Behind the Bucking Chutes
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Part 1 of 2 We don’t belong here
This isn’t our home.
It’s something important to understand each time we lose someone we know or love in this world, we’re reminded that as believers in the gospel—that our sin separates us from God and must be punished, that Jesus as the Son of God, died on the cross to take that punishment for our sins, that by believing in him, confessing that we know we’re sinners and asking to be forgiven of those sins, we can be made right with God and be welcomed to Heaven—this isn’t our home.
1 Peter 2:11-12 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Peter calls us sojourners and exiles, meaning we’re just traveling through here in a place we don’t belong. An exile is someone kept from their real home. The Israelites were exiled from the chosen land and forced to live in Babylon for a time as punishment for not following God and as a way to get them back on track. Adam and Eve’s original sin in the garden of Eden forced them to be separated from God and, because of them, we come into this world separated from Him also, by our own sin.
But through Jesus, we can be reconciled with God and welcomed home when we pass from this life.
When we’re part of larger communities like those that form in the sports of rodeo and bull riding or other equine sports and competitions, we actually see more loss than the average families. We have extended families that give us more opportunity to grieve but also more opportunity to remember, this isn’t our home.
As believers, we’re part of an even larger community of travelers who are just passing through this life and Peter doesn’t just ask, but urges us live in a way that those who encounter us in our journey here, could come to know Jesus by seeing that we’re set apart from the rest of the world. When they see that we don’t fit in, it’s because it’s strange to them that we take joy in our struggles, that we help others without personal gain or that we’re always encouraging someone else. In a culture that can often be selfish, it shows how much we don’t fit in and that we really don’t belong here.
It can be hard as we go through the struggles we face here to understand just how temporary this place is for us and that wherever we try to put down roots or however long we travel from place to place, rodeo to rodeo, all those places will never last. Eventually, sooner than we think, as believers we’ll find ourselves where we’re meant to be—where we’re wanted so badly that God sent Jesus to die for us to make a way that we could be there with him.
Hebrews 13:14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
The author of this book is reminding us the same thing. Our place here isn’t going to last and that we’re not just waiting,but wanting to reach the place we’ll spend eternity.
It can be hard as we go through the struggles we face here to understand just how temporary this place is for us and that wherever we try to put down roots or however long we travel from place to place, rodeo to rodeo, all those places will never last. Eventually, sooner than we think, as believers we’ll find ourselves where we’re meant to be—where we’re wanted so badly that God sent Jesus to suffer and die for us to make a way that we could be there with him forever.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys Of The Cross
We are slowly coming out of a period of, for many, self-isolation but reflecting on that time, we’ve seen almost everything we normally give our attention to put on a pause.
Things that distract us like sports and entertainment have been put on hold with the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) being the first sport to come back to stadiums in the past couple of weeks. We’ve been isolated from our churches and families, from shopping and hobbies and interests. All of these things can become idols to us—anything we give attention to before God.
Jonah 2:8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.
We often think of idols as being that golden calf statue the Israelites were worshiping in place of God.
But as we head out of this giant pause, it’s worth thinking about how we spend our time.
Christians understand that sickness and disease are a result of sin and this being a fallen and broken world. What we’re enduring in this pandemic is not a punishment from God but He is allowing us to go through this.
If He’s allowed us to go through this and has allowed many of our idols to be temporarily removed from our daily lives, it seems God is giving us a chance to give Him more attention than we have in the past.
Jonah 2:9 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”
Jonah’s words are coming from the belly of a whale. He had ignored God’s commands, tried to go his own way, but God sent a whale to get him back on track and that’s ultimately what Jonah did, praising God and following His commands.
This pandemic may not have been sent by God the way He sent a whale to get Jonah’s attention, but it is a chance for us to get back on course for those of us who may have been more distracted than we realized by the trappings of our culture. Our western society has blessed with technology to access church services from across the country and we can literally open the Bible from our phones. Many of us are fortunate to have multiple copies of the Bible in our homes while people in other countries have to smuggle Bibles and are lucky to get their hands on a single copy.
Let’s take advantage of the opportunity we have to refocus our attention back on God through prayer, time in His word and gathering together to worship Him, online and in our churches as we’re allowed to gather together again.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
2 Corinthians 4:8-11
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Too often, people come to faith in Christ expecting that their relationship with God will make everything come up roses; God will fix all our problems and give us the happy lives he wants us to have. While it sounds nice, that’s a false gospel. Jesus promised we would have trouble (John 16:33) and that we would even be hated for our faith (John 15:18-19). The fact is that we live in a fallen world…one where “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18) frustrate us, steal our productivity, and even choke us out altogether if we aren’t careful to cultivate our hearts to receive God’s word (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23). So how does a relationship with God make things better?
Justin McKee recently said in a YouTube devotional called “Mud mud mud” that God isn’t about changing our circumstances. He’s about changing our hearts by giving us a warrior’s heart that can face the challenge of any circumstance. That’s really important, because everyone, regardless of their faith, will face hard times. If you aren’t currently on hard times, you’ve either just come out of something or you’re on your way into something that will challenge you…maybe even rock you to your core.
The passage from 2 Corinthians above tells us the result of our hearts being changed by God. Christians experience all the hardships of life that everyone else experiences…maybe even more; but we have been given the Holy Spirit so that we might show the world the conquering Spirit of Jesus. Jesus conquered hate with love, calmed the wind and waves with His words, and rose victorious from a death of shame and ridicule. “Cowboy up” doesn’t even come close to describing the grit demonstrated by His life, death, and resurrection…and that’s the kind of grit he wants to demonstrate in our lives through faith in Him (demonstrated by obedience), not so that everyone will see how tough we are, but so that everyone will see that there are no circumstances into which the grace and power of God cannot reach.
Becoming more like Jesus is not for sissies! When the pain seems too much to bear, remember there is a sweet and eternal reward for faithfulness that is WORTH IT! The next time your circumstances seem to be more than you can handle, remind yourself that Jesus didn’t die to make your circumstances better; He died to make you better for your circumstances! Be faithful, and trust God with the results!
By Josh McCarthy / Cowboys of the Cross
Unless you’ve been practicing your social distancing in a hole somewhere, chances are that you’ve heard some interesting ideas about the cause or who’s behind the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone from right, left, or center of the political scale has some idea or theory as to who’s to blame and why.
I want to first go on record saying that I personally think there has to be a middle road between thinking, “This is just like the flu or not even real,” and, “We need to buy every store out of toilet paper and if you step out your door you must hate everyone else on the planet!” To paraphrase ol’ Martin Luther, most people are like drunks: they fall off one side of a horse only to climb back on and fall off the other side. I think we all need to sit our horse right and get a little balance.
One thing this pandemic has brought to light is our fascination with conspiracy theories. Now the more harmless of these “what if” stories are interesting and some may be fun to ponder, but I think as Christians we need to be careful how much we let wild speculation on past and present events affect our thinking and everyday lives.
The thing about most conspiracy theories – like those surrounding the coronavirus – is that the people who believe in them usually think they have some secret knowledge that most “sheeple” don’t see (which is pretty prideful, don’t you think?). They can also involve a lot of accusations against people we either disagree with politically or just plain don’t like. On that last point, I want to remind us as Christians of a couple Scriptural principles. Luke 6:27-28 says: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
Or consider 1 Peter 2:1: So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
Now, do I think people with a lot of power, politically or otherwise, probably do some shady things? Yeah, sure: they’re sinful humans like the rest of us, and hold power in a fallen world. But we already know Planned Parenthood murders babies. We already know the DNC supports abortion in a variety of ways. We know some Republicans have fallen into the sin of greed. We know certain celebrities, sports stars, and various influential people support a lot of sinful lifestyles, so why do we need to add the idea that they must all be working together in some massive plot to destroy the American way of life? As Christians, we believe God is in control of all things.
Colossians 1:16-17 tells us: For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
History has an over-arching theme throughout all of it. It all serves to bring God ultimate glory in the saving of His people through the work of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. Jesus’s death on the cross on Good Friday was for the sins of His people. He received the punishment for sin that we deserved. He rose from the dead three days later, on Easter Sunday, to bring us, through the work of the Holy Spirit, into God’s family as sons and daughters of the Most High God.
You want to know the whole plan behind everything? That’s it. We don’t need to dig into some article on the internet to figure it out, because God put it all in the Bible. Maybe we all (myself included) should be taking this time we have in self-isolation to be focusing on that. I’m not suggesting you spend your time reading the book of Revelation or Daniel to try to figure out if Trump or Obama is the anti-Christ, but that we actually take time to read the Scriptures for what they are, and do our best to read them in the proper context. They are God’s Word to us, in which He tells us the way to know and love Him. And in loving Him, we learn to love our neighbors, whether they are hacking up a lung or just filled their cart with more toilet paper then anyone could ever use.
So wash those filthy hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and take this time to be reading your Bible and going in prayer to the God who holds all things in His hands, including the interesting times in which we live. And for goodness’s sake, only buy toilet paper when you need it.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Faith says to trust God’s plan, wisdom says to wash your hands.
Most of us know not to lick a doorknob. Somewhere, we’ve been taught that it is dirty and could make us sick. Yet many of us have had to be told of the importance of washing our hands recently because of the spread of the coronavirus.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs offers us just one of dozens of verses and teachings through scripture that tell us to trust God and have faith. When life is challenging like it is now with so many unknowns from economic to health concerns, we know God has a bigger plan in store for us. We know how His plan ends, with those who have put their faith in Jesus having a perfect life with Him for eternity, but we don’t know what happens between now and then. When it gets hard, it can be harder to trust in Him but that, again is what faith is—believing in Him and His word and believing His promises to be true.
We can’t see Him, the world doubts Him and yet we believe in the evidence we have, largely through Scripture and historical supports of it.
Faith tells us to trust His word to us in the Bible and that becomes where wisdom kicks in.
Throughout scripture, we’re given instruction and counseled to be wise. That means application of what we learn from scripture but also in life.
Proverbs 13:10 Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
We can misapply faith into thinking that if I have enough, I won’t get sick—the poison from the snake bite won’t hurt me or the coronavirus won’t affect me.
So where most of know not to lick doorknobs, we still don’t always know or understand how to handle every situation we face. We can choose to simply trust God and blindly walk through life as if nothing bad could happen to us, or we trust God and the brain He gave. In that case, we make decisions based on information from what we know to be true in the Bible but also what we know from our experiences and the knowledge we’ve gained as we’ve grown. When we don’t have the knowledge we need, we seek and advice, use wisdom to assess and apply that information. We can come to the conclusion that the medical experts know more than me and that not only shouldn’t I lick a doorknob, but I should really wash my hands after I touch it, especially when out in public when the flu or other illnesses are spreading like the one we’re currently facing.
Faith and trust in God should give us peace instead of fearing what’s yet to come but wisdom is needed to navigate what happens on our path to wherever God is taking us.
It’s through showing kindness and helping others that we’re able to show Christ to them but at the same time, it also lets us share the gospel, telling them about the need for repentance and a saving faith in Jesus. And it’s through keeping fellow brothers and sisters in Christ supported that we can help them to continue on sharing Christ with others.
But if we understand that we’re supposed to help others, then we also know that it’s okay to receive and accept that help.
And we can’t always know if someone needs something if they don’t tell us or ask.
We aren’t supposed to go through this life alone. Over and over verses illustrate helping others or receiving help. There are often bigger lessons and teaching points in those verses but they still demonstrate how we’re meant to be in community.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Proverbs 31:8-9 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Each of these verses are part of bigger teaching and messages but they also point to our need to help others from praying for each other to helping those in need or to understanding that God made us and through our saving faith in Jesus, to do good.
Since we know we’re supposed to help others, we know that means it’s okay to need help. That means if someone doesn’t know the internal struggle we’re facing, we have to be willing to reach out and tell others so they can do what God has asked us to do – help each other. And we have to let them.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys
of the Cross
Part 1 of 2
Struggles come and there’s nothing weak about knowing when you need to ask for help and getting it. Whether a ranch cowboy, rodeo cowboy or
bull rider, God made you to be tough but he didn’t make you stupid either; a cowboy needs to do things for himself but he also needs to know when it’s time to ask for help.
Our culture, the liberal one that dominates the messages we see from all directions, tells men to be weak, passive, in touch with their emotions and how ‘toxic’ we are because of the traditional ways we define ourselves. The rodeo and bull riding industry and the ranching and farming industries require men to be tough. Taking care of cattle isn’t for the feint of heart. Getting on the back of a bull or jumping off a horse to grab a steer take physical and mental strength. The image of a cowboy, no matter what form, is not of someone who is emotional
But there is real strength in getting help when you need it. You can continue fighting to get that serpentine belt back on your truck until there’s no skin on your knuckles or you can ask your buddy to drop by and help. And there is absolutely nothing weak about seeking professional help when the stress of bankruptcy and a fight with your wife has you feeling worthless and ready to walk away from everything.
Suicide is not the answer. It’s a quick solution for you and a lifetime of heartache for the ones left behind.
We need to grasp what it really means to be meek. Our culture suggests the word means being weak and walking away from taking a stand and while Jesus tells us to always forgive and turn the other cheek, he tells us in Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
We’re asked to be meek but absolutely do not mistake that for weakness. Jesus was God on Earth with the power to do anything include destroy those who would attack or undermine his ministry. Meekness is often defined as strength under control. That is real strength—being able to control yourself when you have the ability to use your strength and skills in a unChrist-like way.
Later, in Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
He doesn’t want us to be burdened. He wants us to let him carry our burdens and find peace in our relationship with him.
Jesus is supposed to be enough but sometimes the devil’s whisper in your ear gets so loud, you can’t hear the Savior calling to you. God’s word in scripture is supposed to be where we find hope, but sometimes we can understand the words but not bring them to bear fruit in what we’re going through.
God is sovereign. He gave us the system of government we have and while some of us were wired to be cowboys, he grew up other men and women to be health care providers for both our physical and mental health.
Knowing when to ask for help isn’t weak: it’s strength under control.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Two of three heifers delivered dead calves, the transmission just went out on the truck and it’s only two years old and now the weather has turned worse and three days of rain is turning into six with pastures looking like swamps. You haven’t prayed in weeks, it’s just been so busy and now, when you go to talk to God, you just feel angry and decide not to pray at all.
That’s when a friend sends you a text that says, “Hey man, I just want you to know my wife and I prayed for you this morning.”
They may or may not have known everything that was going on or what you needed but at a minimum, it feels pretty good knowing others are even thinking about you and, even better, you feel like you have something you can thank God about and it opens the door to pray again.
Part of Matthew 6:6 says, But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.
We’re cautioned not to be like the Pharisees whose actions were often about calling attention to themselves as the religious elite that tried to control much of the behavior of the people of that time when it came to their relationship with God.
But we’re also called to encourage one another.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
The church was doing a good job of this but in his letter to them, Paul was encouraging them to keep it up.
Sometimes we don’t know how to help someone but praying for them can be the encouragement that gets a person through a day. Sometimes, it can be a moment where someone who isn’t a believer sees Christians in a positive light instead of the negative perceptions they had. Even asking someone how you can pray for them can be a non-intrusive way to open the door to talking about your faith. But I know at least one instance where telling someone they had been prayed for was the between life and death. It was answered prayer for them when they were asking God to show them that someone cared.
We have to trust the Holy Spirit to lead us to when it’s good to share that we’ve prayed or when we need to keep it behind a closed door. When we know it will encourage someone and it isn’t about seeking attention or appreciation, that’s usually a good time to tell the person it was done.
The Battle Against Sin Part 4
By Josh McCarthy / Cowboys of the Cross
So we finally made it to the part of the series where I tell you the one trick to defeat sin in your life for good. Well, pard, I have some bad news: that’s not how this works at all. God didn’t design life that way. Like anything worthwhile, it takes effort and a whole lot of time. You can’t just become the next Wade Sundell, Trevor Brazile, or Juan Ulloa just because you decided one day you wanted to.
Being the next world champion in the sport of rodeo takes time and a lot of practice. You have to lay aside bad habits and cultivate good ones. It’s like working with a young horse: getting a good handle on him is a process that you’ll be working on and refining for the rest of that horse’s life. So how then do we get the upper hand in this fight against the world, the flesh, and the Devil? Well, like in roping or riding you can never stress the basics enough.
So what are the basics in this fight? Read your Bible, pray, and find accountability.
Read your Bible
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”
Whether you compete in rodeo or are out ranchin’ somewhere, one of the most obvious ways to get better at your trade is to talk to some top hands. Maybe that means going to a practice pen where they hang out, going to a horsemanship or stockmanship clinic, or seeking out some of the older, wiser folks in the area. We need to have someone to help us with our issues and be honest and straightforward when we need it. We seek out these people because we know they can be trusted. They’ve been there, done that, and know how things work.
If we want to know how things work in our fight against sin, we need to go to the most trustworthy source: the Word of God. 2 Timothy says, “all of Scripture is God breathed.” That means the whole Bible is the very Word of God and because God is perfect and cannot lie, His Word can be trusted.
Since the beginning of creation, the Devil has been trying to get us to doubt what God really says and sometimes reading through our Bibles can be confusing, but if we want to truly know God and how to fight our sins we need to use “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (from Ephesians 6:10-18).
In the gospels, when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, His response always started with, “it is written.” He always brought to mind the truth of Scripture and the God-glorifying nature of it. Speaking for myself, it’s easier for me to fall to temptation and roll over to sin’s demands if I haven’t been reading my Bible. It always reminds me of who I am and who God is.
I strongly encourage getting into the habit of daily Bible reading of some kind. I confess that I’m in a stage right now where I don’t sit down and “read” mine daily, but I instead listen to the day’s passages in the YouVersion Bible app (the #keepthefeast reading plan) while I feed cows in the mornings.
So this one seems pretty simple, right? To sum it up, it’s how we talk to God. We use prayer to worship God, to thank Him, to repent of our sins, and to ask Him for things. Jesus is our example in this life and when asked how to pray he gave this model:
“…Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:9-13
Now, this doesn’t mean we just repeat this prayer and that’s the only prayer God will hear. This prayer should be used like the tree on a saddle: it provides the form and shape, but we can add our own personal touch to it. When we are really struggling with temptation to sin, praying to God with this form in mind will be helpful. This prayer reminds us God is holy, our wants should be what God wants, He supplies our needs, He forgives us of our sins, He will help us in our struggles, and He will deliver us from the power of the world, the flesh and the devil.
“Our prayers might be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference,” Max Lucado
I personally think this one is going to be the hardest to apply. Most people don’t like having to rely on others for anything, especially something like dealing with the sin in our lives.
If you’re on the rodeo road or out in the saddle moving cows somewhere you might be able to get by alone for a while but you won’t go very far trying to make a hand if you’re the only expert in any room. God didn’t design the Christian life to be lived out alone. It’s made so that we will be in friendship with other Christians. Just like we need other people to help encourage us and give us pointers if we’re going through a bad stretch of buck offs or if we can’t get that heel trap to lay just right in the branding pen, we need other people to help us fight the sin in our lives. This is why being a part of a church is so important. “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:4-5.
As Christians, we are a part of Christ’s universal Church that covers the whole world. But if we follow the example given to use in the Bible (specifically the New Testament), we are called to be involved with a local church wherever we call home. With rodeos on the weekends or feeling like you can’t leave the ranch for any number of reasons, it’s easy to make excuses about why going to church on Sunday isn’t that important. But it is. Being a part of a church isn’t just showing up on Sunday to check it off the list or to do it because “that’s just what we do.” It means being under the authority of a pastor and elders that will hold us accountable and having friends in the congregation we can be `100 per cent honest with about our lives and about our daily battle with sin.
As we jerk the saddle off this series and turn it out to pasture, I hope and pray this has been an encouragement to y’all. We all have good days and bad days in this fight against our sin but remember
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
The Battle Against Sin Part 3
By Josh McCarthy / Cowboys of the Cross
Last time around, I said verse 4 in Ephesians 2 gives us the answer as to why we should fight sin: “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved!”
I’m going to focus here on the part “because of His great love for us,” or God loving us by saving us from our sins (which is to say, God saving us from the World, the Flesh, and the Devil). Author and teacher, Matt Chandler, when he preached on 2 Corinthians 5:14-17, made the point that “the love of Christ compels us,” so God’s love for us should be the Christian’s primary motivation for obedience (i.e. fighting sin). This is the same love we see in Romans 5:6-8: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God loved us so much that even when we were sinners, (i.e. traitors, haters of God), Christ died for us. If God loved us that much, shouldn’t we love Him in return?.
Think about the people you love or care about: your spouse, family members, the crew you work with, or your traveling partners. How do you treat them? Do you purposefully hurt them or disrespect them? Do you ignore them when they ask you to do something? If we are called to love God over everything else, do we treat Him like these others (when we should treat Him better than anyone else)? Or does the way we live our daily lives show that we don’t really love God and therefore don’t fight sin – we just act like my heeler when he gets disciplined, rolling onto our backs and letting sin run all over us? If you hear someone say they really love getting on broncs but you’ve never seen them on one and don’t even know if they own a saddle, you’d question the truthfulness of that statement. Well, if we say we love God but never attempt to show it or fight the sin we know He hates, it makes those words pretty hollow. John 14:15 gets straight to the point: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
Before becoming a Christian, I saw things like the Ten Commandments or commands in the New Testament as expectations I could never live up to. After God saved me, I now see these commands as ways God loves me – like a father instructing his son on how to handle life or the cow boss helping out the new hire on the ranch. Those commands are for our good.
In that sermon I mentioned above, Chandler says that we don’t always love God the way we should. Sometimes we struggle or doubt in those seasons of life. That’s when secondary motivations come in. Two that I think are important are knowing the cost of sin and noticing our drift toward sin.
The cost of sin
As Christians, we know the punishment for sin is the death of the sinner. We know that punishment should be against us, for our rebellion against God – but praise Him for the grace He extends on His people! In the Old Testament, God used the death of animals to atone for sin in the sacrificial system as a foreshadowing of Christ’s death.
Imagine for a moment having to watch something die because of the sin you committed. I don’t know about you, but for me one of the most nerve-wracking things about calving time is if you have to tube a fresh calf to give it milk to keep it alive. Even with plenty of experience there’s always the chance that if you screw up, that calf will have to pay for your mistake by drowning in the milk you’re trying to give it . In ranching or rodeo, we know death is a part of life. When you have a sick cow or an old horse that’s been your work partner for years but won’t survive the winter, sometimes the best option is a bullet. It’s a tough but necessary part of the job. Most of the world doesn’t see that side of ranching. Instead, they just see some nice clean packaged steaks by the time their meat arrives in the store.
Just like the people in the store, I think most of us miss what sin actually costs. This cost wasn’t just any death though. It was bloody and gruesome. Just go look at the sacrificial system in the Old Testament or the crucifixion of Christ in the New.
1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life you inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or spot.”
I think we cheapen the price God paid for us in our salvation. We need to remember, especially in moments of temptation, to think of how bloody and awful it must have been for Christ on the day of His crucifixion. Remember how much pain He endured to save us when it was pain we deserved. That should make us think twice when we are ready to roll over to sin’s demands.
Our natural drift toward sin
If you’ve dealt with cattle in steep country, you know that if left on their own for very long they will eventually drift down to the flattest spot or along a waterway. Much like cattle, if God would leave us alone we would just drift down further and further. Cows don’t just appear at the bottom of the draw and we don’t just “happen” to go deeper and deeper into sin. We make decisions that don’t seem that bad at first but will eventually trap us in our old sinful way of life. If we don’t fight our sin it will just keep growing, kind of like my horse’s feet. If I don’t trim them up or put shoes on him, they’re just going to get worse and worse. As John Owen put it, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
While as Christians, we have a new heart and a new nature, our old nature and old habits are still with us.
In Romans 7:21-25 Paul is talks about his flesh or the sin that is in him and how it wages war against his new nature in Christ. “So this is the principle I have discovered: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law. But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Praise God we have been rescued, and don’t have to drift towards sin. God gives us the ability as Christians to fight our sin and honor God with our daily lives.
I pray that on the days when we are really in a knock-down, drag-out fight against our sin – or heck, any day – we’ll remember how much God loves us and that His love will compel us to keep up the good fight. I’ve heard it said that practice doesn’t make perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect. So in the next and final part of this series we’ll get into the “how to” in this fight against sin.