Why doesn’t everyone who calls themselves a Christian, carry out the Great Commission–the command from Jesus to tell others about him and then to go on to teach those who become follower’s of Christ? For a lot of cowboys and bull riders in the rodeo arena, it seems like their faith begins and ends with cowboy church and the prayer at the opening of the show.
So what is it that separates disciple-making Christians (those whose obvious faith in Jesus is taught to and reproduced in others) and all the rest who simply believe in God and assume they get to make heaven their eternal home but never really demonstrate much personal spiritual growth or reproduction? I used to think it was commitment – something each individual is responsible to produce for themselves; if you weren’t growing up into Christian maturity and making disciples of Jesus, it was because you weren’t committed enough. Deep down, though, I knew that even that kind of commitment was a gift from the Holy Spirit. But if that’s the case, why don’t all professing believers – those who are filled by the Holy Spirit – eventually demonstrate that life-changing commitment?
The answer to that question, I believe, is two-fold. First and most obviously, some professing believers are not really believers.
Even the demons believe in God (James 2:19), but that kind of belief – the type that denies and covets God’s sovereign kingship – won’t get a single human soul into heaven. In John 3 Nicodemus believed Jesus to be “a teacher come from God” based on the signs Jesus did, but Jesus condemned him for failing to understand that being born of the Spirit was of necessity for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven. Pilate believed Jesus to be the king of a kingdom, yet denied that there is any type of objective truth(John 18:37-38) – you know, the type of truth Jesus acknowledged when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). None of these examples believed and were saved as a result. The point is there are categories of belief that do not result in salvation. You can believe in God and never make it to Heaven.
But that still leaves us with people who genuinely “believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God” (John 20:31) yet never mature much in their faith or join in God’s mission to spread the gospel of Jesus; what about them? Is their faith disingenuous or just stunted? Only God knows!
In The Doctrine of Justification, James Buchanan writes that there are three distinct privileges given to believers who receive the free gift of God (salvation) by faith, each increasing in value. In order, those privileges are pardon, acceptance, and adoption, all received at the moment of justification by faith, the moment we first are saved through our faith in Jesus, genuine repentance and asking to be forgiven and saved from the punishment God must pour out on unforgiven sin.
Pardon means that God’s wrath against sin is no longer upon us because our sin-debt has been paid. While a wonderful and necessary truth of our redemption, it doesn’t exactly give us feelings that motivate our commitment to the Christian life.
Acceptance means for us that we are no longer rejected from God’s presence as Adam and Eve (and everyone since) were after their choice to sin in the Garden of Eden. This brings us a little closer to motivation because it means heaven (and therefore the presence of God) is our eternal destination. Sadly, many continue to work for acceptance rather than living their lives as those who are already accepted. This demeans the work of grace for which Christ shed his blood and is therefore horribly offensive to God.
Adoption is the greatest privilege believers are given when they receive salvation by grace through faith. It is also the primary truth by which all believers should live their lives; it is the power for a life lived to the glory of God, alive in Christ and dead to our flesh. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God (and therefore brothers and sisters of Jesus) is what provides the basis for Christian conduct.
Consider the Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus tells us that if you follow him you are to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:44-45, 48). As God’s adopted children, we are to imitate our heavenly Father. Jesus also commends to his followers, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). God’s adopted children are to bring glory to their heavenly Father by the way they live. In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus uses the examples of benevolence, prayer, and fasting to teach his followers that God’s adopted children live with the singular concern of pleasing their heavenly Father and not men.
So you see, the privilege of being adopted into God’s family makes all the difference in the way we live our lives. Unfortunately, most believers never grow, learn, or desire to understand anything beyond the privileges of pardon and acceptance; “I’m saved. I’m going to heaven. End of story.” And, oh, the joy, the blessing, the security, and the abundance they miss by failing to search out the implications of being a son or daughter of the Most High God! And when we finally begin to grasp this precious truth, motivation for Christian living abounds like water over the Niagara Falls!
Hello. My name is Jesse. I am a son of the Most High God by grace through faith in his son, Jesus Christ.
It could be one of the hardest instructions from Jesus for a cowboy to accept, when he tells us to turn the other cheek.
I remember being at a rodeo a long time ago as a new Christian and I was just taking in everything that was said around me, especially if it was a bible-based conversation. I don’t remember what the conflict was about but I can still hear the young cowboy’s voice expressing his frustration about having already had to turn the other cheek. “I ain’t got but two,” he said, exasperated that whatever had been done to him, it had gone too far.
Stereotypes sometimes exist for a reason and many of them for rodeo cowboys are there for a reason. It’s typically easier for a cowboy to threaten a pop in the mouth or given one out than it is is to walk away from a fight.
Matthew 5: 38-40 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too”
In what’s known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers a vast amount of teaching and here in Matthew 5, he digs into the Old Testament.
And eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a common expression that many people no longer even realize comes from Scripture but it was an Old Testament description for what amounts to a legal system meant to stop situations from escalating into feuds. Basically, if I did something reckless to cause you to lose some of your livestock, I would be responsible for replacing the stock that was lost. If I took someone’s life, I would expect to lose mine.
But Jesus takes it a bit further. He isn’t asking us to let everyone walk all over us but he’s urging us not to seek revenge when someone wrongs us.
Just like when we looked at what it means to go the extra mile for someone, which comes later in this set of verses, Jesus is asking us to do more for people who would least likely expect us to treat them differently, or even better, than they have treated us.
If someone keeps hitting on our girlfriend at the bar, instead of waiting to have it out with him in the parking lot after, we simply leave and go somewhere else. That’s a pretty real example of what Jesus is suggesting.
It just goes against how we typically think we should respond to a situation like that. The Bible teaches different ways of handling conflict and many of them open the door to more easily pointing others to Jesus Christ.
It’s really hard to tell someone the good news after we’ve laid them out in the parking lot in the rodeo grounds after reaching what we felt like was the last straw.
Most would say the opposite of war is peace. Peace in many Biblical contexts is something much different.
As we learn more about our faith in Jesus Christ, it can lead us to pursue ways to avoid causing conflict, to find ways to reconcile with others and it can lead some to a firm belief in pacifism when it comes to war.
War is something that has been on our minds a lot lately as we watch the news unfold in Ukraine and our allied countries, at the writing of this, work to avoid being drawn into a full-blown war with Russia.
It’s a good time to talk about peace, but this is the kind of peace that helps us to not feel worry about escalating conflicts. It is a kind of peace that helps us to be okay when the truck breaks down, cattle prices bottom out and a member of our family has chosen this week to pick a fight over who gets dad’s piece of hunting property in the will.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
John 16:33I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Both verses were part of Jesus’s words to his disciples as he was preparing them for his death on the cross. The disciples still didn’t understand and thought Jesus was meant to take over rule from the Romans.
While the Bible stresses in both the Old and New Testament not to feel worry, in these verses, Jesus is offering us a peace that is more profound than how we understand the word in English. In this context, Jesus is offering us more than just an absence of conflict and strife, but in a way, a kind of blessing for us through a stronger peace that comes from our saving faith in him and our assurance of an eternity in Heaven.
It would be much better as individuals to not to be in conflict with one another over personal disputes or to be feeling stress and worry over personal struggles at a job. It would be better as nations for us not to be at war with one another over our borders. But Jesus is offering us a peace that lets us exist in the middle of these conflicts with a sense of hope for what comes after.
When we understand that through our belief in his life here as the Son of God and his death on the cross and resurrection and that through repentance and asking to be forgiven for our sins, we can be sparred God’s punishment of our sin, then we can feel the peace that Jesus is offering. That peace is knowing a perfect eternity is waiting for us where there isn’t conflict and sin.