Saturday, March 24, 2018

Costly Grace

Post by: Mwangi Ndonga

By far (arm lengths, miles, light years), my favorite book on the Christian life is The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I have an old copy that a former pastor lent to me. On the cover it says “A powerful attack on ‘easy Christianity’”. Is your Christian life easy?

I’m not asking if you becoming a Christian was easy.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8

I’m asking about life ex post facto.

Bonhoeffer distinguishes cheap grace from costly grace in his first chapter:

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.

He goes on to say that, “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.” I don’t think that Bonhoeffer is saying that we “owe” Jesus for his sacrifice nor that we all have to enroll in seminary tomorrow. But we must recognize the cost at which our privilege was purchased.

A long time ago, I used to think: “So what’s the big deal about Jesus giving his life up? Firemen run into fires to save lives – giving up their lives for others at times. What’s so special about Jesus?”

Paul clarified this for me in Romans 5:6 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Would you step in and serve the sentence of a criminal? Would you lay your life so that a death row inmate is not executed? Would you sacrifice your child to bear the sin burden of the entire world and suffer? I wouldn’t. But Christ did. But God did.

And that is radical. And that is free. And that is costly.

Because of costly grace, Christianity isn’t a spectator sport.

“Are ye able,” said the Master,
“to be crucified with me?”
“Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered,
“To the death we follow thee.”

Mwangi Ndonga currently lives in Broomfield with his wife, Talesha, and son, Kamundia. They have been members of BUMC since 2010. Mwangi primarily serves on the Worship and Arts Ministry by playing piano and bass guitar during the Contemporary Services. He works as an environmental, health and safety professional in the oil and gas industry. An avid reader, Mwangi loves discussion on almost any topic, especially music and theology.

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