Cost of Discipleship
To get at the Cost of Discipleship in Mark we will look at a few texts in Mark. First Mark 1:16-20 and we will key in on verse 17 and Second Mark 8:34-38.
Mark 1:16-20 has much to teach us about discipleship. Jesus gives a command, and a promise that inform what is meant by discipleship in Mark. A key verse on this issue is, Mark 1:17 “And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
Discipleship is a Divine Call on our Lives.
Jesus gives a command to follow. “Follow me” is not a suggestion but a command. The calling of these first disciples shows that one must not only repent and believe the gospel (1:15) but also follow Jesus. The calling is an act of grace that also exerts an enormous demand. The command to follow for these disciples explodes their everyday world, for the call is ultimately, as Bonhoeffer accurately noted, “a call to come and die”.
Discipleship is ultimately Christ’s work in us. “I will make you”
In his call he gives a promises, “I will make you”. Jesus is the one who will mold them act according to his purposes. They will not make themselves. Also, we are not inactive for, effort is not opposed to grace. Grace is opposed to merit. We see this also in the fact that before Jesus issues any ethical instructions, Jesus proclaims the necessity of repentance, faith, and following him (1:14–20). Mark uses the order intentionally, he wants to make it clear that any ethical progress, any character development, any good thing in us, is the result of and not the requirement for, a relationship with Jesus. Radical obedience is an outworking of one’s relationship with God. Our ethical obedience is grounded in the nearness of the kingdom of God. He makes us. It is not up to us to make ourselves and thus win his acceptance and approval. He already gives his acceptance and from such a relationship we seek to gratefully do what’s right.
In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes it clear: While God’s grace is always bestowed freely, it is never bestowed cheaply. Bonhoeffer writes,
“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church …Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian ‘conception’ of God … Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner … Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” (Pp. 45-47)
Bonhoeffer would have us know, grace is free, but it’s anything but cheap. It comes at the price of God’s only begotten son, and it leads us to surrender our lives to God in gratitude and faithful obedience. Bonhoeffer calls this, “costly grace.” He writes,
“Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field, for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price for which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.” (P. 47)
God’s grace is a free gift, but it costs our rebel’s heart, its autonomous freedom. Nowhere is this stated more clearly than in chapter 8 of Mark. Mark makes this cost most clearly at the end of chapter 8.
Three observations from Mark 8:34-38
1. A disciple of Jesus will personally relive what Jesus did.
2. This will mean the disciple is to live a life of self-renunciation. In classical theology, What is asked of a Christian in Mark 8:34, the command to come and die, is often referred to as self-renunciation.
3. The whole of 8:34-38 makes a chiasm with the disciple giving up control over the safety and security of their life in order to follow Christ. The text expresses self-renunciation in all its aspects and shades of meaning.
A. You must die to self 8:34-37
B. You must die to the self-centered life. 8:34
C. You must die to the safe life. 8:35
B. You must die to the self-serving life. 8:36-37
A. You must declare the Son. 8:38
What Christianity calls self-renunciation involves precisely a double-danger. The purely human conception of self-renunciation is this: give up your selfish desires, longings, and plans – and then you will become appreciated and honored and loved as a righteous person. The Christian conception of self-renunciation, however, is to give up your selfish desires and longings, give up your arbitrary plans and purposes – and then submit to being treated as a criminal, scorned and ridiculed for this very reason. Christian self-renunciation knows in advance that this will happen and chooses it freely. It does not let the Christian get by at half-price. – Søren Kierkegaard
Do we want to end the era of cheep grace in the church?
Do we want a dead church or a church dying to live?
J. Heinrich Arnold summarizes the choice before the church today.
It is important for us to decide whether we want only a nice church with Jesus as its king or the way of the cross. – J. Heinrich Arnold
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