In his sermon last Sunday, Pastor Peter clearly, convincingly, and correctly stated that to be a Christian and to be a disciple of Christ are one and the same. On the back of the Announcements handout was a drawing and explanation of the path of discipleship here at Grace Redeemer Church. The summary statement says it well: “Here at GRC we want to see everyone on the Path of Discipleship, daily becoming more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
In a March Voice of Grace, I presented quotations from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor whom the Nazis executed for his resistance to Hitler, from his book titled Life Together, an exploration of Christian community. Today I present quotations from his book The Cost of Discipleship, which examines what it means to follow Christ:
“The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ. Such a man knows that the call to discipleship is a gift of grace, and that the call is inseparable from the grace.” [emphasis mine]
“Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”
“only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.”
Do you hear what he was saying? You cannot be a Christian without being a disciple of Christ, and you cannot be a disciple of Christ without being a Christian. James expresses similar thoughts in his letter. First, he asks, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (James 2:14) Then, he answers: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26) Or, as John H. Sammis said in his well-known hymn, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Brothers and sisters, the path of discipleship is not easy, and it is not one to be traveled alone. We need each other; we need to care for each other, pray for each other, pursue each other, encourage and yes, sometimes rebuke, each other. In summary, we need to be in a loving community with each other. Find your place, find your way along the path of discipleship here at GRC.
And while you are doing that, find your place to serve. Look at the card that was handed out this Sunday. Find out how and where your gifts and talents can—and should—be used in service to our Lord and to his people. Everyone has gifts (see Romans 12:4-8); everyone is needed. This is one way in which we express our discipleship, in which we follow our Lord, who did not come to be served but to serve (Matthew 20:28).
But do not attempt to do this in your own strength! As Bonhoeffer reminds us, “Obedience to the call of Jesus never lies within our own power.” Call upon and rely upon the Holy Spirit to empower, encourage, and employ you in his service. And may you be blessed as the Spirit of Christ enables you to become more and more a true disciple of Christ!
“Jesus calls us o’er the tumult
Of our life’s wild, restless, sea;
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth,
Saying, “Christian, follow Me!”
Jesus calls us! By Thy mercies,
Savior, may we hear Thy call,
Give our hearts to Thine obedience,
Serve and love Thee best of all.” (Cecil F. Alexander)
Steve Hoogerhyde serves as an elder at GRC.