Just like hanging around better cowboys and bull riders can make you a better rider, Christian partners help us grow in our faith

Just like hanging around better cowboys and bull riders can make you a better rider, Christian partners help us grow in our faith

Part 2 of 5 on living amongst the people of this world

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

“If you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people.”

Quotes like this are common among the rodeo crowd and they are embraced by competitors because of that desire to succeed and get ahead.

It makes sense.

If you spend more time with competitors who are better than you, you might learn something from their attitude, skills or way of living that helps you to also succeed or become a better bull rider, barrel racer, roper or horseman.

It’s like this in Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

This is a common verse many people can quote and often not realize that it even comes from Scripture. It’s point is simple: we can help make each other more effective.

But when it’s coming from the Bible we understand it’s referring to Christians. Another Christian friend can help me be more effective in my faith and I can help him to be more effective tool.

Conversations about the Bible and living out our faith with each other help us to be ‘sharper’ believers.

And we’re encouraged throughout Scripture to spend time together as believers from when the church first started in the historical account we seen in Acts to to the letters Paul writes to different churches as he tries to encourage them or confront conflicts he has learned about within their communities.

Hebrews 10 24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Paul is telling church they need to encourage one another to show love and do good and to encourage one another as if we are near the very end. If we knew for sure these were the last days before Jesus came back, we would be rushing to make sure others knew who Jesus was. Paul is telling the people in the church to encourage each other and live as if that day was almost here.

Again, what we’re seeing is a push toward working together to do a better at living our our faith.

He tells the church at Colossae that we are to work together as well.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

We’re to teach and correct each other while worshiping God together so that the teachings of Jesus would become a big part of who we are.

Just like the Bible warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers who will wear us down and weaken our faith, we see that by being connected together with believers, our faith will be strengthened and better equipped to share that faith with others.

We seem to understand this idea outside of the Bible when it comes to wanting to be better competitors and seeking personal success. We don’t realize or overlook how much a similar teaching is is commanded through Scripture to be connected to other believers with the focus being on our becoming stronger in our faith and able to lead others to Jesus.

A Christian dating to save a buckle bunny or rowdy cowboy rarely works

A Christian dating to save a buckle bunny or rowdy cowboy rarely works

Part 1 of 5 on living amongst the people of this world

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Working in rodeo, when cowboys or bull riders share advice, it’s often focused on how to be more successful at the sport. A common piece of advice I’ve seen shared among the cowboy crowd is about just that—the crowd you’re in. They advise to spend more time with better, more successful competitors otherwise you risk being brought down by others.

The Bible has something to say about that as well when it comes to growing in our faith.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Despite being written about 2,000 years ago, this is an illustration that should be easy to understand for cowboys, whether on the rodeo or ranch side of the industries.

What happens when an ox or team of horses is yoked together but one is not as well equipped, well trained or strong as the other?

The team can’t work as a team. The stronger horse is having to pull harder. The horse working harder is going to wear down. The horse working harder is going to be held back.

Sure, there are always exceptions, but when it comes to dating, it is common to hear a Christian think he or she can maintain a healthy relationship with a non-believer. The Christian thinks he or she will win that person over to Christ and will justify staying in the relationship. He or she might even get the person to study the Bible with them a little and at the start, will get asked lots of questions. That will encourage the Christian to push harder, even seeing it as ministry or what God would have them do.

The intentions are good for sure.

As the relationship heats up, the Christian compromises and moves in. I mean, even more time together means an even bigger chance to win the person over for Jesus, right?

But after that initial bit of interest, what typically happens is, the non-believer begins to fight against the changes the Christian hopes to bring about. As they begin living more daily life together, the Christian ends up sleeping in Sunday mornings with the non-believer because it’s easier than fighting to get the other to go to church. The Bible study stops as they get busier living life but soon the Christian wears down and instead of the non-believer digging into a Bible he or she never had any interest in, the Christian begins reading his or her Bible less, praying less, spending less time thinking about life from a Christian perspective as they become a couple.

The Christian wears down and is no longer the force for Jesus that he or she was. His or her light dims.

Being unequally rarely works and the ox will sooner or later stumble and fall and be taken down by the weaker ox.

Cowboys make a big mistake by thinking meekness is weakness

Cowboys make a big mistake by thinking meekness is weakness

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Be Strong.

Weakness is not having the strength to do something. Meekness is having the strength and power but holding it back. Do not confuse meekness for weakness.

We all have power over someone. A parent has power over a child, a trainer in the arena with a whip has power over a horse, a rodeo judge has power over the contestant.

Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth

Sounds like Jesus is telling us there’s a lot to be gained by holding back, even when it feels justified.

If we have strength over others, we can abuse that strength by taking more, living excessively, intimidating others or being abusive while putting our needs above others. Strength can lead to selfishness when it isn’t controlled.

The ideas Jesus was sharing in his Sermon on the Mount are challenging to the cowboy community. We’ve looked at how Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek to stop us from pursuing vengeance and giving us an opportunity instead to show others the power of forgiveness. That can become an illustration that can lead others to wanting to know about why we walked away from a situation and lead to a discussion about our saving faith in Jesus.

That’s why it is important to understand that choosing to turn the other cheek can be a sign of meekness that has absolutely nothing to do with being weak.

A person of great strength has the power to intimidate or abuse others but think about how much better a leader is if, instead of abusing that power, they treat someone with kindness and gentleness. By keeping strength under control, well, that takes even more strength than lashing out.

John 18:10-11 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)

11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

Peter lashed out when guards came to take Jesus away and Jesus commands Peter to put the sword away. While we know God’s plan for salvation was meant to unfold and Jesus would soon die for us on the Cross, Peter didn’t and his rash response, strength over that priest, would potentially have interfered with the need for Jesus to be arrested, tried and sacrificed for us on the cross.

Our self-control, or meekness, can set an example people are not expecting the way our culture normally handles situations and can lead to important discussions about salvation by showing a Christ-like response to others. That offers a great inheritance of eternal life in Heaven to others.

Does it bring God glory to use your power to lash out or does it bring Him glory for others to know you could have made hamburger out of a guy’s face, that he had it coming, but you held back your anger and spared him. That shows Jesus to the guy and opens the door to talk about salvation. THAT is something we’re all commanded to do but few of us ever do.

It can be hard for a cowboy, bull rider or outlaw to accept this but again, meekness is having real power but keeping it under control. Holding back takes more strength than letting loose. Be strong.

Will you only ever see yourself as a rodeo cowboy, bull rider or ranch hand or will you see yourself as an adopted son of God?

Will you only ever see yourself as a rodeo cowboy, bull rider or ranch hand or will you see yourself as an adopted son of God?

By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross

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.

Who are you?

But I’ve only got two cheeks to turn

But I’ve only got two cheeks to turn

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

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.

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