It’s Time to Pivot in Discipleship

Dietrich Bonhoeffer grew up in an upper-middle-class German family of doctors and scientists. So when he told his parents that he wanted to study theology, they were not that excited.

Dietrich later became one of the world’s foremost theologians and thinkers of the 20th century. He is not remembered as much for his public sermons as he is for his courageous stand against the massive wave of evil that swept over his country. Bonhoeffer served churches in Germany during World War II, and he saw the struggle within the German church under the growing pressure of the surging Nazi regime.

As the German Church officially supported the Aryan agenda, Bonhoeffer separated himself and led out in the establishment of a new Confessing Church that stood on the Scriptures. He secretly joined a resistance movement and was later implicated in a failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Just a couple of months following his 39th birthday, he was hung in a concentration camp in Flossenburg. Dietrich was a man who understood, more than most, the cost of discipleship. He was a Christian surrounded by suffering, and yet he didn’t hide from it — he embraced it with devotion to God and to the people he loved. Below are some of the greatest quotes from his book, “The Cost of Discipleship”.

“To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance.”

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. 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.”

“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it, a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy 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.”

“One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons.”

Bonhoeffer communicated to his generation the simple truth that following Jesus requires sacrifice. This was the lesson Jesus taught his disciples as He moved into the final months of His earthly ministry. Jesus had taken His disciples up into the region of Caesarea Philippi in the northern part of Israel. It was a place filled with pagan idols and the worship of foreign gods. And in that hostile environment, Jesus declared that upon the declaration of the Gospel, He would build His church and the gates of Hades could not prevail against it. Jesus was saying, “No matter how dark this world becomes, nothing can put out the light of the Gospel.”

This was a pivotal time in Jesus’ life. It was there He gathered His disciples around Him and declared, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” (Luke 9.23 ESV). With only a few months left before He would face the cross, Jesus began to speak clearly, and often about the cost of being a disciple and building disciples makers. He said to come after Him required denying our own selfish interests every day and yielding to God’s Kingdom as a priority. He said following Him meant taking up our own cross – an instrument of suffering and death – and putting Him first no matter what. In short, Jesus was saying that following Him required suffering, sacrifice and self-denial. (Luke 9.51 ESV) says that Jesus “set his face toward Jerusalem.” The term “set his face” could be translated “determined”, “resolute”; “steadfast”. Jesus was focused on going up to Jerusalem.

At this time, He began to reveal to His disciples the death He would face there. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised,” (Luke 9.22 ESV). This was the first of three clear predictions of His death, burial and resurrection (Matthew 16.21; 17.22-23; 20.18-19 ESV). What awaited Jesus in Jerusalem was suffering and sacrifice. It was also during this time that Jesus’ disciples began to multiply. The twelve quickly multiplied to seventy-two, and they were deployed by Jesus to go preach and perform miracles in His name (Luke 10.1 ESV). Before long, they came back rejoicing at the wonders they saw, and the people who had come to faith in Christ (Luke 10.17 ESV). The movement had now reached the fourth generation – Jesus, the disciples, the seventy-two and the new believers. Now the movement was unstoppable. And this reality caused Jesus to be filled with joy (Luke 10.21 ESV)! The vision was becoming a reality. But that reality would not happen apart from sacrifice. It would not happen apart from suffering and self-denial.

For you to multiply your life, it will require a paradigm shift. Instead of living your life to please yourself, and instead of living to accomplish your temporal goals, it will require that you set aside your self-centered interests and begin to live a life focused on others. It will require you to sacrifice at times your own comfort and convenience, so you can fully obey Jesus’ commission. Jesus said in (John 12.24 NLT), “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.” It was through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that many people were saved. In the same way, when you die to yourself and the plans you have for your life, only then can God truly multiply your life in a powerful way. 

This was certainly the same mindset in the Apostle Paul who said: “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” (Philippians 1.21 ESV). He also said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me…,” (Galatians 2.20 ESV). Paul had made up his mind, he was going to live for Jesus no matter what, and his life is still bearing fruit today. He single-handedly ignited a movement by taking the Gospel to the nations, How will you live your life? Will you live it for yourself or will you give your life away to something greater? You have no idea what God could do with your one single life if you lived it completely and passionately for Him. Don’t waste your life – multiply your life!

This blog is an excerpt that comes from our book “INVEST IN A FEW”, which you can purchase here.

Photo Credit: Nikola Jovanovic


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