Leading In The Flesh

Esau: The Man Who Sold His Destiny for Momentary Gratification Genesis 25:25 – 34

“ See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble, for by it many become defiled; see to it that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he lost out, for he found no chance, though he sought it with tears.”    Hebrews 12: 15-17

Spiritual leaders will either lead in the flesh or the Spirit.  Leaders who are impatient, demanding, rude and manipulative are men and women of the “flesh.”  God gives us our personalities and spiritual gifts, but it is our responsibility to submit them to the Lordship of Jesus.  A wise and discerning leader knows when his spiritual gifts and personality are led by the Spirit and when they are driven by the flesh.

The Bible has much to say about leading in the flesh.  Such a leader does not lead from a place of being secure in who they are in Christ.  Instead, they lead as men or women trying to prove their importance. They lead through corruption, sexual immorality, control and anger.  We either lead in the Spirit or in the flesh.  The two do not mix.

Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for momentary gratification of the flesh.  He came home from a hunting trip and was so hungry that he felt like he would starve.  He did not wait for the meal to be cooked and served to him.  He gave away his birthright in order to get what he wanted immediately.

He created a flesh legacy instead of a spiritual legacy.  He was a man of destiny, but he sold his destiny for momentary gratification.

Esau was destined to be in the lineage of kings and rulers but he chose a legacy of impatience and fleshly passion.  Through his descendants the Messiah was to come.  Instead, his decedents were the Edomites and the Amalekites…the enemies of God.  The Herods, who ruled Palestine in the time of Christ, were descendants of the Edomites and Amalekites.  Instead of Esau’s lineage producing the Messiah, it produced the man who crucified Him.

Esau was a child of God’s covenant but because he didn’t live by the spirit, he sold the blessings of the covenant to satisfy his fleshly appetite.  There was a great gulf between what Esau believed and what he lived.  He was blessed but did not enjoy the blessing God had for him.  Esau lived in the camp of his own Father but did not enjoy his father’s blessings.  The passions of the flesh cry out, “feed me” “take care of me” “comfort me” “notice me” “entertain me” and give it to me when I want it!  So it is that small decisions can have big consequences.

The flesh does not want to wait.  No wonder Paul said, “I die daily…I am crucified with Christ.”  He also said, ”...do not gratify the desires of the flesh, for the desires of the flesh are against the spirit…for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would….” Galatians 5:17

Paul the Apostle uses the word “flesh” in different ways in his letters to the young churches he planted:

  1. It can refer to the physical body
  2. It can refer to worldly, sinful passions and desires
  3. It can refer to dependence on religious duty to gain favor with God

In short, the flesh is anything we do or believe to find security, comfort and significance from any source other than Jesus.

For example:

Romans 6:19 “...because of the weakness of your flesh...”

Romans 7:5 “...in the flesh, the sinful passions which were stirred up in you...”

Romans 7:25 “...with my mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh I serve the law of sin...”

Galatians 5:16 “...the flesh lusts against the Spirit...”

Living in spiritual poverty is easier than being responsible with God’s blessings!  Giving in to the flesh is easier than the daily discipline of a man or woman of diligence and faithfulness.

The choice is ours: will we choose the way of impatience, giving in to the demands of our passions and desires, or will we cultivate the fruit of the Spirit by denying the flesh and submitting to God?

We are invited to sow to the Spirit, not the flesh.  God’s word invites us to believe the promises of God about who we are as His loved sons and daughters.