Sunday, February 8, 2009

Possessing Grace Alone – Snapshot of “Costly Grace”

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (Italics in original.)

It’s hard for a man like me to comprehend the total width, height, depth and breadth of ‘costly grace’ because apart from one semi-major portion of suffering in my life, I could hardly be more blessed. I certainly can’t identify that much with the persecution of the author proclaiming costly grace and his experiences with the Nazi’s Gestapo and their concentration camps.

Yet, the principles of Bonhoeffer’s theology hold for all of us. Grace is not a free gift in the sense that all deserve it without cost. That is fake grace that won’t at all work. It is just ‘paganism under a different form’ as A.W. Tozer would say. The new believer converted under cheap grace is robbed of the Light and could be confused for years as to what all the miraculous fuss is about.

Cheap grace has much to do with clinging fastly to worldliness, the comforts of things and material possessions and of attitudes natural and of this world; this Christian cannot let go of their love of things a little below the heavenly standard. They’re far too valuable to them. They can’t grasp that grace alone is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9), especially in our weakness. They don’t want to grasp it.

But God has a habit of forcing us kicking and screaming into an experience where we beg for his real grace; then the cost of grace hits home with much gravity.

“Let the Christian rest content in his worldliness and with this renunciation of any higher standard than the world. He is doing it for the sake of the world rather than for the sake of grace. Let him be comforted and rest assured in his possession of this grace--for grace alone does everything.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The real salvific experience is the knowledge through experience of grace and grace alone (see Ephesians 2:1-10). Having lived under cheap grace for some twelve years and nine months, I am thrilled to have been scorched for the Lord, notwithstanding the pain (and ongoing cost), for I know the grace of the risen Lord Christ--and it is the most magnificent, though terrifying thing. (Tozer calls this vision of God, ‘awful, wonderful, and entrancing.’)

Costly grace is enshrined in the tradition of the ‘broken spirit and contrite heart’ (Psalm 51:17) and the abrupt call to follow Jesus no matter the cost, for we wholeheartedly trust in ‘his yoke being easy and his burden light.’ (Matthew 11:28-30)

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Reference: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (London: SCM, 1948, 1959, 2001).

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