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. – Gal 5:24-25
Paul reminds us that all those who have chosen to follow Christ have crucified the flesh, that is their old sinful natures, with its passions and desires. So, we shouldn’t be too preoccupied with what “I” want to do because “I” has been crucified! As Paul says in Gal 2, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
But the problem is that though the flesh has been crucified, it refuses to stay dead. We use the phrase “already but not yet” to describe many aspects of Christian life that will have their ultimate fulfilment at the second coming of Christ. Like
- the kingdom of God has already come but is not yet here in its fulness.
- Satan has already been defeated by Christ, but is not yet completely destroyed.
Similarly, our flesh has already been crucified but has not yet lost all its influence over us.
So, like playing whack-a-mole, every time our old nature pops up and tries to assert itself, we are to put it down by reminding ourselves that our old nature has been crucified and choosing to act in accordance with our new nature instead.
How do we recognise when our old nature is trying to creep back into our lives? When we put our trust in anything other than Jesus for our day-to-day living, we are acting in accordance with our old nature. When we’re chasing after power, status, wealth, comfort or any such thing to secure our lives, we are not living according to our new nature. And when we are running after these things, we tend to start comparing ourselves with the people around us. If we’re doing better – that is if we’re richer or more powerful or having a higher status – we become conceited. And if we’re not doing better, we start envying them.
If, on the other hand, we live by the Spirit, then our focus shifts from trying to one-up others to pleasing God. We recognise that God doesn’t evaluate us by seeing how we compare to others. Rather, he evaluates us by seeing how we are increasing in Christlikeness. We need to remember that our flesh has been crucified and that we now have Christ living in us, and that reality should be reflected in all that we do.