Read Galatians 5:16-25.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

What do you do to “crucify the flesh”? Do you have a plan or method for overcoming “passions and desires” such as lust, strife, anger, or envy? Experience amply indicates that it’s not enough to simply decide not to have such passions. Passions come to pass. They happen to us. We are passive.

Maybe you are riding down the road peacefully on your bicycle, enjoying the sun and the wind and the flow of the world. A car passes and someone sticks his head out and yells and curses at you and tells you to get off the road. And throws a beer bottle at you. Your blood boils. You imagine chasing down his car on your bicycle and kindly informing him that bicycles are also permitted on the road. Kindly but loudly.

You didn’t decide to become angry, nor did you really have a choice. It happened to you. It was a passion. Deciding that in the future you won’t become angry is futile.

How do you handle a fit of anger like that? Hopefully you are guarding your heart. As soon as you become aware of the anger, you ask for help, you turn away from the anger. You turn toward God. You repent. In all of this there may be no sin.

And yet, you are not the kind of person you want to be. Is it possible to become the kind of person who doesn’t have fits of anger? Or, if not that, is it possible to become the kind of person where such fits happen only on the surface and never reach your inner being? They pound on the door of your heart but never gain entrance? Are there exercises or drills we can do to help us get the upper hand when we experience passions? How do we “crucify the flesh”?

First, we need to be aware of the passions, to be determined not to let them get the upper hand, to have strategies for dealing with them. This requires prayer. Jesus’ advice to Peter was watch and pray.

Then, we need practice. I suppose we need some exercise where we are assaulted by a passion and we practice experiencing it without giving in. We come to know by experience that we can feel a passion but not be controlled by it. We gain confidence and power. We learn to follow the spirit, not the flesh. And as we gain power over the passions, we become self-possessed, spiritual people. Impassive.

What exercises do you use to “crucify the flesh”?

Harry Plantinga

Harry Plantinga is a professor of computer science at Calvin University and the director of and