Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chapter 19-23

1. On page 193, “God will not ask us in that day whether we were good Protestants, but whether we have done his will.  We will be asked the same question as everybody else.  The Church is marked off from the world not by a special privilege, but by the gracious election and calling of God.”

- As it pertains to God’s will, what have we been elected and called to do on behalf of Jesus and his gospel?  Please be specific.

2. On page 195, “But Christ’s followers must ask by what ultimate criterion Jesus will accept or reject them.  Who will pass the test, and who will not?  The answer lies in the words of Jesus to the last of the rejected: ‘I have never known you.’ Here we are at last, here is the secret we have been waiting for since the Sermon on the Mount began.  Here is the crucial question – has Jesus known us or not?  There is nothing left for us to cling to, not even our confession or our obedience.  There is only his word: ‘I have known thee,’ which is his eternal word and call.  If we follow Christ, cling to his word, and let everything else go, it will see us through the day of judgement.  His word is his grace.”

-  How do you understand the “ultimate criterion” by which Jesus will accept or reject you?  What is your response to that?

3. On page 196, “Humanly speaking, we could understand and interpret the Sermon on the Mount in a thousand different ways.  Jesus knows only one possibility: simple surrender and obedience, not interpreting it or applying it, but doing and obeying it.  That is the only way to hear his word.  But again, he does not mean that it is to be discussed as an ideal, he really means us to get on with it.”

- What does “simple surrender & obedience” compel us to do?

4. On page 197, “There is only one other possibility, that of failing to do it.  It is impossible to want to do it and yet not do it.  To deal with the word of Jesus otherwise than by doing it is to give him the lie.  It is to deny the Sermon on the Mount and to say No to his word.  If we start asking questions, posing problems, and offering interpretations, we are not doing his word.  Once again, the shades of the rich young man and the lawyer of Luke 10 are raising their heads.”

- When are we most apt to respond is this fashion?  Why?

5. On page 203, There is now no time to lose: the work of harvest brooks no delay.  ‘But the laborers are few.’  Jesus is looking for help, for he cannot do the work alone.  Who will come forward to help him and work with him?  Only God knows, and he must give them to his Son.  No man dares presume to come forward and offer himself on his own initiative, not even the disciples themselves.  Their duty is to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers at the right moment, for the time is ripe.”

- Is this a model response for the Church today?

6. On page 205, “No power in the world could have united these men for a common task, save the call of Jesus.  But that call transcended all their previous divisions, and established a new and steadfast fellowship in Jesus.”

- Where have you witnessed this remarkable call of Jesus?
- What new fellowships emerged in response to that call?

7. On page 206, “In his very first word, Jesus lays down a limitation of their work, a circumstance which they must inevitably have found strange and difficult.  The choice of field for their labors does not depend on their own impulses or inclinations, but on where they are sent.  This makes it quite clear that it is not their own work they are doing, but God’s.”

- How do you discern where Jesus is sending you?

8. On page 211, “Vice and sin may be forgiven, according to the word of Jesus, but the man who rejects the word of salvation has thrown away his last chance.  To refuse to believe in the gospel is the worst sin imaginable, and if that happens the messengers can do nothing but leave the place.  They go because the Word cannot remain there.”

- How does this provide context and clarity for our work?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Chapter 16-18

1. On page 170, “The real difference in the believer who follows Christ and has mortified his will and died after the old man in Christ, is that he is more clearly aware than other men of the rebelliousness and perennial pride of the flesh, he is conscious of his sloth and self-indulgence and knows that his arrogance must be eradicated.  Hence there is a need for daily self-discipline.”

- Where do you seek to practice daily self-discipline?

2. On page 171, “When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the Spirit with every available weapon against the flesh. How is it possible to live the life of faith when we grow weary of prayer, when we lose our taste for reading the Bible, when sleep, food & sensuality deprive us of the joy of communion with God?”

-  Answer Bonhoeffer’s question here for yourself…

3. On page 175, “But where are we to draw the line between legitimate use and unlawful accumulation?  Our treasure may, of course, be small and inconspicuous, but its size is immaterial; it all depends on the heart, on ourselves.  And if we ask how we are to know where our hearts are, the answer is just as simple – everything which hinders us from loving God above all things and acts as a barrier between ourselves and our obedience to Jesus is our treasure, and the place where our heart is.”

- What do you truly treasure in your life, day to day?

4. On page 178, “Be not anxious!  Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety.  Yet all the time they are the very source of all anxiety.  If our hearts are set on them, our reward is an anxiety whose burden is intolerable.  Anxiety creates its own treasures and they in turn beget further care.  When we seek for security in possessions we are trying to drive out care with care, and the net result is the precise opposite of our anticipations.  The fetters which bind us to our possessions prove to be cares themselves.  If instead of receiving God’s gifts for today we worry about tomorrow, we find ourselves helpless victims of infinite anxiety.”

- Does this statement make you anxious? (Just kidding!)  So, what does?

5. On page 181, “After he has been following Christ for a long time, the disciple of Jesus will be asked, ‘Lacked ye anything?’ and he will answer, ‘Nothing, Lord.’  How could he, when he knows that despite hunger/nakedness, persecution/danger, the Lord is always at his side?”

- How does this example bring you genuine comfort and peace?

6. On page 183, “It is not an approved standard of righteous living that separates a follower of Christ from an unbeliever, but it is Christ who stands between them.  Christians always see other men as brethren to whom Christ comes; they meet them only by going to them with Jesus.  Disciple and non-disciple can never encounter each other as free men, directly exchanging their views and judging one another by objective criteria.  No, the disciple can meet the non-disciple only as a man to whom Jesus comes.  Here alone, Christ’s fight for the soul of the unbeliever, his call, his love, his grace and his judgment comes into its own.  Discipleship does not afford us a point of vantage from which to attack others; we come to them with an unconditional offer of fellowship, with the single-mindedness of the love of Jesus.”

- How does this speak to God’s truth, and why do we at times resist it?

7. On page 186, “Every attempt to impose the gospel by force, to run after people and proselytize them, to use our own resources to arrange the salvation of other people, is both futile and dangerous.  Our easy trafficking with the word of cheap grace simply bores the world to disgust, so that in the end it turns against those who try to force on it what it does not want.”

- Where have you witnessed or experienced this reality?

8. On page 187, “The difference between the disciples’ seeking and the Gentiles’ quest for God is that the disciples know what they are looking for.  We can only seek God when we know him already.  How can you look for something or find it if you do not know what you are looking for?  The disciples seek a God whom they have found in the promise they have received from Jesus.  Hence-forth, the disciple will look upon other men as forgiven sinners who owe their lives to the love of God.  ‘This is the law and the prophets’ – for this is none other than the supreme commandment: to love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves.”

- What you are looking for and how is Jesus fulfilling his promise to you?