In the “Cost of Discipleship” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” (p. 47) Cheap grace means living without the demand of obedience. In practice, where there is no call for obedience, then all things are tolerated. Nothing can be sinful. There is no clear right or wrong. John calls us to obey the commands that God gave us (2:3) is the basis for assurance.
In light of what John wrote about human sinfulness and our need for confession, obeying God’s commands does not require perfect obedience. The fact that no one can do this – “to live in Him (one) must walk as Jesus did” doesn’t mean “perfect obedience” but Jesus’ life as a whole – to be consistent in our discipleship and not the individual acts in isolation. For example, checking off a list of do’s and don’ts, or following a set of directions that humans have written. Legalism, takes us back to negating the sacrifice of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Following Jesus means a commitment to who Jesus is and what He asks us to do. This takes us back to Pastor Graham’s sermon on September 9 about what it means to be committed to Jesus as a believer. There is a cost to discipleship. That cost is our willingness to put a higher priority on living as a Christian over that of believing we are Christians. To me, God wants disciples that are willing to put aside our priorities to tend to God’s priorities first and then tend to ours. To me, this is what it means to strive to conform ourselves to the character of God.