Real men do what?

Growing up as a child who watched and played sports in Northern California, I can vividly remember a slogan the Oakland Raiders once used to heighten fan participation: “Real Men Wear Black.” Certainly this was a catchy promotional tool for a professional football team. But more than that, it told men that if they were truly masculine they would wear a particular color of clothing that was anything but light or soft. Black is to be worn by men. Black is intimidating. Black says, “I’m dangerous. Look out.” The slogan appeared everywhere, and even today, the image conveyed by the Raiders is that of being dangerous, proud, and a bit rebellious.

A simple slogan wouldn’t normally be cause for great alarm. But what’s troubling is the fact it represents a widespread cultural mind-set. Masculinity, in our world, is often defined in terms of brute strength, brash independence, material wealth, ruthless power, or romantic charm. But the Bible has a different perspective on what it means to be a real man. Paul, instructing the men of Corinth toward true masculinity, wrote, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). True masculinity doesn’t idolize sports, money, status, or the passing pleasures of this world. The lusts of the flesh come naturally to sinners, and any self-indulgent boy can consume himself with his own desires. But a real man does what is hard. He is a fighter, but not in the sense that the Raiders meant. Rather he fights for his Savior’s glory, for his own sanctification, and for the spiritual good of those around him.

One chief way to do this is to flee temptation. Yes, that’s right—real men run away. If sin is the great enemy of the Christian, then a man of God must be a skilled soldier in putting to death the sin that remains in his life. Puritan John Owen said it best: “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”1Real men not only flee from sin, but from the temptation that precedes sin. For an excellent example of that principle, we need to look no further than the pages of the New Testament.

A Young Man Named Timothy

Timothy had grown up in a God-fearing home—his mother and grandmother faithfully taught him the Scriptures. We are first introduced to Timothy in the book of Acts. There we are told, “Paul…came to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:1-2). This young man would quickly become one of Paul’s dearest companions and most trusted colaboraters. He had a good reputation in his hometown, but God had bigger plans for Timothy and called him to become one of the chief workers in proclaiming the gospel message throughout the Gentile world.

But living the Christian life was not always easy for Timothy, even after he became a pastor in Ephesus. As we learn from Paul’s letters to Timothy, the young man was engaged in a daily spiritual battle—fighting hard to shepherd his own soul and the souls of those under his care. The apostle exhorted his young disciple to suffer for Christ, guard the truth, and diligently handle the Scriptures. While young Timothy was mature beyond his years, as a Christian man he understood what it meant to be in a constant war against sin and temptation.

Timothy’s Example in Resisting Temptation

In this chapter, using Timothy as our model, we will examine four key elements to resisting temptation in a way that honors the Lord.

1. Request Help from God

Have you ever felt like your battle against sin was impossible to win? Perhaps you’ve thought, I want to flee from temptation, but at times it seems like I just can’t. If so, you are not alone. The apostle Paul essentially said that very thing in Romans 7. He wrote, “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (verses 18-19 esv). Even Paul understood the daily battle between his spirit and his flesh. But the apostle’s words did not end in despair. In the end, he looked to God for help and final victory. In triumph, he declared, “Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!…Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 7:24–8:2).