that same message to the twenty-first century Church.

 

 

 

Jon Walker‘s book, Costly Grace was released on October 1.  It is a book that is based on Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s classic work, The Cost of Discipleship.

 

The fifth chapter is “Becoming Like Jesus in Our Loyalty”.  Jesus said in Luke 14:26… 

Those who come to me cannot be my disciples unless they love me more than they love father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and themselves as well.

The objective of Jesus is…

To teach us that, because the life of Christ flows from him through us to others, in a conflict of loyalties, Jesus must always get the higher priority.

Since that is the case, the call of Jesus will separate us from family and friends and nationality and traditions.  There will be times when Jesus wants us to stand alone for him.  Walker describes this as “uncompromising loyalty.”

Jesus will not share your affection for him with anyone else, not even you own family.  If you are faced with a choice between loyalty to him and your loyalty to your father or mother, sister or brother, you must choose Jesus or you cannot claim to be his disciple!

I like Walker’s words when he writes that in order to enter the narrow gate, we must think small and travel light.  We cannot be dragging around a huge backpack filled with “heavy regrets from the past and superficial distractions from the present.”  Walker quoted the wisdom of missionary and martyr Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Walker then correctly pointed out that Christians (probably American Christians) may see Jesus as “ruthless” in his demands for us.  But Jesus has the end goal in mind for us.  He sees the bigger picture of us being formed into the image of himself.  That transformation begins in this life time as we get to know Jesus.  It is like getting married, we leave our former relationships so that we can be united with Jesus.

Walker also explained how our oneness with Jesus allows us to be one with others.  As we are connected with Jesus, we can love others and respond to them as eternal beings.  Some relationships will be severed because of loyalty to Jesus.  Yet as Jesus flows though us, we will be able to connect with others.

To be loyal to Jesus, we must see what Jesus see.  Walker bluntly writes that we must put Christ above all things and people:

The world is winding down and he wants you and everyone connected to you to join him in the kingdom of heaven.  There is no time for reindeer games or dangerous delusions.  It is time to face the truth and live according to the truth.

All of life must be seen through Jesus:

He is the reality, the practical, the relevant and we begin to see all other things through him…And with kingdom eyes, suddenly that cranky spouse becomes an eternal being you must love and respect.

Walker also wrote that Jesus calls us to be part of community that is centered on Christ.  It is not a superficial community based on selfishness and fear and manipulation.  Rather,

We can now be who we are and our brothers and sisters can be who they are.

Jesus will be the center of all our relationships within the Christian community.

In conclusion:

We can measure our obedient trust in Jesus by looking at who gets our highest loyalty.  If there is anyone other than Jesus at the top of the list, the cost of our discipleship is subjugating that relationship to Jesus.  Jesus must be at the top of our loyalty list.

An example of Fallen Thinking:

I might miss out on something if I’m committed exclusively to Jesus.

An example of Kingdom Thinking:

In a conflict of loyalties, Jesus always gets the higher priority.

And that is the message of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  It is a message that is greatly needed for twenty first century Christians!


Jon Walker, in his recent book, Costly Grace began the fourth chapter (“Becoming Like Jesus in Suffering”) with the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Jesus says that every Christian has his own cross waiting for him, a cross destined and appointed by God.  Each must erdure his allotted share of suffering and rejection.

The objective of Jesus, according to Mark 8:31-38 is to:

…teach us…that suffering develops in us an obedient trust in God, where we understand God always has our best interest in mind even when we cannot see that he is doing.  Suffering forces us into the other-thinking of the kingdom of heaven and pushed us into the very heart of God.

Walker writes that Jesus expects his followers to think like Jesus.  This will develop as Christians meditate on the scriptures and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, as we are intimate with the Lord, day in and day out, we will see what he likes and what he doesn’t like.  We will also learn to see life and circumstances from God’s perspective and not our own.  

A stumbling block to this way of thinking and life is when suffering and rejection come into play.  Both Bonhoeffer and Walker make it clear that in the same way that Jesus suffered and was rejected, we will also.  We become like Jesus by taking the road of suffering and rejection:

The cost of discipleship, then, is this: The way we become like Jesus is through suffering and rejection.  Jesus became the Christ because he was rejected and suffered, and for us to become his disciple–to become like Christ–we must share in his rejection, suffering and crucifixion.

And though on paper, many Christians would go along with this truth.  Yet, in reality, many do not understand what it truly means to follow Jesus and to bear the cross on a daily basis.  For example, we are to bear the sins of others because Jesus bore our sins on the cross.  This is possible only when we understand and experience the power of Christ’s forgiveness for us.  People will sin against us and hurt us and reject us; but we are Christ-like when we extend grace because of the cross.

Walker called this “redemptive endurance.”  Suffering will bring us closer to God, and we can boldly approach his throne of grace.  But such a possibility brings fear to us:

If suffering and rejection lead to intimacy with the Father, could it be the inability of so many us to go deeper with God lies in our fear of suffering and rejection?  It is possible our avoidance of these things keeps us in the shallow waters of discipleship?

Suffering may take us off guard, but God is never surprised!  Nothing that occurs to us is outside the sovereign will of the Lord.  There is sweet peace knowing that God is in charge regardless of the amount of suffering and rejection we are going through.  Thus, as Bonhoeffer so famously put it:

Thus it begins.  The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.  When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die!

Every call from Jesus is a call to die.  Every commandment of Jesus is a command to die.

Every day we are given a choice to obey or not to obey Jesus as we face with sin and the devil.

Walker’s application:

Suffering signals that God is near.  Rather than avoiding it, I will pay the cost of suffering, knowing it draws me into the heart of the Father and that he will use it for his redemptive purposes.

An example of Fallen Thinking:

Suffering is a distraction from my real purpose.

An example of Kingdom Thinking:

Suffering does not just happen upon me; ,it is part of God’s purpose for me life.

Thus, are we willing to be the price in truly following Jesus?  Walker’s book is a twenty-first century wake up call for the American Church.


I have not read Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer yet, but I plan to do so.  Here is an interesting write up on it from Touchstone

Will the Real Bonhoeffer Please Stand Up?

Eric Metaxas’ new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer has been getting a good deal of attention since its release, and justly so. My review of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy appears in the current issue of The City. With minor criticisms, I judge the book to be “comprehensive and thorough, with a level of close examination that most other biographical works on Bonhoeffer have not achieved, and certainly not with this level of readability and accessibility.”

As with so many things related to Bonhoeffer (see an instance here on Bonhoeffer and his view of abortion), there is in this case some disagreement with such an assessment coming from the ranks of the professional Bonhoeffer experts. Victoria Barnett, general editor of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, English Edition, says that Metaxas’ book is “badly flawed.” She points to his “evangelical” reading of Bonhoeffer, which in her view amounts to an ideological imposition: “Bonhoeffer’s theology, precisely because it was the theology of a devout, reflective, and faithful Christian, was far more complex than the narrow ideological confines to which Metaxas tries to restrict him.”

As many have noted, in the years since Bonhoeffer’s death there have been ongoing attempts to appropriate the Bonhoeffer legacy for a wide variety of purposes, from the patron saint of lesbian theology and forerunner of the ‘death of God’ theology to an adherent of Barthian ‘orthodoxy’ and evangelical martyr.

Bonhoeffer’s story is a complex one, and his story is not identical with the history of the reception of his work in the English language (for more on this, see my review essay in Christian Scholar’s Review, “Bonhoeffer in America,” Summer 2008). In my view, Metaxas’ book provides an important voice and corrective to the story as told by many other popular biographies. Metaxas’ book is a complement, and not a replacement, for the longer and scholarly biography by Bonhoeffer’s friend Eberhard Bethge (which appeared in updated and revised edition recently, a project overseen by Victoria Barnett).

That’s not to say that Metaxas’ book isn’t lengthy. But if President George W. Bush can brave the 600 pages(!), then you can too.

 

Chapter three of Jon Walker‘s Costly Grace is called “Becoming Like Jesus in Obedience.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “The actual call of Jesus and the single-minded obedience have an irrevocable significance.  By means of them Jesus calls people into an actual situation where faith is possible.”


Jesus’ Objective: To teach us that we will only develop faith when we take steps that require us to obediently trust Jesus–but those steps must be the ones Jesus tells us to take.

Simply put, according to Walker, we do not get to the life God desires on our own terms.  Rather, it comes through single-minded obedience to Jesus.  Like a paratrooper, we do not hesitate at the door of the plane.

The real question is: did you sign up to be a paratrooper or nor? If the answer is yes, then they must learn to jump without reservation or hesitation.  They must trust that the plane is at the right attitude and going the right speed, that they are over the target, that the pilot knows what he is doing.

Christian discipleship (that is, following Jesus) is not living out the old life and then doing that one thing to get us into heaven.  Rather, discipleship is…

…is about irrevocably leaving your present life behind and entering a new life, where Jesus is the center of significance.

But like the young rich ruler who rejected the demands of Jesus, we can be loyal to other pursuits that keep us from fully following Jesus. Anything that is more important than Jesus is idolatry.  While we might think we are “secure” in our idols, just the opposite is true–we are insecure.  The boat in rough waters may seem like the safest place to be.  But if Jesus calls to get out of the boat, the safest place is actually on the raging sea.  Thus, we should not hesitate or speculate what to do next.  Jesus has clearly told us!  Walker put it this way:

The call of discipleship is to follow after Jesus, even onto the water.  In a sense, Jesus beckons: “Come closer to me.  Be my disciple.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I am the only way.  So I require you to be focused exclusively on me in your obedience.”

When that doesn’t happen, we will be like Peter who took his eyes off and sunk into the water.  The reason so many Christians are so unstable in their faith is that their eyes are not entirely focused on Jesus.  On top of that, the sin of anxiety is the opposite of trust in Jesus.  Many Christians are like small children who are too scared to come out of the closet.  Like scared children, we can rationalize our way out of obedience to Jesus.  Walker echoes Bonhoeffer when he writes…

Jesus is always looking at the end game.  He knows that time is ticking down to the final judgment and he wants as many people as possible prepared for his return.  And by commanding we give him single-minded obedience, he focuses us on the things that are essential.  We live with our eyes on his imminent return and our minds on kingdom thoughts.

Yet, the same problem exists today as in 1930’s in Germany.  We allow the church or ourselves to define what a Christian is rather than letting Jesus decide!

A mindset of a radical (normal) Christian is that Jesus will purposely put us into situations where faith is possible.  Our responsibility is to listen to Jesus and then do what he says.  When we obey, we give ourselves to Jesus rather than to the command of Jesus.   Walker invites us to think of grace as a orchestra…

The maestro will demand you to give up anything that distracts, anything that hinders your progress, any habit or attitude that simply isn’t fitting for the for the grand performance to come.  The maestro will not compromise in his standards of excellence; yet, every day he will be by your side, encouraging you in your development as a musician.

Again Walker concluded with examples of Fallen Thinking…My delayed obedience is a matter of prudence; I demand that I understand everything before I am obedient.

And,

Kingdom Thinking…Obeying Jesus is the safest, smartest thing I can do.  when I am obedient to him, I can rest in his grace and protection, knowing he goes before and before me.

Amen!

The second chapter of Jon Walker‘s Costly Grace is called “Becoming Like Jesus Through His Call.” Walker starts out by stating the objective of Jesus:

To teach us that our obedient trust of Jesus can be treasured by our need to control life. 

Jesus doesn’t call us to follow him so that we can be nice and to help others.  Rather:

His call is a command for you to comprehensively and absolutely walk away from the way you do life now so you can follow him down an exclusive path through the narrow gate that leads to the kingdom of heaven.

Again, it is more than becoming just a good person.  Being a Christian is more than keeping a list of rules.  When rules are more important than a relationship, it leads to a life of legalism.  Following Jesus means that the shed blood of Jesus on the cross paid the cost of our entry into the kingdom of God.  The gate is open but we must enter by God’s grace.  And when we enter, we mus live everything behind.

According to Walker, we follow Jesus with real and tangible steps when we are forever connected to the path of following Jesus.  But such commitment to Christ goes against the norm of following Jesus today.  When a Christian is radically obedient to Jesus, such a person is an “exceptional” Christian. But…

…the truth is their exceptional faith should be the norm and what passes for normal in our congregations is little more than a general focus on Jesus that allows us to remain satisfied at the threshold of Christian maturity without entering in the abundant life that Jesus died to provide.

But as Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about decades ago, when we follow Jesus, we are in bondage to him.  This relationship ensures the presence of Jesus in our lives.  The living Christ is the foundation of true discipleship.  True discipleship will erode, however, when following Jesus becomes inconvenient or when the full cost of discipleship becomes too costly.

But it comes down to our decision to focus on Jesus and his demands for our lives.  When Jesus calls us, he graciously calls us to abandon ourselves to him (Luke 9:61-62).  As we exercise our faith in his word, we will obey and as we obey, our faith will grow.  Walker used the example of Peter who obeyed the call of Jesus to step out of the boat.  Peter actually trusted Jesus, but in order to know that Jesus would give him the ability to walk on water, he would have to step out of the boat.  In the same way…

Jesus calls us to step into a new life–a life of faith…When Peter stepped out of the storm-tossed boat and onto the water where the safest place to be?  In the boat or in the arms of Jesus?  The answer, of course, is Jesus, and for a brief time Peter saw that. Right then he got a glimpse of what it is like to intimately trust Jesus and what it is like to operate within the realm of costly grace as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.

Walker wrote that Jesus will intentionally and constantly push us into new situations where it is possible for us to intimately believe of Jesus as God incarnate.

At the end of the chapter, Walker wrote: You must stop seeing as an add on to your life and begin seeing Jesus as the reason for your life.

This was also the first chapter where Walker distinguishes between Fallen Thinking and Kingdom Thinking. For example…

Fallen Example: “I decide for Christ” instead of “I submit to Christ.”

Kingdom Thinking: “I submit to Christ” instead of “I agree with Christ”

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.

Jon Walker wrote in the Introduction of Costly Grace that many Christians fail to experience all that Jesus has for us:

Why, instead of the abundant life, do so many of us end up living lives of quiet desperation?  We go to church; we read the Bible; we pray; we try to be good people and to serve other people; yet for many of us, our life with Jesus doesn’t seem to be much more than an add-on to our increasingly complex lives, where are over-stretched and now seem to be a facing a tsunami of uncertainty in many areas that for so long have seem relatively scare–our finances, our jobs, our homes, and even our fundamental safety.

Our American solution to this is…

…we try harder, work harder, pray harder, study harder, and try to figure out what we’re doing wrong because that’s what we think Jesus wants us to do.

Walker points out that such a approach will lead to worn-out followers of Jesus.  The answer, according to Walker, is not to try harder but to trust Jesus more.  Yet, with that said, we can still slip into our old ways of trying harder.  This is where the grace of Jesus comes in.  It is a grace that is always there for Christians to be empowered to live for Jesus.  As Walker put it…

Jesus died and was resurrected so that you could get there today and stay there everyday of your life.  You can access it at any time.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the The Cost of Discipleship because he knew that the German church had lost focus on Jesus, and thus, the true meaning of following him (discipleship).  True discipleship means being intimate with Jesus.  Bonhoeffer’s concerns for the German church in the 1930’s are also our concerns for the twenty-first century church in America:

  1. The church has reduced the gospel to a set of burdensome rules.
  2. We have wrapped the gospel in a sense of false hopes (For example, “I can sin because of grace”)

The answer is that Jesus brings us both grace and truth.  There is error when one or the other is left out.  Grace will keep us from being legalistic and truth will keep us from licentiousness.  Thus…

We must go to Jesus, not only to learn how to live, but to receive the life from which we live–his life placed in us to create in us the righteousness of God and the characteristics of Christ.  The essence of discipleship, then, is to know Jesus at a level of intimacy that can only be sustained by his constant presence in our lives.

Bonhoeffer points out that Jesus will give us the strength to live for him.  But a key component of all this is whether we live like citizens of heaven (kingdom thinking) or citizens of a fallen earth (fallen thinking).

There is a cost in following Jesus.

Walker’s final words in the Introduction are:

Jesus calls, you must respond.  My prayer is that this book will help you see the simplicity of following Jesus while also helping you understand the cost of such discipleship!


Jon Walker wrote in Costly Grace how Dietrich Bonhoeffer not only understood true discipleship, but lived it to the very end. Bonhoeffer…

…died as he lived, focused exclusively on Christ and humbly submitting to the ultimate cost of discipleship.  Offered an opportunity to escape, he declined, not wanting to put his family in danger.  He was led to the gallows after concluding a Sunday morning service saying: “This is the end–for me the beginning of life.”

Walker also correctly understands the enormous impact that Bonhoeffer continues to have…

He has become of the most influential theological voices of the twentieth century and the The Cost of Discipleship is considered a classic in ecclesiological literature.  Many of its concepts are noew deeply ingrained in modern Protestant thought and practice.

I would add that Bonhoeffer’s impact has continued through the first decade of the twenty-first century!

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