“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (II Tim 2:21-22). Another way we “crucify the flesh” in practical terms is by pursuing righteousness in the company of our fellow believers.
Paul makes clear in II Timothy 2 that to become a useful tool in the hands of the Master, or to extend the thought, to crucify the flesh and thus be prepared for every good work, we must flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness. This flee and pursue pattern is very similar to Paul’s put off the old nature and put on the new man pattern of Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3. The Greek words translated “flee” and “pursue” convey a powerful message of action. These are not passive commands. And the beauty of II Timothy 2:22 is that you don’t have to go it alone.
In what I consider a very underutilized aspect of “crucifying the flesh”, we have a community to help us along. “… pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” Flee and pursue in the company of Christian friends. Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace as a community. But this communal pursuit is only possible where love from a pure heart is paramount. Criticism, a judgmental attitude, competitive spirits, or any pursuit of selfish ambition will suck the life out of any community effort at spiritual transformation.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, we are to become the Paraclete, the helper, to each other; coming alongside to encourage and lift each other up. “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Heb 10:24-25). Crucifying the flesh happens faster and more often and with better results when we are connected to the body.