Crucify the flesh
To crucify the flesh means the full and complete renouncing of every natural tendency that is not in line with the will of God. The apostle Paul wrote, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). Paul considered himself as dead to sin, to the world and it lusts. The evil ways no longer appealed to him. Now he found a new life in Christ: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
The battle against sin
The Christian’s battle against the unsanctified natural tendencies, appetites and lusts consists of two steps: The first step is a firm decision to yield the mind to Christ so that He may cleanse every evil inclination from it. This decision is to be renewed every day as temptations may come our way to sway us from the right path. Only then can the believer obey God’s command to present his body “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1).
God accepts our decision and starts the work of transformation in our hearts (Romans 12:2) and changing us into His likeness. This day-by-day process is called sanctification, of attaining “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13) through His enabling grace and power.
The second step is rising above the discouragements of the battle. The Christian may still make mistakes, though not purposely, but so long as he abides in Christ, and repents (Hebrews 4:15, 16; 1 John 2:1) he is still seen as a son of God and given the privilege of being covered by the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Matthew 22:1–14).
The believer may face occasional defeats when he tries to overcome sin by his own power rather than depend on God’s power, or when he fails to unite with God (Philippians 2:12, 13). There is also risk in being satisfied with his present works, and danger in comparing his life with others. To crucify the flesh is a battle that continues till the end. In spite of that, the believer’s experience may be one of uninterrupted victory in Christ Jesus, and of rising immediately whenever he may fall.
The secret of victory
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). How can “our faith” enable us to overcome the world? John 5:5 answers, “Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” This is the faith that accepts Jesus Christ as a personal Savior.
Such a faith appropriates the Savior’s triumph over the world and applies it in the life of the Christian. It does not stop at mental agreement of the spiritual truths but leads to real Christian victory. Like the paralytic whom Christ commanded to rise, the Christian attempts that which is not possible for him (John 5:5–9). As he chooses to rise from the pit of sin, God’s power comes upon him and enables him to do that which he by faith willed. But if the Christian waits for the Lord to lift him up from sin, nothing would happen. The Christian’s faith must lay hold upon God’s promises and must act upon God’s Word before that strength can actually be his. And whenever the Christian resists the tempter in the God’s power, the devil is defeated (James 4:7).
In His service,