What does it mean to follow Christ? (The Cost of Discipleship Chapter 2)

Some time ago, I spoke at a church that expressed their desire to have people feel good about Christianity. They said they did not push people toward serious commitment. These people had lives and were very busy. Church was just another thing on their schedule. It was a part of their life, but it was not their life. They were critical of Christians who were looking to live a life of discipleship.
I run into people like this all of the time. People who believe they are Christians because they prayed or were baptized. They think receiving Christ is just a moment in time. These people want Christ to serve them, but do not want to serve Him.
What is the call of Christ on our lives? Is it just a prayer in a moment of time or something more? When Christ calls us to follow Him, what does it mean? This is the question Bonhoeffer addresses in chapter two of The Cost of Discipleship. His answer is stark and uncompromising. The call to follow Christ is a call of life-long discipleship. There is no way around the truth – Christianity is not praying a certain prayer, checking off a list of rules, or following a certain program. Christianity is a “recreation of the whole life of man.” Bonhoeffer says, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
Discipleship has practical implications for all of life. It is faith that moves and lives according to God’s design. Bonhoeffer says, “Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.”
But we resist faith and action, Bonhoeffer says, because we refuse to surrender. We hold on to sinful passion, animosity, or ambition. Therefore, following Christ requires the violent act of tearing ourselves away from all other attachments.
The result of our unwillingness to tear ourselves away from all other attachments is a life of cheap grace. As Bonhoeffer says, “Unbelief thrives on cheap grace, for it is determined to persist in disobedience.”
Bonhoeffer takes us through a series of encounters with Christ. Each encounter should make us rethink what following means. To Levi, a tax-collector, Jesus says, “Follow Me.” Levi got up and followed, leaving behind a tax business he could never get back. To the Rich Young Ruler, Christ says, ‘Sell your things, give to the poor, and follow.’ To the lawyer who wants to limit his following by asking, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus says, ‘Whoever has a need.’
So Bonhoeffer concludes, “Every moment and every situation challenges us to action and to obedience.”


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