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The Authority of Christ in Discipleship

September 29th, 2012

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:27-28

Christ never apologized for His authority or for His entrance into a life. He claimed the authority that He alone has as Lord. Bonhoeffer wrote:

It is Jesus who calls, and because it is Jesus, Levi follows at once. This encounter is a testimony to the absolute, direct, and unaccountable authority of Jesus … Because Jesus is the Christ, he has the authority to call and to demand obedience to his word. Jesus summons men to follow him not as a teacher or a pattern of the good life, but as the Christ, the Son of God.[1]

Today He calls people to follow Him in this same authority. We have so watered down the gospel with “cheap grace” that some now think they are doing Christ some kind of favor to let Him have some of their time. There is no point to worshipping a deity who has no authority, no ownership, and no ability to hold us accountable. But Christ precisely claims such power, and such power is not contradictory to love. Because He loves us He commands us to come under His authority so that He might express His love in us and through us to others.

Bonhoeffer coined the phrase “cheap grace” and he described it as:

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.[2]

I have counseled many individuals who have lived compromised lives but still believe that they are just fine spiritually. They live in deception. They take false pride in their upbringing, or education, or past service, or something, and neglect to see their hearts for what they are. A pastor who was “let go” from his church due to being addicted to pornography said to me that he had prayed for God to deliver him but added that God never did. This is, of course, utter nonsense and deceptive talk. Would you say such things about breaking the civil law? No, of course not! We know that law-breakers are punished and out of fear of punishment we obey the law – we don’t wait for them to “give us victory” over the tendency to break the law. They will motivate us by punishment, by fines or imprisonment.

“But Christ has already paid my fine and bore my punishment,” someone might complain. This is the epitome of cheap grace thinking because there is no sense of a call to His Lordship and the result is a self-focused Christianity. Yes, He has paid the price but He still demands surrender. Recognizing Christ as Lord means to accept that we can and must bring these areas of our lives under His Lordship. “I am participating in things I do not believe in,” is the lament of some caught in a web of addiction. But on some level of our hearts, when we are enslaved to a certain sin, we are believing in our right to that sin, our right to our own lives, and denying Jesus Christ His right to our lives. Sin is simply denying Jesus Christ His authority in our lives.

In several of his writings Andrew Murray spends quite a bit of space stressing the importance of accepting that we can walk in the fullness of the Spirit. The first time I read these words from him I wondered why he thought they were so needed, but as I have continued in ministry for several decades now, I understand the importance of doing this – people just do not expect that they will ever get victory over their problems. I have seen the same dangerous thinking in my own heart. But the principle of Lordship means that we can and we must bring every thought in our heads under His Lordship; we can and must live in the fullness of His Spirit.

He continues to call to us today from His position of authority, and He demands obedience and surrender. We should expect nothing less from the Lord of Lords and the One to whom all authority in heaven and on earth is given. And when we surrender to Him we find Him to be the God of love and comfort. The best life imaginable is life lived in utter surrender to Him, bringing every thought captive to Him, and being filled with His Spirit – which is a command of our Lord (Eph. 5:18).

Bow your heart to Him, for our God is a consuming fire!

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, “The Call to Discipleship”

[2] Ibid, “Costly Grace”

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