I’m after a cheap fix! My clutch has gone in the car, does any own know a cheap way to keep it
going? How often has we heard that? We are always after a cheap fix. We want things fixed quickly, easily and with as little cost to us as possible. Why do something properly when you can do it cheap…that’s the catch cry of the CD and DVD pirates. They are in business because people want the real thing, but don’t want to pay the price.
A cheap fix is also what we are after in our own lives; we want the real thing, but for the sake of a cheap fix, we settle for an imitation. Rather than do the hard yards, we settle for the easy option. You and I are currently in the grip of a cultural movement called ‘hedonism’…aaah! Now before you turn off, let me explain this term, because I think it you will be amazed how influential this thinking is in our lives. Hedonism is all about the cheap fix; its about finding and achieving pleasure and happiness in our lives above anything else, including reality and truth.
In other words, our experiences of happiness and the satisfaction of pleasure this brings, is the rule and guide we use to justify our actions to quickly solve our deepest and most personal problems. If I’m happy, everything must be ok!
Think about this in your own life. Do you keep doing things, even if it doesn’t solve the actual problem, just because it makes you happy? …A cheap fix, because we’ve taken the easy road, with little cost and haven’t actually changed our situation; like dodging up the car repair, it works, but for how long?
For many years now, hedonism has been infiltrating our faith. Many of us now ask, ‘will being a Christian make me happy? Will I get pleasure out of following Jesus? And ‘will there be a cost?’ In other words, we want a cheap fix for our souls. This is a stark difference to Luther’s quest to fix his hurting soul when he ask ‘where can I find a gracious God?’
The centre or core of the questions about our faith has been reversed. Luther’s question is about God and how he justifies us, ours question is about ourselves and how we can justify our sin. We want the real thing; we want to be a Christian, we want to be right with God, but at the least cost to us. So long as we can be still feel happy and still keep our secret pleasures, yet trust we’re still forgiven, then we will follow Jesus …a cheap fix.
Its actually not a cheap fix, its cheap grace, its cheap grace because, if we keep living and doing things based on feeding our pleasures and seeking happiness apart from following God, we fail to recognise the cost to God for our justification. The cost of our forgiveness was the holy and perfect life of Jesus which was sacrificed for your sin and mine. Paul reminds us: You were bought for a price. You are not your own.
Jesus paid the price to forgive you and reconcile you to God. When you are in Christ, you have died to sin, so you cannot delight in it any more. When you confess: “Jesus Christ is my Lord,” you are asserting that He calls the shots for your life.
Unfortunately, scripture’s revelation on grace by faith alone, through Christs suffering and death for us, has been twisted into “cheap grace” by our hedonistic thinking; a cheap fix instead of costly discipleship. St Paul is obviously facing the same issue when he says ‘What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?’…Shall we go on enjoying lustful thoughts and actions, after all, Jesus died on the cross for us, so God forgives us anyway.” “Shall we go on and gain pleasure in being blind drunk over the weekend, because we know that through Jesus our sins are forgiven.” Shall we go on… we all can fill in the blanks.
What has happened here? Justification of the sinner for the sake of Christ has been distorted into justification of the sin. This is the essence of hedonism…self justification of the things that make us happy and pleasure us, but make God unhappy; and yet we do them because we think God will forgive us anyway.
One of the most astute Lutheran theologians of the last century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was so alarmed by this cheap grace in the German Lutheran Church, he wrote a book addressing this issue called The Cost of Discipleship. His concerns are surprisingly modern:
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. p.36 Bonhoeffer’s words clearly reflect what Jesus commanded of us in this mornings gospel ‘anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’
God justifies sinners for Christ’s sake; but God never justifies sin. Sin is rebellion against the good and perfect ways of God. It’s a condition of wanting things my own way -not God’s way. Sin is what Christ died for. ‘for while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’, Paul writes, but then he goes on ‘The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.’
There we have it, Grace is free, yet grace is costly; it cost God, and, it costs us. It cost God because Jesus suffered and died on the cross. It costs us because it may mean we need to face the reality of sin in our lives, and die to it; it costs us because we begin to realize when we are at our best, we are at our worst before God; it costs us because it may mean we let go of our secret pleasures or the things that currently make us happy…It costs because Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow Jesus’.
Bonhoeffer, also wrote ‘Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy (for) which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, … it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. P.36 Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels [us] to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says:’ My yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ P37.
Jesus’ burden is light because he has already carried the cross to Calvary for us; that heavy cross, laden with our sin. And he died on that cross, for your sins, once and for all. The hard work is done, that’s grace. To take up our cross and follow Jesus means to live by grace, St Paul encourages us with these words ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.’
You and I are here today because grace has brought us here. We are here today because on the day of our baptism, ‘we died with Christ’, that is, we died to cheap fixes in our life. We are here today because Jesus is giving us a new start, a new life in him, when we are joined with him in his body and blood. And we follow Jesus, because this new life we now live is free from slavery to sin. Amen