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The Cost of Discipleship Paperback – September 1, 1995
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"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." With these words, in The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave powerful voice to the millions of Christians who believe personal sacrifice is an essential component of faith. Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian, was an exemplar of sacrificial faith: he opposed the Nazis from the first and was eventually imprisoned in Buchenwald and hung by the Gestapo in 1945. The Cost of Discipleship, first published in German in 1937, was Bonhoeffer's answer to the questions, "What did Jesus mean to say to us? What is his will for us to-day?" Bonhoeffer's answers are rooted in Lutheran grace and derived from Christian scripture (almost a third of the book consists of an extended meditation on the Sermon on the Mount). The book builds to a stunning conclusion: its closing chapter, "The Image of Christ," describes the believer's spiritual life as participation in Christ's incarnation, with a rare and epigrammatic confidence: "Through fellowship and communion with the incarnate Lord," Bonhoeffer writes, "we recover our true humanity, and at the same time we are delivered from that individualism which is the consequence of sin, and retrieve our solidarity with the whole human race." --Michael Joseph Gross
Without a doubt, the book that has most changed my life is Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. It is incredible. I first read it at Bible college and then read it again three years ago. Bonhoeffer writes about cheap grace - how we can make the gospel what people want to hear so that we get a bigger response- and how we must fight against that. As an evangelist, I can sometimes feel the temptation to give a softer message to get more people responding, but actually we need to be true to the message that belongs to God. You can change the style, but don't change the substance. -- Gavin Calver * Christianity Magazine, Jan 2016 * --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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people would have given up. If you don't know about him I suggest you read his books. You'll be inspired!!
The book is a theologically rich yet practical exposition on discipleship and the Christian walk by a genuine suffering servant of Christ. (The author voluntarily returned to Nazi Germany from the United States to preach the good news, only to be executed for his beliefs). This book not only challenges your imagination to consider what discipleship truly means, but also reveals how costly that choice becomes in contemporary society. In Bonhoeffer’s own words, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
In contemplating what the words of Christ mean for believers in the 20th century, Bonhoeffer develops a gorgeous argument separated into four sections. Part I, “Grace and Discipleship” brings the reader back to the Biblical tradition to explore that grace cannot be separated from sin, and that genuine discipleship essentially means a rejection of one’s very life in pursuit of God. It is here that the author develops his profound idea of “costly grace.” In other words, “what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.” Part II, “The Sermon on the Mount” ends up being a wonderfully orchestrated exegesis of Christ’s words in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Here, what discipleship actually means in our day-to-day lives is explored, and this further expands on Part I. Parts III and IV, “The Messengers” and “The Church of Jesus Christ and the Life of Discipleship,” expand into interpersonal and group dynamics of discipleship. The book concludes with the chapter “The Image of Christ” where we learn how to regain our humanity by relinquishing our individualism.
The Cost of Discipleship is a gripping commentary on the demands of sacrifice and moral stability from a man whose life and reflections were idyllic articulations of Christ-centered leadership, driven by the force of committed Christian neighborliness and an imaginative sense of civic duty. In a modern world full of opinions, Bonhoeffer’s words written more than 50 years ago are as potent and powerful now as they were then. No longer are we fit to call ourselves “Christians” when we incessantly hop from branch to branch. As the author makes very plain, there are only two ways—Christ or the world—and to choose the latter invariably leads to death.
This is a highly inspirational, intellectually stimulating and empowering masterpiece that should be on the bookshelf of anyone who wants to embrace what it truly means to be an imitator of Christ. Read it, take notes, reflect on it, cherish it, and then read it again.
Prepare to be convicted.
There were a few conclusions with which I did not agree. He cuts to the conscience but presents the Call as really very hard to respond to. The book inspired a sermon from me - All or Nothing - but it also made me think long and hard about the call to pastoral ministry. Why can't my vocation be my avocation? It is He who has called me to teach and to preach. Why can't I fulfill both without having to give up one for the other? I love my job. It is a calling. I love pastoral ministry. It is a calling. Therein lies my tension.
But all that aside, this book, though translated from German and therefore a difficult read at times, is a much-needed expansion on what it means to follow Christ. Bonhoeffer takes great care in expanding on each detail and question the believer might have about what the life of discipleship looks like, and it provides a picture that is invaluable to the serious follower of Christ.
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