Friday, February 02, 2007

Book Study - The Cost of Discipleship - Week 4 - Chapters 6-9

In the first section of The Cost of Discipleship laid out his ideological understanding of discipleship, namely the requirement of costly grace. In the next section, he moves into the practical application of discipleship. According to Bonhoeffer:

“...the Sermon on the Mount is there for the purpose of being done.”

These three chapters from the Gospel of Matthew are not just theological discourses. They are in effect the disciples instruction manual. Jesus calls disciples to do His will. Matthew 5-7 gives a clear picture of what that “doing” involves.

Chapter 6 - The Beatitudes

Mat 5:1-12 ESV
(1) Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
(2) And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
(3) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(4) "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
(5) "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
(6) "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
(7) "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
(8) "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
(9) "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
(10) "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(11) "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
(12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Here we have, according to John Wesley, “the Son of God who came from Heaven...revealing to us the way to heaven.” (Sermon 21, Upon the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount: Discourse 1).

Who is Jesus addressing?

Is the Sermon on the Mount intended just for the disciples? Or for everyone?

According to John Wesley, that “either the entire sermon is to be applied to everyone, or else to no one.”


But disciples and people are one, for they are members of the Church which is called of God. Hence the aim of this beatitude is to bring all who hear it to decision and salvation. All are called to be what in the reality of God they are already. The disciples are called blessed because they have obeyed the call of Jesus, and the people as a whole because they are heirs of the promise. But will they now claim their heritage by believing in Jesus Christ and his word? Or will they fall into apostasy by refusing to accept him? That is the question which still remains to be answered?

What is the meaning of “blessed”?

Blessed means blissfully happy or contented. Beatitude means supreme blessedness or happiness. Beatus = Latin for blessed.

Why, according to Bonhoeffer, are disciples blessed?

Disciples are blessed because they obeyed Jesus’ call. It is the call itself that made them poor, afflicted, and hungry.

What is the difference between being peaceful and being a peacemaker?

How does one move from the point of seeing a need for mercy to actually being “merciful”?

Who is “pure in heart”?

John Wesley:

“…in Matthew chapter 5 our Lord lays down the sum of all true religion in eight points. (I count nine)…

Some people have theorized that Christ lays out these eight points as successive steps which Christians are to take in their journey to the promised land. Others assume that the eight points that Christ sets down apply to all Christians at all times.”

Which theory do you agree with? Or both?

Chapter 7 – The Visible Community

Mat 5:13-16 ESV "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. (14) "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

What does this passage tell us about discipleship?


“The disciples…must not only think of heaven; they have an earthly task as well.”

What is the “earthly task” of the disciples?

Disciples are the only hope the earth has.

Can a believer be a disciple in thought only?

What purpose does the “salt” and “light” serve?

The works of believers must be seen so as to speak out and draw all men to Jesus.

Can a disciple make a choice whether they will be “salt” and “light”?

What are those who “put their lamp under a basket” doing?

They are denying the call to discipleship. Jesus does not say, “You ought to be salt and light” or “After you’ve practiced being a Christian for a while, you may be salt and light”. Jesus says. “You are salt and light.”

What are some of the bushel baskets in our lives?

Is it the disciples themselves that are “salt” and “light”?

It is not them but their works that are to be seen. The salt and light are to point to Christ and never to self.

Chapter 8 – The Righteousness of Christ

Mat 5:17-20 ESV "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (18) For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (19) Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (20) For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Does this passage void the Law?

Where does obedience to the Old Testament Law fit into the picture of discipleship?

Are disciples bound to the Old Testament Law?


“The question inevitably arises, Which is our final authority, Christ or the law? To which are we bound? Christ had said that no law was to come between him and his disciples. Now he tells us that to abandon the law would be to separate ourselves from him. What exactly does he mean?”

Jesus clearly requires disciples to obey the Old Testament Law. In fact, this obedience to the Law is the distinguishing mark of the better righteousness. Why is the disciples righteousness better than the Pharisees?

The disciple’s righteousness is better than the Pharisees because the disciple can obey the Law perfectly? How is that?

The disciple is able to perfectly fulfill the Law because between the disciple and the Law stands Jesus, the one who has perfectly fulfilled it. “Better righteousness” means following Christ in a real and active faith in Jesus’ righteousness. Jesus has given us a new law, the law of Christ.

Chapter 9 – The Brother

Mat 5:21-26 ESV "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' (22) But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. (23) So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, (24) leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (25) Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. (26) Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

What does the modifier “but I say to you” indicate?

It indicates that the previous statement is either being changed or made obsolete. In this instance, Jesus, the author and giver of the Law “You shall not murder” sums up the whole meaning of the Law.

Who is a “brother”?

“Brother” does not mean only family and it does not mean only other Christians. For the Christian, there can be no one who does not qualify as brother or neighbor.

How does anger equate with murder?

Even anger is a violation of the boundary of a “brothers” life.

In what way is anger an attack on a brother’s life?

Anger is an attack on the brother’s life because it interferes with that life, and, by it’s very nature, aims at or seeks the brother’s destruction. A barrier is erected between the angry person and his brother and also between the angry person and God. We must be reconciled with our brother to follow Jesus and follow God.

What component of the “extraordinary” life of the disciple is uncovered in this passage?
This component is reconciliation. The disciple exhibits his “extraordinariness” by resolving anger through reconciliation. The barriers between a man and his brother and a man and God, which are erected in anger, are torn down throught reconciliation.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Book Study - The Cost of Discipleship, Week 3 - Chapters 3-5

Before we even began our first week of this study a question was asked and of which I asked that discussion be deferred until after we had discussed at least the first three chapters.

The question:

Is it all or nothing?

Are we lost unless we totally and completely surrender to the call of discipleship?

Some interesting thoughts on the subject that I have found this week:

From Class Leaders: Recovering a Tradition by David Lowes Watson (1991, Discipleship Resources, Nashville)

The Mystery of Christian Discipleship

Of all the mysteries that confront the Christian disciple - the mystery of sin, evil, and suffering, the mystery of death and resurrection, the mystery of God’s love and redemption in Jesus Christ, the mystery of time and eternity, and the mystery of the coming reign of God - there is nothing more mysterious than Christian discipleship itself...

The mystery lies ... in why so many church members who profess the name of Jesus, who witness to his saving grace, and who take part regularly in so many aspects of congregational life and work, do not seem to take seriously what the scriptures have to say about the cost of discipleship. Jesus made clear that there were conditions to following him.....

It is hard to find a word that is used so widely in the church today yet defined so loosely as “disciple”.... the reality of congregational life in the United States of America would seem to indicate one of two things: either that the great majority of church members are not Christian disciples at all; or else that many millions of Christians in the North American church are in for a rude awakening when they finally discover what they agreed to be and to do when they answered the call to discipleship.

And in a recent post Steve Manskar had this to say:

Two Kinds of Disciples

John Wesley provides some help with identifying types of discipleship in his sermon, “The More Excellent Way.” Here he reflects on the nature of Christian discipleship. He acknowledges a long held belief that there are two kinds of Christians:

The one lived an innocent life, conforming in all things not sinful to the customs
and fashions of the world, doing many good works, abstaining from gross evils, and attending the ordinances of God. They endeavoured in general to have a conscience void of offence in their outward behaviour, but did not aim at any particular strictness, being in most things like their neighbours.

The other sort of Christians not only abstained from all appearance of evil, were
zealous of good works in every kind, and attended all the ordinances of God; but likewise used all diligence to attain the whole mind that was in Christ, and laboured to walk in every point as their beloved Master. In order to this they walked in a constant course of universal self-denial, trampling on every pleasure which they were not divinely conscious prepared them for taking pleasure in God. They took up their cross daily. They strove, they agonized without intermission, to enter in at the strait gate. This one thing they did; they spared no pains to
arrive at the summit of Christian holiness: 'leaving the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, to go on to perfection'; 'to know all that love of God which passeth knowledge, and to be filled with all the fullness of God'. (§5)

The first group composes the vast majority of Christians. They attend worship in varying degrees of frequency, give money to the church, may attend a Sunday school class, send their children to Sunday school, and do their best to be good, decent people. Their appearance and behavior is virtually indistinguishable from that of their non-Christian and non-religious neighbors. These are the majority of disciples present in any given congregation.

The second kind of Christians described by Wesley are those women and men who have made an intentional, deeply personal commitment to following and serving Jesus Christ in the world through loving obedience to his commandments. They are more disciplined in practicing the means of grace, both the works of piety and the works of mercy. These disciples are deeply committed to Christ and exhibit a way of life that leads to holiness of heart and life.

Wesley is very clear in this sermon to say that both groups are equally “saved.” They all are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Each is following Christ in the way that best suits them at the time. That being said, Wesley also asserts that it is the responsibility of the community of faith and its leaders to encourage and equip the first type of Christians to desire to mature and move toward the second.

Both articles seem to answer the question the same way: it is not all or nothing. All Christians are “saved”. Few Christians are disciples. The job of the disciple is to serve the non-disciple Christians and all non-Christians. The moment that the disciple develops an attitude of superiority is the moment that he ceases to be a disciple.

Chapter 4 - Discipleship and the Cross

Mar 8:31-38 ESV
(31) And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
(32) And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
(33) But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."
(34) And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
(35) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
(36) For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?
(37) For what can a man give in return for his life?
(38) For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

In Chapter 2 we discussed the call to discipleship and in chapter 3 we discussed how the call is a call to obedience. At the beginning of chpater 4 Bonhoeffer notes that in this passage of scripture the call to follow is closely connected to Jesus’ passion. Jesus had to suffer and be rejected. Bonhoeffer went on to state that this suffering and rejection applied to disciples as well. Just as Jesus had to suffer, so disciples must also suffer. One cannot be a disciple unless one adheres to the person of Jesus. Jesus had already demanded a decision when he said, “follow me.” In this passage Jesus calls for a second decision. What is the decision called for in this passage?

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."

What does it mean to deny yourself and follow Jesus?

How is suffering involved?

Rom 5:1-11 ESV
(1) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2) Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
(3) More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
(4) and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
(5) and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
(6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
(7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--
(8) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(9) Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
(10) For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
(11) More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Luk 9:23 ESV(23) And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

How do we suffer for Christ?

What is the first suffering that all disciples must suffer?

Denying our self, abandoning worldly attachments.

In what way do we “take up our cross daily”?

Some hypothetical scenarios:

Someone we know, a great Christian, has been diagnosed with a deadly disease. He will have to face many months of agonizing treatments and will still have very little chance of survival. If the disease wins, the death will be slow and agonizing. Is this suffering for Christ, taking up a daily cross?

What is the difference in this man’s suffering and the suffering done by millions of non-Christians every day?

Another great Christian had devoted her life for the last several years to her two beautiful daughters. One day the older daughter, who rode her bike to the elementary school down the block disappeared. The bicycle was found on the sidewalk almost within sight of their home. Vanished without a trace. No clues. No physical evidence. Many years pass and the fate of the daughter is never discovered. The Christian lady’s life had been devastated. She suffered later from addictions and mental disorders. Is this suffering for Christ, taking up a daily cross?

What is the difference in this lady’s suffering and the suffering done by millions of non-Christians every day?

I would be tempted to say, and I think that Bonhoeffer would agree, that this type of suffering has nothing to do with the cross. This type of suffering experienced by all of humanity is a result of the Fall. What is the suffering that we must experience for Christ’s sake?

More hypothetical scenarios:

I have been working very hard nonstop for the past few months at a very stressful job. I am just about ready to take a few days for some much needed rest and relaxation. Some coworkers are planning on a trip to Panama City Beach. They make it sound like so much fun. A long weekend of girls and guys gone wild. A binge that you would never forget, unless of course you drank so much that you can’t remember. What would be the harm in that? What would be the damage of some “innocent” fun? But I am a Christian now. I have accepted the “exclusive attachment to the person of Christ”. I have to search my Christ-formed conscience: In taking on Christ, wherever I go and whatever I do, He is with me. Does He want in on this fun-filled weekend of debauchery? Absolutely not. And if He’s not going then I’m not either. Is this suffering for Christ? Have I just denied self and taken up a cross?


A family member is down on his luck. Just divorced, lost his job, the repo-man is on the way to haul off his double-wide. I have two choices, actually three, the two good choices would be to either take this family member into my home and help him get back on his feet or to help him financially so that he can keep his own home. The bad choice would be to just ignore his problems and let him handle them the best he can. I love this person, but really don’t want my home disrupted, so I help him out financially. Is this suffering for Christ?

What have I done that most non-Christians would not do for a family member?

Because I am a Christian and because I love that relative, I never even think about how I suffered financial hardship because I helped him. I know that Jesus said that if someone wants your coat, to give them your shirt as well and if someone wants you to carry their load for a mile, to carry it for two, and that if anyone asks you should give. Because I know all these Christian teachings, I have totally forgotten about the money that I gave to my relative. Have I suffered for Christ?

What would the average non-Christian’s feelings be toward this relative?

A few months later my relative scratches off a lottery ticket worth $100,000.

What would be the average non-Christian reaction be now?

Great. Maybe now this dead-beat will pay me back the hard-earned money that I spent on his expenses to help him out in his time of need. But what does the relative do? Well the first thing he does is head off for a wild weekend in Panama City Beach. Weeks, then months, go by with no offer of repayment.

What would be the average non-Christian reaction be now?

Most folks would want to haul this guy off to Judge Judy. We live in a world of lawsuits.

But what would be the suffering way-of-the-Cross reaction?

Can we safely say that every time we face down a worldly temptation that we have suffered for the cross?

Carrying the cross involves the suffering associated with being tempted, and since every believer is tempted every day, then every day the believer must suffer for Jesus Christ’s sake. This is the cross we bear.

“Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship.”

Taking up our cross begins with the abandonment of the world and requires a daily self-denial. Our self-denial has nothing to do with “acts of mortification” or asceticism.

Discipleship means adherence to the person of Jesus, and attachment to Jesus means submission to the teachings of Jesus: The Law of the Cross. The law of the cross calls for the denial of self and the choice to daily take up the cross given to us that day. Enduring the cross is not a tragedy but is the fruit of our exclusive attachment to Christ.

Remember that Bonhoeffer wrote this book while under a Nazi order not to write or publish. The publication of this book put him under risk of persecution. How does Bonhoeffer himself define the essence of self-denial?

“Just as Christ is Christ only in the virtue of His suffering and rejection, so the disciple is a disciple only in so far as he shares his Lord’s suffering and rejection and crucifiction.”

What does that statement mean?

Chapter 5 - Discipleship and the Individual

How does the world view individuality?

Is a person made an individual through his own personal effort?

This chapter opens with the assertion that “through the call of Jesus men become individuals.”

How is this so?

Luk 14:26 ASV
(26) If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

We all receive an individual call to be a Christian disciple. But what do we generally do with our call?

We attempt to align ourselves with others who share our beliefs. These alignments may actually even be a barrier which prevents our heeding our call.

“Every man is called separately, and must follow alone. But men are frightened of solitude, and they try to protect themselves from it by merging themselves into the society of their fellow-men and in their material environment...

But all this is only a cloak to protect them from having to make a decision. They are unwilling to stand alone before Jesus and be compelled to decide...”

Could this be an indictment of the people in the German Church?

Why is individualism a necessity for a disciple?

Individualism is the call of Christ to come apart from the world. He wants to be the center. When we receive the call, we realize that our world has been built on an illusion. When we receive his call, we realize that even in such relationships as parent and child, or husband and wife, stands Christ, and no other relationship can be as important as the one with Christ. Christ is our mediator, not only between God and man, but between individuals.