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This is a special topical study written by Jeff Priddy, which I am privileged to reprint here--Ed.
"Now those of Christ Jesus crucify the flesh together with its passions and lusts" (Gal. 5:24).
In order to crucify passions and lusts, you must first have them. If you have passions and lusts, proceed to the next paragraph.
We welcome the passionate and lustful to paragraph two. You will now learn how to crucify your passions and lusts. But first we need to know how many squeamish we have, so we will know how many nails to bring along. If you're not sure whether you want all your passions and lusts crucified, proceed to the next paragraph.
We appreciate your honesty. Some passions and lusts are so near and dear to us that we wonder how we could survive without them. Those of us who don't know the pressure-relieving satisfaction of smoking, drinking, swearing, hating our enemies or going to Fort Lauderdale in February, chomp our passions and lusts like toothpicks. If you're having second thoughts now about giving up your passions and lusts, continue to paragraph four.
Hi. Sometimes it's unwise to manhandle our errant desires. Besides, if we stopped eating Milk Duds, going to the mall, dreaming of a singing career or reading the National Enquirer, we might start beating the children. That is why the apostle Paul recommends crucifixion, rather than instant death, for passions and lusts. Intrigued? Please continue.
We often think that "crucifying passions and lusts" means attacking and destroying them. But how would that encourage a life of freedom and peace in Christ? Christ frees us for freedom (Gal. 5:1) and for peace (Eph. 2:17). How can people who are wrestling their flesh all day feel free and peaceful? Is it possible that "crucifying passions and lusts" means something other than turning our Christian faith into a circus of willpower? If you answered, "God, I hope so," then go to the next paragraph.
Congratulations on being honest enough to have made it this far. Here, we will learn what the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote, "Crucify your passions and lusts." We remind you that crucifixion was unlike ordinary execution in that the victim did not die by direct violence (e.g., firing squad, hanging, drowning, beheading, The Simpsons, etc.) but by deprivational violence. By this we mean that crucifixion deprived its victims of vital life-sustaining elements, such as oxygen, food and water. Crucifixion never killed anybody. What killed them was either the asphyxiation, hunger or thirst that resulted from being unable to either draw a decent breath, get to a well for water, or visit the commissary. Many victims of crucifixion, sorry to relate, lasted several days on the cross. If you are eager to understand how this applies to Milk Duds and the National Enquirer, please continue.
Here we help you understand how deprivational death, rather than violent death, is the best way to manage passions and lusts. It is a well-known, natural phenomenon (not unlike gravity) that the more we human beings concentrate on trying not to do something, the more we are likely to do it. A good example of this would be Jimmy Swaggart, who, swearing off women with red-faced determination, eventually turned that color for other reasons. As this principle is as immutable as gravity, the human being who feels guilty about it might just as well feel that way about falling down. If it would comfort anyone to learn that even a Bible writer had problems with this (not being able to do what he wanted to do, but doing the thing he hated), then we will forge on to paragraph eight.
The apostle Paul once confessed to some friends in Rome: "I should never have felt guilty of the sin of coveting if I had not heard the law saying, `Thou shalt not covet.' But the sin in me, finding in the commandment an opportunity to express itself, stimulated all my desires... I know from experience that the carnal side of my being can scarcely be called the home of good! I often find that I have the will to do good, but not the power. That is, I don't accomplish the good I set out to do, and the evil I don't really want to do I find I am always doing." (Rom. 7:7-8, 18-19; Phillips). If this is you, go to paragraph nine.
Looks like we coaxed quite a few people into paragraph nine. If those in front would kindly move up, those standing outside may at least get in the door. For Paul, there was only one way out of his dilemma: "What will rescue me out of this body of death? Grace!" (Rom. 7:24; Concordant Literal New Testament) For a short lesson on grace, see the next paragraph.
Grace cannot function without sin any more than forgiveness can function without offense. If we quit sinning (not that we could do it if we tried), God would have nothing to be gracious toward us about. If the answer to Paul's dilemma was "grace," then it logically follows that Paul still sinned, even after writing this confession. If Paul had stopped sinning, what need would there have been for grace? If the answer to you having to wait for Christmas is "patience," does Christmas arrive? No. The fact that the answer is "patience" proves that Christmas hasn't arrived, because no one needs patience to wait for something that has come. Grace is a gift to those who deserve the opposite. If they start deserving it, they no longer need it. When sin disappears, so does grace. If "grace" is the answer to passions and lusts, then a few of these irritants must remain, whether we like them or not. If you're wondering now whether this means that you can sin and enjoy grace at the same time, proceed immediately to the next paragraph.
Silly! You can't enjoy grace unless you sin. (Well, now I've done it: "What, then, shall we declare? That we may be persisting in sin that grace should be increasing?" (Rom. 6:1; CLNT). And this: "What, then? Should we be sinning, seeing that we are not under law, but under grace?" (Rom. 6:15; CLNT). I might just as well ask: If my wife has promised to excuse me every time I burp, should I drink nine cans of red pop and belch in her ear? That would be rather rude. But since my wife has promised to excuse me every time I burp, I could do it if I wanted to. That's the thing. Christ promises through Paul in Romans 5:20 (CLNT): "Where sin increases, grace superexceeds.". You can "theologize" about that all you want, but it's as immutable a law as, "Where war increases, economy booms." While Paul would deter us from proving either law for the sport of it, the principles remain. Because I believe that Romans 5:20 is literal and immutable, I can boldly say: I don't recommend testing grace, but you could if you wanted to, for grace is more than equal to anything you could possibly do.)
Now, finally, for the secret of how to crucify passions and lusts and still remain imperfect enough to enjoy grace, go to the next paragraph.
Passions and lust are always rising up, "nyyaa-nyaaing" us, trying to make us feel like bad Christians who either better shape up or roast like chestnuts on an eternal fire. That just goes to show how ignorant passions and lusts are; they don't know that grace depends on their existence. We discussed earlier how that the more human beings try not to do something, the more they do it. Don't you think our passions and lusts know that? That's why they are always "nyyaa-nyaaing" us; they want to get us so mad at them that we will try hard not to do them. This, of course, delights them, because, as Mr. Swaggart and the apostle Paul demonstrated, trying not to do them makes us do them even more. What a victory for the passions and lusts. Are you beginning to see what Paul meant when he said that we ought to administer to these irritants a deprivational death rather than a violent one? A violent "death" is but a temporary "scare fix," while a deprivational death starves passions and lusts from the inside out. If you are beginning to see this, then by all means continue.
Remember how the crucified died, their bodies starved of essential, life-giving elements? Do that to your passions and lusts. Instead of trying to shoot them, or hang them, or strangle them, simply ignore them. I know that doesn't sound like very Biblical advice, but it's soundly so. Jesus Himself offered it when He said, "If, then, your eye should be single, your whole body will be luminous." (Matt. 6:22; CLNT). Never mind the body, Jesus said, keep your eye on Me and the body will take care of itself.
How would you contract your pupil if someone asked you to do so? Would you get your grimy fingers in there and try to squish the thing into shape? Why would you do that when you could simply lift up your head and look at the sun? Likewise: How would you conform your body to the image of Christ? Works? Willpower? A longer flagellum? Why would you do that when you could simply lift up your head and look at the Son?
When you crucify a passion or a lust it means that, whenever the thing raises its ugly head (this is not mere temptation, but a manifested passion or lust, that is, something that has already happened), instead of fighting it, you ignore it. Are you keeping a thankful eye to Christ and His grace? Then the thing will take care of itself. My advice is: Get out of the way and let grace do its strange work. This requires a radical, childlike trust in God.
Passions and lusts require your attention to survive, especially the attention required to "fix" them. Rob them of this, and they will starve to death. Some may still be supposing that this merely means we must resist temptation. If this is you, please go to the next paragraph.
What have we been saying? For one thing, if you are constantly and successfully resisting temptation, you're inhuman, because no human being can do it. For another thing, if you could resist all temptation you really would fall out of grace because the only way you can fall out of grace is by not sinning. Only a manifested passion or lust can be crucified; you cannot crucify something that doesn't exist. Therefore, the passion or the lust must already have happened. The question Paul is addressing here isn't, "I wonder if I'll be able to keep from sinning," but, "Now that I've sinned, what am I going to do about it?" Next paragraph, please.
Again, you're going to walk away from it, turn to Christ and contemplate Calvary. This will so severely shock the poor passion or lust that it will say, "Hey, you! What about me? Don't you know I'm keeping you from being a good Christian? What you gonna do about me?!" This is irresistible bait to most Christians, and most Christians take it, along with the hook, the line and that thing that makes the bait sink. This is when most Christians begin trying to kill the passion or the lust. This, of course, delights it, because trying to kill it only gives it more power. That's why Paul did not say to kill passions and lusts, but to crucify them. Remember what this means? Then on to the next paragraph with you.
Correct. Crucifying the passion or lust means that you put the tip of your thumb to the tip of your nose and then wiggle your four fingers at it, denying it what it needs to survive: your attention. (Ignoring it is better, but if you must do something, then try this nose technique.) The passion or lust, panicking now, will try everything it can think of to win your attention, including these sickening whines: "Oh, please try to fix me! You can't be a good Christian with me on board. Become a monk, why don't you. Get thee to a nunnery! Go to church more! Make a resolution! Do something!" But just keep ignoring it, and now listen: "Ohhhhh, I'm melllltinnng!" Remember what happened to the Wicked Witch of the West? That's what happens to passions and lusts when we crucify them by robbing them of the careful "Christian" concern they require. Are you worrying now about what you will do when all your sins disappear? Go to the next paragraph.
How come you worry so much? Your sins won't disappear until God makes you sinless. This is God's wise and purposeful design. Paul wrote in another letter: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the transcendence of the power may be of God and not of us." (II Cor. 4:7; CLNT). The "treasure" is God's grace, the "earthen vessels" you may as well call "sinning vessels." If anyone on this earth could manage to stop sinning, he or she would be very proud of it. Get the point? To make sure that wouldn't happen, God put human beings into mud pots. So why are you wishing you were a Ming vase?
If you stop tending your passions and lusts, whether to indulge or to fix them, what should you tend? Here's another dose of it: "Forgetting, indeed, those things which are behind, yet stretching out to those in front--toward the goal am I pursuing for the prize of God's calling above in Christ Jesus. Whoever, then, are mature, may be disposed to this." (Phil. 3:13-15; CLNT).
By minding the things that are above (Christ), rather than those which are below (flesh), our scales will tip slowly, in spite of ourselves, toward the prize of righteousness.
This article copyright (c) 1994 by Jeff Priddy, its author.
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