The Christian life doesn’t merely involve spiritual warfare. The Christian life is spiritual warfare. All of the followers of Jesus are soldiers and not civilians (2 Timothy 2:3). We must be in constant preparation for spiritual battle and not a spiritual vacation. The Great Commission is not a public relations campaign. It is a call to spiritual war.
When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he tempted our Lord with immediate satisfaction, the kingdoms of the world, and that his Deity should be immediately vindicated (Luke 4:1-13). All of the things offered to Jesus by Satan would ultimately belong to Christ. The heart of the temptation is not what was offered, but the opportunity for Christ to claim the promises apart from the cross. Satan’s strategy in tempting us is much the same.
Herein lies a pervasive problem with much of evangelical Christianity. Too often we want to experience the promises of the Christian faith apart from the cross of the Christian faith. We want the spoils of victory without being engaged in the war. We fail to reckon with the fact Jesus told us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). And we do not remember that Paul taught us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12).
This is war. Men are called to lead in battle, from the initial responsibility to take dominion for the glory of God at creation, to the gospel call of the Great Commission, men are to self-sacrificially lead. Men who are being trained as good soldiers of Christ Jesus, know that we “share in suffering,” and must not get “entangled in civilian pursuits” in order to please the one who enlisted us (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
Here are what I consider foundational maxims for all men desiring to be cruciform (cross-shaped) Christian warriors:
- Cruciform Discipline – All discipline is designed to re-orient our lives toward the cross.
- Cruciform Denial – Those who get everything they think will make them happy, lead unhappy shallow lives.
- Cruciform Courage – Life is full of things for which it is worth suffering and dying.
- Cruciform Diligence – “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:17).
My coaches always told me that everyone wants to win on game day, but not everybody wants to prepare to win. The same is true in life; many people want the benefits of Christian maturity without paying the price to grow in Christian maturity. Sentimentality is wanting to have convictions for which you do not have to suffer. If we are not willing to suffer for our convictions, then they are not convictions at all, they are conveniences. Those who are actively engaged in battle know that sentimentality is both dangerous and deadly.
Men, there are no shortcuts, you do not rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your daily preparation—take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Jesus.
This article first appeared at David’s website and is posted here with his permission.
David E. Prince is the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church (Lexington, KY) and a professor of Christian preaching at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY). He holds degrees from Huntingdon College (B.A.), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ph.D.). He played baseball in high school and college and coached high school baseball and football after college. Additionally, he and his wife, Judi, have eight children that they have worked diligently to disciple toward faith and maturity in Jesus Christ through the context of athletic competition.