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Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-45) was a German theologian and pastor who spoke out against the Nazi regime during World War II. His resistance against Hitler’s regime culminated with him being hung in a concentration camp at Flossenbürg.

Today, Bonhoeffer’s works are loved by many. His writing, despite time, is still youthful, enlightening, and inspirational.

Additionally, Bonhoeffer is most known for his rich writing on discipleship. In celebration of the Easter season, we thought it would be timely to share his comments on discipleship and the cross. [Plus, we asked if you all wanted to read something from Bonhoeffer on our Instagram account. The answer was a resounding: YES!]

So, check out Mark 8:31–38 because it’s the passage Bonhoeffer discusses in the following excerpt. Then… read and be encouraged!

DISCIPLESHIP AND THE CROSS

The call to discipleship is connected here with the proclamation of Jesus’ suffering. Jesus Christ has to suffer and be rejected. God’s promise requires this, so that scripture may be fulfilled. Suffering and being rejected is not the same. Even in his suffering, Jesus could have been the celebrated Christ. Indeed, the entire compassion and admiration of the world could focus on the suffering. Looked upon as something tragic, the suffering could in itself convey its own value, its own honor, and dignity. But Jesus is the Christ who was rejected in his suffering. Rejection removed all dignity and honor from his suffering.

It had to be dishonorable suffering.

Suffering and rejection express in summary form the cross of Jesus. Death on the cross means to suffer and die as one rejected and cast out. It was by divine necessity that Jesus had to suffer and be rejected. Any attempt to hinder what is necessary is satanic. Even, or especially, if such an attempt comes from the circle of disciples because it intends to prevent Christ from being Christ.

The fact that it is Peter, the rock of the church, who makes himself guilty doing this just after he has confessed Jesus to be the Christ and has been commissioned by Christ, shows that from its very beginning the church has taken offense at the suffering Christ. It does not want that kind of Lord, and as Christ’s church, it does not want to be forced to accept the law of suffering from its Lord. Peter’s objection is his aversion to submitting himself to suffering. That is a way for Satan to enter the church.

Satan is trying to pull the church away from the cross of its Lord.

So Jesus has to make it clear and unmistakable to his disciples that the need to suffer now applies to them, too. Just as Christ is only Christ as one who suffers and is rejected, so a disciple is a disciple only in suffering and being rejected, thereby participating in crucifixion. Discipleship as allegiance to the person of Jesus Christ places the follower under the law of Christ, that is, under the cross.

For the rest of the post…

This article is part of the 10 Things You Should Know series.

1. His ministry began in the year of his conversion as a young man.

Spurgeon was raised in a Christian home, but was converted in 1850 at fifteen years old. Caught in a snowstorm, he took refuge in a small Primitive Methodist chapel in Colchester. After about ten minutes, with only twelve to fifteen people present, the preacher fixed his eyes on Spurgeon and spoke to him directly:

“Young man, you look very miserable.” Then, lifting up his hands, he shouted, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothin’ to do but to look and live.” Spurgeon later wrote, ‘Oh! I looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away.’ 1

The ‘Prince of Preachers’ was tricked into preaching his first sermon that same year. An older man had asked Spurgeon to go to the little village of Teversham the next evening, “for a young man was to preach there who was not much used to services, and very likely would be glad of company.” It was only the next day that he realized the ‘young man’ was himself.2

2. He was a man of hard work and huge influence.

He went on to preach in person up to thirteen times per week, gathered the largest church of his day, and could make himself heard in a crowd of twenty-three thousand people (without amplification). In print he published some eighteen million words, selling over fifty-six million copies of his sermons in nearly forty languages in his own lifetime.

3. He was self-consciously a theological and doctrinal preacher.

While Spurgeon is not known as a theologian as such, he was nevertheless a deeply theological thinker and his sermons were rich in doctrine, and dripping with knowledge of historical theology – especially the Puritans.

Some preachers seem to be afraid lest their sermons should be too rich in doctrine, and so injure the spiritual digestions of their hearers. The fear is superfluous. . . . This is not a theological age, and therefore it rails at sound doctrinal teaching, on the principle that ignorance despises wisdom. The glorious giants of the Puritan age fed on something better than the whipped creams and pastries which are now so much in vogue.3

4. He was pre-eminently a theologian and preacher of the cross.

Spurgeon’s was a cross-centered and cross-shaped theology, for the cross was “the hour” of Christ’s glorification (John 12:23–24), the place where Christ was and is exalted, the only message able to overturn the hearts of men and women otherwise enslaved to sin. Along with Isaiah 45:22, one of Spurgeon’s favorite Bible verses was John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

He insisted on celebrating the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, and often broke bread during the week as well. He believed his preaching of the crucified Christ was the only reason why such great crowds were drawn to his church for so many years.

Who can resist his charms? One look of his eyes overpowers us. See with your heart those eyes when they are full of tears for perishing sinners, and you are a willing subject. One look at his blessed person subjected to scourging and spitting for our sakes will give us more idea of his crown rights than anything besides. Look into his pierced heart as it pours out its life-flood for us, and all disputes about his sovereignty are ended in our hearts. We own him Lord because we see how he loved.4

5. He aimed his ministry and preaching at new birth.

Regeneration was one of the “three Rs” (ruin, redemption, and regeneration) Spurgeon always sought to preach. And regeneration was something he always expected to see as he preached the gospel. A friend of his once came to him, depressed because for three months of ministry he had not seen a single conversion. Spurgeon slyly asked, “Do you expect the Lord to save souls every time you open your mouth?” Embarrassed, the man answered “Oh, no, sir!” “Then,” Spurgeon replied, “that is just the reason why you have not had conversions: ‘According to your faith be it unto you.’”5

Regeneration, he saw, is a work of pure grace—and those the Lord regenerates, he will indwell. And “with such an indweller we need not fear, but that this poor heart of ours will yet become perfect as God is perfect; and our nature through his indwelling shall rise into complete meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light.”6

6. He knew how to enjoy life.

Spurgeon loved life and saw the creation as a blessing from God to be enjoyed. For tired ministers, he recommended:

A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm,’ which ‘would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.’7

He couldn’t resist walking outside in thunderstorms (‘I like to hear my Heavenly Father’s voice in the thunder’), he is known for his cigar smoking, and he had a keen interest in botany. Like us all, Spurgeon was uniquely himself. Yet his big-heartedness and joy as he walked through his Father’s creation displays exactly the sort of life that will always grow from the theology he believed.

“To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering
which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Jesus himself did not try to convert the two thieves on the cross; he waited until one of them turned to him.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1987-074-16, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.jpg

This was fun…

Dorospirit - this pretty much sums me up!

I sometimes talk about Dietrich Bonhoeffer in my services, church meetings etc. He was an inspirational person!

But then I thought sometimes it’s a bit boring to just talk about someone’s biography. So instead, I created a quiz.

These are my questions (and I had fun making up some of the answers!!):

Bonhoeffer Quiz:

  1. Bonhoeffer’s father was
    a) a Lutheran minister
    b) a butcher and an atheist
    c) a psychiatrist and a Christian
  2. Because he was too young to be ordained after he finished his studies in theology (he had 2 PhDs and was a University Lecturer before the age of 25!), Bonhoeffer spent some time studying in:
    a) the USA
    b) the UK
    c) Switzerland
  3. While he was in the States, Bonhoeffer attended and was deeply inspired by
    a) a Presbyterian Church in Texas
    b) a Methodist Church in Florida
    c) an African-American Baptist Church in Harlem
  4. Bonhoeffer was

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by John Piper | December 26, 2013

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Cross is a new student conference on missions. It begins tomorrow evening.

This conference is a dream come true for me. I give four reasons for why in my message tomorrow night. So I won’t give them here. You can live-stream all the main sessions at desiringGod.org/live, beginning at 8:15 PM (EST) tomorrow (full live-stream schedule below).

The premise of the conference is that biblical Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering. We believe that God sent his eternal Son into the world to bear sin’s penalty for his people and to rescue them from eternal suffering, and to give them ever-increasing and everlasting joy in the glory of redeemed bodies, on a redeemed earth, free from all misery and all sin. Everyone who receives this gift through faith in Christ will have it. It is offered to all, and free for all.

Focusing on the Unreached

God’s purpose is to gather this redeemed people from all the peoples and tribes and languages of the world. Frontier missions is the heralding of this news to the remaining unreached peoples of the world. That’s our focus at Cross.

It is not a conference about evangelizing people in general. It’s a conference about the peculiar task of missions: the task of crossing cultures, and learning languages, and, by the miracle-working grace of God, establishing biblically faithful churches among the unreached peoples.

Radiant with Hope

Cross is radiant with hope, because it is built on the absolute sovereignty of God in the salvation of the hardest sinners. If sinners were decisive in saving themselves, the outcome of missions would be up for grabs. It’s not.

The “musts” and “wills” and “shalls” of God are inviolable.

  • “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
  • “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
  • “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you” (Psalm 22:27).

Christ has ransomed a people among all the peoples of the world. “By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Missions Cannot Fail

They are his, and he will have them. He has chosen and destined them for adoption from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4–5).“Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). None will be lost.

The way he calls his sheep is missions. And it cannot fail. When a people group seems distant, hidden, resistant, hostile, Jesus has a word to say about that. When the skeptic, and the doubter say, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus responds, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:25–27).

For the rest of the post…

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)

God’s love for man means the cross and the way of discipleship. But that cross and that way are both life and resurrection. 

Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship1961 edition, 244.

The peace of Jesus is the cross. But the cross is the sword God wields on earth. It creates division. The son against the father, the daughter against the mother, the member of the house against the head–all this will happen in the name of God’s kingdom and his peace.  

Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship1961 edition, 243.

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