They lied to us. Every parent, pastor, teacher, relative, and friend who told us that all we had to do was show up for church one hour a week or say the Sinner’s Prayer once upon a time or go forward at the Crusade lied to us.
This is exactly what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” It is, in the words of Bonhoeffer, “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” And it is the antithesis, the precise opposite, of what Jesus truly says to all who desire to be His disciple.
The truth is that every church eventually makes just the kind of disciples it sets out to make. Churches that expect members to show up one hour a week will get disciples who show up for one hour a week. Churches that keep feeding milk will get baby disciples. And churches that preach and teach from passages like Luke 14:25-35 at least have the hope of producing true disciples of Jesus Christ.
It is a proud and dangerous thing to minimize the words of Jesus Christ or His call on our lives. “Great multitudes” went with Jesus in verse 25, but I’m pretty sure (though this passage doesn’t say so) that there weren’t nearly as many left by the time He’d finished. His words are hard, and yet they are the very words of life.
For Jesus says in verse 25 that anyone who does not hate his family members and even his own life cannot be His disciple. Everyone knows this is not literal (and yes, you can say that certain parts of the Bible aren’t literal and still believe everything the Bible says). We know we are not to hate, but to love. What we don’t always know is that what Jesus means is that everything in life, even family, even self, is to be sacrificed, given up for His sake. We are to love every human, especially our family, but we are to love God even more.
As if that weren’t enough, and because for most of us it’s not enough, Jesus makes Himself even more plain in verse 27: “He who does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple,” and again in verse 33: “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
Did you feel it? Did you feel the squirm of the Old Man, writhing and slithering and making up 1001 protests for why this can’t be right?
And yet it is exactly what Jesus says to you this morning: “If you do not forsake all, you cannot be My disciple.”
This is why He tells the brief parable of the person building a tower who must first count the cost. There is a tremendous cost to being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and the price is everything. There is not a single part of my life that God didn’t create and not a single part that He doesn’t own. There isn’t a single part that can be held back, for that is what the whole burnt offering of Romans 1 is: to sacrifice, give up, and deny every part of my Old Man, so that God may give me the New Man, Jesus Christ.
Now personally, I’ve calculated the cost/reward ratio with God and discovered that it’s pretty good. I give up my sinful self that causes everyone harm and makes us all miserable and would die soon anyway, and in return I get to live with God forever, restored to fullness of life and righteousness.
But back to the price. I am to bear this cross, this cross of self-sacrifice every day for the rest of my life. It hurts. I would be one of the liars of cheap grace if I told you it didn’t.
And it’s hard. Again, I would be a liar if I told you it weren’t.
It’s costly. It means paying the price of giving up what I desire to do, every day and at every moment.
And yet the One who bore His Cross – that is, your Cross – for you, will bear this cross of crucifying the Old Man as well. In fact, He already has, and He continues to every day. And He’s put others in your life to help you carry your burden, for all together we are the Body of Christ and carry His Cross with Him.
Count the cost, because the cost of even the smallest of your sins is separation from God. Count the cost, because the cost of even the smallest of your sins was the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Count the cost, therefore, not just in cosmic eternal terms, but also in daily, momentary terms. Whenever the chance arises to deny yourself that little sin or overindulgence or pride or laziness, take that opportunity to deny yourself and follow the Master.
Thank God that the cross He has asked you to bear is to be born by others as well. And thank God that He only makes you bear the cross He has asked you to bear one moment, one opportunity, and one splinter at a time. In so bearing your daily cross, it becomes a part of His Cross, for as we are joined with Christ in His resurrection and glory, so we are joined to Christ in His suffering and death.
P.S. I told you in yesterday’s meditation that you would hear today about the price of admission to God’s Feast and Kingdom – so you can’t say I didn’t warn you!
Prayer: Lord, help me today to bear the cross that You have lovingly fashioned and designed for me. In loving and rejoicing in You, may I deny myself; in living for You may the old man in me die; in losing myself may I gain You; and in following You may I forsake all others, including myself.
Points for Meditation:
- What is the cost of discipleship that Christ is asking you to pay?
- In what ways are you being tempted to settle for “cheap grace”?
Resolution: I resolve today to bear one splinter today that I refused to bear yesterday. It might be one of the things I’ve already resolved to bear earlier this week, and it might be something else the Lord is asking me to bear (which may be something to take on or something to give up). If the opportunity arises today, I will share my burden with another or help someone else bear his.
The Crucifixion by Matthias Grunewald – U.S. Public Domain