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  • Ross Moughtin

Grace does not come cheap

This will impress you. I managed to close my account with LoveFilm with just a ten minute phone call yesterday afternoon.

I had decided it wasn’t cost-effective to pay out £8 each month for videos we never got round to watching. But I knew cancelling would not be easy. Once you eventually find the cancel option on their website, carefully concealed of course, you discover that they want to speak to you. A phone call is required should you even think of pulling out. And you get the full works.

It can be an ordeal cancelling a subscription. Some years ago it took a letter to the PA of its managing director in Glasgow before Three cancelled my mobile phone service; they also refunded the four months I had taken in informing them of my decision.

Only last week, as it happens, I phoned to cancel my Daily Telegraph app. As always, you can sign up online, easy; but you can only cancel by phone. The young man at the other end could scarcely conceal his disdain. I could hear him thinking: “You are going through all this just to save £1.99.”

For as we all know it is very easy to sign up to and incredibly difficult to terminate. That’s how this world works. And the company will use all kinds of strategies to maintain your custom, not least just to wear you down and break your resolve.

There must be people out there, decent folk, laden with a battery of contracts for services they no longer use.

“Come unto me,” invites Jesus, “all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) The Kingdom of God is different, of course; but in what way? Difficult to join, easy to leave?

Certainly we can proclaim an easy gospel – all you have to do is this to be a disciple of Jesus, no problem, just sign here for eternal life. So much to enjoy!

An evangelist friend of mine observed that how you become a Christian determines what kind of Christian you become. He had a point.

A young man joined our coach from Rochdale to the Billy Graham rally at Anfield. He clearly was moved by the sermon and seemed to be considering going forward. “Don’t worry, “ said Beryl. “I will come with you.” She did go forward with him but spiritually he never went anywhere. She had made it too easy. It was to be his call, his decision.

For Jesus spelt it out what following him would entail, a small gate, a narrow road. The German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer warned of the dangers of cheap grace. He did so with integrity – he was executed for his faith by the Nazis in the closing days of the second world war. He wrote in the book fitting entitled “The Cost Of Discipleship:”

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

And Jesus clearly promises a wonderful security. “My sheep recognize my voice. . . They are protected from the Destroyer for good. No one can steal them from out of my hand.” (John 10:28).

We are saved but not trapped. You can just decide to pack it in without contracting the plague. And disciples do. I often wonder what happened to Demas between Colossians 4:14 where he sends greetings along with Luke and 2 Timothy 4:10 where Paul wistfully writes: “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.”

You can just fall in love with this world – and like Demas leave Christ behind. (You can’t have it both ways). You grieve the Holy Spirit, of course. But the wonder of God's love is that he honours our freedom, even though this freedom means Jesus being nailed rigid to a cross. God's grace may be free but it is not cheap.

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