Another way we “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires” is to unleash the love God has put into our new hearts. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (I Jn 5:3). “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15). As children of the Heavenly Father, we keep His commandments – “crucifying the flesh” – out of a love relationship with the Godhead.
I don’t know what your childhood was like, but I have a distinct memory of being motivated to obey my parents out of a love relationship. That is, I did not want to disappoint them or abuse the trust they put in me. As we grow up, we transfer that “obedience out of love” to our relationship with God. And this love relationship, this ability to love God as we should, comes from God Himself as one of the provisions of the New Covenant. So not only does God give us the resurrection power to resist temptation, but He gives us the desire to do so as well through our love relationship with Him.
Another way love affects our response to temptation is in the manifestation of the love God has given us for each other. For example, I will not correct my children out of anger – a deed of the flesh – if my motivation is to deepen my love relationship with them. I will treat my wife with honor and respect even in times of disagreement because I love her. I will not dismiss personalities different than my own if I am controlled by love. My moral choices, when motivated by love, will be influenced by how my choices affect others. My choices will be governed by a desire to enhance the love relationships God has brought into my life; both close familial and friend relationships as well as more casual acquaintances in the body.
A good measure of our level of love motivation is our attitude in carrying out Christ’s commands. Hospitality is not really hospitality if it is done reluctantly. Generosity is not really generosity if giving is done begrudgingly. “God loves a cheerful giver” (II Cor 9:7), and I think it is safe to say, based on many scriptures, that God loves a cheerful obeyer in all areas. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). Good cheer and joy will be the result of “crucifying the flesh” out of a love motivation.
Finally, embracing and experiencing the love of God takes the power out of the sin of fear and worry. On the large scale, the twenty-four hour news cycle supplies us with more than enough to worry about. As author Marilynne Robinson has observed, “We’re stuck in psycho-emotional bomb shelters.” Closer to home, intimate knowledge of our family and friends situations often give us ample opportunity to worry. I know I specifically worry about what my children’s future will hold. But God’s love casts out fear. Resting in God’s love, trusting that any future issue will have passed through His loving hands, helps quiet the urge to worry when the temptation comes.
“And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (I Jn 4:16). May you experience the abiding love of God today!