I just returned from a vacation in Nashville. The rest was great, the food awesome, and the country music at the Grand Ole Opry outstanding. But the highlight of our journey was a trip to the town of Franklin, Tenn., where we toured the homes and the grounds where one of the last battles of the Civil War took place. Fifty thousand soldiers battling – mostly hand to hand – in an area the size of four football fields. Ten thousand casualties. Brothers fighting brothers. Cousins fighting cousins. The cost of freedom isn’t cheap.
I’ve just begun a series of messages based on the idea that if Jesus were to return today, “What Would Jesus Undo?”
To what would Jesus say “enough is enough!?” I believe first and foremost He’d undo our concept of freedom - His grace.
It’s always bothered me how we cheapen the grace - our freedom from the curse of sin - earned for us by Jesus. I call it “cheap grace.”
Definition: Taking what Christ did on that cross for our freedom for granted.
The cost of the physical freedom of slaves in the Civil War was men giving their lives for a cause in which they believed. The cost of this world’s spiritual freedom from the curse of sin was God Himself, coming here in the flesh of Jesus, taking on the sin of the world and dying a horribly painful and shameful death on the cross to pay the price we owed. No matter how you cut it – the cost of freedom isn’t cheap.
I believe the reason so many of us “cheapen” what Jesus did on that cross is because we have a shallow understanding of the price He paid. Because we don’t fully understand and appreciate what He went through for our spiritual freedom, we don’t get fully engaged in living our lives for Jesus in the way God wants.
The term “cheap grace” can be traced back to a book written in 1937 by German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer was born in Poland, and raised at a time and in the proximity of the infamous Adolf Hitler. As a Christian pastor he publicly renounced Hitler for his genocide of the Jews. He was arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo, imprisoned for two years, and after being associated with a plot to assassinate Hitler, he was tried and hung.
Though he died at the age of 39, he was quite a prolific writer - especially focusing on the need for Christians to live out their faith. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, he describes this term: “cheap grace” as the kind of grace we give ourselves - when forgiveness is preached without requiring repentance.”
With what our nation is going through right now - the godlessness flaunted and bragged about - Christians mocked as being backwards – rednecks – ignorant – and how we need to change what we believe because it’s not fitting in with our societal norms – it’s becoming clear.
Living our lives for Jesus is only going to get more difficult. And every time a Christian church decides something called a “sin” in the Bible is no longer a sin it makes it more difficult to stand on the values God gives us in His Word. It also promulgates the idea that what Jesus did on that cross doesn’t really matter. It cheapens it.
The more we go down that road - the more we muddy up what God says is right and wrong - the more we think we’re doing people a favor by not holding them accountable to their sin - the more we think we’re helping people by absolving them in their sinful lifestyle - the more we’re hurting them. We’re stealing from them the opportunity to repent of their sin and be free from the guilt. When we’re not using God’s grace to free people - we’re cheapening it to enslave them.
Throughout my ministry, I’ve used phrases to help keep me focused on my calling to live my life for Jesus and to lead others to do the same.
FaithWorks – Ephesians 2:8-10
Live a life that BEGS the question – 1 Peter 3:15
These kinds of phrases are all about living our lives in response to God’s Grace.
Last year, in our production of Follow The Star - ten scenes of the life of Christ - a nine year old girl was weeping at the crucifixion scene. When her mom asked her why, she responded: “That man on the cross is that baby in the manger.”
She got it. The question is, do you?
If not, here’s the fix: focus on the two words Jesus spoke to His disciples at His very last meal with them: “Remember me.”
If Jesus were to return right now, would He undo “cheap grace?” Without a doubt. Because what Jesus did on that cross for our salvation … wasn’t cheap.
Live a Life that BEGS the question.
Rev. Dr. Martin J. Brauer is pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 700 W. Whitestone Blvd., Cedar Park, TX. He lives with his wife, Leona, and dog, Tica, in Leander. Contact him at