Sunday, August 4, 2013
Well, you know a book is gonna totally bust your world wide open when you are already inspired to write a blog before you finish the foreward. Sigh.....
In one of the packages I received, I got the book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. I finally picked it up and decided to start reading it today. I own his book "The Cost of Discipleship" and I've heard excellent things about it and I've read bits and pieces of it, but I really wanted to understand the man and his story before I dived too deeply into that book.
I wanted to understand this man that went against the tide of an entire world. He didn't fall under the spell of Hitler and he didn't go with the flow. He didn't stay silent to save himself. Bonhoeffer saw something bigger than himself and he, to his own peril, became the voice crying out in the wilderness.
What. a. guy.
This forward is written by Timothy Keller who is the author of The Reason for God.
This book is speaking to me where I live -well, where I want to live. I don't want the run-of-the-mill, mundane Christianity. If you ask me, that's not Christianity at all. We are too comfortable playing church. We are too comfortable in our little worlds - saying our mealtime prayers, maybe reading our Bibles, singing in the choir, teaching a Sunday School lesson Christianity.
If it makes me want to puke - what in the world does God think? Oh, yeah. That whole spew you out of my mouth thing. Right. If I'm honest, I think God is doing a lot of spewing.
Listen to this:
"How could the "church of Luther," that great teacher of the gospel come to such a place? The answer is that the true Gospel, summed up by Bonhoeffer as costly grace, had been lost. On the one hand, the church had become marked by formalism. That mean going to church and hearing that God loves you and forgives everyone, so it doesn't really matter how you live. Bonhoeffer called this cheap grace. On the other hand, there was legalism, or salvation by law and good works. Legalism meant that God loves you because you have pulled yourself together and are trying to live a good, discipline life. Both of these impulses made it possible for Hitler to come to power."
So that last line, made me gulp a little bit. I had to read it again to let it sink in. Cheap grace - that God loves everyone and legalism - that you have to do good to be good.....both paved the way for an evil man to capture the admiration of a nation. Doesn't that scare you just a little bit?
First of all, the American church is full of cheap grace. Yes, of course God loves everyone. But not everything is okay with God. Our sin doesn't change God's love. But, let's get real here, people. Our sin cost the Son of God his life. His life. To assert that God loves everyone and so however we want to live and do and be is okay by God, just cheapens the precious gift of Jesus.
The American church is also full of legalism. I grew up in it. I know. "Don't drink, don't smoke, don't run with those that do." And for heavens sake, don't read the NIV Bible or go to a movie. Always go to church when the doors are open, learn your memory verses, rock a baby in the nursery or sing in the choir, be a deacon.....something. And then you're all good.
These ideas paved the way for Hitler and all his crazy ideas. As we look back at WWII, we are appalled at what Hitler was able to accomplish. We wonder: How stupid were those people? How did they not stand up and shout "NO!" How were they so transfixed by a poorly educated man and his racist ideas?
The answer is really quite simple. The German church had bought into the lie of cheap grace. The church had become stagnant. These weren't brainwashed, stupid people. They were people who had bought into the lie that the free grace of God cost nothing. From there, everything sinful and evil is birthed in our lives.
Yes, the grace of God is free. God's grace costs me nothing. I did nothing to receive it and I can do nothing to earn it. Free. However, because of God's grace I am changed and I live differently. I am not satisfied with the mundane and commonplace. Going to church for an hour a week isn't enough. Because the grace which cost him everything exacts a price on my life. It is a price I pay willingly, because I have been given back my life. My true life.....the one God always wanted me to have before sin robbed me of it.
Now read this;
By the time of Hitler's ascension, much of the German church understood grace only as abstract acceptance - "God forgives; that's his job." But we know that true grace comes to us by costly sacrifice. And if God was willing to go to the cross and endure such pain and absorb such a cost in order to save us, then we must live sacrificially as we serve others. Anyone who truly understands how God's grace came to us will have a changed life. That's the gospel, not salvation by law, or by cheap grace, but by costly grace. Costly grace changes you from the inside out. Neither law or cheap grace can do that.
Keller concludes by saying, "If we are not careful, we run the risk of falling into the belief in "cheap grace" - a non costly love from a non-holy God who just loves and accepts us as we are. That will never change anyone's life."
The grace of God cost his son Jesus everything. For us to even think that us will cost nothing is laughable. It's preposterous. I can do nothing to keep or earn this grace. But the reality of this precious grace holds me to a higher standard. The reality of this love is that it makes me different. This love changes me.
I am so tired of grace which does not move me and love which does not change me. We make the sacrifice of Jesus meaningless. Let those of us that love him be willing to stand for what is right, work tirelessly to share His light, and love like that's the only message that matters.