Forgiveness doesn’t mean getting to repeat a sin

Part 5 on FORGIVENESS

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

You get pulled over for speeding on the way to the rodeo but the cop is a fan and planning to take his family there the next night, so he decides to let you off with a warning. You cheat your mark out because you know the judge on the right side never pays attention to it and draw a check for second. The secretary messed up the payout and you knowingly leave with an extra $60 and since you got out of one speeding ticket, you keep a heavy foot on the accelerator on the way back out of town, texting your girlfriend that you’re going to be late because a buddy got hurt, but really, you’re heading for a bar where a girl you thought was hot, invited you during intermission.

The opportunity to do wrong, or sin, is constantly present. So is the opportunity to do right. It comes down to the choices we make.

The most important choice we can ever make is Jesus.

Through Jesus, we can find forgiveness in the form of grace that changes everything for us. God will punish unrepentant, unforgiven sin but through Jesus, God offers us grace. As much as it can be hard to understand, we deserve punishment for our sin because God is just and fair. All sin must be punished but He offered us a way to receive grace instead through asking to be forgiven for our sins as we confess we know we’ve sinned and by believing that Jesus was the Son of God who died for our sins and was resurrected to live forever in Heaven with God.

By the forgiveness found through Jesus, we receive unending grace. It means no matter what we’ve done on the past or how much more we screw up going forward, God will still see us as righteous—meaning he sees us as perfect despite our sin. It’s what people mean when they say we’ve been washed in the blood of Christ. Through his shed blood, we’re made pure.

So if forgiveness means we’re seen as perfect, why do I need to stop sinning?

Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul is reminding us that we’re made new. When our salvation is real, when we’ve truly been forgiven, our sinful selves died with Christ on the cross and we’ve been reborn into a life that when it ends here, takes us to an eternity with God in Heaven.

That forgiveness is not to be abused as an open invitation to keep living a sinful life. Grace may be endless but it’s there because God knows we will mess up, but it isn’t there so we can willingly choose to sin.

God knows we’re going to mess up When our salvation is real, we begin a process known as sanctification—becoming more like Jesus. We all progress at different paces as we learn what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus, from the Bible, through church and our own time reading it. That means we’re not immediately perfect and that’s why we need unending grace to cover us when, even as someone made new through Jesus, we still make sinful choices. Sometimes, we don’t even know something is a sin in our lives until it’s revealed to us by reading and understanding something in the Bible for the first time. We’re being sanctified.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

If we are knowingly living a sinful life, we may need to question if we’ve truly experienced a life-changing saving faith in Jesus. Have we truly been forgiven? We can rely on grace for when we get it wrong, but we’re potentially fooling ourselves if we’re telling ourselves we’ve been forgiven but never really repented.

We all want to be treated fairly, God does that

We all want to be treated fairly. In rodeo and bull riding, we want a judge that doesn’t give a thumbs-up to a 7.8 second ride to the number two cowboy while the guy just breaking in gets a zero for a 7.9 on the stop watch. We want to believe that a draw never gets rigged in favor of someone or against someone a stock contractor hates.

As much as people in our society are against Christianity because all they hear us say is that our beliefs are right above others, there is no one more fair than God.

All sin is punished equally. God won’t allow any of it in His presence in Heaven and the judgment against sin is eternity separated from God in Hell. Any and all sin is punished equally.

But God wants us with Him in Heaven so He made a way that we all could be redeemed of our sin through Jesus Christ.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

That is one of the most well-known Bible verses but how to be made right before God only starts there.

Jesus was and is the Son of God sent here to die and take the punishment meant for our sins. What he endured for us is horrific but when you take the time to think and understand it, that’s how much he loves us that 2,000 years before any of us were born, he took on all of God’s judgment and wrath against our sin.

Romans 5:10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

All that is required of us is to believe who Jesus was and is, to recognize that however big or small, we all sin and to confess and repent of that sin, asking to be forgiven. That’s what it means to have a saving faith in Jesus and that’s what gives us the assurance we have a permanent home in Heaven.

When we hear the saying in rodeo that he paid your fees, THAT’S the seriousness of what that nice-sounding statement meant. He didn’t just do us a favor, he suffered horribly on our behalf so the we could have eternal life with him next to our Father, God, in Heaven.

That’s a pretty even pen of bulls, everyone has the same chance and none of us can do more than another to earn our place there. Believe in Jesus, confess your sin, repent of it and ask to be forgiven. That’s it. No more, no less.

None of us can do more than another to improve that score. No matter how much good or bad we think we’ve done, it all comes down to what we believe and our willingness to ask for and receive forgiveness from God, through Jesus.  Scott Hilgendorff

Imagine if Jesus said to others what we say to them

Imagine Jesus walking up to you and saying you’re an idiot. Imagine Jesus interrupting a conversation you’re having with friends to tell you in front of them all just how stupid you are.
Imagine Jesus pointing you out to others as you walk by and telling them what a loser you are. Or you overhear him talking to the other bull riders about what a wannbe you are sitting there in the stands with your chaps on next to your girlfriend.
What would your reaction be? Would you accept his invitation to hear him speak at cowboy church before the rodeo started.
Would you want to hear anything else he had to say?
One pass through my social media feed shows people who identify as Christians saying the first three “imagine” statements, multiple times.
Yet it’s his message that brings love, hope and eternal life and THAT is what people need to be hearing from us right now more than anything else.
1 John 2:6 Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
The ‘him’ being referred to is Jesus. The instruction is to live like Jesus.
If we ever have a hope of being able to share Christ’s life-changing, soul-saving message, we have to love others the way he did, speak to them the way he did and tell them who he is and how, through his death on the cross and our repentance from sin, others can also be saved from God’s wrath and judgement of their otherwise unforgiven sins.
Before anyone can call me out for being self-righteous, believe me, I’m preaching to myself. I’ve been less than kind at times in the past week. I’ve let ‘life’ get to me when Christ in me is stronger than that. It’s okay, we’ve messed up. But let’s take steps to fix it. Apologize to those who need to hear an apology, confess your sin to those you’ve sinned against and ask to be forgiven by those you’ve wronged. That’s a huge step toward them being able to see and hear Christ in you. Scott Hilgendorff

Cowboys of the Cross

Welcome to Cowboys of the Cross: your resource for Christian cowboys. Cowboys of the Cross has been providing cowboy church for the rodeo and cowboy community for more than 15 years. The website is your source for stories of faith and encouragement as well as devotions and news and information affecting cowboys of faith. Cowboys of the Cross leads cowboy church at rodeos and bull ridings in both Ontario, Canada and across the north and southeastern United States. 

Cowboy Church

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Are your entry fees paid? How to have a saving faith in Jesus Christ

Just like getting on the back of a bull or reaching out to grab that steer, finding salvation takes courage.

It means looking closely at yourself and your beliefs and, as an adult, overcoming the challenge of believing in something you cannot see or touch with what might require child-like faith.

Jesus was real. Beyond what we see in the Bible, he was a real, walking, talking, historical figure verified in more than the Bible itself. But He was much more than just a prophet or a good teacher as many describe him–Jesus was the Son of God, fulfilling Old Testament prophecies of a coming savior.

And like the courage needed to compete in any rodeo sport, finding salvation, a perfect eternal life in Heaven, means finding the courage to believe with all your heart that Jesus was the Son of God and believing the sin we are born into keeps up separated from God without Jesus.

Think of the rage an infant is capable of expressing, untaught, to understand we’re born into sin and it is that sin that separates us from God. Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that he will not hear”.

But while God shows both wrath and love, He is also just and in his justice, sin must be punished. Romans 9:14-15, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’”

Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord”. But as the last part of that verse tells us, God is also good and has provided a gift to us in his Son, Jesus Christ. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Christ was sent to die for our sins, to receive God’s wrath that was meant for us, before being resurrected so that through our faith and belief in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we could be ‘saved’; given eternal life in Heaven because through Jesus we could be see without sin and allowed in the presense of God.

Jesus paid the penalty we deserved for our sin. Sometimes we don’t like some of the rules in a particular rodeo or bull riding association’s rule book but those are their rules and we have to accept them because it is the only way that it’s fair for everyone. For God to be just, sin has to be punished and all sin is looked at equally. Sometimes we find it hard to accept that God could punish an essentially good person with a life in Hell but those are the rules that make it fair for everyone since there is no denying we all have sinned in some form, big or small.

And we all have the same opportunity to take Jesus as our savior so that we can be forgiven from our sins and made whole, able to be in God’s presence when we die.

Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 10:9-10, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” The Bible documents the willingness of Jesus to die an agonizing death, nailed to a cross. It documents His resurrection three days later and the preparation of His disciples to spread the word of salvation to the rest of the world. Since that day about 2000 years ago, generation after generation of Christians have been spreading that message, helping others find Christ and the salvation he offers. If you can find the courage to ride a bull or wrestle a steer, can you find the courage to make Jesus the lord of your life?

Where to find us

While many events are canceled into the near future, Scott and others on the team are posting video sermons and devotions to social media as well as the regularly updated content here to the website.

Dec .19, Jonesborough, TN with Triple T Bulls staff and contestants leading service.

Triple T Bulls practice pen as announced for Cowboy Church before practice.

Scott/Cowboys of the Cross can be found at Spur’n S Rodeos with the National Cowboy Association and he serves as the Chaplain for the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association, often found at their sanctioned events.  He can also be found at PBR Velocity Tour events, International Professional Rodeo Association events  and others. Keith is found at SEBRA and other rodeo and bull riding events in the midwest.

In all your ways...

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths — Proverbs 3:6
A Cowboy of the Cross believes God comes first and strive to follow His leading from a desire that comes from the knowledge of the cost of our salvation, paid for by Jesus Christ through is death on the cross. Through a saving and repentant faith in Jesus and the knowledge of his resurrection, we know God has forgiven our sins and will take us home to Heaven when our time here is done. Through God’s grace, we’ll get through the mistakes we make and grow more like Christ with study of Scripture, time in prayer and learning to hear God and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

TESTIMONY — Chuck Middlekauf, Austin, TX — God was looking for this Western and Pop Culture Artist

TESTIMONY — Chuck Middlekauf, Austin, TX — God was looking for this Western and Pop Culture Artist

It’s interesting how God has brought my life around to where I am now. I was never looking for Him, but I guess He was looking for me. I wasn’t raised in the church. When I was little, my mom taught me to pray before I went to bed, so I guess I knew there was a God, but we didn’t go to church. I asked God for His help on exams when I hadn’t studied, and you can guess that my grades showed the...

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Meet our Teachers / Preachers and Site Contributors

Keith Miller

Keith Miller

Keith Miller grew up in a strict Amish home in Indiana until discovering the freedom of an independent relationship with Jesus Christ. As a bull rider, he met his wife Natalie and together, they have a daughter Gracelyn and have settled in Westport, Indiana. Keith...

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Scott Hilgendorff

Scott Hilgendorff

Scott heads up Cowboys of the Cross, a ministry dedicated to bringing cowboy church to rodeos and bull ridings across North America but with a focus on discipleship. The ministry evolved out of Riding for Christ Ministries, the name which Scott operated under for more...

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James and Jenn Douma

James and Jenn Douma

Hey everyone, my name is James Douma. I have been involved with the rodeo for the past several years. I am a full time firefighter in Ontario during the week and ride bucking horses on the weekend. I am married to an amazing woman named Jenn and together we have a...

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Josh McCarthy

Josh McCarthy

Howdy! My name’s Josh McCarthy and I compete in saddle bronc riding in the PRCA and I’m the youngest of five from northeastern Wisconsin.  I grew up in a Christian home and went to church every Sunday. I accepted Christ into my life when I was little but I didn’t...

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Jim Bull

Jim Bull

I grew up always praying before meals and hearing that our friends that passed were in heaven. However, I never felt I knew who God was and definitely didn't have a relationship with Him. I lived my life thinking if I seemed like a good person, then I must be a good...

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Jesse Horton

Jesse Horton

I was 'raised Christian.' I can't remember a time before I was 10 years old that I wasn't a church-goer, though I remember several years of my teens where my family didn't attend church. I confessed my sin and my need for Christ when I was eight years old, but I do...

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Mail: Cowboys of the Cross, 3710 Warden Branch Lane, Gatlinburg, TN, 37738

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