Grace Rightly Understood

The Eric Metaxas biography of German preacher and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy) was a shock to my system.  I had not previously been aware of most of the details of Adolph Hitler’s rise to power and the relationship between his dictatorship and the Christian Church in Germany.  I was startled to learn how fragile society is in the face of economic turbulence and societal elements which are bent on a self-aggrandizing agenda.  Years ago I read Bonhoeffer’s book, The Cost of Discipleship, but was so new in my own walk with Jesus that I didn’t get the full impact of Bonhoeffer’s message.  The part of the book that stood out to me at the time was the part dealing with what Bonhoeffer described as “cheap grace.”  Many times since learning of the concept I have encountered situations when I observed cheap grace in action — where grace was treated in a cavalier manner and without regard for the extravagantly high price that Christ paid for the grace which we hold so dear.  For the last few weeks I’ve been receiving daily devotionals from http://www.biblegateway.com based on the book: 40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer published by Augsburg Fortress.  I find the devotionals very inspiring and challenging.  I believe the devotionals are especially meaningful to me because they are based on the work of a man who clearly lived out his convictions — even to the extent that he was executed as a result of those convictions.  Following is an example of one of the devotionals, one I’ve selected because of the important topic.  Perhaps you’ll be inspired to subscribe to the (free) daily devotions at: http://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/.  Just look through that page of the Bible Gateway site and sign up.  So, here is the devotional I’ve selected to share with you along with the little guide to help make application to your life.  RMF

Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

 Cheap Grace

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace.

Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgive­ness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacraments; grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit. It is grace without a price, without cost…

40-Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, as principle, as system. It means forgiveness of sins as a general truth; it means God’s love as merely a Christian idea of God. Those who affirm it have already had their sins forgiven. The church that teaches this doctrine of grace thereby conveys such grace upon itself. The world finds in this church a cheap cover-up for its sins, for which it shows no remorse and from which it has even less desire to be free. Cheap grace is, thus, denial of God’s living Word, denial of the incarnation of the word of God.

Cheap grace means justification of sin but not of the sinner. Because grace alone does everything, everything can stay in its old ways. “Our action is in vain.” The world remains world and we remain sinners “even in the best of lives.” Thus, the Christian should live the same way the world does. In all things the Christian should go along with the world and not venture…to live a different life under grace from that under sin…

Cheap grace is that which we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.

Biblical Wisdom

What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:15-18

Questions to Ponder
•Why is it that the church so often proclaims and dispenses “cheap grace”?
•What happens to the “saltiness” of disciples in a church that “conveys such [cheap] grace upon itself”?
•What does it mean to say that cheap grace is “grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ”?

Psalm Fragment

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12

Journal Reflections
•In your journal make a list of all the characteristics of cheap grace that Bonhoeffer identifies.
•Do you find any of these characteristics in your own life or in the life of your community of faith? If so, reflect on them in your journal.

Intercessions

Think of the proclamation and practice of your community of faith and pray that they would be free of cheap grace.

Prayer for Today

Lord, you love me with an everlasting love. Deliver me from cheap grace that I may respond to your love with my whole life.

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About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church (www.newlife4me.com). Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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