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

There is a defect, even a fatal defect, in the life of the church of Christ in our age: a lack of true discipleship. For the genuine Christian, discipleship means forsaking everything to follow Christ. But for many of today’s supposed Christians - perhaps the majority - it is the case that while there is much talk about Christ and even much furious activity that is supposed to be done in his name, there is actually very little following of Christ himself. And that means that in some circles, at least, there is very little genuine Christianity. Many who fervently call him "Lord, Lord" are not Christians (Matt. 7:21).

Remember how he taught his disciples: "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:28, 33). That is just what Jesus is enabling Peter to do here - to count the cost of being a disciple after God’s own heart. It will be very costly - costly unto death. At that point Peter had complete autonomy, complete independence. He was his own man. He was able to dress himself and go where he liked.

The wise shepherd will be helped in this task if he remembers that the people he feeds are the lambs of Christ. Did you notice how Jesus reminds Peter that the people he will feed are the Lord’s own people? "Feed my lambs," he said to Peter. "Feed my sheep." The flock is always Christ’s own flock. Consider for a moment the great lengths to which Jesus has gone to claim his sheep for his own. These sheep have been purchased with his own blood. He has paid for their sins with his own life - his sacrifice for their sins. He has truly been the Good Shepherd because he has laid down his life for his sheep, rescuing them from sin and death. So Jesus has the right to remind Peter that the sheep he is called to feed are still Jesus’ own sheep.

If we are filled with love for Christ, then what shall we do? Jesus teaches us as he taught Peter that the task of the disciple is to feed Christ’s flock. Once Peter has reaffirmed his love for Jesus, then Jesus gives him this command: "Feed my sheep." This is how complete Peter’s restoration is - that the Lord will now trust him with his most prized possession, his own sheep.