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‘The Cost of Discipleship’ Review

In line with the sermon series “The Blessed Life” we saw fit to provide a resource to help you dive deeper into the Sermon on the Mount.  Over the last few years there has been a growing interest into the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer inspired by the biography by Eric Metaxas Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. In this biography this one man’s obedience to Christ throughout his life is recorded. This book The Cost of Discipleship is considered to be the pinnacle of Bonhoeffer’s writings and presents a challenging interpretation of Jesus’ words as recorded by Matthew in Matthew 5.

Before Bonhoeffer presents how a Christian must live in light of Jesus Sermon on the Mount first he asks what it takes to be a follower of Jesus. He pokes and prods at a comfortable Christianity that finds contentment in things outside of Jesus and speaks of what disciples are called to. His answer to comfortable Christianity is quite simple; to leave everything you once lived for and follow the one who calls you. This life of discipleship begins with obedience and as we see in the Sermon on the Mount it continues in obedience as long as the Christian lives.

The usual interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount as a whole is that Jesus presents us with an impossible standard of moral living that goes beyond just what we do and brings our thoughts and motives under scrutiny as well.  Jesus presents his hearers with the only option for Godly living and it is perfection (Matthew 5:48). Some commentators stop at Jesus presenting us with an incredibly difficult task in order that we could rest in the fact that we are forgiven. The author states that simply hearing that there is an impossible call to perfection over the Christians life and because Christ gave us His life on the cross we have no choice but to pursue that incredibly high standard with reckless abandon. In word thought and deed Bonhoeffer claims that genuine discipleship will result in the genuine pursuit of obedience of all Christ has commanded us to do.

“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church.” 

This opening line of The Cost of Discipleship sums up the remainder of the text. Grace that justifies sin in the life of a believer denounces the grace given by Jesus through devaluing the Gospel. Jesus bid his disciples to come and die, to lose their lives and take up his. It is through this lens that Bonhoeffer interprets Jesus command for perfection as an actual command.

The beauty of the Gospel is that the perfection we are called to through the law has been completely fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Through belief in this Gospel, Bonhoeffer argues that we are now given the freedom and the actual ability to actually pursue perfection. We don’t just stop at being forgiven, rather we use that forgiveness as a starting block and the fuel to pursue life as Jesus intended. This book is highly recommended by our staff and we strongly encourage that you pick a copy up so that you can go deeper into what Jesus has for us in the Sermon on the Mount.

Review by: Clay Holland