“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
Having described the works of the flesh, and then listed the fruit of the Spirit, Paul now gives the followers of Christ three actions to take. The purpose of these actions is to cultivate our new nature and reject our old nature. These actions are born of faith in Christ, animated by God’s grace, empowered by the Spirit, and active steps of self-discipline.
- Crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.
- Live by the Spirit.
- Keep in step with the Spirit.
Our sin nature—the flesh—is characterized by impulsive, undisciplined desires and passions. Passion is good, but only if directed by the Spirit and aligned with God’s standards. The problem with our old nature is that it does not submit to God’s standards. It wants to dominate our life and act with impunity.
The passions of the old nature want to direct, not be directed. This is a distortion of God’s design. The Lord gave us emotion and passion as part of his image, but the fall distorted the emotional dimension of man. As a result, rather than serve us, our emotions want to control us. Emotion is a terrific servant, but a terrible master. And make no mistake, the emotion of the old nature is a servant that seeks to be a master.
Strong emotion/passion/desire is good if directed toward the right things in the right way. But when directed toward the wrong things and in the wrong way, strong emotion/passion is disruptive at best and destructive at worst. Again, this is why self-discipline is so critical. Disciplined emotion is a wonderful attribute of life in Christ, but undisciplined emotion is a distortion of the life that God intends for us, and it will take you off-path and create nothing but problems.
The disruptive emotion of the old nature does not want precision, patience, or perspective.
It doesn’t want precision because it doesn’t want truth. It doesn’t want to be evaluated against God’s standards. It doesn’t want to be restricted. It doesn’t want to be directed by moral principles. It does not want to submit.
It doesn’t want patience because it doesn’t want to wait; the emotion of the old nature simply wants to react without consideration for the situation. It is impulsive and impetuous.
It doesn’t want perspective because it doesn’t want to see the big picture. It does not want to think and consider consequences.
Therefore, Paul tells us here in Galatians to “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires.” To crucify the sin nature means to put it to death. Paul says the same thing in Romans: “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:12-13)
How do you do that? How do you put to death the deeds of old nature? By applying the precision, patience, and perspective of God’s word and the power of God’s Spirit to the way you think and act. When you feel the impulse and desire of your sin nature … press pause. Get off autopilot. Think. See the situation clearly. Apply scripture to the situation. Pray and ask the Lord for the power that is already yours in Christ. Saturate the situation with the things of the Spirit. Smother the old nature impulse with Truth. Redirect your mind to what is good and right and true.
And do it with relentless perseverance and prayer. It’s a battle, and you must fight the good fight.
Remember, your old nature does not want precision, patience, or perspective. Those are disciplines that you must apply through Spirit-empowered action. The Lord will meet you as you step out in faith.
Live by the Spirit. Trust God and do the work.