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.

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.

Who do you trust? Letting God take you down the trail

Who do you trust? Letting God take you down the trail

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Who do we trust? Close family and friends? Our doctor? Our teachers? The foreman at the ranch we work at that’s been there 25 years longer than us? The rodeo secretary?

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

There’s always the chance the person we would confide anything to could fail or betray us. We’re human, deeply flawed and deeply full of sin.

It’s God we can trust.

We’ve seen throughout the Bible that God has kept His promises from restoring the Israelites to Jerusalem to sending Jesus to die for our sins.

It’s Him we can fully trust.

If we started our day thinking about the instructions in Proverbs 3:5-6, we would be off to a good start. If we think about these instructions before every action during the day, it would do much more; it would change our life and the lives of people around us.

Why would it do that?

If we involve God in all our decisions, many of them would be different from how we handle bad service in the drive thru to major life decisions like a job change.

We can acknowledge Him by asking for His direction before we make decisions. And think about this: what if when we’re in a serious conversation or argument, we paused to ask Him to guide us before we even spoke?

It takes practice to get used to turning our thoughts to God before we do anything but we can at least start by seeking His direction before we make major decisions or have important conversations.

So how do we let God direct our paths?

A big way is by knowing what’s in the Bible. The more knowledge we have, the more we can automatically know what is right according to Scripture in a decision that we’re about to make. The Bible is the main way God is going to communicate to us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

These verses teach us much but in the context of letting God guide our steps, it’s affirmation that the Bible comes from God and that it is necessary for us to be prepared to do whatever God wants us to do.

Sometimes God will speak to us through advice from one of those people we trust, but that advice will never go against what the Bible teaches. Sometimes circumstances will make a decision more clear but again, that decision will never go against Scripture. The circumstance could be finding someone’s wallet at the rodeo grounds when you don’t have entry fees. The circumstance might seem like a need being met but we know through Scripture that not turning that wallet in at the main gate would be sin.

Our strength to ride a bull, get through a work day or overcome adversity comes from God

Our strength to ride a bull, get through a work day or overcome adversity comes from God

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Where do you draw your strength from? Strength to achieve success against the odds. Strength to overcome adversity. Strength to just get out of bed when it feels like the world has crushed you to the point of defeat. Strength to break a habit or…. Strength to beat a sin.

As much as God allows it, we can find some success on our own strength, but personal strength isn’t limitless. Physical strength eventually runs out. So does emotional strength.

God’s love is limitless. He can forgive anything so long as we come to Him with genuine repentance, a desire to be forgiven and a belief that Jesus died for us to take the punishment meant for our sin.

And just like His love is limitless, so is His strength.

Job 36:22-24 “God’s power is unlimited. He needs no teachers to guide or correct him. Others have praised God for what he has done, so join with them.”

Many of us can make it on our own strength through much of what God will allow us to go through but I would much rather face this world with the hope that comes through a saving faith in Jesus and the strength that comes from God to overcome whatever trial or temptation He lets me face. Some bull riders, for example, who suffer a serious injury never come back and that can be the right decision for them. Others come back from physically and mentally stronger than before and with more determination than ever. But they’re still going it alone, ignoring God’s will for their lives.

If I rely on God, I’m going to learn and gain far more through Him, God’s going to be glorified and He’s going to make me more like Jesus in the process.

Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

That means, even those times we might think we’ve failed, that we weren’t strong enough, God’s strength is there to get us back up to serve and honor Him. Serve self and rely on your own strength and what genuine good comes of that for a Christian? Usually without realizing it, what we’re doing is robbing the glory from God. If we truly believe God is real, I don’t think that’s a good idea to take glory from Him.

Acts 12:21-23 On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22 They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

When we realize our strength comes from God, whether we succeed or fail, He can still be glorified by how we handle our circumstances and showing others we are trusting and relying on Him through good and bad.

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