We’ve spent the last several lessons talking about the everyday battlefields we face as we go about our lives. These are those simple struggles — faith, temptations, attention, money — that can take our minds off of God and distract us from living spiritually. These skirmishes add up to something bigger. They amount to a battle being waged for our souls, and it’s a battle that happens every day and in every place where we choose how we speak, how we conduct ourselves, where we place our trust, how we spend our time and resources, and how we order our priorities.
The battle may seem overwhelming at times, but the great news is this: it has already been won. We didn’t win it. It was won on our behalf by the only One who could have secured the victory. As we face our daily battles, we aren’t winning victories against the devil. Instead, we are holding onto a victory we already have. It’s the victory of our Savior who died and rose to live again. In His death, burial, and resurrection, we have the greatest of victories.
Losing Our Lives to Gain Our Souls
This victory is unlike any other we can have. Jesus describes it like this in Mark 8:34 – 36:
If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life?
He goes on to ask what you would be willing to give up in exchange for your life. Think about it. If you’re life was on the line, what would you be willing to give up in exchange for it? Your car, your bank account, your home? I don’t think anyone here would put their material possessions over their lives. The unspoken question is then this: what are you willing to give up to save your soul?
Jesus says this victory for your soul demands nothing less than complete self-sacrifice. Forget giving up your car. This is about giving up your time, your resources, your priorities, and your attention. This is about giving up yourself totally and completely for the Savior who has won you out of spiritual death.
Victory on the Cross
This victory was won in a way that seems impossible to understand. The victory over death was won through death, but it was a death that led to new life. For your sake and mine, Jesus experienced loss. He experienced betrayal. He was accused of crimes He never committed. He was beaten. He was tortured. He was hung on a cross where He would be separated from God and He would die.
In this difficult victory, He endured quietly. He did not protest against the false accusations. He did not seek to insult or vindicate Himself with those who tortured, abused, and mocked Him. He made no complaint or appeal. He laid down His life, so that we might live. Would we have been as willing to be so peaceful during such events? If we truly want to represent Christ in how we live, we should be trying to find that same sense of peace He had when facing the ultimate trial.
Measuring this by physical standards, the events of the cross look like defeat. But we find victory there instead. With His death, Jesus defeated sin and death once and for all. With His resurrection, He wins us hope for something better than this life. He overcame death through death, and He gives us hope because He lives. This is what Christian victory looks like. This love shows us how we should live to claim that victory.
Greater Love Has No Man…
Think about John 15, when Jesus is describing spiritual love to His disciples. Starting in verse 11, Jesus says:
I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father.
Jesus laid down His life for us as His friends. And this was more than the cross. He plotted the entire course of His life around the needs of others. His entire motivator was the victory for our souls over death. Everything He did, He did to benefit others. He laid down His life both in death and in living.
As friends of Jesus, we should be doing the same. We may not be asked to die for Him, but we should be living for Him. That is the natural response of a grateful soul to the victory provided us. We lay down our plans for our own lives, and we give our lives completely over to Him. This is about giving up all of those other things that can cause spiritual skirmishes in our lives and handing them over to God. This opens the door for us to then experience the greatest victory — the victory Christ won for us when He died on the cross and rose again to newness of life.
lesson by Robert Smelser