Just what does it mean to follow Jesus? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, was only thirty-nine when he was executed as a member of an underground movement fighting to overthrow Hitler. “When Christ calls a man,” expressed Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship, “he bids him come and die.”
As a believer do you know that you are called? Has God taken possession of you? Jesus calls each Christian to leave self behind, take up His cross, and follow Him (Luke 14:27). These requirements don’t attract a large number of followers, but for those who do follow, the result of such a decision is guaranteed. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25, NIV).
“Cheap grace,” Bonhoeffer also wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, “is grace without discipleship; grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite.” If we refuse to follow Jesus, and allow His Truth to mold us, we make His grace on Calvary cheap. “Costly grace,” Bonhoeffer further wrote, “is the gospel which must be sought again and again. It is costly because it cost a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” Discipleship is Christ’s command, and it has a cost.
The 14th chapter of Luke tells the story of Jesus and His disciples walking to Jerusalem one day. Following behind them just on the sidelines and wanting to share in the excitement of Jesus’ ministry without making a commitment, is Bonhoeffer’s “cheap grace” crowd. Three times in Luke 14:25-33 Jesus addresses their motives. He reveals who cannot be His disciple—those who love family and their own desires more than Him, those who do not carry their cross and follow Him, and those who do not give up everything. In these verses, Jesus defines a disciple as one who believes that loyalty and love for Him is greater than any other relationship.
A disciple of Christ believes that carrying his own cross requires a commitment to obediently follow Jesus, to believe the truth of the Gospel, and to daily deny self. To give up everything doesn’t mean rejecting everything in your life. A disciple determines, as do the builder and king in Luke 14, exactly how much it will cost him to complete his work for Jesus, and whether or not he is willing to pay the price. So a true follower of Jesus counts the cost, and places himself completely under the guidance of the Master. His love for the Master outweighs all else in His life. It is greater than His closest earthly relationship, and He is willing to give whatever it takes so others may know his Master. This is costly discipleship.
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me,” David rejoiced (Psalm 42:7, NIV). The unfathomable depth of the Spirit of God calls to the depth of the Holy Spirit within a man, and bids that man come. When the Holy Spirit is the caller, then it is the man surrendered to the Holy Spirit, who accepts.
When my family lived in Nebraska many years ago, our young children followed behind me in heavy snowdrifts—each foot stepping into the footprint that I had just made. Jesus Christ calls through the snowdrifts of our lives, and offers a way to follow. Will we place our feet into His footprints? To walk as He walked and not be eternally lost in drifting desires and earthly loyalties? He has revealed His way, but each one of us must decide about the cost.
© 2018 Lynn Lacher