By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Without Jesus, we’re cursed.
And that curse that we are now under goes back to Adam and Eve and a story many of us our familiar with. The couple had a perfect life, created to enjoy fellowship with God. They were given literally everything except for a single tree whose fruit they were instructed not to eat from. The serpent (Satan) used some tricky thinking to convince Eve that it would be good to eat from the tree and that God surely didn’t mean what He said. She was convinced to doubt God and she and Adam ate from the tree gaining the knowledge of sin from which they had been protected. God will not tolerate being in the presence of sin and Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden as He said, “cursed is the ground because of you.”
Genesis 3: 17 -19 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Adam and Eve now knew what good and evil were and brought sin into the world which would see us all separated from God who, in His perfect goodness, must judge and condemn sin.
Instead of believing in God’s perfect word and trusting His instruction to them, they were deceived and believed a lie instead of God, much like the majority of our culture today. Believing that anything other than a saving faith in Jesus can restore us to God is also believing a lie and sees us trapped under this curse and ultimately condemned to Hell because we’re left with unforgiven sin.
Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
The law was what we are given in the Old Testament. The Israelites had to follow the law perfectly to be seen as right before God and not condemned for their sin. Because of the curse from Adam and Eve, it is impossible for us not to sin. Knowing it was not possible for the Israelites to obey the Law fully at all times, God gave them a system of sacrifices that could be carried out to atone for their sins. Eventually, He would send us Jesus so that through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we could all be saved from God’s judgment and punishment of our sins.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”
Christ became our curse, our sin, and took the punishment for it from God on that cross as he died as a final sacrifice for our sins that if we have a saving faith in him, we can be freed from the condemnation that comes from the curse of our sin.
Adam and Even brought the curse into the world, but Jesus frees us from it.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
When you realize how much they watch us and how much they absorb, one simple proverb from the Old Testament can point us to Jesus and how much we need them to see that is the direction he should go, and just how easy it is to point them there.
When you consider the proverb was written over 2,000 years ago, the pictures featured with this show us how God’s design for us to be hungry to learn and grow is consistent throughout the ages and cultures.
In the photos, you see a young bull rider praying, something he learned to do from being at events where he saw that was how the older cowboys prayed. Then you see Ohio bull rider, Hayden Townsend teaching one of the young bull riders what he needed to do to improve his skill after watching the kid take on a junior bull. But in the background, there’s that young kid who was praying, now quietly watching and listening to Hayden.
Hayden and I talked about this a little bit afterward. As someone who is becoming an influencer as he continues to move up in the sport, Hayden can be a bigger influence on these young cowboys than I ever could be in terms of showing them Jesus.
I encouraged him to look to where Jesus can come first, even above his bull riding career.
To succeed in bull riding, the sport requires a lot of dedication. Hayden works out and practices daily, works hard to keep a positive attitude and can’t think of anything else he would like to do with his life.
For most of these bull riders and rodeo cowboys, timed event side, barrel racing or bull riding, there are dangers that require intense focus and skills that have to be developed to win. But it very unintentionally becomes an idol where so much focus shifts to success at the sport that it can distract from seeing how God comes first in it all.
These young kids give us that example. As much as they will listen to what Hayden has to say about bull riding, we talked about how putting Jesus in front of all of that gives him a chance to do both: to teach them to ride but to do it in a way that opens the door to also share his faith.
It was an opportunity to show Hayden how his actions and attitudes in front of these kids can really show them a Christ-like way of living but that as he grows more confident in his faith and knowledge of who Jesus is, he can start to share that with these kids and anyone else.
The goal for me is to always help these guys to see themselves not just as bull riders and rodeo cowboys but as Christians first, looking at everything through the lens of a Christian.
Hayden and I talked about how that doesn’t have to distract from what is needed to succeed in the sport. Instead, it will only help as he learns to see everything as a chance to glorify God and how that priority will drive all the rest forward as well.
You see things in our world today – especially on social media – like, “Won the round tonight! #blessed” or, “Thank God I’m blessed to live in America;” or someone will say, “Have a blessed day!” or (for the Southerners here), “Bless her heart!” We use this term blessed much the same as we use the word love: it has different meanings at different times. While I don’t think it’s bad or wrong to use this word, I think we need to make sure in using it that we don’t cheapen the word itself.
When you see this word blessed today, it always seems to go with some earthly prosperity. We rarely see someone including a blessed hashtag on a post that reads, “Got called out for my sin, which led to repentance,” or, “Got bucked off at the two-second mark,” or, “Had a bunch of cows going great until we hit a hole in the fence and now I have to spend the rest of my day getting them out of the neighbor’s pasture and fixing fence!” Even though I know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord (Rom. 8:28), I must confess that “I’m so blessed” isn’t the first thing to come to my mind when I’m trying to get stubborn cows up a wooded draw.
And in some cases, the person saying he is blessed when earthly prosperity does appear, doesn’t even know from whom the “blessing” is coming. He could be attributing it to the Christian God of the Bible or falsely to an unknown “higher power,” a god of another religion, or just the universe itself. Now you might wonder why God would give good gifts to people who don’t give him credit. If I trust God, shouldn’t I get blessings in the form of health, wealth, and prosperity? Well, to answer that question in short: no.
When you become a Christian, you come to realize that you are a sinner, an enemy of God who deserves nothing but His wrath (Rom. 3:23, Rom. 6:23). This wrath is not limited to earthly death, but results in eternal damnation. However, God – in His goodness and mercy through Jesus Christ’s work on the cross (Rom. 3:24-26, Rom. 5) – gives you grace (something undeserved and which cannot be earned) in salvation. He opens your eyes to who He really is and enables you to trust Him as Lord and Savior.
Scripture tells us that God extends His grace on all people during their earthly lives by giving them life and livelihoods (Eccl. 9:1-2, Matt. 5:45). This is called common grace. While common grace is extended to all mankind, it is still dangerous to assume that someone who is always having a great time, is therefore “blessed” by God. In God’s gift of salvation, He gives eternal grace which far exceeds any temporal gifts He may give in this world. Now this is a blessing!
In the previous articles here, the Sermon on the Mount has been an important text, and it’s a good passage refer back to. In Matthew 5:3-12, I think it’s safe to say Christ is describing a believer as a recipient of blessing. Reading this list, the person doesn’t seem very “blessed” by our culture’s standards, does he? It’s because we have this “common grace = blessing” mindset. The world is all about the here and now, but that’s not how God operates. We focus on winning the next bull or bronc ride, getting that heel shot, utilizing that pasture to get a few more pounds on my calves come sale time, making the wisest decision about keeping or selling that extra hay. These are all good and right things to think about. The Bible is full of passages on being productive in whatever place God has us. Whether you win the round or miss your mark, the market jumps right before sale time or plummets; we need to remember God’s work in a believer’s life is on an eternal timetable. As a famous pastor put it, “being a Christian isn’t believing in God; it’s believing God.”
Regardless of all those variables the blessing of eternal grace is available to all who repent and believe in Christ, the only way of salvation.