Galatians 5:24. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
We share in the crucifixion of our Savior. Do you remember Galatians 2:20? Paul told us that we are crucified with Christ. This was a past event, and passive on our part. We died with Christ by no action of our own. It happened TO us.
But here in Galatians 5:24 we are the ones doing the crucifying. We have crucified the flesh. This is written in the past tense, but with a continuous, ongoing result. So like the Centurion in the story of Christ’s death, we have begun the crucifixion and must see it to completion.
OK pause. We must never, never, never forget that our daily ongoing crucifying of the flesh is rooted in the spiritual reality that we have been already crucified with Christ. What Christ commands he always empowers. Every imperative is supported by an indicative. You can only crucify the fleshly remains because your old self has already been crucified, buried, and raised to new life as the new self.
So what exactly are we crucifying? The flesh. The flesh is that part of you that is all about self promotion, self justification, and just good old fashioned selfishness. It is not your physical body. It is the part of your soul that thinks it can keep the law, but actually just fails repeatedly. It’s the part that opposes the Spirit. It’s the part of you that is constantly running you between superiority and inferiority. But the flesh is not your old nature. It is not your old self. That part of you died with Jesus on the cross. It is not the deepest part of you- Christ is. The flesh is a shallow part of you that is still holding on to old thoughts, old habits, and old desires. It’s on the cross and it needs to die.
But the method by which it is dying is crucifixion. We don’t behead the flesh, or shoot the flesh, or electricute the flesh. We crucify it.
Crucifixion is slow, very slow. And torturous, and gruesome, and shameful. It’s never easy, and it’s not glorifying except to Christ. It is essential for spiritual growth, and the good news is that, since you have already been crucified with Christ, it is guaranteed.
It is also the only way to experience spiritual transformation. There is no quick fix to spiritual growth. There is no re-dedication or spiritual enlightenment that can replace the crucifixion of the flesh. If you’re looking for these kinds of experiences through magical prayers, conferences, camps, concerts or even through a greater level of commitment, stop it!
So here’s the thing: YOU DON’T CRUCIFY THE FLESH BY FOCUSING ON THE FLESH.
You crucify the flesh by focusing on Christ! We are transformed by beholding Christ. Look at what Galatians 5:24 says again: with its passions and desires. And how do we fight fleshly desires? With new desires. We never, never, never defeat a desire by trying hard to defeat the desire. We defeat a desire by replacing it with a new desire. And then we live in obedience from that desire.
“To live is Christ” is Christ’s own desires flowing from the love of Christ and the freedom of Christ that live in us. These desires have the power to overwhelm the shallow desires of the flesh. When we let our fleshly desires point us to the greater desire of our heart, the desire for God and his glory, we are letting Christ’s life in us reign in grace.
Do you really believe that you died with Christ? Are you actively crucifying the flesh and its desires by focusing on Christ and his life in you and all the goodness of God that it brings?