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Archive for September, 2015

Dallas Willard (“The Spirit of the Disciplines”, Harper & Row, 1988) writes this:

“We’ve all heard of ‘cheap grace.’ But ‘cheap grace’ as a concept didn’t just come merely from our wanting to have God’s mercy and bounty at bargain basement prices. I believe that the misunderstanding of the spiritual disciplines’ place in life has been responsible for Protestantism’s adopting ‘cheap grace’ as the dominant mode of its recent existence.”

Willard is not contradicting but complementing Bonhoeffer. Reading Discipleship we might ask, If “cheap grace” is grace without cost, then we must ask what is the cost that must be paid if we are to experience “costly grace.” That is the question to which Willard is supplying a significant part of the answer.

We cannot know the fullness of God’s grace, argues Willard, without regaining our lost practices of the spiritual disciplines. They are part of the price to pay for being recipient’s of God’s grace.

Conservative Christians have a real struggle at this point because we’ve been misled in two ways by our own history. First, in severing ourselves from the Roman Catholic Church, we made the common but awful mistake of thinking we had to reject everything Catholic. (That led inevitably to rejecting not just Catholicism but Catholics themselves. What an unloving blunder on our part!)

Char and I these past few days have been walking around old stone huts, churches, and monasteries in Ireland. You cannot stand in the midst of a “sanctuary” made simply of thousands of stones piled on one another without thinking about the level of devotion that must have motivated these, our Christian brothers from centuries ago. For them, living on windswept, desolate, but beautiful sea slopes, facing the storms of the Atlantic head on, everyday life was a spiritual discipline. And that is exactly what they wanted.

Imagine yourself having arrived in heaven and meeting one of these tough old men. Try to explain to him that you had discovered the secret of spiritual formation: Taking life easy, cramming in as many luxuries as possible while making as few sacrifices as possible. You’d never dare get the first word out!

We have let our Christianity turn into mere religion, a pleasant addition to a life filled already with many pleasures. And if our church isn’t pleasant enough, we either complain loudly and widely or we simply go somewhere more pleasant. Explain that to the grizzeled old monk. Practice your words well because you’re going to have to recite them to Jesus, too. Are you ready to defend your lifestyle to the Righteous Judge of the Universe?

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