Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Conversion of life, cheapening of grace & the cost of discipleship

It is a costly thing to follow Christ. The 'conversio morum' - the conversion of life - is made much harder by the way we idolize comfort "if it's not comfortable it can't be right".... I like the old translation of Psalm 23 "Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" - when you know that the rod and staff were the tools by which the shepherd would guide sheep, keeping them in line and not always gently then you can see a new dimension to the care of the shepherd. In fact we are to look for peace Colossians 3:15 ruling in our hearts - not comfort. Jesus gives us his comforter who does comfort us but often the process of receiving the comforter is anything but comfortable as we are to draw near to him in faith with humility - I don't know many human beings who do consistently well at being humble. I talked about faith on Sunday morning at our central gathering - how to grow in faith from having little faith to the kind of small faith that can move mountains. So often our desire for control, to manage our own comfort stops us from living and walking in faith. There is great joy in knowing and following Jesus but we know that to walk his way is to walk a path of losing ones life in order to gain it. But instead we seek a comfort, a cheap grace, we, in the words of Matt Redman, "craft for ourselves a more comfortable cross".
Dietrich Boenhoffer - imprisoned & murdered by the Nazi regime, a man who was in on the start of one of the new monastic movements spoke eloquently about the cost of discipleship and the cheapening of grace;

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer "The Cost of Discipleship

I need say no more.

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