You know what really burns my butt? It's the fact that I can’t seem to shake some of the sinful attitudes and behaviours in my life. Some of these things have just hung on for sooooooooooooooooooooooooo long. I can remember prayers early in the morning where I pleaded with God to just take this desire away from me or to just help me to not lose my temper again or to keep my head from going down a problematic sinful line of thought. I, then, seem to have a few days or weeks respite and before I know it…. I have fallen again.
Spiritual transformation is one the most incredible things to happen in our lives. On the other hand, it is one of the most grueling and often painful experiences in that same Christian life.
Just the other day I was looking at a passage from Paul's letter to the church in Galatia and I was struck by Gal 5:24: "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." This text brings up some serious questions in my mind. Have I really crucified the flesh? Totally? If not, do I really belong to Christ? How do I reconcile the fact that I have been saved by grace through faith and yet have this verse remain true? There are so many fleshly things that still exist in my life. How does one then tackle what Paul was talking about here?
Firstly, if one has trusted Christ for salvation, then that person belongs to Christ... Done deal. Perhaps, the greatest trouble with this verse is the fact that it is past tense. The Greek uses the aorist active voice which is generally understood as past tense and thus rendered in English as a past tense, but this begs the question: if the crucifying has been done in past, shouldn't I be perfected now in the present?
I think the answer can be gleaned in part by actually looking at image that Paul has drawn upon; that of crucifixion. This act of punishment and death if historical record are correct dates to 6th century BC. By the time of Jesus, the Romans had mastered the art of torture and death having perfected the slow painful descent to expiration to a science. Notice Paul doesn't say that those in Christ have killed the flesh execution style. He doesn't say that they have beheaded the flesh with the sword or stabbed it through the heart (all of which are very quick ways to cause death). No, Paul uses crucifixion. Slow, torturous painful suffering that brings death only after a long period of anguish. One might best use the term excruciating, which interestingly enough is etymologically related to he crucifixion. So why do I spend the time and characters to explain it? I believe that, as believers, we have indeed crucified the flesh- but this is so often a painful thing, a torment for us. We struggle to allow the flesh to die. One might argue that we often pull the flesh off the cross when we know that it should be left there. We have crucified the flesh indeed- and it is still dying. At times seeing those old passions and desires hanging there dying, we desire to indulge them again. In an interesting anecdote, John Piper once said that "the flesh was like a dragon which dwelt in a cave in the recesses of the soul". With the help of Christ the dragon has been dealt a death blow- a mortal wound; yet it still lives as it slowly bleeds out. I think the analogy is appropriate and helpful. The flesh HAS BEEN crucified and IS dying. We must cling to Christ, as painful as this crucifixion of the flesh is. We must leave that which was crucified on the cross. In the next verse, Paul gives the true key to how this is done. He says that if we live by the Spirit we must also walk by the Spirit. It is the power of almighty God in the work of Christ and the life giving Spirit that has energized us and given life to that which was spiritually dead. Now we must allow the The Lord to bring that same power to bare to help us, not just to live, but also to walk. This points directly to a second observation drawn from the image of crucifixion.
Crucifixion is a process that takes power and control away from that which has been crucified. In essence if the flesh has been crucified, it has been made powerless. Lets face it most of our movement and action is taken by moving our hands, feet, arms and legs; when these are impeded or prevented from moving we are almost completely powerless. One could make the argument that the voice is still free to command and threaten, but when the implements of enforcing the commands of voice are taken out of play, they are nothing more than empty words. It is also interesting to note that crucifixion makes even speaking a difficult task as the lungs are put in a position where taking in air is possible, but the process of expelling it is incredibly more difficult. What an interesting contrast in this passage: The crucifixion of the flesh has removed the flesh's ability to act. In fact it is virtually powerless to "walk" as it were. Conversely, the Spirit has energized the believer to spiritual life, and then empowered the believer to "walk" in a completely different manner. It is essentially the removal of one power and control and the freedom to walk under the influence and control of almighty God.
So now the flesh hangs in torment- a public spectacle before the enemy and ultimately as a testimony to the world of what God has accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is a powerful truth. It reminds me of that passage in Colossians 2 where Paul waxes eloquently about how God has (through Jesus) disarmed rulers and authorities and put them on public display have triumphed over them. Now I know that we haven't triumphed over the enemy; That was God's work, but we have and still are triumphing over our flesh as we submit to the work of God's spirit in our lives and... we will continue to do so. Martin Luther once said "the problem of our flesh will not be finally dealt with until we are resurrected. Until then, we are to constantly nail it to the cross, so that it hangs there, alive yet powerless over us. To resist the flesh . . . is to nail it to the Cross. Although the flesh is still alive it cannot very well act upon its desires because it is bound and nailed to the Cross." Today be assured that the flesh is dying a slow painful death. The torment that it has brought to your spiritual existence is being applied now to it. Rest assured that victory is coming and is even happening now. Look back on your life in the last 6 months, the last year....2 years. Chances are that, if you have been submitting to the Spirit, your victory over the flesh has been increasing and on the glorious day of Christ's return the flesh will be no more and your victory total. Blessings
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I struggle with themeaning of that myself. It does seem that the bible says that we are already dead or crucified - but it also has passages that tell us the flesh still has power to trouble us if we let it - it seems to me that we have to reckon or count our flesh as dead and yield ourselves constantly to the Lord as living sacrifices
This is why I think the image of crucifixion is so key to our understanding of the text. Crucifixion is not an instant death but takes time. If someone has been crucified and they are left on the cross they will eventually die. Hence Paul's words in Colossians about "considering your earthly members dead to..."
We as humans tend to overthink things, we lean on our wisdom. God makes man's wisdom foolish. Jesus in His Death, Burial and Resurrection conquered all. What we focus on is what is drawn to us. If we focus on sin and darkness then that is what comes our way. When our focus is the Light of the World, then guess what.........we become Light. When we do things from our own ability, we fail. When we draw on the Power of Grace (God's Ability) We win. Here is a link that I believe you may find enlightning. The day I was healed I changed instantly, I only have to continue to focus on Jesus and Jesus is in me and He is the Light! http://jimrichards.tv/