DAYS 11-20

Day 20

Only the obedient believe. A concrete commandment has to be obeyed in order to come to believe. A first step of obedience has to be taken, so that faith does not become pious self-deception, cheap grace. The first step is crucial. It is qualitatively different from all others that follow. The first step of obedience has to lead Peter away from his nets and out of the boat; it has to lead the young man away from his wealth. Faith is possible only in this new state of existence created by obedience.

Biblical Wisdom

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea․for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:16-18

Questions to Ponder

  • How do you understand the relationship between obedience and true faith?
  • How might a “first step of obedience” change your relationship to Jesus?
  • Why is the first step “qualitatively different from all others that follow”?

Psalm Fragment

O come, let us worship and bow down,
   let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   and the sheep of his hand.
O that today you would listen to his voice! Psalm 95:6-7

Journal Reflections

  • Is there a moment when you took a “first step of obedience”? If so, write about it. What was it like? How did it change your life?
  • Do you need to take a “first step of obedience”? If so, any ideas or intuitions about what form that might take?

Intercessions

Pray that you, your family, and your spiritual friends would have the courage to be obedient to whatever God is calling you to.

Prayer for Today

Gracious God, grant me the wisdom to see what you need me to do and the courage to do it.Day 19

Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field, for the sake of which people go and sell with joy everything they have. It is the costly pearl for whose price the merchant sells all that he has; it is Christ’s sovereignty, for the sake of which you tear out an eye if it causes you to stumble. It is the call of Jesus Christ which causes a disciple to leave his nets and follow him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which has to be asked for, the door at which one has to knock.

It is costly, because it calls to discipleship; it is grace, because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live. It is costly, because it condemns sin; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner. Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it cost God the life of God’s Son․“you were bought with a price”․and because nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God. Above all, it is grace because the life of God’s Son was not too costly for God to give in order to make us live…

Grace is costly, because it forces people under the yoke of following Jesus Christ; it is grace when Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

Biblical Wisdom

For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:20

Questions to Ponder

  • If costly grace means that God wants things from us as well as for us, what might those things be?
  • What is the difference between following Jesus Christ (costly grace) and simply believing things about Jesus Christ (cheap grace)?
  • What does it mean to say grace is costly “because it costs people their lives”?

Psalm Fragment

Glory in his holy name;
   let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Seek the Lord and his strength;
   seek his presence continually. Psalm 105:3-4

Journal Reflections

  • Have you experienced costly grace? If so, what did it feel like? If not, what do you imagine it might feel like?
  • What would it mean for you to “leave [your] nets and follow him”?

Intercessions

Pray for the church and for all Christians, that they may proclaim and practice costly grace.

Prayer for Today

Thank you, O God, for the costly grace you have offered me freely and which has made me a disciple of Jesus.

Day 18

The word of cheap grace has ruined more Christians than any commandment about works…

For integrity’s sake someone has to speak up for those among us who confess that cheap grace has made them give up following Christ, and that ceasing to follow Christ has made them lose the knowledge of costly grace. Because we cannot deny that we no longer stand in true discipleship to Christ, while being members of a true-believing church with a pure doctrine of grace, but are no longer members of a church which follows Christ, we therefore have to try to understand grace and discipleship again in correct relationship to each other.

Biblical Wisdom

What then are we to say? Should we continue to sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead to the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:1-4

Questions to Ponder

  • What do you think Bonhoeffer meant by saying: “The word of cheap grace has ruined more Christians than any commandment about works”?
  • Why might cheap grace cause someone to give up following Christ?
  • What is the correct relationship between grace and discipleship?

Psalm Fragment

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
   let your face shine, that we may be saved. Psalm 80:19

Journal Reflections

  • Has the church’s proclamation and practice of cheap grace ever led you to consider not following Christ anymore? If so, write about the experience.
  • Do you know anyone who has given up following Christ because of cheap grace? If so, did anyone speak up for her or him?

Intercessions

Pray for the church, and for all Christians, that they may not succumb to the lure of cheap grace.

Prayer for Today

Lord Jesus Christ, I would follow you, no matter what the cost; lead me in the way of true discipleship.

Day 17

Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace.

Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgive­ness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacraments; grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit. It is grace without a price, without cost…

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, as principle, as system. It means forgiveness of sins as a general truth; it means God’s love as merely a Christian idea of God. Those who affirm it have already had their sins forgiven. The church that teaches this doctrine of grace thereby conveys such grace upon itself. The world finds in this church a cheap cover-up for its sins, for which it shows no remorse and from which it has even less desire to be free. Cheap grace is, thus, denial of God’s living Word, denial of the incarnation of the word of God.

Cheap grace means justification of sin but not of the sinner. Because grace alone does everything, everything can stay in its old ways. “Our action is in vain.” The world remains world and we remain sinners “even in the best of lives.” Thus, the Christian should live the same way the world does. In all things the Christian should go along with the world and not venture…to live a different life under grace from that under sin…

Cheap grace is that which we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.

Biblical Wisdom

What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:15-18

Questions to Ponder

  • Why is it that the church so often proclaims and dispenses “cheap grace”?
  • What happens to the “saltiness” of disciples in a church that “conveys such [cheap] grace upon itself”?
  • What does it mean to say that cheap grace is “grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ”?

Psalm Fragment

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
   and sustain in me a willing spirit. Psalm 51:10-12

Journal Reflections

  • In your journal make a list of all the characteristics of cheap grace that Bonhoeffer identifies.
  • Do you find any of these characteristics in your own life or in the life of your community of faith? If so, reflect on them in your journal.

Intercessions

Think of the proclamation and practice of your community of faith and pray that they would be free of cheap grace.

Prayer for Today

Lord, you love me with an everlasting love. Deliver me from cheap grace that I may respond to your love with my whole life.

Day 16

“You are the salt” not “You should be the salt”! The disciples are given no choice whether they want to be salt or not. No appeal is made to them to become the salt of the earth. Rather they just are salt whether they want to be or not, by the power of the call which has reached them. You are the salt․not “you have the salt.” It would diminish the meaning to equate the disciples’ message with salt, as the reformers did. What is meant is their whole existence, to the extent that it is newly grounded in Christ’s call to discipleship, that existence of which the Beatitudes speak. All those who follow Jesus’ call to discipleship are made by that call to be the salt of the earth in their whole existence.

Biblical Wisdom

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” Matthew 5:13

Questions to Ponder

  • What are the qualities of salt that make it an apt metaphor for Jesus’ disciples?
  • If Christ’s call to discipleship changes our whole existence, in what ways should the disciple’s life be different from those who have not heard or ­accepted the call?
  • Is there any area of a disciple’s life that is exempt from the call to be the salt of the earth? Explain.

Psalm Fragment

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
   and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
   for I delight in it.
Turn my heart to your decrees,
   and not to selfish gain.
Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
   give me life in your ways. Psalm 119:34-37

Journal Reflections

  • How does it feel to understand yourself as the salt of the earth?

  • How salty are you?
  • List the ways in which you are salt in your family, workplace, and community.

Intercessions

Think of places in your community where “salt” is needed. Pray for your community of faith that it may be up to the call to be salt in those places.

Prayer for Today

Lord, in response to your call, I want to be who you have made me, the salt of the earth.Day 15

This does not refer to God’s righteousness, but to suffering for the sake of a righteous cause, suffering because of the righteous judgment and action of Jesus’ disciples. In judgment and action those who follow Jesus will be different from the world in renouncing their property, happiness, rights, righteousness, honor, and violence. They will be offensive to the world. That is why the disciples will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Not recognition, but rejection will be their reward from the world for their word and deed. It is important that Jesus calls his disciples blessed, not only when they directly confess his name, but also when they suffer for a just cause.

Biblical Wisdom

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

Questions to Ponder

  • What do you think of Bonhoeffer’s assertion that disciples will be “offensive to the world”?
  • Why is it today that the world often seems more indifferent to Christians and the church than offended by them?
  • In what way is a disciple “blessed” when he or she “suffers for a just cause”?

Psalm Fragment

For the righteous will never be moved;
   they will be remembered forever.
They are not afraid of evil tidings;
   their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.
Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid;
   in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor;
   their righteousness endures forever…. Psalm 112:6-9

Journal Reflections

  • Write about a time when you suffered for doing the right thing. Reflect on your feelings about that experience.
  • Have you ever held back from doing the right thing because you were afraid of rejection or suffering? If so, reflect on how it felt to hold back.

Intercessions

Think of people you know (or know of) who are suffering “for righteousness sake.” Pray that they might receive courage and comfort from their faith and that they might prevail.

Prayer for Today

Lord, give me the wisdom to know what is right and make me willing to suffer for a just cause.

Day 14

Jesus’ followers are called to peace. When Jesus called them, they found their peace. Jesus is their peace. Now they are not only to have peace, but they are to make peace. To do this they renounce violence and strife. Those things never help the cause of Christ. Christ’s kingdom is a realm of peace, and those in Christ’s community greet each other with a greeting of peace. Jesus’ disciples maintain peace by choosing to suffer instead of causing others to suffer. They preserve community when others destroy it. They renounce self-assertion and are silent in the face of hatred and injustice. That is how they overcome evil with good. That is how they are makers of divine peace in a world of hatred and war.

Biblical Wisdom

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9

Questions to Ponder

  • What impact would it have on our culture of violence if individual Christians and churches were to “renounce violence and strife” as a mark of true discipleship?
  • How might being “silent in the face of hatred and injustice” be compatible with non-violent resistance to evil?
  • Why can violence never help the cause of Christ’s kingdom?

Psalm Fragment

Which of you desires life,
   and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
   and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good;
   seek peace, and pursue it. Psalm 34:12-14

Journal Reflections

  • Have you ever thought deeply on the fact that your call to follow Jesus is a call to peace? Reflect in your journal on how that realization makes you feel. Any actions suggest themselves?
  • Think of any people with whom you are in conflict or tension. Reflect on what might happen if the next time you met them you greeted them with a “greeting of peace.”
  • What experiences of peacemaking have you had? Reflect on what it felt like to be a peacemaker.

Intercessions

Pray for all politicians and government leaders that they might “renounce violence and strife” and embrace peacemaking as a priority at all levels of government.

Prayer for Today

God of peace, you give me peace, now teach me to be a peacemaker.

Day 13

Who is pure in heart? Only those who have completely given their hearts to Jesus, so that he alone rules in them. Only those who do not stain their hearts with their own evil, but also not with their own good. A pure heart is the simple heart of a child, who does not know about good and evil, the heart of Adam before the fall, the heart in which the will of Jesus rules instead of one’s own conscience.… A pure heart is pure of good and evil; it belongs entirely and undivided to Christ; it looks only to him, who goes on ahead. Those alone will see God who in this life have looked only to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Their hearts are free of defiling images; they are not pulled back and forth by the various wishes and intentions of their own. Their hearts are fully absorbed in seeing God. They will see God whose hearts mirror the image of Jesus Christ.

Biblical Wisdom

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8

Questions to Ponder

  • How is it possible to live in our complex world and still give your heart “completely” to Jesus?
  • What does it mean to say that people can “stain their hearts…with their own good”?
  • How would those whose “hearts mirror the image of Jesus Christ” relate to other people, both friends and strangers?

Psalm Fragment

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
   And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
   who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
   and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
   and vindication from the God of their salvation. Psalm 24:3-5

Journal Reflections

  • Bonhoeffer wrote that: “A pure heart is the simple heart of a child…” Think back to when you were a child. How did you see things differently as a child than you do now as an adult?
  • What, if any, are the “defiling images” that stand between you and the vision of God? How might you begin to cleanse your heart of them?
  • What, if any, are your various “wishes and intentions” that pull you “back and forth” and prevent you from seeing God? How might you begin to become free of them?

Intercessions

Pray for all the children that you know (and then pray for all children) that they would be protected from the “defiling images” culture tries to entice them with.

Prayer for Today

Lord, help me to will one thing: to belong entirely and undividedly to you.

Day 12

These people without possessions, these strangers, these powerless, these sinners, these followers of Jesus live with him now also in the renunciation of their own dignity, for they are merciful. As if their own need and lack were not enough, they share in other people’s need, debasement, and guilt. They have an irresistible love for the lowly, the sick, for those who are in misery, for those who are demeaned and abased, for those who suffer injustice and are rejected, for everyone in pain and anxiety. They seek out all those who have fallen into sin and guilt. No need is too great, no sin too dreadful for mercy to reach. The merciful give their own honor to those who have fallen into shame and take that shame unto themselves. They may be found in the company of tax collectors and sinners and willingly bear the shame of their fellowship. Disciples give away anyone’s greatest possession, their own dignity and honor, and show mercy. They know only one dignity and honor, the mercy of their Lord, which is their only source of life.

Biblical Wisdom

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7

Questions to Ponder

  • Practically speaking, what does mercy look like? How do merciful people act?
  • Why is “renunciation of their own dignity” necessary if disciples are to be truly merciful?
  • How might a church renounce its own dignity in order to be merciful?
  • How is Jesus our model for renouncing dignity in order to be merciful?
  • Is there anyone beneath the disciples’ mercy? Why, or why not?

Psalm Fragment

They rise in the darkness as a light for the upright;
   they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with those who deal generously and lend,
   who conduct their affairs with justice. Psalm 112:4-5

Journal Reflections

  • Write about a time when you extended mercy to someone. How did you feel?
  • Write about a time when you withheld mercy. How did you feel?
  • Reflect on the ways in which God is merciful to you.

Intercessions

Think of someone who needs to experience mercy. Pray for them in their need. Ask God what you might do to show them mercy.

Prayer for Today

Lord, may your infinite mercy to me enable me to be truly merciful to all others.

Day 11

Disciples live with not only renouncing their own rights, but even renouncing their own righteousness. They get no credit themselves for what they do and sacrifice.

The only righteousness they can have is in hungering and thirsting for it. They will have neither their own righteousness nor God’s righteousness on earth. At all times they look forward to God’s future righteousness, but they cannot bring it about by themselves. Those who follow Jesus will be hungry and thirsty along the way. They are filled with longing for forgiveness of all sins and for complete renewal; they long for the renewal of the earth and for God’s perfect justice.

Biblical Wisdom

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Questions to Ponder

  • What could it mean to renounce your own righteousness?
  • Why do disciples “have neither their own righteousness nor God’s righteousness on earth”? Is that a reason for pessimism or cynicism?
  • If a church renounced its own righteousness, what changes might take place in the way that church relates to other churches, the secular world, and other religions?
  • Would being always hungry and thirsty for righteousness lead to action or inaction? Why?

Psalm Fragment

For the word of the Lord is upright,
   and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
   the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. Psalm 33:4-5

Journal Reflections

  • In what ways do you experience hungering and thirsting for righteousness in your own life? What could you do to alleviate that hunger and thirst?
  • In what ways do you see our world hungering and thirsting for righteousness? What could your community of faith do to alleviate that hunger and thirst?

Intercessions

Think of those places and situations in our world where people suffer from unrighteousness. Pray that people of faith would say no to the suffering, no to the injustice, and then stand and work in solidarity with those who suffer “for righteousness.”

Prayer for Today

Lord, may your righteous kingdom come in my life and in the world.

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