I know, another year and another set of resolutions to draft. While a number of people are dead set against New Year’s resolutions I actually find them helpful. When done right, they really can guide your life to reflect what you value instead of just letting another year go by without ever living a life worth living. In my life I value academics so I make resolutions that reflect this part of who I am. For example, I might resolve to publish two journal articles, present at one academic conference, etc. By determining what one values and then developing goals around them the whole New Year’s resolution experience can be quite fulfilling. This is a system that works for me so yes, I like to make New Year’s Resolutions.
Something I value is spiritual development. To continue to develop spiritually I try and read books from great spiritual leaders. I started my New Year’s reading by tackling “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I must say, it has been difficult. It’s not that the book is hard to read, but the challenge from this great witness for Christ is powerful. It has forced me to look hard at how much I have ignored being a true disciple of the master. In many ways I have relied on what he calls “Cheap Grace” instead of true discipleship which requires “Costly Grace.” If we are to be true disciples of the Lord Bonhoeffer states we must commit ourselves to embracing costly grace. He describes costly grace in the following way:
“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son.”
And how should the disciple respond to this vocation to embrace costly grace? Radical and unconditional obedience. One must follow the master and imitate his life of self sacrifice and service for the salvation of the world. The things that stop us from accomplishing this radical single minded obedience are the same today as they were for the disciples of the first century. Bonhoeffer lays this out beautifully when he says:
“The forces which tried to interpose themselves between the word of Jesus and the response of obedience were as formidable then as they are today. Reason and conscience, responsibility and piety all stood in the way, and even the law and “scriptural authority” itself were obstacles which pretended to defend them from going to the extremes of antinomianism and “enthusiasms.” But the call of Jesus made short work of all these barriers, and created obedience. That call was the Word of God himself, and all that it required was single-minded obedience.”
To be a disciple of Christ is a great New Year’s resolution. We need to wake up from our slumber. Christ is born and we must take up the cross of Costly Grace and radically obey his commands. By our obedience to the Son of God we proclaim Christ! I’m struggling like many of you to respond to this radical call, but there really is no other way to follow Christ. With each page I turn I’m challenged by this great saint to be a true disciple; one willing to lay down my life for what’s good, true, holy, and beautiful. Won’t you join me in this? Will you embrace Costly Grace and Radical Single Minded Obedience and take up our Lord’s cross?