Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Following Jesus into the World (and Why Martin Luther Left the Monastery)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his 1937 classic, The Cost of Discipleship, as a call to return to the original vision of the Protestant Reformation. According to Bonhoeffer, “When the Reformation came, the providence of God raised Martin Luther to restore the gospel of pure, costly grace.”

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“Unless He Obeys, a Man Cannot Believe”

When Jesus calls you to follow Him—and He never stops calling you to follow Him—He is calling you to take a step of faith. He doesn’t wait until you already believe before He calls you. He speaks to you where you are, in unbelief, just as He invited Peter to step out of the boat and walk to Him on the water.

When Jesus said, “Come,” Peter was still in the boat and still could not believe that he was looking a Jesus. The command of Jesus enabled Peter to step out of unbelief and into faith, just at it had done and would continue to do over and over again throughout his life.

This is an argument that Dietrich Bonhoeffer made in chapter two of The Cost of Discipleship. That first step of obedience is critical, he explained, and you can’t wait for faith to motivate you to take it because it itself is a step into faith.

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“When Christ Calls a Man, He Bids Him Come and Die”

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.”

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