Costly Grace

After I finished reading Metaxas's biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I immediately searched my home library for his book, The Cost of Discipleship, or simply titled in German, Discipeship. I

The Resurrection of Lazarus  by Vincent van Go...Van Gogh The Raising of Lazarus

started reading the first chapter and discovered notes in my own handwriting, but only in the first chapter. It is a very important chapter. It's titled Costly Grace, but it's where he discusses it's antithesis, cheap grace. He boils down the distinction to one sentence.

The justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of sin and the world. p. 50

He places one of Luther's famous seemingly contradictory quotes in its correct context. Luther says, "Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly still." In short, Bonhoeffer concludes,
Take courage and confess your sin, says Luther, do not try to run away fro it, but believe more boldly still. You are a sinner, so be a sinner, and don't try to become what you are not. But to whom can such words be addressed, except to those who from the bottom of their hearts make a daily renunciation of sin and of every barrier which hinders them from following Christ, but who nevertheless are troubled by their daily faithlessness and sin? Who can hear these words without endangering his faith but he who hears their consolation as a renewed summons to follow Christ? p.53
As Bonhoeffer says later in the book, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die," p.89. Jesus himself tells us ,"Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find/save it," Matthew 16:25 and Luke 9:24. However, this radical call of Christ gets swallowed up by the offer of cheap grace. We are tempted to reason,
But if grace is the data for my Christian life, it means that I set out to live the Christian life in the world with all my sins justified beforehand. I can go and sin as much as I like, and rely on this grace to forgive me, for after all the world is justified in in principle by grace. I can therefore cling to my bourgeois secular existence, and remain as I was before, but with the added assurance that the grace of God will cover me...The Christian life comes to mean nothing more than living in the world and as the world, in being no different from the world for the sake of grace. The upshot of it all is that my only duty as a Christian is to leave the world for an hour or so on a Sunday morning and go to church to be assured that my sins are all forgiven. pp.50-51
If we are inhabited by a new life, why would our lives be the same? It reminds me of the angels question to the women who came to dress Jesus's body in the tomb. "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5) If dying to ourselves gives us new life in Jesus, why would we return to the habits of the dead? As James says, "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) When Jesus calls us out of the tomb of our sinfulness, like Lazarus, we walk out still bound up in the grave clothes. We need to shake them off, we even need help as Laz's sisters helped him take them off, John 11:44. How foolish Laz would have looked to say to his sisters, "No thank you. These are actually quite comfortable." They might be comfortable, but they stink, they blind him, and they bind him.

Our Father in heaven loved us so much, he exchanged the life of his son to save us. That is the cost of grace. That is the depth of His love. How can we look back to the comforts of our tomb and refuse to exchange our grave cloths with a new tunic. In Luke 15:22, the overjoyed father calls for a new robe to be placed on the shoulders of the repentant and formerly profligate son. Shall we shake it off and tell our rejoicing Father, "no thanks." As C.S. Lewis says we are too content with mud and ignore the feast spread out before us. We don't know what transcendence is like until we leave the tomb, shake off our zombie rags, take our tongues out of the mud, and try the new wine our Lord offers us.
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