God-Given Tools for Success

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who had connections with the conspirators of Operation Valkyrie to assassinate Hitler. He was arrested and executed shortly before the end of WWII. He wrote The Cost of Discipleship (1937) – an attack on “easy Christianity” or “cheap grace.”

“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church.” (45)

It’s a grace “without requiring repentance… without church discipline… without personal confession… without discipleship… without Jesus Christ.” (47)

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” (99) Discipleship is costly – Lk. 14:26-35

But how can God’s grace, his free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, be reconciled with the high cost of discipleship? Grace is free but discipleship is costly. How can we reconcile the two?

Bonhoeffer spoke of a discipleship which will “liberate mankind from all man-made dogmas” and “submit to the kindly yoke of Jesus Christ” without ignoring the “seriousness of his commands.” (40)

“We can only achieve perfect liberty and enjoy fellowship with Jesus when his command, his call to absolute discipleship, is appreciated in its entirety.” (40)

“Jesus asks nothing of us without giving us the strength to perform it.” (40)

God-given tools:

I. Built-in provision for human failure

  • a. 1 John 1:5-10
    • i. “Unattainable ideals” (Robert Turner)
    • ii. Walking in the light – open to exposure
    • iii. O.k., because forgiveness is available – constant access to the blood of Christ
  • b. Mt. 5:17-48 – more “unattainable ideals”?
    • i. Anger as murder
    • ii. Lust as adultery
    • iii. Divorce and remarriage
    • iv. Vows
    • v. Retaliation
    • vi. Love of enemies
    • vii. Notice v. 48, which summarizes the whole section: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”
  • c. James 2:10-13
    • i. Incredibly high standards… a law of liberty
    • ii. A “law of liberty,” not because we have a right to consciously lower the bar, but because we recognize that we have all fallen short of the bar.
    • iii. Therefore the mercy that we need must also be shared with the other person.
  • d. Are you walking in the light?

II. A divine power source

  • a. Eph. 1:18-19
    • i. The hope of God’s call
    • ii. The riches of God’s inheritance
    • iii. The greatness of God’s power
  • b. Eph. 3:14-21
    • i. The Christian has a power source that unbelievers don’t have
    • ii. “According to the power that works within us”
    • iii. Do you want to live a victorious life?
  • c. Are you plugged in?

III. A dynamite message

  • a. Psalm 19:7-14
    • i. Life-changing truth
    • ii. Must be internalized
    • iii. Internally-driven motivation – cf. 2 Cor. 3 (v. “outward conformity” – the “letter”)
  • b. Josh. 1:8
    • i. Meditation – Ps. 1:1-2
    • ii. Memorization of scripture
  • c. Is the Bible your ultimate lens?

IV. A hope that sustains us

  • a. Phil. 3:8-14
    • i. Forgetting the past
      1. We cannot dwell on past failures
      2. They weigh us down
      3. We have to turn the page and move on
    • ii. Looking forward to what lies ahead.
      1. Do you know how great heaven is going to be?
      2. Do you ever dream about it?
    • iii. Pressing forward to what lies ahead
      1. The incredibly high standards of the gospel are ideals
      2. We can say that they are unattainable in the absolute sense, and that we all fall short – and we do
      3. We could say, as some do, that no one really lives up to the standard, so why even try?
      4. We could say, as others do, that the ideal doesn’t work, hence “human wisdom” must work out an alternative plan
      5. Paul has a better idea: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”
      6. Striving, reaching forth, and pressing toward are clear indications that while God’s ideals are higher than our attainments, this is no reason to abandon them as our goal.
  • b. Are you striving for the goal… and longing for heaven?
    • We can be successful if we…
      • Claim God’s forgiveness
      • Plug in to God’s power
      • Tune in to God’s Book
      • Adopt God’s hope

This is the essence of being a genuine disciple of Christ, loving God with every fiber of your being, and striving for the ideals set forth in his word.

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