Sunday, November 14, 2010

Costly Grace

Costly Grace"
A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's
The Cost of Discipleship

Jon Walker
(ACU/Leafwood Publishers)
ISBN 978-0-89112-676-8
September, 2010/224 pages/$15.99

In 1937, on the threshold of Nazi Germany's war on the world, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote one of the most influential books of the century, The Cost of Discipleship. He challenged the flabby faith and compromises of German Christians, famously writing, "When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die."

Now, seventy-three years after the book was first published, Jon Walker has written Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. Although Bonhoeffer’s book still has a loyal readership, it has not been adequately viewed through the eyes of the twenty-first century. Walker brings to a new generation the timeless message of Bonhoeffer against the background of today’s political upheaval and societal change and what it means to those who claim to follow Christ’s teachings, challenging contemporary teachings and lifestyles.

Grace is a foundational doctrine for Christians, yet it is one of the most misunderstood. Bonhoeffer watched as many used the doctrine of grace as an excuse to do whatever they wanted, and in response, he wrote his classic work on what it truly means to follow Jesus. We cheapen grace, he declared, when we use it to compromise our behavior or to lower the standards of God’s Word. In a modern retelling of this Christian classic, Walker explains what Bonhoeffer meant when he taught that grace is free but will cost us everything.

“Bonhoeffer called for a return to ‘costly grace,’ to a recognition that God’s grace comes at the cost of Christ’s passion. Grace is free, but it demands a disciple’s whole life, not just partial obedience to the commands of Christ. Bonhoeffer’s message resonates with our time of instability and insecurity,” Walker explains. “We’re tempted to compromise in order to keep things as they have been, but the cost of discipleship requires that our loyalty be only to Christ and Christ alone. Where our behavior is at odds with our belief, God requires we be ruthless in letting go of the things that entangle us and keep us from becoming just like Jesus.”

Costly Grace is a clear call to discipleship, reminding us what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, and makes the doctrine of grace understandable and practical. Following Bonhoeffer’s example, Walker has anchored this book around an expository study of Matthew 5–7, including the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. As such, Costly Grace is an excellent resource for small group curriculum or congregation-wide study.

Also available is the Costly Grace 90-Day Devotional. The companion devotional is dedicated to bringing home to the heart of every Christian the vital call that Bonhoeffer made in his book and that Walker now makes in his. What decisions do we need to act on to walk the road Jesus shows us? Who is it we are called to love and forgive? And why is it imperative that the Beatitudes become our way of life? These are just some of the challenges that Walker helps us tackle in his valuable guide.

Jon Walker has worked closely with Rick Warren for many years, first as a writer/editor at, later as vice president of communications at Purpose Driven Ministries, and then as a pastor at Saddleback Church. He's also served as editor-in-chief of LifeWay's HomeLife magazine and founding editor of Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox. His articles have appeared in publications and Web sites around the world. You can learn more about his ministry at

I had previously seen excerpts from Bonhoffer's classic book but had never read it, so I was eager to read this one. Costly Grace is one of those books that I both love and hate: love it because it has such great truths and hate it because it makes me squirm! I haven't completely finished it yet; this is not a book to breeze through but one to read thoughtfully. I think every person in today's church should read this book. I do believe it is the antidote for the feel-good, prosperity gospel that is so rampant, particularly in the USA. One of my favorite quotes from Bonhoffer has always been "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance. Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner." If you long for more in your Christian life, I encourage you to read this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from The B&B Media Group and Leafwood Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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A Stone Gatherer said...

I have Bonhoffer's book. I haven't read it all the way through yet (old english bids me take my time!!) This book would be a great companion. Thanks again for the wonderful reviews. I so trust them, and have actually told people they should visit because your review are so honest.


Thanks for the review. My pastor husband has to Bonhoffer book and this would be a good companion piece for I smell a stocking stuffer?

quilly said...

I read "Costly Grace". It had the very same effect on me. It lifted me up, and dropped me to the depths of despair. It also challenged me to give more. Perhaps I should read this one, too. I am no doubt due for a refresher.