Archive for the 'Dietrich Bonhoeffer' Category

Discipleship Means Christ

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb,

Rev. 14:4

Discipleship means to walk with Jesus where he walks, go with him wherever he goes, study the words that he says, obey the instructions he gives, imitating his life as he lived it–even if it means certain death. Discipleship requires that Jesus be given primary allegiance: full and wholehearted devotion with special focus on obedience to his commands and purposes (Matt. 16:24-26). Discipleship is a result and consequence of a genuine and living faith in Jesus’ sinless life, his shed blood, and glorious resurrection.

Discipleship means adherence to Christ, and, because Christ is the object of that adherence, it must take the form of discipleship.

An abstract Christology, a doctrinal system, a general religious knowledge on the subject of grace or on the forgiveness of sins, render discipleship superfluous, and in fact they positively exclude any idea of discipleship whatever, and are essentially inimical to the whole conception of following Christ.

With an abstract idea it is possible to enter into a relation of formal knowledge, to become enthusiastic about it, and perhaps even to put it into practice; but it can never be followed in personal obedience.

Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York: Touchstone, 1995), 59 [paragraphing added].

HT: Desiring God

Loving What Jesus Loves (Part Two)

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Eph. 1:22-23

Yesterday, we discussed loving what Jesus loves. We saw what Jesus loves is his church. Often, we think that church is an option; an add-on for our benefit and convenience. Pick and choose, come or go, it is one of many things that we can do or not do. Yet, the church is the Body of Christ. Jesus Christ is its head. We can know the head, but we will not be able to stand, walk, or run without the body. According to Scripture, church involvement and participation is not an option, but a necessity for communing with the eternal Christ (1 Cor. 12:27).

Many hurt believers and confused outsiders decide that they do not need the church. They remark, “I will follow Christ, but I don’t like the church.” The New Testament does not give us that option. Without the church, we do not grow in Christ, mature in relationships, or deepen in worship. Without church, we do not minister effectively, we are not challenged, and we do not learn covenant commitment.

We continue with our story of a young German theologian who learned what it meant to love Christ and his church:

Four years later, on July 29, 1928, this same young man, now a pastor in Barcelona, was preaching to a congregation of German expatriates. He related from his time in Rome, this life-changing observation:

“There is a word that, when a [Roman] Catholic hears it, kindles all his feeling of love and bliss; that stirs all the depths of his religious sensibility, from dread and awe of the Last Judgment to the sweetness of God’s presence; and that certainly awakens in him the feeling of home; the feeling that only a child has in relation to its mother, made up of gratitude, reverence, and devoted love . . . .

And there is a word that to Protestants has the sound of something infinitely commonplace, more or less indifferent and superfluous, that does not make their heart beat faster; something with which a sense of boredom is so often associated . . . . And yet our fate is sealed, if we are unable again to attach a new, or perhaps a very old, meaning to it. Woe to us if that word does not become important to us soon again. . . . Yes, the word to which I am referring is Church.”

So spoke Dietrich Bonhoeffer to a small German congregation in Barcelona. So spoke a German theologian who was no longer a German Protestant, but a Reformed (or Evangelical) Catholic. This future theologian would no longer be myopically concerned with the affairs of the German state church, but open to the Holy Spirit’s directing and leading throughout the worldwide Body of Christ. Bonhoeffer would not only fall in love with Christ, but also, he would fall in love with Christ’s church. Now, Bonhoeffer was a son of the Reformation ministering in the Catholic tradition in a fascist world gone mad.

Sources: Dietrich Bonhoeffer cited in Timothy George, “What I’d Like to Tell the Pope About the Church,” Christianity Today, Volume 42, Issue 7, (June 15, 1998) and Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2010), 49.

Loving What Jesus Loves (Part One)

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Eph. 5:25-28 ESV

If we are in love with Jesus, then we will love what Jesus loves. What does Jesus love? He loves his church. No matter how ugly she acts, how sinful she behaves, or how hurtful her attitude, Jesus still loves his church. The Bible gives us no other option, if we desire to grow in Christ, then we must attend, serve, and worship in his church.

We may want to leave out of disappointment, distance ourselves out of embarrassment, and retaliate out of anger. However, we are called to stay and walk in the Spirit no matter our frustration or disillusionment. In the 1920’s, a young German theologian discovered the church and learned to love Christ and his church.

During April of 1924, a young aspiring theologian visited Rome for the first time. With his brother, he visited the ancient ruins and toured the great cathedrals and parish churches. Unplanned, his visit fell during Holy Week and guided by a young knowledgeable Roman Catholic priest from Bologna, they attended the great Holy Week services of the Roman church. The depth, gravity, and beauty of the ancient rites affected his spirit drawing him into the beauty of ancient catholicity.

As a state church German Protestant, he had experienced very little of the Roman Catholic Church: its people, its ancient liturgy, and its spirituality. This young man was greatly impressed by the sincere devotion and heart-felt conviction of the laity as they stood in line to partake of the sacrament of reconciliation. After receiving the sin-cleansing absolution of the young priests, guilt and shame was noticeably removed from their faces as they walked away. This young theologian continued with his Protestant objections to Roman Catholic doctrine, but was forever affected by the Roman Catholic laity’s deep and abiding love for the Church.

Edwin Robertson, The Shame and Sacrifice: The Life and Martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (New York. MacMillan, 1988), 41.

The Disciple Follows

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

The Call of Christ

Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:61-62 ESV

Discipleship means to walk with Jesus where he walks, go with him wherever he goes, study the words that he says, obey the instructions he gives, imitating his life as he lived it–even if it means certain death. Discipleship requires that Jesus be given primary allegiance: full and wholehearted devotion with special focus on obedience to his commands and purposes (Matt. 16:24-26). Discipleship is a result and consequence of a genuine and living faith in Jesus’ sinless life, his shed blood, and glorious resurrection.

When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to the exclusive attachment to his person. The grace of his call bursts all the bonds of legalism. It is a gracious call, a gracious commandment. It transcends the difference between the law and the gospel. Christ calls, the disciple follows: that is grace and commandment in one.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (Touchstone, 1955), 59.


Where God Is Found

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

At the Cross of Christ

When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

Luke 23:33 NLT

The Cross of Christ is the great act of Jesus in dying for our sins, being buried in the tomb, rising from the dead, baptizing with the Holy Spirit, and ascending to the Father. The Cross of Christ is our victory, our repentance, our hope, and our call. God is found at the Cross for there  his justice and mercy meet. His blood brings reconciliation. His innocent life spent is the sacrifice for our grave and malicious sins. His stripes bring healing to our souls, forgiveness to our spirits, and life to our bodies. God is found at the Cross: this place of humiliation is where the poor in spirit see God.

If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ.

And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible, not only in the New but also in the Old Testament.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, quoted in Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 137.

The Daily Office

Friday, May 13th, 2011



The Daily Office is a structured service of Morning, Midday, and Evening Prayer performed as a community or individually as an act of worship to God and intercession on behalf of the people of God. This regular cycle of daily prayer orders the life of the Christian. The cycle brings rhythm of life around which other “normal” activities can take their proper place. The practice of the Daily Office is a little known outside of liturgical communions and denominations. However, the value of this daily spiritual discipline is proven those who keep its hourly obligations:

The entire day receives order and discipline when it acquires unity. This unity must be sought and found in morning prayer. It is confirmed in work. The morning prayer determines the day. Squandered time of which we are ashamed, temptations to which we succumb, weaknesses and lack of courage in work, disorganization and lack of discipline in our thoughts and in our conversation with other men, all have their origin most often in the neglect of morning prayer.

Order and distribution of our time become more firm where they originate in prayer. Temptations which accompany the working day will be conquered on the basis of the morning breakthrough to God. Decisions, demanded by work, become easier and simpler where they are made not in fear of men but only in the sight of God. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Col 3:23 ESV). Even the mechanical is done in a more patient way if it arises from the recognition of God and his command. The powers to work take hold, therefore, at the place where we have prayed to God. He wants to give us today the power which we need for our work.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Fortress, 1970), 64.

The daily lesson readings (Psalms for the day, Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel) can now be found here in the English Standard Version (ESV) with audio files. Also, these audio files can be selected for podcast into your mp3 device for mobile listening.

Have You Listened Lately?

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

A Listening Ministry

But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.

Psalm 66:19 NLT

Ministry does not start with talking, it starts with listening. Paying attention to a friend’s needs, cares, longings, and desires is the utmost sign of respect and concern. Christ’s love is extended when we stop, hold our tongue, and listen to others’ problems. As we listen, we pray for the Holy Spirit to minister to their pain asking Christ to heal their hurt.

The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends His ear. So it is His work that we do for our brother when we learn to listen to him. Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must always contribute when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render. They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.

HT: reformation21

Psychiatry vs. the Cross

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009


No God vs. Being Beneath the Cross

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards,according to what their actions deserve.

Jer. 17:9-10 (NLT)

The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus.

The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is.

Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of man. And so it does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this.

In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.

The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness.

The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 5 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1996), 155.

HT: Between Two Worlds