I don’t know about you all but one of my favorite Saturday things to do when I was growing up was to go to the matinee at the Florida Theater and watch Cowboy movies. Some of my favorite cowboys were Lash Laroo, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, James Arness, Chuck Conners, and William Boyd (also known as Hopalong Cassidy.) I always wanted to grow up and be a cowboy. In South Florida….especially in West Palm Beach that was not something that would happen easily. If you wanted to be a cowboy you had to live in Bel Glade or Pahoki. We lived in town. But just because I did not grow up to BE a cowboy does not mean I cannot talk about them. Today my sermon is called The Cowboy Way. My scripture text will be from Matthew 28: 16-20. While you are looking up the scripture I have a cowboy tale for you.
One Sunday morning an old cowboy entered a church just before services were to begin. Although the old man and his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore jeans, a denim shirt and boots that were very worn and ragged. In his hand he carried a worn out old hat and an equally worn out bible. The Church he entered was in a very upscale and exclusive part of the city. It was the largest and most beautiful church the old cowboy had ever seen. The people of the congregation were all dressed with expensive clothes and accessories. As the cowboy took a seat, the others moved away from him. No one greeted, spoke to, or welcomed him. They were all appalled at his appearance and did not attempt to hide it. The preacher gave a long sermon about Hellfire and brimstone and a stern lecture on how much money the church needed to do God’s work. As the old cowboy was leaving the church, the preacher approached him and asked the cowboy to do him a favor. "Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask him what He thinks would be appropriate attire for worship." The old cowboy assured the preacher he would. The next Sunday, he showed up for the services wearing the same ragged jeans, shirt, boots, and hat. Once again he was completely shunned and ignored. The preacher approached the man and said, "I thought I asked you to speak to God before you came back to our church." "I did," replied the old cowboy. "If you spoke to God, what did he tell you the proper attire should be for worshiping in here?" asked the preacher. "Well, sir, God told me that He didn’t have a clue what I should wear. He says He’s never been in this church!”
In Amos 4:12 we are told “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.” - And, of course, everyone needs to prepare to meet God in person. This is a big part of what life is about. We start life with God (even though we don’t realize this), we continue our lives with God (even though many people stubbornly refuse to admit this. He is our sustainer in life). And we end life with Him even though many people deny this. BUT WE OF ALL PEOPLE SHOULD RECOGNIZE THIS FACT AND BE HUMBLED BY IT! Life is a preparation to meet God in person!
Hebrews 9:27 “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” - The people of America and the world need to prepare to meet God. This is why we are called to preach the truth about God and Christ. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one approaches the Father except through Him!
So this morning in this so-called “Cowboy sermon,” I want to consider some things that a cowboy does and apply these to the Christian life. Here is what he does.
1- He rides ‘em - Someone said, “I had a near death experience that has changed me forever. The other day I went horseback riding. Everything was going fine until the horse started bouncing out of control. I tried with all my might to hang on, but was thrown off. Just when things could not possibly get worse, my foot got caught in the stirrup. When this happened, I fell head first to the ground. My head continued to bounce harder as the horse did not stop or even slow down. Just as I was giving up hope and losing consciousness, the Walmart manager came and unplugged it.”
In Matthew 28:19 we are told “Therefore go and make disciples…” - Cowboys had to ride a horse to get their work done. They had to “get up and go” to get anything done. “Get up and go” is one of our problems today. Jesus said to “go” into all the world and get something done for Him. I have a semi-pro BASS fishing friend. We have been friends for over 30 years. In the beginning he would never fish in a Sunday tournament….but then things changed. When I ran into him a few months back I asked him if he was going to church….. Guess what? He’s not going to church even though his wife does. I have to tell you that he is great guy, a loving husband, father, etc., but he still isn’t going to church. It saddened me that here is a lovely Christian professing man but he is not honoring the Lord by worshipping on the Lord’s Day and there is no doubt in my mind that he has no “get up and go” for serving the Lord or for pointing people to the Lord. AND YET, HE HAS PLENTY OF “GET UP AND GO” FOR BASS FISHING. What has happened to our priorities? What about us? What about you? On what do you spend your “get up and go?”
The Second thing he does is….ROPE ‘EM. Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” Cowboys round up cows and rope ‘em. We need to do similarly with people. We need to round ‘em up and rope ‘em. In other words, we need to make disciples out of people. We need to make followers or encourage people to become followers of Christ. Have you made any followers lately? All my life I’ve had people try to get me to become a follower in one way or another. When I was about 18 years old I was attending Palm Beach Junior College. One of my friends was an avid golfer. She invited me to go golfing with her one morning. I did. It was my first and last time. I was not sold on golf. Nothing wrong with playing golf. It just didn’t appeal to me. My son plays golf…but it does not appeal to me. Have you made any followers lately? That is, have you roped anyone into believing that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world? Have you convinced anyone that Christ is the way to go in life? Have you even talked to anyone about Christ? THIS IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY FOLKS AS HIS DISCIPLES, HIS FOLLOWERS. We are to encourage others to follow Him just as Andrew found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus.
The third method is to BRAND ‘EM. We find in Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Cowboys of old would round up their herd and brand ‘em so that others would know to whom they belonged. Baptism is a part of this branding business. It’s a sign, if nothing else, to God that we belong to Him! It’s a step in the right direction. One preacher said these words about baptism: One good way to think of baptism is to consider it a “signing of a contract” between you and God. If you were to buy a house, you would be required to sit down with the sellers of the home and approve a contract. To show your approval, you would be required to sign your name at the bottom of the paper. Your signature wouldn’t buy the house (the money you probably borrowed from the bank did that), but you couldn’t purchase the house until your name was on the dotted line. So also, your baptism doesn’t “buy” your salvation. Christ’s blood does that. But your signature on God’s contract is required. In Acts 2:38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:36 “They traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, ’Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?" Acts 22:16 “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” Baptism is an act of obedience that all people who believe in Jesus need to comply with. This does not “complete” our obedience to Jesus but it’s a step of obedience in the right direction.
The fourth thing Cowboys do is CORRAL ‘EM - Matthew 28:20 “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” After a cowboy has rode hard, roped his livestock, and branded them, then he needs to corral ‘em. He needs to herd them into the corral and keep them there. The corral, however, that I am thinking of is the church. When people come to believe in Jesus and they decide to follow Him, they need to be encouraged to become a part of the church. And they need to be taught, which comes in the church. Some people don’t want to join a local church or fellowship of believers. Why not? One reason is because they will feel responsible to attend that church and support that church in service and in giving. AND THEY SHOULD! Arthur Boers in "The Other Side," (May/June, 1989) wrote, “I often visit newcomers in town and find them to be church shopping. They want to know what they can get out of church. Churches are one more consumer commodity. Worship services are not a place for us to serve God and neighbor but a place where people expect to purchase the best: Inspiring worship, good music, moving sermons, quality child care. As if we buy God and not vice versa.” Brothers and sisters, that’s not what the church is all about! The church is not here for the purpose of getting some out of it, but rather for us to put something into it! Being honest with you….I want to deliver the goods to you! I want to preach the best sermons I can for your sake and to honor the Lord! I want to give you and the Lord the best service I can. But this is the way we all should think. If we all give our best service and do our best for the Lord and His church, ALL PEOPLE WILL GET SOMETHING OUT OF IT. It’s the principle of: the more you sow, the more you reap. The more we give, the more we get. Someone once said at a school inservice I attended…..and it applies here too, "There are four main bones in every organization. The wish-bones: Wishing somebody would do something about the problem. The jaw-bones: Doing all the talking but very little else. The knuckle-bones: Those who knock everything. The back-bones: Those who carry the brunt of the load and do most of the work." And I’ve always heard it said that about 20 percent of the people carry 80 percent of the load. BUT THAT’S NOT THE WAY IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE! Just think, if every body who believed in Christ, joined the church and got involved in service, JUST THINK WHAT COULD BE ACCOMPLISHED FOR THE LORD? If you’re not in the church you need to be and if you’re not involved in some kind of service, you should be!
Ride ‘em, rope ‘em, brand ‘em, and corral ‘em. That’s our job as people who belong to the Lord.
There is a Congregational Christian church in Kansas City that has these words as its motto: We will “wake up, sing up, preach up, pray up, pay up, but never give up or let up or back up or shut up until the cause of Christ in this church and in the world is built up.” What a great motto. Real cowboys of old were committed to their job of riding herd and taking care of that herd. Likewise, we, as God’s people, God’s herdsmen, have been called to do nothing less than our best to reach people for Christ, to lead them to Him, to baptize them into Him, and to get them in the church and continue teaching them the ways of Christ.