The Cross of Discipleship – Words of Grace Blog – June 28, 2024

The Cross of Discipleship – Words of Grace Blog – June 28, 2024

As a gift for graduation from college in 1985, a professor of mine gave me a copy of The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. My professor was both a deeply committed Christian and a historian. So, the book was a perfect representation of himself as it called for a discipleship rooted in the cross of Christ, and because Bonhoeffer’s life and ministry were in the context of Nazi Germany.

The book was also a perfect gift to me. My professor wanted me to grow in my own discipleship and to be fruitful in serving others toward that end. I am forever grateful to Dr Albert Wardin for giving this book to me.

This week I pulled The Cost of Discipleship off the shelf to read the fourth chapter, which is an exposition of Mark 8:34. In today’s Words of Grace, I give you a paragraph from this chapter on the place of the cross in following Christ. This Sunday at Grace we, too, will consider the words of Jesus to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.

“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death— we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time— death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. Jesus’ summons to the rich young man was calling him to die, because only 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 lust. But we do not want to die, and therefore Jesus Christ and his call are necessarily our death as well as our life. The call to discipleship, the baptism in the name of Jesus Christ means both death and life. The call of Christ, his baptism, sets the Christian in the middle of the daily arena against sin and the devil. Every day he encounters new temptations, and every day he must suffer anew for Jesus Christ’s sake. The wounds and scars he receives in the fray are living tokens of this participation in the cross of his Lord… But how is the disciple to know what kind of cross is meant for him? He will find out as soon as he begins to follow his Lord and to share his life.”

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship, pp 99-100, New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Co, 1963.