Part 6 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Just like bull riders will tell you that to get better, you want to be surrounded by better bull riders, we know that the Bible teaches us there are times we have to be careful who we tie ourselves to. If we spend all our time with unbelievers, we can see our own faith suffer. At the same time, we have to spend time with unbelievers in order to share the gospel with them—how to be saved from the punishment meant for our sin by a belief in Jesus Christ, repenting of our sin and asking to be forgiven.
But before we can worry about finding the balances there, we first need to become disciples.
John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus tells us that when we have truly become a Christian—a follower of Jesus—then we will ‘abide’ in his word. That means that we will live it out. Our desire to do that is the proof of our salvation.
While there is a lot to being a disciple that the average Christian seems to ignore throughout the New Testament, we know that in its simple form, a disciple is someone who follows Jesus.
In rodeo, most of us have successful cowboys and bull riders who we follow to learn their style, techniques and how they became successful.
Jesus tells us that we will live out his word but he knows we don’t immediately know or understand everything there is in the Bible.
That’s why, even though Jesus calls us disciples, we still need to be discipled.
The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 tells his disciples to go into the world and make make more disciples with clear instructions to teach others about what Jesus taught them. That means right now, there are people out there with knowledge and wisdom we haven’t achieved yet who are following, or should be following, the command to make disciples. There are people we need to have teaching us what they know from the Bible.
At the same time, we read our Bibles on our own, attend church services, learn where we can and pray in order to learn and put to practice what it means to live out our faith.
And Jesus tells us it isn’t going to be easy.
Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
There can be a cost to following Jesus and while there is much we can study on being disciples and what it means to follow Jesus, we’re focused right now on making sure we have the right people in our lives to be successful followers of Christ.
By linking with other believers who are more mature and experienced in their faith than we are, we can be discipled by them while we also begin the process of teaching others about Jesus. As we learn, we teach, regardless of how experienced we are. If I’ve just started learning how to throw a rope and you teach me a better way to guide my loop to the roping dummy’s head, it doesn’t matter whether I’ve won a rodeo or even entered one; once you’ve taught me how to do that much, I can teach someone else that much too.
(Supporting photo of the Bible provided by John-Mark Smith of Lviv, Ukraine)
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
Last week, a monumental decision was made: The Supreme Court of the United States voted to overturn its 1973 decision in the Roe v. Wade case. The 1973 decision struck down a ban on abortions enacted by the state of Texas, effectively legalizing abortion in every state. In other words, abortion was made a federal issue and taken out of the hands of the states to determine how they would operate with respect to the issue. For nearly five decades since, every state has been forced not only to allow abortive procedures, but even to fund them as part of “women’s health and reproductive services.” That meant that the tax dollars collected from those who take any exception, religious or otherwise, to the procedure of abortion were being used to fund organizations that performed abortions. The federal government took away the voice of the people of each state; last week, they corrected this error.
Pro-lifers across the U.S. are celebrating this victory for the unborn while lamenting the millions of aborted lives that could have been prevented had we held the sanctity of life in higher esteem (even in the exceptional cases for which it was presented like rape, incest, etc.) 50 years ago. At the same time, pro-choice advocates are protesting the decision, concerned about women whose lives and health might be at risk due to pregnancy, wondering how they will find and afford the care they need.
The events and attention to the situation has even had the rodeo cowboy crowd speaking up about it.
Some in the greater Christian community, have asked why they aren’t seeing an outward celebration from all the pastors and church leaders they know; why aren’t they visibly happy about this decision? Some are even condemning faith-leaders who have not openly rejoiced over this monumental victory. Let me explain to you why I rejoice personally but not openly.
In our celebrations, I’ve seen people who claim the name of Christ act childishly toward all who are pro-abortion, like a school-yard bully who was held back a grade beating kids a year younger than they are in a basketball game. I’ve seen those who claim to be recipients of grace judge and condemn supporters of abortion to the fires of hell. I’ve even seen preachers being pitted against “this evil world”; you know…the one God so loved that he gave his only Son.
Why am I not openly celebrating? Because I’m ashamed of how many of my brothers and sisters have behaved in this victory, and I don’t want to be a part of that kind of celebration. I don’t want to be a part of increasing the divide between left and right, between pro-choice and pro-life. I don’t want to be the reason someone sees all Christians as ungracious, judgmental, and condemning. Is the overturn of Roe v. Wade a huge victory? Yes! But as many celebrate this victory obnoxiously, they prove to those who consider it a loss why Christianity is not for them. We are NOT in a battle against this evil world nor the unbelievers in it! We are in a battle FOR this evil world against the devil and his demons, that their souls might be delivered from depraved thinking and so the final judgment of God and the fires of hell by the renewal of their minds through the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and they will never see that when we cannot be gracious victors, choosing instead to stand over the “losers” making fun of them and condemning them.
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Our battle is not against the evil world, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Celebrate, but be gracious. Many from the world will be called to repentance by the grace of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, but they will not be drawn to repentance by judgmental, condemning, “turn or burn” messages. They will be saved by grace through faith, the same as we have been. Be a part of showing them God’s amazing, abundant, redeeming, restoring, transforming grace!
Part 5 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
“Well Jesus ate with sinners!”
That can be the Biblical statement someone uses to justify the sinful actions that come from spending time with ‘sinners’ instead of other Christians.
And Jesus would have eaten with unbelieving rodeo cowboys or sat around a fire in the Old West with cowboys passing through on a cattle drive. But scripture warns us to not be unequally yoked with non-believers
2 Corinthians 6: 14-15 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
Paul is clear that light, Christians, can’t have fellowship with darkness, non-believers. He isn’t saying we can’t spend time with them, but he’s saying we can’t be tied tightly to them or they will hold us back and draw us away from Jesus.
We know our saving faith in Jesus separates us from the world but Jesus also commands us to interact with that same world and that’s the example he set.
Matthew 9:10-13 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
People use these verses to justify engaging in sinful behavior or to criticize Christians for judging others when they stress the importance of not engaging in sin. Within the verses, the Pharisees, also criticize Jesus for sitting with sinners. They were the religious elite at the time that were trying to ruin Jesus because he was turning their power structure upside down with his teaching.
But the point of Jesus being with them was for them to be able to come to a saving faith and ultimately be forgiven of their sin so they could enter into Heaven. He uses the example of a doctor treating the sick, not the unhealthy to explain the need to spend time with unbelievers.
And he later commands us to literally go everywhere in the world to tell unbelievers about him in what we know as The Great Commission.
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.”
To do this, we can’t just hang around with the handful of Christians we know at a rodeo or horse event; we have to get to know everyone to be able to tell them about Jesus. But you have to remember, Jesus wasn’t there just to have a good time; he was there with purpose and because he is Jesus, he wasn’t tempted to sin the way we can be.
That’s why it is important to be surrounded by other Christians, to help us grow in our faith while we’re engaged in the unbelieving world around us.
Part 4 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Not only are we not meant to be a part of the world, the Bible shows us that through a saving faith in Jesus, we actually are meant for something so much more. Finding salvation through a saving faith in Jesus automatically separates us from the world.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Paul is making it clear in his letter to the church at Corinth that we are made completely new through our salvation given to us through our belief in Christ and the punishment he took that was meant for our sins. When we believe this, repent of our sin and ask to be forgiven, we’re made completely new before God who no longer see us for our sin. As new creatures, we begin the process of becoming more like Jesus, called sanctification, while God already sees us as forgiven and perfect, able to be in His presence when we die.
But while we’re here, we pursue the teachings from the Bible out of a desire to be closer to God and become more like Jesus. Through knowledge of scripture and letting that change us, we begin to become more like Jesus while fighting against the temptations of this world that would distract us and pull our attention away from God, His word and His commands for us.
But if we think about who we are in Jesus and how separate we are from this culture, it can help us to resist that temptation.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
If we’re something special to God, so special that we’re seen as part of a ‘royal priesthood’ and a ‘holy nation’ that God wants us for Himself, how can we not want to pursue becoming more like Jesus and less like the world around us?
That doesn’t make us better than everyone else, just set apart. We should never look down on those who haven’t found a saving faith in Jesus. Instead, as Peter tells us, we would want to tell the world around us so they also could be pulled out of the darkness Peter describes.
Temptation is strong, especially in the rodeo culture. Not only do we have to contend with the traditional world around us we deal with as we work, run errands or attend events with family that believe differently than us, but in rodeo, we have whole separate culture that tempts us through the pursuit of winning and through the sinful side of the industry that pushes a lifestyle of partying.
We have to live within this world, but as Peter stresses, we have to remember that we’re not part of that world anymore.