“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”Matthew 7:13-14
When most everyone we know in rodeo and bull riding identifies as a Christian, how is it possible then that only a few will find their way to Heaven?
What Jesus is saying is that a lot of us really don’t know him in the sense that we’ve experienced a real relationship with him where we’ve truly believed in him, his death for us and his resurrection and truly repented of our sin and asked for forgiveness. And if we don’t have a genuine relationship with Jesus, he’ll also say he doesn’t know us.
Matthew 7:22-23On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Whether we do what look like great things or commit terrible sins, those actions don’t give us or destroy a relationship with Jesus, only belief in him, true repentance, confession of our sin and asking to be forgiven can save us. The good we do becomes evidence of our saving faith in Jesus.
Most of us believe a mixture of ideas of what a Christian is, but those ideas aren’t the gospel that God uses to save them. That also means that many of us care so little about our faith that we’re not seeing this potentially soul-saving post. That’s because nothing in us has been changed by Jesus to drive us toward learning more about him and God’s word to us in the Bible.
While we don’t profess to be the best teachers, too many people are not reading their own Bibles and not seeking knowledge from other teachers, whether it be this ministry or anywhere else. That breaks our hearts because we want everyone to experience a real, saving, life-changing relationship with Jesus. In rodeo and bull riding, we’re a family, and because you’re family, we love you and want you to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. But we know the truth of Jesus’s words and for those verses above to be true, most of the people needing to hear this have scrolled on past and the ones reading it are the ones we’re already blessed to get to know and serve through this ministry
Sometimes my 12-year-old son picks on his six-year-old sister. Obviously, there’s a big difference in size, so he has a distinct advantage. I always caution him to be his sister’s protector and never to use his size and strength to make her scared or do what he tells her. I try to teach him that as men and generally being physically stronger and more durable, we are to give honor to the women in our lives as weaker vessels that are precious and to be handled with care.
Yet, there are times when my daughter is a pest and my son gets to the end of his patience and uses his greater strength for pest-control, or even times when he just tries to return the favor by annoying her, which inevitably leads to a squabble. I always ask him, “Son, why did you do that?” I ask because I want more than his obedience – I want him to acknowledge the brokenness of his heart and seek repentance and transformation through his relationship with Jesus Christ.
But let’s be honest – most of us don’t know why we do the things we do. It’s difficult (nearly impossible!) for us to assess the motives of our own hearts.
Nevertheless, I want to ask each of us that question with respect to our decision to follow Christ – Why did you do that? Why do you follow Jesus?
For many, the answer is that it’s what they were taught as children – Christianity was “our family religion.” In other words, Jesus and the Triune God are all you knew – that’s all your family ever taught you, so that’s what you believed. Praise God, you weren’t born to Hindi, Buddhist, or Islamic parents, or exposed to any of those various worldviews in your formative years! Traditional faith (whatever that means) is what saved you from being a pagan or an atheist.
For others who grew up on hellfire and brimstone preaching, there are only two options: “turn or burn” – give your heart to Jesus and start living right or suffer immensely and eternally in hell. The obvious choice is Jesus, so we “invite Jesus into our hearts” by praying a prayer, getting baptized, and trying really hard to live right so God doesn’t change his mind about us. Religious adherence is what saved you from the fires of hell. But keep it up! Don’t fall off the wagon into sin, or God will let you break the deal you made for your salvation! Be sure you do plenty of good deeds, because you never know when you’ve done enough good to outweigh the sin you’ve committed!
In Jesus’s “High Priestly Prayer” he says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Knowing what your family believes about God and Jesus doesn’t equate to salvation. Making the choice to “ask Jesus into your heart” and trying really hard to live a good life won’t punch your “get out of hell free” ticket. Only knowing God as his Son Jesus Christ has revealed him brings eternal life! Religion is always about man’s path to find God, but Christianity isn’t a religion! Quite the opposite of religion, God made a path to reconcile mankind back to himself through Jesus. Christianity, therefore, is a relationship with Jesus.
I have been married to my wife, Sarah, for almost 16 years. I love her dearly. I’ve studied her. I know how tell when she’s angry, when she’s worried, when she’s sad, when she needs some space, and when she needs a hug. I know her well because I’ve intentionally pursued growing in my knowledge of her because I love her and want her to be a significant part of my life. When we come to know Jesus, we receive justification – all our sin erased, our debt paid in the blink of an eye. However, that is not the end of our relationship with Jesus. As we pursue and grow in our relationship with him, we experience sanctification, increasing salvation from the power of sin, and eternal life.
How God works out that process is difficult to understand, but I have serious concerns for people whose relationship with Jesus never grows or remains at the level of a casual acquaintance. If we love someone, we seek to deepen our relationship with them by increasing our knowledge of them so that they we can do life with them in increasingly intimate and meaningful ways.
Knowing Jesus is eternal life. How well do you know him?
Some of us worry about the future. Some because of difficult circumstances, some because it’s just what we do. Some of us don’t give much thought to anything and plunge forward into whatever comes next. Some face what’s ahead fearlessly with a mature understanding of verses like Matthew 6:25-34 that go to great lengths to assure us not to worry because God will take care of us.
Matthew 6:25-27Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Matthew 6: 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
This can feel impossible to some of us and the reality is, it takes a lot of maturity in our faith that some of us may never even reach to be able to let go of worry. But at a minimum, these verses should be a comfort for what they tell us about how much God values us over everything He has created.
But regardless of how we face the coming year, as Christians, there are a couple truths we can focus on. God is in control and His will, will be done. Nothing happens without Him but what He commands us to do through Jesus is this:
John 13-34-35“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Matthew 28: 19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
If we focus on those commands, whatever challenges, trials or struggles we face, we can still see such positivity in the world around us because of what God can do with what we put into it. In and out of the rodeo and bull riding circuits, in and out of the cattle markets, in and out of the job you do or the school you attend, what are YOU going to put into 2022?