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The Cost Of Discipleship In The Third Reich Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
July 13, 2022 1:00 am

The Cost Of Discipleship In The Third Reich Part 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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July 13, 2022 1:00 am

We all want to be in control of our life and our future. Yet Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave his life for his allegiance to Christ rather than the swastika. Before his physical execution was ordered, he died to himself. In this message on the Hebrews 11 martyrs, we ponder how to die to ourselves. It starts today. 

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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. 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. 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, do you believe there will be modern-day Bonhoeffers in the coming days? You know, Dave, I certainly hope and pray there will be many Bonhoeffers. One of the reasons that we have Running to Win is to try to prepare the church, to disciple the church, to help all of us as we run the race of life.

And we hope and pray that people will be encouraged to run that race successfully all the way to the finish line. I've written a book entitled Hitler's Cross, how the cross of Christ was used to promote the Nazi agenda. And of course, it includes the story of Bonhoeffer, but that's only a very small part of the book. I deal with issues regarding the anti-Semitism within the church, how the church was deceived, how it was divided, how it was dismembered, how Hitler put pressure on the church. All of these are lessons that we need to learn today. Now, for a gift of any amount, this book can be yours.

You go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And of course, at the end of this broadcast, I'm going to be giving you that contact info once again. 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. We snatch it back. Years ago, I was counseling a young man who struggled with pornography, and he told me that desperation took a magazine and burned it in his sink.

The idea of burning them, I'm sure, is a great idea, but the sink is probably not the place to do it. But he said, interestingly, that even as it was burning, he still reached over and snatched some of it from the flames. What Bonhoeffer is saying is, if God is going to put the axe to the root of the tree, we must have faith to believe that he will reward those who will say, I will make the break clean and irrevocable and make no hidden provision to rescue it from the cross. It is a death that all of us helpless, struggling sinners must die if we are to be worthy of Christ. There's a fourth death in all the beasts that we are talking about today, and that is love of money. Notice what Jesus said in the sixth chapter of Matthew. He says in verse 19, do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt and where thieves do not break through and steal.

Now, says Bonhoeffer, in explaining this text, and before I give you some quotes, I want to tell you that, once again, we as Americans say things like this. Well, you know, we can earn money to the glory of God, and that is true, and that is true. And that is true. But I'll tell you that there are very few people who are very wealthy who are also poor in spirit. Now, there are some. There are some. We have some in the church, I believe, whom God has blessed financially, and they're still poor in spirit.

But that is a great struggle. I remember a friend of mine said of a certain businessman here in the city of Chicago. He said, you know, even though this man is a Christian, this businessman is, he says, you know, he really loves money.

He loves money. And I thought to myself, you know, that is a very serious indictment. I don't know whether the man was right or not.

It was his judgment. But there is something within us that will not let go of this, the struggle to give our wealth to God and then to say, Lord, it's up to you now, because I offer it up as Isaac. And then you give it back to me and I recognize it from you, and I will use it. Thank God that there are many, many people who can do that and who have done it.

But let nobody say that that isn't tough to do. You know, there's that old joke of two people discussing of how much they decide to give to God. And somebody says, well, what I do is I take all my money, I throw it up. I've drawn a circle in the middle of the floor. Whatever lands in the circle is mine. Whatever is outside the circle goes to God. The other guy says, I've got a better idea. I take all my money in a room, I throw it up, and whatever stays up is God's and whatever comes down is mine.

Oh, oh. This is what Bonhoeffer says. He says, God knows the human heart craves treasure. He knows that it craves treasure. And God says, we should have treasure. He says, only God says that the treasure should be in heaven. And then he says, our hearts have room for only one all-embracing devotion, and we can cleave only to one Lord.

To one Lord we can cleave. And there's a death that Bonhoeffer died, and it was a death to the love of money. A recognition that if indeed God was to give him some, he was to see it as coming not from hard work, not from his brilliance, or not because of an inheritance, but rather he saw it as Abraham saw Isaac, a gift given by God which he also has the right to take from us. And that's why giving is always, or at least almost always, a real spiritual issue and not a financial issue. If you had a room with 100 carnal Christians, you could give them 101 reasons why you should give and still receive very little. And then I think of the missionary. I remember hearing say one time that out in the mission field they were having an offering for something, and it was a big offering, and there were people who had nothing to give, and some of them took the rings from their fingers and they put them into the offering plate. Well, you say that's silly.

Yeah, I think so. I think that is silly. But you know something? When people are fanatically in love with Christ, they do silly things. They do silly things. Or at least things that we consider to be silly because they love God. And Jesus said, do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.

Use those treasures to give to God's work that they might be transmuted and that you might meet them again in heaven. There's a death that we need to die. Well, there's another death that we need to die, and it in effect is the summary of all of them, and that is the death to one's self, the root of the tree, the death even of the desire to live. For this we look again at Matthew chapter 10 verse 39, where Jesus said, whoever loses his life shall find it, you hang on to it, and you shall lose it.

The final nail of the crucifixion is death to even the desire to live. Let me tell you the rest of the Bonhoeffer story. He made a switch in his life, and we can argue as to whether or not it was wise and whether it was good, but I'm just telling you what happened. He became disillusioned. The Nazism began to continue its great strength throughout Europe and Germany.

The church had basically been crushed, as I explained in a previous message. He decided to become a part of a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. For that, in 1943, he was put in prison, and while he was in the Tegel prison in Berlin, he wrote what is today a book, Letters and Papers from Prison.

He made friends with the guards who actually helped him smuggle some of this stuff out. When the Allied bombs were falling on the prison and all the prisoners were screaming, Bonhoeffer was the one who gave consolation and hope and maintained some sense of sanity in the prison. Later on, he was taken from there to the Gestapo prison in Berlin, and when it was bombed, Himmler finally ordered that he be taken to Buchenwald, where he spent two months, and then the order came from Himmler, but Bonhoeffer had to be put to death.

But listen to one of his associates in Buchenwald. He says, this man was different, just quite calm and normal, perfectly at ease, his soul shone in the darkness of our prison. He learned to throw himself completely into the arms of God, taking seriously his own suffering as well as the suffering of God in the world. And then finally, because of Himmler's instructions, he was taken to Flossburg with a number of other people, and there he was martyred. His last words were to a friend, oh God, this is the end, but it is also a beginning. Our victory is certain. Listen to the words of a doctor who was asked to see the execution, the hanging, as a testimony, as a witness, I should say.

This is what the doctor said. Between five and six in the morning, the prisoners were let out of their cells and their verdicts were read to them. I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer kneeling in fervent prayer to the Lord his God. The devotion and evident conviction in this prayer of this captivating man made a laugh impression and moved me to the depths. Now the prisoners were stripped of their clothing, led naked down a flight of stairs under some trees, and there under the scaffold in the sweet spring woods, Bonhoeffer knelt to pray for the last time. Five minutes later, he was dead.

April 9th, 1945. When Christ calls a man, he bids him, said Bonhoeffer, come and die, come and die. If we cannot die in those things that I have mentioned this morning, the five deaths, how shall we die when the persecution really comes? You know, Jeremiah asked this question. He said, if you run with a footman and they weary you, how are you going to compete with the horses?

He says, if you are weak and defeated in a land of peace, how are you going to win in the day of battle? Rather than giving an invitation, what I'd like to do is to share with you in the next few minutes some instruction that I give to people who are interested in dying. And so I give to people who are interested in dying. And then afterwards, we're going to dismiss you all, and you can go home and die.

Please don't quote that out of context. What would I say if I were helping a person to die? What is it that I've learned to die? Number one, crucifixion is painful. It is painful. It is painful.

The giving up of cherished sins, those resentments and jealousies and anger and lusts that we have so carefully nurtured and rationalized and lived with and embraced, and those relationships that have become so part of us, however sinful they might be, we oftentimes have taken them and we will not let them go. And they scream. They scream to stay alive.

People would rather volunteer to the mission field. They'll live. I'll go. I'll yield.

I'll do anything. But I do not want to die. The flesh does not die easily. Oh, how painful it is. The alcoholic who looks at the very thought of living without his bottle, he cannot even think about it. The sex addict cannot even bear the thought of living a pure life.

It is too fearful with all of the props that he has used in his life. And the person who is angry and resentful and filled with bitterness to give it all up is hard. It always hurts to die. But we want cheap grace, don't we? We want a cross without nails. We want a Christ without the crushing. And it doesn't come that way. There's a second thing about crucifixion, and that is somebody always has to do it to you.

You cannot do it yourself. You know, you can commit suicide in many different ways, but nobody to my knowledge has ever committed suicide by crucifixion. At least he wouldn't be able to do it completely if he nailed one hand.

He could not use the one hand to nail the other hand. Somebody has to do it. And I'm not preaching today that what we should do is by sheer self will say today is going to be different. I'm going to yield myself and I'm going to live differently.

No, my friends, many of you have tried that and it does not work. It is not a matter of the human will. Crucifixion is something that Christ does for us. Paul says, I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but even Christ lives in me. Romans chapter 6 says very clearly that we have been crucified with Christ. The old man has been crucified. God says, I have done it.

I have broken the stranglehold, but what you must do is let me do a deep work in your heart that will cause you to be in amazement that those things over which you felt that there was no possibility of victory are suddenly crushed and freedom is brought to soul. It is God who does it. And next, crucifixion takes time, takes time.

Usually the people writhed on the cross for hours and sometimes days before they died. You say, well, how long does it take to die to self will? How long does it take?

Well, in a sense, there are different answers that could be given. In one sense, it may take a lifetime. But in another sense, there may be a crucial moment that you need to work through that may take an hour. For some people, an hour and a half.

For others, maybe less. Because what that means is that we come before God in quietness, inviting the Holy Spirit to search our heart and to deal with everything that comes to our mind, giving it wholly and totally to God with the same kind of commitment with which Abraham gave up Isaac, wholly and totally yielding it to God for all of its pain, for all of its hurt, for all of the ramifications that may come from it. But we are there until the deed has been done.

George Mueller said, there came a day, he said, when George Mueller died, he died. Now, that doesn't mean that once you've died, you're dead for the rest of your life. We continue to struggle and the death that we die has to be a daily death. It needs to be something that becomes a part of us as we learn the principles of saying time and time again, we need to be dead. We need to be dead, we will die, we will break. And as we are in the word and disciplined in the word, the death begins to work in us. The death begins to work in us. And as a result of the death, there is life. Except a kernel of wheat fall into the ground and die, Jesus said, it abides alone. But it is in pushing all that it is to the soil, the giving up of the outer shell that has become so hard and so encrusted. It is then that it begins to beget the life.

The life breaks out. My word to you today, if you're not a Christian, is to remember that the grace of God in Christ is free to you today to receive forgiveness and cleansing from the hand of the crucified redeemer. But if you have fallen into that category and you are a believer in Christ, then I say to you, Jesus says that unless you take up your cross and follow me and the death, the cross is not illness, it's not a bad bank account, it's not being in debt. That may be a different kind of a cross.

It is the cross that strikes at the very root of self-rule. And Jesus said, if you do not take up that cross, you're not worthy to be my disciple. I would encourage you, I would encourage you to go home this afternoon, spend an unhurried hour with God alone and say, God, I'll be there as long as I need to be until I die, until I die. Bonhoeffer says, he whom Christ calls, he bids him, come and die, come and die.

Let us die together. Our Father, today we want to thank you for the memory of a young man who at the age of 39 died so successfully because he had died so many times before to self-rule. And Father, we pray today that everyone who has listened to this message, whether on the radio or here in this auditorium, that you will not let a one of us get by until we have finally, finally done what we in our hearts know we must do. And that is to take up the cross, which smashes everything that is precious and then gives back to us God. And even now, before I close in prayer, if God has talked to you today, would you right now say, Lord Jesus, I promise by your grace that you will not let a one of us I promise by your grace, I'm going to take as much time as needed to yield everything to your sovereignty, to make the break clean, irrevocable, so far as I'm concerned, no going back, cold turkey, trust you. Father, the work that you've begun, complete. In Jesus' name. Amen. Well, this is Pastor Lutzer. And, you know, no matter how long I live, I'm still impressed with the fact that there are so many people who experience such great evil. And yet, thankfully, there are many who were faithful. Let me ask you a question. Were the German boys who grew up in Nazi Germany who became Hitler's SS troops, for example, were they somehow more evil than other boys growing up in other countries?

I don't think so. In my book entitled Hitler's Cross, I point out how it was so important that their consciences be deadened. And Himmler, who was responsible for this, made sure that their consciences were dead so that they could commit any evil without a twinge of guilt.

You know, there are so many lessons we have to learn from the past. And for a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. It's entitled Hitler's Cross, how the cross was used to promote the Nazi agenda.

For gift of any amount, as I've mentioned, it can be yours. You go to I'm going to be giving you that info again. Or you can pick up the phone right now and call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. Of course, many of you will want to go to That's And thanks in advance for helping us, because together we're making a difference. I'm committed to helping the Church of Jesus Christ to think through our own future and to face with stark reality the question of whether we will be faithful no matter what. No matter what. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it. That's why understanding Nazi tyranny might save us from another dark time of terror. It seems clear that dark times are ahead. How we prepare for them is crucial. Next time, don't miss Pastor Lutzer's analysis of the parallels between wartime Germany and today's USA. Make sure to join us. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-25 12:30:47 / 2023-03-25 12:39:34 / 9

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