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Monday, July 16, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship Chapter 4

“Only when we have become completely oblivious to self are we ready to bear the cross for his sake.  If in the end we know only him, if we have ceased to notice the pain of our own cross, we are indeed looking only unto him.(emphasis mine)

Read Mark 8:31-38

We’ve heard countless times we must take up our cross and follow Him.  We’ve also heard how a servant is not above his master- If Jesus suffered we will suffer. 

Yet Bonhoeffer poignantly describes the life of a disciple in this chapter with such eloquence I can’t help but think of his own martyrdom.  Did he know his cross would lead him to death?  Even as he wrote this, was God preparing him for his journey to die?  What journey is God preparing you for?

Jesus says He must suffer AND be rejected. If this was His cross, why shouldn’t it be ours as well? 

“If our Christianity has ceased to be serious about discipleship, if we have watered down the gospel into emotional uplift which makes no costly demands and which fail so distinguish between natural and Christian existence, then we cannot help regarding the cross as an ordinary everyday calamity, as one of the trials and tribulations of life. We have then forgotten that the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering.” 

Has the Church so watered down the word of God that we do not understand our own crosses? Is the thought of suffering for Christ, being rejected by man incomprehensible to us? I have to say yes. If it was true in Bonhoeffers day, it is true still.

“But this notion has ceased to be intelligible to a Christianity which can no longer see any difference between an ordinary human life and a life committed to Christ.” 

I can here many of you now (because I've said these things before): “But it’s hard.”  “But it’s more than I can bear.”  “But I’m not sure I’m strong enough.”  

Excuse. Excuse. Excuse. Disobedience. Disobedience. Disobedience.

“To deny oneself is to be aware only of Christ and no more of self, to see only him who goes before and no more the road which is too hard for us.” (emphasis mine.)

When we come into a relationship with Christ, we don’t have to go looking for a cross to bear. Each of us has been allotted one. Just as each individual is different, so is each cross. The commonality- we bear it for Christ. 

“…[N]o need for him deliberately to run after suffering…Each must endure his allotted share of suffering and rejection. But each has a different share:  Some God deems worthy of the highest form of suffering, and gives them the grace of martyrdom, while others he does not allow to be tempted above that which they are able to bear.” 

How are we to bear our cross?


Daily we are to deny ourselves and take up our crosses.

“[O]nly the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ.  In fact every command of Jesus is a call to die, with all our affections and lusts…Every day he encounters new temptations and every day he must suffer new for Jesus Christ’s sake.” 

If following Christ means suffering and rejection, what does it mean if we refuse to take up our crosses (however big or small)?

“If we refuse to take up our cross and submit to sufferings and rejection at the hands of men, we forfeit our fellowship with Christ and have ceased to follow him…The opposite of discipleship is to be ashamed of Christ and his cross and all the offence which the cross brings in its train.”
But that seems so hard.  Why does following Christ have to be so much work, I thought we were saved by grace?”

We are saved by grace. However a servant is not above his master. Jesus suffered and as His followers, we will suffer to some degree.

Jesus understands our sufferings.  In Matt 26:39 and 26:42 Jesus asks God to take the cup from Him. However while praying, Jesus finds peace to accept His cross. He knows the suffering will pass as He goes THROUGH it- not around it.

Jesus suffered more than we ever will. Not because crucifixions are not common today, but because He suffered the ultimate pain by being completely separated from God.

As followers of Christ, we never have to experience that pain. We never have to endure the rejection of God. 

Through all our pain, suffering and rejection- we have fellowship with Christ. That is the joy and beauty of being a disciple.

Not that we are exempt from pain but that we don’t have to experience it alone.

If however, we still think bearing Jesus’ cross too costly- you have to choice of rejecting His cross and taking up your own.

We all have crosses. Either they are of our own making and we carry them alone. Or they are designed and given to us by our Creator and we walk in the safety of His promises.

The choice is ours.

Are we His disciples or the worlds?
What excuses are you making?

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

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