I’ve been leading our Wednesday night Bible class through a discussion of Bonhoeffer’s book, Cost of Discipleship. One of the main contributions of this work is the presentation of the idea of “cheap grace”. Basically, by “cheap grace” Bonhoeffer contends that sometimes the church simplifies conversion and the Christian life to the point that it contradicts Jesus teaching.
So is it possible to make salvation too easy to access?
I think the answer is “Yes”. I think we face a temptation to sugar coat Jesus’ invitation to follow him. We face a temptation to say things like, “If you give your life to Jesus, he’ll solve all your problems.” Or maybe something like, “You know, if you’d committed your life to Christ and were following him, you wouldn’t find yourself in this situation.” Okay, that second one isn’t really inviting, but we sometimes sell the idea that life can be trouble free once Jesus takes our sins away.
That’s not really how Jesus presented the call to discipleship.
My text yesterday was John 21. Verse 19 really grabbed my attention as I prepared this lesson. “Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”” There are several big concepts in this one verse:
- Jesus predicts that the Apostle Peter will be martyred.
- Peter’s death would glorify God.
- The call to discipleship, “Follow me!”
There’s no sugar coating going on here. Can you imagine this as the invitation in our cream coloured, dust free, padded pews, fresh flowery auditoriums? “Come to the front during this closing song if you’re willing follow Jesus and I promise that you’ll be killed sometime for making this choice.” That’s the invitation Jesus gave Peter. And Peter accepted it!
My sermon also spent considerable time in Luke 14:25-33. First Jesus deliberately provokes the crowds by telling them they need to “hate their family or you cannot be my disciple” in fact, they need to “hate life itself”. They need to be prepared to carry their cross, to follow him to death, or they cannot be Jesus’ disciple. Can you imagine being there and being told that? (I definitely regard the “hate” as hyperbole, and I think the next passage clarifies it.)
Jesus goes on to say that people considering accepting his call to “Follow me”, should make sure they count the cost. That cost might be their family. It might be their life. It might be financial security, or health. Everyone’s experience differs, but there is a cost to following Jesus. That’s the truth. That’s the absence of sugar. There is a cost to following Jesus.
Accepting Jesus’ call to “Follow me” does not mean we get the keys to the candy store. Jesus calls us to join his mission in freeing the world from the effects of sin. He calls us to follow him through a narrow gate, along a path where the enemy continually plants IED’s. He calls us to follow him to eternal life. He calls us to love Him. He calls us to die to self. He calls us to exclusive attachment, even above family and yes, even above life itself.
Jesus’ call to discipleship is intimidating.
But I love the flow of this passage of teaching and the message of its rhythm.
- Luke 14:15-22 – God invites humanity to a party. When people reject his invitation, he’s so keen for guests that he twice expands his search to ensure everyone has the opportunity to attend.
- Luke 14:25-27 – Following Jesus requires sacrifice and commitment. It costs something.
- Luke 14:28-35 – Count the cost of following Jesus before you begin the journey. Make sure you can complete the journey and not let anything hold you back.
- Luke 15 – ALL THAT OTHER STUFF SOUNDS SCARY, BUT LOOK HOW MUCH GOD LOVES YOU!!!!!
Going back to John 21. There’s one more crucial note of context I need to mention. When Jesus says, “You’re going to die. Follow me!” He’s speaking as the resurrected Messiah. Jesus presence demonstrates that he has defeated death and conquered sin in such a powerful way that no explanation is necessary. He doesn’t just invite Peter to die. He invites him to truly live.
The call to follow Jesus at once intimidates and challenges. It’s costly. It’s also an invitation to life.
Here’s your chance to participate in the conversation. I’m interested in hearing from you, so please leave a comment.
- Is it possible to make salvation too easy to access?
- Is it possible to make the call to follow Jesus too radical?
- How can you tell if you’re too comfortable in your walk with Jesus?