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Monday, June 25, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship Ch 2 Part 3

So far we’ve seen how faith and works go together. If divorced, we are bound to have problems.

If faith stands alone, we rest on cheap grace. A grace that thinks the sum of Christianity is saying the sinner’s prayer with no need for further change, action, or discipleship.  If works stand without faith one is doomed for hell, for the Bible clearly tells us we cannot work our way into heaven.

We’ve also look at disbelief being a form of disobedience, whether deliberate or unconscious. 

Today we delve even deeper, but first let’s go back to this phrase:

“Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.”

Scenario: Unsaved man desires to know more about Jesus but finds it difficult to believe.  At first he claims ignorance of God and His commandments, but as he begins to learn and hear about the grace of God he still is uncertain and asserts there are grey areas in the Bible, various interpretations and therefore he doesn’t know what to believe. As he continues to question the Bible, his heart grows harder until he finally decides there is no way for him to be saved.  

He may say, “I have lost the faith I once had.” 

Christians often do not know how to respond when confronted with this situation. This man tried and has given up. Perhaps we think he is being stubborn. He is being disobedient and therefore he cannot be saved because he refuses to have faith. 

 “Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.”

We, and the man, conclude he cannot be obedient because he does not believe.

But that does not have to be the end for this story.

“Only he who is obedient believes.”

Here is what Bonhoeffer says to one who struggles to believe, “You are disobedient, you are trying to keep some part of your life under your own control. That is what is preventing you from listening to Christ and believing in his grace.  You cannot hear Christ because you are willfully disobedient.  Somewhere in your heart you are refusing to listen to his call.”

Bonhoeffer explains that man must step out of his comfort zone to meet the Savior. So long as he remains inactive, he feels justified in his lack of faith and will continue to not hear the voice of God calling. 

“Our sinner has drugged himself with cheap and easy grace by accepting the proposition that only those who believe can obey. He persists in disobedience, and seeks consolation by absolving himself.  This only serves to deaden his ears to the Word of God.  We cannot breach the fortress so long as we merely repeat the proposition which affords him his self-defense. So we must make for the turning point…and exhort him to obedience- “Only those who obey can believe.””

If we move out of the sphere of questions, doubts and disobedience we are able to hear more clearly.  The will of God become easier to understand and our hesitations begin to fade, but first we must MOVE. We cannot remain immobile and expect our walk with Christ to grow!
Bonhoeffer continues, “He will be …compelled to come to a definite decision. In this way his ears are opened once more for the call of Jesus to faith and discipleship.” 

To help us understand this scenario Bonhoeffer looks at the Rich Young Man in Matt 19:16-22.

Here we find a young man who knows the Bible and wants to have a religious discussion with a “Good Master”.   Jesus quickly lets him know He isn’t an ordinary rabbi and the young man goes on the defense asking “Which?” commandment pertains to him, even though he knows the scriptures.

“But this means disobedience from the start. Doubt and reflection take the place of spontaneous obedience. The grown-up man with his freedom of conscious vaunts his superiority over the child of obedience.”

This young man wants an academic discussion, a pat on the back for his works; he is unprepared for a meeting with God.  

“He hoped Jesus would offer him a solution to his moral difficulties. But instead he finds Jesus attacking not his question but himself.” 

Jesus commands him to ACT instead of focusing on details.  

When we listen to Satan we find an endless array of questions keeping us from performing whatever task God is calling us to do. “[H]e (Satan) says: “Keep on posing problems, and you will escape the necessity of obedience.”

Bonhoeffer breaks this scripture down further.  I encourage you to read it as it is very enlightening.
Next Bonhoeffer looks at the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-29.  This man too questions God; the only difference- we are told he is trying to trap Jesus by his questions. 

To sum this chapter up- whether you are an unbeliever, a new Christian or been a follower of Christ for multiple years: 

“You can only know and think about it by actually doing it.  You can only learn what obedience is by obeying.  It is no use asking questions; for it is only through obedience that you come to learn the truth.”


1.        Have you ever witnessed to a person who struggling to believe, if so how did you handle it? Do you think the equation of obedience and faith would be effective in witnessing?
2.       Can you see how this applies to our daily lives and being obedient and not just about the initial call to follow? What is God calling you to do that is testing your faith? Does this post help motivate you to ACT regardless of all your questions?

1.        Is God trying to speak but you’re having difficulty hearing/understanding?
2.       Do you have more questions than answers?  If so, I encourage you to take the step even if you don’t have the faith.  You may not have answers right away, your life may not change immediately, but I truly believe God wants to lavish His love on you.  Please be open to listening, take a step…what could it hurt?

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