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!
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?
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
Sometimes my 12-year-old son picks on his six-year-old sister. Obviously, there’s a big difference in size, so he has a distinct advantage. I always caution him to be his sister’s protector and never to use his size and strength to make her scared or do what he tells her. I try to teach him that as men and generally being physically stronger and more durable, we are to give honor to the women in our lives as weaker vessels that are precious and to be handled with care.
Yet, there are times when my daughter is a pest and my son gets to the end of his patience and uses his greater strength for pest-control, or even times when he just tries to return the favor by annoying her, which inevitably leads to a squabble. I always ask him, “Son, why did you do that?” I ask because I want more than his obedience – I want him to acknowledge the brokenness of his heart and seek repentance and transformation through his relationship with Jesus Christ.
But let’s be honest – most of us don’t know why we do the things we do. It’s difficult (nearly impossible!) for us to assess the motives of our own hearts.
Nevertheless, I want to ask each of us that question with respect to our decision to follow Christ – Why did you do that? Why do you follow Jesus?
For many, the answer is that it’s what they were taught as children – Christianity was “our family religion.” In other words, Jesus and the Triune God are all you knew – that’s all your family ever taught you, so that’s what you believed. Praise God, you weren’t born to Hindi, Buddhist, or Islamic parents, or exposed to any of those various worldviews in your formative years! Traditional faith (whatever that means) is what saved you from being a pagan or an atheist.
For others who grew up on hellfire and brimstone preaching, there are only two options: “turn or burn” – give your heart to Jesus and start living right or suffer immensely and eternally in hell. The obvious choice is Jesus, so we “invite Jesus into our hearts” by praying a prayer, getting baptized, and trying really hard to live right so God doesn’t change his mind about us. Religious adherence is what saved you from the fires of hell. But keep it up! Don’t fall off the wagon into sin, or God will let you break the deal you made for your salvation! Be sure you do plenty of good deeds, because you never know when you’ve done enough good to outweigh the sin you’ve committed!
In Jesus’s “High Priestly Prayer” he says, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Knowing what your family believes about God and Jesus doesn’t equate to salvation. Making the choice to “ask Jesus into your heart” and trying really hard to live a good life won’t punch your “get out of hell free” ticket. Only knowing God as his Son Jesus Christ has revealed him brings eternal life! Religion is always about man’s path to find God, but Christianity isn’t a religion! Quite the opposite of religion, God made a path to reconcile mankind back to himself through Jesus. Christianity, therefore, is a relationship with Jesus.
I have been married to my wife, Sarah, for almost 16 years. I love her dearly. I’ve studied her. I know how tell when she’s angry, when she’s worried, when she’s sad, when she needs some space, and when she needs a hug. I know her well because I’ve intentionally pursued growing in my knowledge of her because I love her and want her to be a significant part of my life. When we come to know Jesus, we receive justification – all our sin erased, our debt paid in the blink of an eye. However, that is not the end of our relationship with Jesus. As we pursue and grow in our relationship with him, we experience sanctification, increasing salvation from the power of sin, and eternal life.
How God works out that process is difficult to understand, but I have serious concerns for people whose relationship with Jesus never grows or remains at the level of a casual acquaintance. If we love someone, we seek to deepen our relationship with them by increasing our knowledge of them so that they we can do life with them in increasingly intimate and meaningful ways.
Knowing Jesus is eternal life. How well do you know him?
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
We all do it many times every day; most often, we do it unconsciously. What we conclude when we do it says a lot about who we think we are and what we think we are up against. Toddlers learning to walk do it. Elderly folks facing serious illnesses do it. Yes, we all measure our capabilities against whatever task lies before us.
We attempt to determine our ability to manage the obstacles ahead to achieve what we consider a successful outcome. We place our abilities alongside every challenge to see which is greater, and often we avoid challenges that seem to surpass our abilities. Some look at the rodeo schedule and choose to enter a deal where they know they stand a better chance of winning because of the stock that’s there.
None of this is wrong or irrational.
It makes sense to discern whether we have the skill set, the resources, the strength, and the influence to achieve success when we face a challenge. But when we look to our own experiences, resources, and talents we fail to consider something that is drastically more important – the good news that we who are in Christ are no longer bound by our limited human nature.
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
God is not surprised by any circumstance you have ever faced, nor will he be surprised by what awaits you in the days you have ahead. He knows every temptation you will face, every sin to which you will succumb, every sorrow and suffering that will bring you down, and every triumph and joy that will raise your spirits.
Knowing all of these things, he gave you exactly what you need so you can be who you’re supposed to be and do what you’re supposed to do even in the midst of this broken, rebellious world. What did he give you? He gave you himself! His grace isn’t insight. It isn’t a change of location or an altering of circumstances. He is the grace that he gives! That means that our potential as his children is much greater than the sum of our past experiences, our gifts and talents, our resources, and our strengths.
Our ability to overcome is infinite because the Almighty God who spoke everything into existence, who raised Christ from the dead, and who will one day make all things new and perfect again has made you his home. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). There is nothing to which God has called you that he has not also given you victory as you abide in (obey!) the love of Christ.
By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross
“How do we define true faith in Jesus?” From John 14:1-14 we can determine that true faith in Jesus is a gift from God, the receipt of which is confirmed by deep contemplation upon the words and signs of Jesus.
However, this is only the beginning of faith. Faith in Jesus is more than believing the right things; it’s living the right way because you believe the right things. True biblical faith is something that we live out. It reshapes and rearranges our lives. It’s more than just an intellectual ascent to doctrines and beliefs because it shows up in how we live and respond to the world.
Josh, Cowboys of the Cross’s ranch hand, has spent the last year teaching through a video series on this site about what it looks like to live out our faith. The series will continue for a few more months.
But consider Hebrews 11:1-12.
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
Notice that the author of Hebrews doesn’t tell us what these people believed as evidence of their faith. Instead, he tells us what their faith caused them to do and the results of their doing. Abel worshiped God through sacrifice, giving his first and best to God, and was commended as righteous; biblical faith captures the worship of your heart. Enoch pleased God with his obedient walk and did not see death; biblical faith causes us to remain loyal to God in all that we say and do. Noah submitted to his calling from God and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith; biblical faith causes us to submit our lives to the call of God. Abraham obeyed God not only when he was told to leave his homeland, but he also obeyed when commanded to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, to God (Heb. 11:17-20); biblical faith generates radical obedience to God.
Worship, loyalty, calling, and radical obedience – these are collectively the evidence of our faith. How much worship does God want from us? All of it, without division or competition, and only the first and best we have will do. What type of loyalty does God want? A loyalty that never fades and does not turn to the left or to the right but seeks always to be near him and in the goodness of his mercy and grace.
What shapes the calling – the purpose – of our lives? Only God; any other calling we answer will be temporary and fruitless compared to the eternal things God has given us. How do we obey the commands of God? Think of the discipline it takes to train a horse. Think of the effort that has to go into training if you want to be a world champion team roper or bull rider. Obeying God’s commands requires a commitment even bigger than that. We obey God’s commands wholeheartedly, unreservedly, and with such intense focus that partial obedience or disobedience is unthinkable and unacceptable. When God says, “build an ark” or “go make disciples of all nations,” a “good enough” attitude is insufficient; there are no excuses; only our best effort will do because that is what faith in Jesus produces in us as we are conformed into his image: worship, loyalty, calling, and radical obedience.