In last week’s study I wrote that there is a fatal flaw in the professing church today, a lack of true discipleship. Discipleship is talked about, of course. There are scores of books about it, particularly about what is called "discipling" other people. Words are not the problem. It is the lack of the thing itself. But what are we to say about this next theme: the need for self-denial, expressed as "taking up the cross"? In this area it is not only the thing that is lacking. It is an area about which we do not even speak.

In the last years of the seventeenth century a great French aristocrat wrote a book on discipleship that has become a classic in this field. At one time the book was publicly burned in France. Yet it has also been received by many millions of Christians who have confessed it to be one of the most helpful books ever written. It was greatly loved by Fenelon, Count Zinzendorf, John Wesley, and Hudson Taylor. This aristocrat was a woman, one of the best-known women in church history. Her name: Madame Jeanne Guyon.

The third element in following Christ is submission. In one of Jesus’ most important sayings about discipleship, the Lord pictures discipleship as putting on a yoke. This suggests a number of things, but chiefly it suggests submission to Christ for work assigned. It is the picture of an animal yoked to others as well as to a farm implement for labor.

The first element in following Christ is obedience. Obedience is an unpopular concept today, which we betray by our frequent use of a phrase like "blind obedience" meaning mindless adherence to authority. We think of it as enemy soldiers blindly carrying out the inhuman orders of an evil commander. So when we come to a phrase like "follow me," we naturally think of it as an invitation and conform our evangelism to that pattern.

Yesterday we looked at the tendency of many of today’s preachers to preach an "easy" faith - Christianity without the cross. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German churchman of the Nazi era who eventually suffered martyrdom for his opposition to Hitler’s policies, called this erroneous theology "cheap grace." He said, "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."1