“Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945)
Spiritual growth is a passion of mine for the very reason that I never really ‘got’ Christianity for nearly the first 13 years I was a Christian. I had been baptised, but not discipled. I could try to lob the blame onto the pastors of that day, but there was a reason I was uninterested. I hadn’t really understood the real need of grace in my life. I probably understood the role of sin in my life, but I didn’t understand how much it distanced me from God when I engaged in it, because I took grace for granted.
I had been forgiven! But my understanding of grace was it was a very cheap thing.
I hadn’t made the connection, not truly, that Jesus had been pinned to the cross on my behalf. My sin put him there, yet Jesus put himself there that I may be forgiven.
Perhaps I wasn’t ready to truly receive Christ until I was ready. And when I was ready, when I prayed tearfully that Saturday morning, completely bereft of hope; then my need of Christ was suddenly truly real. Then, and only then, was discipleship a natural extension of salvation.
Could we then suppose that those who have experienced the transaction of salvation are validated or invalidated by their willingness (or lack thereof) to engage in discipleship, in becoming more like Jesus? True believers will want to be discipled. True believers will want to grow. True believers will want to please God. These things are evidence of the transformation of salvation; that the saving effect has been made.
Linking Salvation and Discipleship With Repentance
I see that salvation is the upstream transformation in God, whereby the downstream transformation is via discipleship—the intentional process of growing into Christ-likeness. These two—salvation and discipleship—are critically linked.
Grace ought never to be cheapened by a faked salvation or vacuous discipleship. And, at the end of the day, our true status in Christ will be adjudged by the fruit of repentance (Matthew 3:8).
Both salvation and discipleship are characterised by our repentance; by our initial and subsequent turning back to God, from the first time through the rest of our history.
A life without a throbbing heartbeat of repentance is an unbeliever’s life, for there is no recognition of the work of God’s grace in that life, and therefore no power.
God is power for our lives through Christ crucified and the grace begotten us to be saved. There is power in salvation and through discipleship, but only through repentance. Only through repentance do we attribute the right price to grace. It cost our Saviour his life; at the very least grace should inspire us to repent.
To be a disciple is to repent in an ongoing sense.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.