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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost Of Discipleship

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Jon Walker in his book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together writes in chapter 35 about the dangers of confession. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote…

Only the person who has so humbled himself can hear a brother’s confession without harm.

Walker writes that The Big Idea of the chapter is…

And we’re not qualified to hear the confessions of others of special insight or training or unique spiritual training on our part. We’re qualified to hear each other’s confessions because we are sinners who know sin and its destructive power, and we now know Jesus and his redemptive power.

Walker added:

Bonhoeffer says there are two dangers to watch for as our community practices biblical confession.

First, we should never designate one person as the only person to hear confessions. Confession isn’t about setting up some special, spiritual leader who acts as a mediator between God and us. Jesus is already our mediator and he paid a bloody price so that we could have a direct and intimate relationship with the Father. 

…Second, we should guard against turning confession into a pious work. In other words, we don’t confess to impress. We don’t confess in order to appear spiritual. 

…Jesus is…The blood of Jesus purifies us from every every sin and brings us into fellowship with him.

To be like Jesus…Because we are in fellowship with Jesus, we are authorized to help bring one another into the light, where God purifies us from our wrong doing and where we can “have fellowship with one another.” 

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 35)

Jon Walker in his book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together writes in chapter 34 about whom do we confess to in the fellowship of the church. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote…

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Anybody who lives beneath the Cross and who has discerned in the Cross of Jesus the utter wickedness of all men and of his own heart will find there is no sin that can ever be alien to him. Anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the Cross will no longer be horrified by even the rankest sins of a brother. 

Walker writes that The Big Idea of the chapter is…

Only those who live under the cross of Jesus can hear confession. And only those who confess can hear the confession of sin.

Walker added:

…Confessing to one another helps us see each other under the Cross of Jesus, where we are judged, yet granted mercy through the blood of Jesus Christ.

The Cross pushes us past our harsh human criticism and weak indulgences toward “the spirit of divine severity and divine love., We enter into the reality of grace–that we need God’s grace because of our sin–an in that reality, we see the death of our sin.

…We hear confession from one another so that each of us in the fellowship can experience this new gladness: “Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you.” (Psalm 51:12-13) 

…To be like Jesus…We must be broken and humbled before the Father in order to hear the confession of others…

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 34)

Jon Walker in his book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together writes in chapter 33 about how confession is a break-through to certainty. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote…

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness? Self-forgiveness can never lead to a breach with sin; this can be accomplished only by the judging and pardoning (the) Word of God itself. 

Walker writes that The Big Idea of the chapter is…

Confession gives us certainty in God’s unlimited compassion, teaching us that we will always be able to “approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). In this certainty, we can know we are still loved and accepted by God; we can know our talents and skills, will still be used by God; we can be confident that God is with us always, even unto the ends of the earth, even in everything (Philippians 4:13).  

Walker added:

Confessing to one another keeps us honest before God.

…Our confession must be specific, not general, because admitting to concrete sin helps us to develop the faithful certainty that God forgives us.

…Jesus dealt with specific sins confessed by people who came to him knowing they needed forgiveness. And his forgiveness was relentlessly specific in that it cleansed every last bit of the sins in their lives. Bonhoeffer suggests we repeatedly do a self examination, using the 10 Commandments, to assess if we’ve allowed sin to slip into our lives.  

…To be like Jesus…We must learn to trust in Jesus, who guarantees that we can “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.” (Hebrews 4:16 NLT). 

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 33)

Jon Walker in his book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together writes in chapter 32 about how confession is a break-through to new live. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote…

But where there is a break with sin, there is conversion. Confession is conversion

Walker writes that The Big Idea of the chapter is…

Bonhoeffer says, “Confession is conversion.” We not only confess our sins, but confessing leads to our salvation: “If you confess with your mouth. ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10, HCSB).

Walker added:

Bonhoeffer says that confession is discipleship…

…Confession, in fact, is a key to living a victorious Christian life. We learn to forsake our sins and focus on our new life with Jesus. And as we confess, we are stronger in saying no to temptation.

…To be like Jesus…We enter our new life in Christ when we confess our sins and then confess our sins and then confess that Jesus is Lord and Savior. The life of Christ works within us to re-create us into the image of Jesus.

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 32)

Jon Walker in his book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together writes in chapter 31 about how confession is a break-through to the cross, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote…

The cross of Jesus Christ destroys all pride. We cannot find the Cross of Jesus if we shrink from going to the place where it is to be found, namely, the public death of the sinner. And we refuse to bear the Cross when we are ashamed to take upon ourselves the shameful death of the sinner in confession.

Walker writes that The Big Idea of the chapter is…

Often, when we sin, our pride steps in the way and tells us not to do it. And this just adds to the sin of pride we’ve stuffed in the shadows. Confessing to another breaks our pride because it is painful and humiliating, but it is also the very thing that brings us back to the Cross of Christ, where he suffered pain and humiliation because of our sin.

Walker added:

Isn’t it funny how we are often more willing to tell our sins to God than we are to confess them to another person. And that is precisely why the Bible teaches us to confess our sins to one another. 

It forces us to bring our sin out of the abstract and general into the concrete and specific. It forces us to face the truth that our sin is powerful enough to destroy our fellowship with Jesus and with one another, but it also reminds us that God’s grace is greater than our sin, that Jesus spilled his blood to bring us back into fellowship with the Father–and connect us together, accepted into God’s beloved family. 

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 31)

Jon Walker in his book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together writes in chapter 30 about how confession is a break-through in the community of believers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote…

In confession the break-through to community takes place. Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.

Walker writes that The Big Idea of the chapter is…

Our sin hides in the darkness and whispers to us that it should remain unknown. And when we keep it in the darkness, it spreads within us like a toxin, and because we are a part of the Body of Christ, it seeps into our fellowship, eating away at obedience to Jesus. Even those who are spiritually mature can stumble into sin, and then be tempted to keep it in the dark.

Walker added:

…Bonhoeffer notes that when our sin is brought to light, it loses power over us–and over the community.

…we belong to a fellowship of sinners who live within the grace of God and so we should not fear confession because, in a community submitted to Jesus, confession brings us back in to alignment with God and one another. Our confession should, in a community submitted to Jesus, bring us in to great intimacy with each other because we are able to remove the final mask that keeps us truly knowing one another.

…To be like Jesus…

We must walk in the Light in faithful obedience to the truth that confession reduces the power of sin.

…In confession, we reveal, but God heals! 

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 30)

Jon Walker in his book, In Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work:  Life Together writes in chapter 29 about the “Ministry of Confession and Communion.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote…

The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners! 

Walker writes that The Big Idea of the chapter is…

We must allow one another the freedom to be sinners, rather than hiding behind asks of piety. In Christian community we are free to be honest about our faults and this openness allows us to help one another to make the right choices. Otherwise, we leave another alone in our sins, creating a fellowship of shadows where we never really see each other as flawed people who need Jesus but also for who we are becoming in Christ.

Walker added:

…confession is foundational to our fellowship with each other.

…Bonhoeffer says, when we hide our sins  from one another, we are left alone in our sin. And, “He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.”

…And so we wear masks and hide our sins from one another, and that actually undermines the intimacy of our fellowship and that leaves us still wounded in the dark. It is any wonder that so many Christian fellowships remain shallow, never developing the deep commitments that are a necessary part of authentic, intimate, and transparent Christian community?

…Because of Jesus, we are free to be who God created us to be and we are free to be who we are in Christian community. And that frees us our fellowship to help the sinner–and that is each one of us–grow into the fellowship of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

…To be like Jesus…our love for one another should create a safe place, where “we refuse to wear masks and play games…” 

(Jon WalkerIn Visible Fellowship: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s Classic Work: Life Together, Chapter 29)

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