And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24 NKJV
While reading through Galatians again, the part of this passage about even our desires being crucified jumped out at me. I have studied with people who tell me that even though they stopped smoking, the desire to smoke always remains. One man told me, “I will always be a smoker. I just will always choose not to smoke.” That makes sense as we all have sinful flesh, but do not have to give in to the flesh.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 NKJV
Still, do I take Galatians 5:24 to mean that our sinful desires are crucified once and for all never to return? Can a born-again smoker live the rest of his life without ever craving to smoke the rest of his life? Can a selfish person be born again and never crave self again? Can a sexually promiscuous person be born again and never crave immoral sex again? Do we give people the idea that if they are born again and are walking in the Spirit, that it is not normal to be tempted? Do we teach once cured always cured? And if so, is that as dangerous as teaching once saved always saved?
After prayerfully pondering this, I think I found the answer in something Jesus said.
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me. Luke 9:23 NKJV (emphasis on “daily” added)
Jesus did not teach once saved always saved, nor did He teach once “cured” always “cured.” Every day we wake up as sinners. Every day we must deny and crucify self. The passions and desires being crucified in Galatians 5:24 are not a one-time event. We continue to be cured only as we continue to crucify self.
Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” that he begged God to just take away. However instead of taking it away, God just said,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV
Some have twisted this passage to mean that Paul could just keep on sinning and God’s grace would just keep on forgiving him, but that is not the case at all. Paul realized
when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 NKJV
Paul knew that while God did not remove the weakness or temptation, he did not need to give in to it, because God supplies the strength to overcome. Of course many believe the thorn was a physical issue and not a moral temptation. even so, Paul says,
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV
Salvation and victory over sin continue, only as we continue to crucify the flesh along with its passions and desires every day. Every day we must deny ourselves. Every day we must pray “Not my will, Your will be done.” So not only are sinful habits crucified, but the very desire to sin can be crucified-daily.