NOTE: With this post, I’m beginning a new series on the most influential books I have ever read aside from the Bible. Currently, there are three books I wish to visit, but who knows how long I shall dwell on the topic.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic The Cost of Discipleship belongs on the shelf of every Christian, without exception. It is one of those rare books we should re-read often–slowly and contemplatively, with pencil in hand. In its pages we find ourselves confronted with the fallacy of ‘cheap grace,’ a disease so insidious as to be obviously repulsive and yet so widespread as to be all but overlooked.
The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ…the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise godfearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Those powerful words and others like it, refuse to leave us complacent, lazy, and unmoved. They will not allow us to sit content with comfortable Christian lives that resemble the American dream of wealth and luxury far more than they resemble the transformed lives of countless Christians throughout the ages even to today. The first four chapter of The Cost of Discipleship, little more than sixty pages in my edition, contain some of the most Christ-centered counsel for living the Christian life as well as God-fearing rebuke for the farce we have made of much of our faith.
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and…” Be materially blessed? Live his best life now? Believe heaven is for real? Pray circles around your biggest dreams? Take control of your life?
Unlike any of those phrases–all taken from a Christian living bestseller list–Christ bids us come and die. He bids us come and die to ourselves that we might follow him and truly live. Contrary to the bestseller list (which Bonhoeffer would never appear on today), we cannot have it both ways.
Christ’s call to the rich young man, to Levi, to Peter, to Paul, and all the others in the pages of Scripture were all the same. ”Only one thing was required in each case–to rely on Christ’s word and cling to it as offering greater security than all the securities in the world.”
Christ’s call to us is identical.