A watered-down gospel produces watered-down Christians. When we read, in the Gospels, about Jesus calling disciples, we see that He didn’t make it easy to follow Him, but He made it worth it. We also see that there was a difference between the crowd and the disciples. Jesus didn’t call crowds, He called disciples.
In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer argued that the grace of salvation is also the call to discipleship. “Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow,” he wrote, “and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.”
When the gospel is preached this way, Bonhoeffer argued, it will produce Christians who have already counted the cost. In the passage below, he explains that dying to self is not something for mature Christians only. On the contrary, it marks the beginning of the Christian life:
“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 godfearing 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.”