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The Cost Of Discipleship In The Third Reich Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
July 12, 2022 1:00 am

The Cost Of Discipleship In The Third Reich Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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July 12, 2022 1:00 am

Will we die well? Sometimes in God’s will, a believer’s life is cut short. Dietrich Bonhoeffer paid the supreme price for allegiance to the cross of Christ rather than the broken cross of the Nazis. In this message, we walk through the five deaths of a disciple from Bonhoeffer’s insights on Matthew 5. The way we live for the Lord today matters.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

A committed runner never stops until he reaches his goal. Sometimes in the will of God, a believer's race of life is cut short. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one such man, a man who paid the supreme price for allegiance to the cross of Christ rather than the broken cross of the Nazis. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, today you're telling a moving and convicting story about a man named Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Yes, Dave, and the reason that I tell his story is because he stood against the Nazi agenda.

I know that he often is misinterpreted, but his faith in Christ was secure. One of the greatest honors I've ever had in my life, among many privileges that the Lord has given me, is to visit his house in the Berlin suburb and to sit at his chair in his office, a little office high above the rest of the house. And I sat there and I thought of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Let me ask you a question today. Are you blessed as a result of the ministry of Running to Win? If you answer yes, it's because there are people just like you who have invested in this ministry.

Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Simply go to

When you're there, click on the endurance partner button or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now let us listen and learn from the life of a man who was faithful to the end. When Christ calls a man, he bids him, come and die. Those are the words of a young theologian by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who stood against Nazism, who tried to get the church to be what it should be in the midst of the Nazi regime.

Confess, confess, confess. And this young man with a life to back it up did exactly what his words said. He followed Christ.

And at the age of 39, he died. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Braslow, Germany, born to a prominent family, but they were not church going. But at the age of 17, he wanted to become a theologian, but his brothers tried to talk him out of it, telling him quite frankly that the church was a lost cause, that the church was weak. It had been marginalized, that if Germany was to be strong, he should give his life to something that would matter and not to the church. But nevertheless, Dietrich said at the age of 17, if the church is feeble, I shall reform it. And so it was that he left what could have been the quiet life of a scholar in other areas to study theology, and it was his book, The Cost of Discipleship, that made him so famous, both in Europe as well as in America.

Listen to what he says. Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheap jack wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sins, the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut rate prices. In such a church, the world finds a cheap covering for its sins. No contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner.

It is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living incarnate. And on and on he goes, excoriating the church for cheap grace. Now the Bonhoeffer family grew up during those difficult days in Germany, and in 1923 when inflation was so great that it took four billion marks to make a dollar. During that period of time, Bonhoeffer Sr. had two $50,000 life insurance policies that came due. He promised his family that he would buy them some strawberries and a bottle of wine.

But at the end of the day, the hundred thousand marks bought only some strawberries. But young Dietrich was in the University of Berlin where he was taught and schooled in liberalism. Jesus Christ was largely stripped of his uniqueness, and he was schooled in liberal theology. But for some reason, which can only be attributed to the grace of God, young Dietrich did not buy into all of the liberal ideas, but actually retained the belief that Jesus Christ was essentially as he was presented in the New Testament.

And when he came to America to study at Union Theological Seminary, it is there evidently in another liberal school where he personally received Christ as his savior and was a changed man. The Bonhoeffer family did not participate in all of the things that were happening in Germany. In 1933, when there was a boycott of Jewish businesses and the Germans were told that they should not frequent Jewish stores, the Bonhoeffer family did it anyway.

Dietrich had a 90-year-old grandmother who walked through the SA troops, the storm troops, and went to the stores, the Jewish stores, and loaded her handbags with things purchased there, defying the troops to touch her. Young Dietrich said that the responsibility of the church in the midst of such social disgrace was to, quote, jam the spokes of the wheel. And if all of the Christians would have risen up and said, we will not obey the orders of the state, why indeed Germany would have been different. But we've already learned in this series of messages that there were many people who decided to go along with the state.

And last time I told you about a synod in which the ministers themselves dressed as storm troopers and gave the Nazi salute. So Bonhoeffer was basically a lone man. Yes, there were others. I told you about martyrdom. But he was a lonely voice in the wilderness. Why was it that he was able to die so successfully on April the 9th, 1945? The reason is because Bonhoeffer had died many times before then. He died to self-will. He died to self-rule. And that's what I'm going to invite you to do with me today.

Let us die together. Would you take Matthew chapter 10 as our text and we will be looking at several texts in the book of Matthew? In some instances in this message I will be quoting Bonhoeffer.

There is a mixture here of some of my own ideas and his, but when I quote him directly I will let you know that. But the text is Matthew chapter 10 verse 37. He who loves his father or his mother more than me is not worthy of me and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. But he who has found his life will lose it and he who has lost his life for my sake shall find it. What I'd like to do today is to walk us through five deaths that Bonhoeffer died before he was hung at Flossburg. And I want us to be walking through those deaths and to die as well as he did. Now I have a feeling that I'm going to enjoy this message a whole lot more than you and I'll tell you why.

It's because I knew it was coming. And because I knew it was coming I spent some time this week dying in advance so that I could take you on this pilgrimage of death. But let us die together. Five deaths. God expects us to die if we follow Christ.

First of all there is the death to natural relationships even to our families. I read the text a moment ago. Jesus Christ said if you love your father or your mother or even your son or your daughter more than you love me what does it say? You are not worthy to be my disciple. You see many of the pastors in Bonhoeffer's time said we are willing to die for the faith. We will go to the concentration camps but we can't leave our families behind. And what Bonhoeffer was saying is that there is a commitment to God that is so encompassing, that is so great, that is so consuming that even the natural affection of our families must be laid aside if God calls.

What a statement. He uses the illustration of Abraham who was asked to sacrifice Isaac. One day God said Abraham. Abraham said here I am Lord please give me something nice to do.

God said well I have something for you to do but I don't think it will be nice from your standpoint. Take your son your only son Isaac to Mount Moriah and there sacrifice him. Abraham I'm sure never told Sarah about it.

How could he possibly share the dreaded secret with his own wife? But he takes his boy and as he trudges up the hill he alone knows the awful truth of what God had asked him to do. Why was it that God asked Abraham to do such a thing? Well what God was trying to see whether or not this child whom Abraham loved so much, whether or not the boy had warmed his way into Abraham's heart and had actually, could it be, actually taken the place of God there.

Now we know that God never allowed it to happen. We also know that when Abraham was going to do it he believed that God would raise him from the dead because there was a promise that through Isaac posterity would arise. But when Abraham was about to do it and then God intervened and he received his son back and the ram that was caught in the thicket was sacrificed in the place of his boy. Oh the relationship that Abraham had with Isaac was never the same. Outwardly everything was the same but within it was all brand new because now he had received him back from the dead the book of Hebrews says because he had given Isaac to God and God could have taken Isaac. But now God gives Isaac back to him and in giving Isaac back to him it is as if death, the cross if you please, has intervened. God has now come between the old man and the boy and the old man can never see the boy in the same light again. He must see him now as a unique special gift from God. Now says Bonhoeffer, the reason for this incident is that the relationship that we have with God must be proven to be greater even than the relationship with flesh and blood. Jesus said that if you love son or daughter more than me you are not worthy of me.

Now you think about that for just one moment. Bonhoeffer himself was dearly in love with a young woman by the name of Maria. They were engaged but they never married because of what happened to Bonhoeffer in his imprisonment and eventual death. But there is the need for all of us to bring to the cross those human relationships. The people whom we love and when the cross intervenes we can never love them directly.

We now love them through the cross and the Christ who gave them to us and how differently we now perceive them. We must die to natural relationships in the sense of putting Christ first. There's a second death that we must die and since the book The Cost of Discipleship, which I hope you read by the way is largely an exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, I want you to turn to Matthew chapter 5 verse 3 for just a moment. Matthew chapter 5 verse 3, this is death to success or prominence.

Death to success or prominence. Jesus in the Beatitudes says, verse 3, blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And he goes on to say blessed are you when men revile you, this is verse 11, and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you, that's not very successful, that's not the American dream, but blessed are you if all that happens to you. You know here in America we often say well you know God wants us to be a success and we can be a success for him.

Strictly speaking that is true, but my what kind of rationalizations often lurk behind that very pious slogan. Where we think to ourselves that now the pursuit of success can go forward full throttle because after all we can be a success for God and we can be, but listen to me carefully, no person can really be a success for God unless he is in the final analysis also willing to be a failure for God. If you and I are not willing to be failures for God we can have no right to say that we are a success for God. To quote Bonhoeffer he says the true Christian is not consumed with success or failure but with the willing acceptance of God's judgment whatever God wills, whatever God wills. Let's take our careers and many of us enjoy our careers, let us take the hidden desires that we have to be well thought of, the desire for somebody to salute and to say he made it. Until all of those dreams and visions and aspirations lie shattered at the foot of a crucified savior Christ is not first and the text says we have no right to be called his disciples. Oh let us never love ambition which Bonhoeffer by the way says is the way to hell. Let us never love ambition directly, let us always love it if we do through the cross of Christ, through the crucified redeemer. That's a second death that Bonhoeffer died and Christ asks us to die to it too. Let us look at a third and that is lust. Chapter 5 of Matthew Jesus makes that penetrating statement verse 27, you have heard that you should not commit adultery but I say to you that everyone who looks upon a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart and then he goes on to say if your right eye offends you or makes you stumble tear it out and throw it from you.

It is better for you to have one of your part of your body perish and for your whole body to be cast into hell. I remember a pastor telling me that he was discussing the topic of lust with some men and men struggle with this greatly though we should not think that women don't either but he said that in this company as honesty began to reign and the security of their discussion he discovered that some of them though they were Christians were saying in effect that even if God granted them victory over this they are not sure whether they would want it because in a world that is so cruel and so harsh they deserve this bit of pleasure. Listen to Bonhoeffer on his exposition of this text. He says every momentary desire is a barrier to following Jesus and brings the whole body into hell making us sell our heavenly birthright for a mess of pottage and showing that we lack faith in him.

Now this is a crucial statement. This I think gets to the heart of the matter and certainly answers the response of those men I spoke about. Notice it says it shows a lack of faith in him who will reward mortification. That's an old word that means the putting to death of these desires.

He will reward mortification with joy a hundred fold. Then says Bonhoeffer instead of trusting the unseen we prefer the tangible fruit of desire thus we lose touch with Jesus. Lust is impure because it is unbelief. The gain of lust is trivial in comparison to the loss that it brings he says and then I love this line when you have made your eye the instrument of impurity you cannot see God with it.

You cannot see God with it. Jesus said blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Now why is it that we have so many addictions in the world? Whether it is addiction to nicotine or alcoholism or pornography or the ravages of lust many people have simply said we have given up we have tried we accepted believing that heaven will be all the sweeter when we are free of it. Bonhoeffer I think would agree with Tozer another great writer who said it is that part of us that we rescue from the cross that becomes the seat of our problems. We keep rescuing it from the cross.

We make hidden provision to do it again because we do not have the faith to believe we do not have the faith to believe that God will reward us completely and totally if the break with it is clean and from our standpoint and God's help irrevocable irrevocable. Well my friend do you understand how we can learn lessons from those who have gone ahead of us fought many of the similar battles but yet at the same time won the victory. I'm holding in my hands a letter from someone who's written to us who says it brings me great joy to be able to support and be a part of your great ministry trying to bring more and more unbelievers to Jesus Christ as Savior. Let me ask you would you consider becoming an endurance partner? Endurance partners are those who stand with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Of course you need more information so here's what you can do go to when you're there click on the endurance partner button. Become a part of the running to win family if I might put it that way or you can call 1-888-218-9337. Let me give you that contact info again and thanks in advance for helping us holding our hands upholding us in prayer and helping us on the journey.

Go to when you're there click on the endurance partner button that's or call us right now at 1-888-218-9337. It's time again for another opportunity for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Today's question Dr. Lutzer comes to us from Paul and Paul lives in Wisconsin. He writes, the part of the Bible I hate the most is when Paul says it's better to marry than to burn with passion. I hope God gives us single people extra forgiveness when we fail in this area especially when we have waited to get married for many years. I still have never heard a good sermon on conquering sexual sin. Well Paul first of all to begin with the end of your question I hope that you continue to listen to this station because I'm sure that at some point you will hear a good sermon on sexual sin. I'm a little troubled by your question actually when you say that the part of the Bible that you hate the most has to do with this.

I hope that there's no part of the Bible that you hate because it is all inspired by God even the difficult parts. Also you say you hope that God is especially lenient with single people regarding the business of sexual purity. Almost gives the impression that you think that maybe God should be as lenient and as sympathetic to your sin as you yourself might be.

Well the answer is he is not and he's the God with whom we have to deal. May I suggest to you Paul that you spend some time in God's presence and deal with the issues that we're talking about. I think that what you should do is make friends of singles who are going through the same kinds of struggles and pray together and work together but God does not lower his standards simply because our sexual drives are powerful and unrelenting. At the end of the day either we slay lust or lust will slay us. That's the stark reality and there is hope within the church with other believers and there is hope as we practice the disciplines of the Christian life because God will forgive us but he's not quote extra lenient.

Keep that in mind and I hope that you'll live a pure life for the honor and the glory of God. Thank you Dr. Lutzer for tackling a really tough issue. If you'd like to hear your question answered go to and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or you can call at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337.

You can write to us at Running to Win 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard Chicago Illinois 60614. In the Great Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 we meet the heroes of the kingdom who were martyred running the race of life. Nazi Germany subverted the church but not every Christian. Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave his life for his allegiance to Christ rather than the swastika. Next time more on the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-25 21:12:09 / 2023-03-25 21:20:27 / 8

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