Well, good evening everyone, it's great to be with you tonight. Thank you to the girls, that was great - you did very, very well, wonderful. I'm going to let you into a wee secret: I have learned over the few years that I have been ministering, involved in meetings and series of meetings in particular, and going - not that far - but here and there; I have learned to love the low-key meetings. Here's the reason why: God often shows up when we're not expecting Him. When things mightn't seem as packed out and as organised, or whatever, as before; and maybe God has been doing things, and He has been doing a lot here over the last number of nights I've been here - but, you know, we're not to despise the day of small things, and realise that God always wants to take the glory, because that's when we are most blessed. When He takes the glory, we get the blessing - you do know that? Some people think it's awful self-centred for God to always want to take the glory - no, that's when we get the blessing, when He takes the glory. It's through the weak things and the broken things that He can really take glory, because nobody can say: 'Ach, it was something to do with me there tonight', or 'That was so well organised, there were so many people, look at the crowd that was packed in' - and then God comes, and He alone gets the glory. I think God is going to come tonight, I'm expecting Him to come in many ways - maybe in ways that, though I'm expecting Him, He's going to come in ways that I'm not expecting Him to come. That's exciting - so I'm excited about tonight, I hope you are as well.
We're going to turn in our Bibles to Genesis chapter 25 - maybe I could have the first slide up there please, James. Genesis chapter 25 - now, if you haven't been with us, I don't know if this is your first time here this New Year, but we embarked last time in January upon a study of an Old Testament character, the character of Jacob. Of course, up until then, when I've been with you I've been looking at 'Sins', 'Wounds', and 'Demons' - way back last March, that's nearly a year away, can you believe that? But we're taking a character that I believe God has led us to, Jacob, under the heading 'The Jacob Enigma'. Last time we looked under the heading 'God Loves Who?', at the enigma of Jacob, and the enigma of God's relationship to Jacob. So we really looked at how Jacob is such a puzzle - if you don't know what 'an enigma' is, you need to get the recording from last time - but it's really a puzzle, or a conundrum, a mystery: he's very hard to work out. One of the reasons is that he has got godly aspirations in his life - he wants the blessing of God upon him - and yet the way he goes about it, the scheming in the flesh and sometimes downright deceit and twistedness, as he grasps out for blessings that can only come by grace through faith. We saw that that enigma that we see in him, is actually the enigma that we see when we look into the mirror - because we see ourselves in Jacob. Then we saw the enigma of the love of God, because God loved Jacob - God loved him! Even in the middle of all his scheming and underhanded nonsense, God loved him - and God loves us! Isn't it wonderful that we can look into the mirror, and whatever we see that is real there - both externally and internally - we can look at it, we can look at it and say: 'God loves me the way that I am'. Now, He doesn't want to keep you the way that you are, He wants to change you and transform you into the image of Jesus - but that is so liberating, isn't it? God loves me, as me? I don't have to try and be like anybody else in order to get God to love me, He loves me the way I am. He mightn't love what we do, He mightn't love the way we've become through what we do, but He loves us deep down in who we are. I could just go off on one, on that on its own - it's Valentines night and all, and I'm married, and I'm here on my own on Valentines night - what does that say about me!
Tonight we're going to look at the flesh in Jacob again, and we're going to look at how 'Flesh Sells Out And Caves In' - alright? We're going to look at the flesh in an even deeper way, how the flesh sells out and caves in. We're going to read first of all Genesis 25, and then we're going to skip two chapters to Genesis 27. So it's the end verses of Genesis 25, we already read them last time, but we're going to home in on them tonight. Verse 29 then of Genesis 25: "Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. And Esau said to Jacob, 'Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary'. Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, 'Sell me your birthright as of this day'. And Esau said, 'Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?'. Then Jacob said, 'Swear to me as of this day'. So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright".
Now let's skip chapter 26 and on to chapter 27, this is quite long - we're going to read from verse 1 right through to verse 43, but we need to do that to get the whole story. So come with me, verse 1: "Now it came to pass, when Isaac was old and his eyes were so dim that he could not see, that he called Esau his older son and said to him, 'My son'. And he answered him, 'Here I am'. Then he said, 'Behold now, I am old. I do not know the day of my death. Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me. And make me savoury food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die'. Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to Esau his son. And Esau went to the field to hunt game and to bring it. So Rebekah spoke to Jacob her son, saying, 'Indeed I heard your father speak to Esau your brother, saying, 'Bring me game and make savoury food for me, that I may eat it and bless you in the presence of the LORD before my death'. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you. Go now to the flock and bring me from there two choice kids of the goats, and I will make savoury food from them for your father, such as he loves. Then you shall take it to your father, that he may eat it, and that he may bless you before his death'. And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, 'Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing'. But his mother said to him, 'Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me'. And he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and his mother made savoury food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the choice clothes of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And she put the skins of the kids of the goats on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she gave the savoury food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob. So he went to his father and said, 'My father'. And he said, 'Here I am. Who are you, my son?'. Jacob said to his father, 'I am Esau your firstborn; I have done just as you told me; please arise, sit and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me'. But Isaac said to his son, 'How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?'. And he said, 'Because the LORD your God brought it to me'. Then Isaac said to Jacob, 'Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not'. So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, 'The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau'. And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau's hands; so he blessed him. Then he said, 'Are you really my son Esau?'. He said, 'I am'. He said, 'Bring it near to me, and I will eat of my son's game, so that my soul may bless you'. So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, 'Come near now and kiss me, my son'. And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: 'Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed. Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be those who bless you!'. Now it happened, as soon as Isaac had finished blessing Jacob, and Jacob had scarcely gone out from the presence of Isaac his father, that Esau his brother came in from his hunting. He also had made savoury food, and brought it to his father, and said to his father, 'Let my father arise and eat of his son's game, that your soul may bless me'. And his father Isaac said to him, 'Who are you?'. So he said, 'I am your son, your firstborn, Esau'. Then Isaac trembled exceedingly, and said, 'Who? Where is the one who hunted game and brought it to me? I ate all of it before you came, and I have blessed him; and indeed he shall be blessed'. When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, 'Bless me; me also, O my father!'. But he said, 'Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing'. And Esau said, 'Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!'. And he said, 'Have you not reserved a blessing for me?'. Then Isaac answered and said to Esau, 'Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?'. And Esau said to his father, 'Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me; me also, O my father!'. And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. Then Isaac his father answered and said to him: 'Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; and it shall come to pass, when you become restless, that you shall break his yoke from your neck'. So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, 'The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob'. And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, 'Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee to my brother Laban in Haran'" - and we will end our reading there.
Let's just pray together, OK? Now, last time, if you were here, you will remember that I asked you to look into the mirror of God's word, and look at the picture that was portrayed, by the Holy Spirit, of Jacob - and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your self to you. I'm going to ask you to do the same again tonight - but you're also going to see a reflection in Esau, and in fact in this whole family. So I want you to be honest with God, honest with yourself, and honest in prayer now - can you pray and ask the Lord to come and reveal? You know, the two greatest blessings that God, perhaps, can give us are: a true knowledge of ourselves and a true knowledge of Himself. Would you be prepared for God to give you that tonight? A true knowledge of yourself, the way you really are; and a true knowledge of Himself, the way He really is - let's pray that now.
Father, we come to You, and we thank You that we come to the All-Knowing God, the Omniscient God, the All-Seeing One whose eyes rove to and fro throughout the whole earth. Lord, we thank You that there is absolutely nothing that is hidden from Your sight. Lord, we can't attempt to try and blindside You in any way. We come to You tonight, and we thank You - those of us who can be transparent and honest with You about even our great weaknesses, and frailties, and deficiencies - that we can bring those into relationship with You, and really be honest and say: 'Lord, I am struggling with this, but I know that You love me and I want to ask for Your help in this particular area of my life'. Lord, I pray for those who are still obfuscating, those who are still hiding, those who are still duplicitous, double minded, and hypocritical in Your sight - that tonight, as the light, the piercing laser light of Your Word, and the power of Your Word anointed by the Spirit, shines into their hearts, that they will no longer hide, but that they will abandon themselves to the light, to the truth, and allow the grace of God to meet them on those terms. Lord, we ended our last meeting with this point: that grace and truth comes together. Lord, I pray that people will enter into true transparency tonight and honesty with You, that they will confess before You their sin, and what Your truth says; and that they will bring themselves in line with the plumbline of Your word - and, Lord, in doing so, that Your grace will meet them and they will find freedom and transformation tonight. Lord, that's what we long for, that's what we want - Lord, we don't want to be sitting in meetings, we don't want to be playing church, we want to have reality, we want to encounter the living God, we want to engage with You, Lord, we want to have You touch our lives and change us. So come, we pray, come blessed Holy Spirit, reveal Christ to us who is the answer to all our needs. Meet every need that we might have, and move and minister in ways that are beyond our imagination, we pray tonight, in Jesus' mighty name we ask it - and everybody said 'Amen'. Amen.
I taught you last time, and I believe with good authority, that Jacob is a picture of the flesh - not just sin, but the flesh, and that's an important distinction. But the flesh is not something peculiar to Jacob, it didn't start with him, but rather with the forefather of us all, Adam, way back in the Garden of Eden. Through Adam's sin, the flesh nature has come into humankind, and so all of us are affected - and, indeed, we could say 'infected' by the disorder of the flesh. I quoted to you the last time Jeremiah 17:9, which says 'The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked'. I told you there that the Hebrew root for the word 'deceitful' in the original language is actually the word for 'Jacob', the original root of the name 'Jacob'. So you could read that verse: 'The heart is Jacobed and desperately sick'. So Jacob equates to deceitfulness, to a twisted nature. The name 'Jacob' is the same word to describe our fallen human hearts. In fact, to be more specific, the actual name 'Jacob' means 'to grasp', 'to supplant' - do you understand? The reason it was given was because, as Jacob and Esau were coming out of the womb, of course Esau came out first, the eldest of the twins, Jacob reached out his little fist and grabbed Esau's heel, as if to pull him back into the womb so he could get out first.
This is Jacob's nature - of course, this is the nature of us all, that we are always grasping, aren't we? We are always snatching for significance, for satisfaction, for a sense of meaning in our lives - and so often it is apart from God. Yes, we have already said Jacob did covet spiritual blessings. You remember I shared with you last time that he tried to get those through fleshly means, and that can't happen. God's blessings must be gained God's ways. We're going to see tonight that this problem of the flesh is a problem of our whole species, it's by no means unique to Jacob. In fact, the whole human family is infected by it, every individual family is afflicted by this condition. It's no surprise that we see the family likeness is obvious in Jacob's family. We see the flesh in Esau, his brother. We see the flesh in his Mum, Rebekah. We see the flesh in his Dad, Isaac. As I was thinking about this, I was imagining that the last time we had been given a previous portrait of how Jacob looked like, and we saw the flesh in him - didn't we - and our own flesh; but it's as if tonight we're now going through the photograph album, and we're now coming to the portrait of the whole family gathered together. We're looking - we've already recognised Jacob, but not the other ones - but as we're looking at Jacob, and then we're looking at them, we're saying to ourselves: 'Oh, yea, he's got his father's eyes, and maybe his Mum's nose, and these brothers, they look like twins' - well, they are twins, aren't they? But we start to recognise a likeness in the family, and the likeness is the likeness of the flesh.
Now Jacob gets a hard press, bad publicity for his fleshliness - but he didn't just lick it off the ground, as we say here in Ireland. You know those idioms, don't you? 'The apple doesn't fall far from the tree', 'A chip off the old block', 'Like father, like son'. So we have seen Jacob, and as we have looked into the portrait of Jacob's face, we have seen ourselves - it has been looking in the mirror - but when we look at this family, we see that Jacob is not the only one displaying fleshly tendencies, they have all got it because it has been inherited right from Adam at the very beginning. It is inherited from Jacob's forebears, it's in his family tree, and it's in all our family trees. We all go back to the same father, Adam, we've all got flesh in us - but even when we talk more personally of our immediate families, in more modern times, in our lineage there are things that flow to us in many spheres, not just physically hereditary, but spiritually, emotionally we can receive inherited tendencies that actually affect us in a sinful capacity. That happened to Jacob.
We're not dealing tonight with chapter 26, you will have noticed that I skipped it out, but in chapter 26 Isaac - father Isaac - follows his family sin of deceit, which was the sin of his father Abraham. If you read chapter 26 - obviously we're not going to look at it tonight - but Isaac goes to the Philistine country of Gerar, and he lies to Abimelech, the Philistine king, over his wife Rebekah. He tells that king, 'She's not my wife, she's my sister' - and that was actually a sin that his own father, Abraham, committed in Genesis chapter 12. When he went down to Egypt, he lied and said that his wife, Sarai, was his sister - and that wasn't a complete lie, it was a half-truth, because she was his sister in a roundabout way. I know it's complicated, but it is, and you need to read the book of Genesis - but nevertheless, what I want you to see tonight is: that Isaac was following suit in a lineage of deceit that was running in his family, his father. We're going to see how this flesh is right throughout Jacob's whole network.
But also this wasn't just something that was inherited in Jacob's life, but it was also learned by example. Here's where we come to the whole debate of nature versus nurture - have you heard of that one? The psychologists and psychiatrists and sociologists, they debate whether we are what we are because we have learned certain tendencies, or whether we have inherited them, they've been passed down. Well, I'm not any of those aforementioned professions, I have no qualifications along those lines, but I'll put my pennies worth in and say that I believe the Bible teaches that we are both. We are both nature and nurture - that would save an awful lot of money and degrees, wouldn't it, if we would just believe the Bible? We are both! We inherit certain things, but we also learn certain things. As kids observe how we - as parents, or guardians, or significant authority figures - how we react, how we deal in certain circumstances with issues, they then learn the same things. So Jacob is the same. I believe he has inherited much of his flesh, but he has also learned from the example of his parents and his brother in particular, maybe even his Granda Abraham.
Now we might recognise the flesh in Jacob's family portrait, but really you need to ask: do you recognise it in you? Do you recognise Jacob in you, but do you recognise maybe Jacob's fleshly tendencies in your own family, in your own inheritance? Now we mustn't be sin or failure focused, and I've emphasised that before with you, and I will get you - by the end of this message - to get your eyes off yourself and onto Christ and onto the answer; but nevertheless, neither ought we to be in denial. The fact of the matter is: if we're not being real with the issues that are issues in our lives - whether it's the world, the flesh, or the devil - we're not going to have victory. We will never overcome if we are in denial over the barriers and obstacles to the blessings that God wants to pour into our lives. We must seek honesty and transparency regarding our problems, and then and only then can we truly be helped. We must understand our enemy. We never want to be Satan or demon focused, but we've got to understand how he works; we've got to understand not only how he works, but how we tick, and how this fallen human flesh responds. Just as we cannot be ignorant to Satan's devices, we cannot be ignorant of how the flesh is.
So we're going to look at this in-depth tonight, and we're going to look at two lessons concerning the flesh: how the flesh always sells out, and how the flesh caves in; and then finally, you'll be glad to know, we're going to answer the enigma of the flesh - what is the answer to deal with this great enigma? So let's look first of all how the flesh sells out, and we're going to Genesis 25 here, and this is the selling of Esau's birthright. If you look at verse 29 first of all: 'Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary'. Now, that's very instructive, because both these brothers are acting out of their natural inclination - do you see that? Read it again: 'Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary'. If you look back at verse 27 that we read last time, 'The boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter', an outdoor man, 'a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents', he was a housebuilder. So in verse 29, Jacob is cooking the stew, and Esau's out in the field and he is weary. So they are living out of their natural characteristics and inclinations, but they are very different, aren't they? We all have flesh, and this is what we've got to understand: however our flesh displays itself, we've all got it! Some of us might manifest fleshly tendencies in different ways, but all of us have ultimately the same problem.
Now, some people manifest the flesh in obviously immoral ways. Let me read to you again, and I read it last time, you can look at it if you wish, Galatians 5:19-20 - and there Paul outlines the works of the flesh, Galatians 5:19: 'The acts of the flesh are obvious', at least these ones are, 'sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like; I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God' - in other words, you'll not inherit God's blessing if you live in these fleshly ways. But those are not all the manifestations of the flesh, and those might be to your taste or mine, but they may not. A lot may depend on your particular tastes, how you've been conditioned by your environment, by your upbringing, by what you've been exposed to, what experiences you've gone through. In fact, we saw last time when we touched on it briefly, that you might even manifest religious flesh. If you want to know the epitome of religious flesh, it was the Pharisees in Jesus' day, all legalistic religion. Paul the apostle, he didn't perhaps manifest overtly the works of the flesh that we read about there in Galatians 5, but he expressed his religious Judaism in a very blameless and zealous way - but it was ultimately, at the core, flesh.
Turn with me, and I do want you to turn here, to Philippians chapter 3 to see this - Paul is giving a sort of personal testimony there, Philippians 3, and we will begin at verse 4: 'Though I also might have confidence in the flesh', there he is naming it there right away, this is what this is, 'If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as dung', the word literally is 'dung', not just 'rubbish', but 'dung', 'that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death'. Now Paul is saying, 'All of how I excelled in Judaism, all of it was motivated by flesh. It may not have been the immoral type of fleshly manifestation, but it's just as deadly'. Here's where we fall short, especially in the church: we tend to look down our noses at the more outwardly immoral sins, but there are certain sins that we have sanitised, we have made them more respectable. They might be slander, gossip, jealousy, bitterness, pride - we could go on and on, etc, etc - but they are equally abhorrent in the eyes of God. We need to get real here, and realise that this is as much flesh as anything - as Jesus said, 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the Spirit is spirit'. Flesh can only reproduce flesh, even the religious kind, the 'good' kind.
Now, Esau's manifestation of the flesh was despising his birthright, if you go back to Genesis 25. He despised the blessings of God in his life coming down his family line. But Jacob's flesh was not manifested in despising his birthright, in fact he desired the birthright, he wanted the birthright; but his flesh was manifested through scheming to get the birthright - but it was both flesh! Neither was right. Though Esau seems to have been particularly depraved, in that he didn't value spiritual blessings at all. I mean, you've got to understand that this birthright was more than just being the head of the family when Dad died, it was more than leading a tribe or anything like that, or being top in the business - this was a spiritual blessing. The birthright spoke of a double portion of God's blessing. You got the inheritance, both physically of the land, the wealth, but also spiritually. You did become the head of the family, but that meant you became the spiritual leader. In this particular family, you got the blessing of Abraham - and with the Abrahamic blessing came the land of Israel, came the people of the Jews, and came the covenant of Messiah - that through your line would come the Saviour of the world! And Esau despised it! Wow!
This is the way most flesh is displayed today in our world - how is that? People who totally disregard the things of God, who don't value spiritual wealth whatsoever. This is reflected in a statement that Esau makes to Jacob in verse 32, look down at it, he says: 'I am about to die'. Now most people, most commentators and Bible teachers, I think, as far as I'm aware, have interpreted that that the guy was so overworked and parched of drink and starving of food, that he was going to just expire - but I don't think that's what it means at all. In fact, it literally has a sense of, 'I'm going to die one day, so what good is my birthright to me?'. You see, there is a bit of sarcasm in what Esau is saying - 'What good is a birthright to me, I'm going to die one day, and nothing will come to me after that!'. The attitude that Esau is displaying is: 'Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die!' - where have you heard that before? He only wanted to live for the here and now, that's Esau, that's how Esau's fleshly tendencies are manifested. He is sensual, he is living to satisfy his appetites and his senses, he is focusing on a material existence - but he's not looking beyond that to an eternal reality. In other words, Esau is a guy who lives for the moment, even if it means trading a moment of pleasure for eternal oblivion. That's how Esau's flesh is displayed.
I want you to turn with me - keep your marker in Genesis 25, but come to Hebrews 12. Hebrews 12 gives a comment on this very incident, and on the character of Esau. Hebrews 12 verse 15, it's warning Christian professors not to fall away from their profession in Christ - in other words, not to sell their birthright. Hebrews 12 verse 15: 'Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God', you live short of what God wants for you in grace, 'lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled' - look at verse 16 - 'lest there be any fornicator', that's a very strong word, 'or profane person like Esau'. This is how the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, how He comments on the character of Esau: he's a fornicator and profane - 'profane' means 'unholy and godless' - person, he has no time for God, 'who for one morsel of food sold his birthright'. You see how Esau's flesh is displayed.
I think we could categorise Esau as a hedonist - do you know what a 'hedonist' is? 'Hedonism' is the philosophy that espouses that pleasure or happiness is the highest good - and I think there must be a lot of hedonism in the church, because even some of the teaching that is going around today is that if you're not living an absolutely exuberant life, both financially and in all health and material possessions, that you're not knowing the blessing of God. Now there is a little truth, we are meant to know a certain prosperity in our lives, but most of that is promised in the spiritual realm. I believe God sends money, and God can send millions of money for His purposes and for His will, but much of what is preached today is just for selfish gratification, for the flesh. Nevertheless, Esau displayed this hedonism: that as long as a thing feels good and makes me happy, it must be right - and that surely must be the prevailing lifestyle philosophy in our world, 'How can something that feels so good be bad?'.
Ultimately, his life was utterly selfish - and it always is when you just live for pleasure. When Esau said: 'Sure, I'm going to die anyway, what good is this birthright to me?' - excuse my language, but this is literally what he was meaning, 'To hell with the next generation, I'm going to live it up!'. That's effectively what people are saying when they live self-centred, sinful, fleshly lives - 'To hell with the next generation, with my children, with my grandchildren', because they're not passing on a righteous inheritance, they're passing on generational iniquity and sinful tendencies. Do you see how serious it is, when we consider the generational lineage that we have come into or that we're sending to our children and grandchildren? It seems unthinkable that we, as Christians, could sell our birthright out - that's what we actually do when we indulge in the flesh, when we live sensual, materialist existence without any spiritual significance. You've heard the statement, haven't you: 'Everyone has a price'? Well, is it true? What was Esau's price? A mess of pottage, a bowl of lentil stew or soup. What was Judas' price? Thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave. The question tonight is: what is your price? What will you sell your birthright out for? If you're selling out, if the flesh in you is selling out, do you know what you're doing? You're despising your birthright, you're committing the sin of Esau.
What is our inheritance? Well, do you want another series in the middle of a series? Our inheritance! All the blessings of God are Yes and Amen in Jesus Christ! We get everything in Jesus! The marvellous thing is - and this is a whole other subject, about how we are adopted into God's family now - whatever is in the will of God when Jesus died, OK? Whatever is in the contract of the will of God that is realised through the death of Jesus, whatever comes to Jesus in God's will, in God's blessing, whatever Jesus gets we get! We are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus, our Elder Brother. Now, that just blows my mind! So whatever God says about Jesus, whatever God gives to Jesus, I get! I'm in the will! Amen? So that's your inheritance - and we could talk about what that means: we are adopted into God's family; we've got acceptance of belonging, we're not striving for it, we have it; we've got freedom from the slavery to sin. You say: 'I don't have that tonight', listen - if you're a child of God, you've got it, you just have to step into it. You haven't realised it, but don't contradict God's word, the Bible says you've got it: 'Sin shall no longer have dominion over you'. Your sin nature has been put to death when Jesus died on the cross. Has He died on the cross? He has died and He has risen again! Now His new resurrection life is your life, if you believe it and if you choose to live in it! You've got complete forgiveness, you're not striving for it, you've got it! You're promised the spirit of revelation and knowledge in the knowledge of the mystery of God's will for your life, and the revelation of Jesus Christ in your heart. You're given God's sustaining grace, every day you've got this free favour upon you. You're guaranteed now the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so that your body can become a veritable Temple of God walking around this world. This is your inheritance! What could you possibly sell that for? What possibly could be worth selling out that type of inheritance for? Yet we do it all the time, and often for a mess of pottage, a quick fix in the spur of the moment. We all do it, because we've all got this flesh.
The irony is, Jacob had it too. He didn't despise the birthright, he wanted Esau's birthright - but he was scheming in the flesh. Here's the absolute irony of Jacob: he was scheming in the flesh to get what he already had. You say: 'But hold on a minute, was the birthright not going to Esau?'. Well, it was if Isaac had his way, but if you go back, you remember, to where we were last week in verse 23 at the end of chapter 25. In verse 23 the prophecy promise that was given to Rebekah when these two twins were being born was that the younger would be the head and receive the blessing, the elder would serve the younger. We talked about how they should have waited for God to fulfil this, but this is what I want you to see: Jacob was now scheming in the flesh to get what was already his, and that's often what we are doing as Christians! We are living the Christian life in the power of our own steam, and we're trying to gain things that we've already got in Jesus! Jacob was buying something - how ridiculous - that was already his, if he had only believed and waited. Here it gets even more ridiculous, because Esau was selling something that wasn't his possession - it didn't belong to him. I know it's a bit complicated, but the lesson out of it is that the blessing of God cannot be bought, it cannot be sold, and it cannot be traded - why? Because the blessing of God is by grace through faith. Grace is God's hand that gives it gratuitously, favourably, freely; and our hand is faith that receives it. We cannot earn it, we just take it!
You see, that is the blessing of Abraham, the blessing of Abraham is to all who - waken up! - all who believe, not to those who strive. If Esau was a hedonist, Jacob was an opportunist - wasn't he? Snatch and grab, and he used Esau's fleshly weakness, his sensuality, to flex his fleshly cunning; and we're going to see how again. Now we're going to chapter 27. The flesh not only sells out, but I want you to see how the flesh caves in. Look at the first four verses of chapter 27, and the first fleshly character we see here isn't Esau and it's not Jacob, who is it? It's Isaac, and here's why: Isaac is old, OK? You get that in verse 1: 'His eyes were dim', alright? He thought he was dying, and many of you have read this passage of Scripture and believed that he was just ready to pop his clogs - put your hand up. Do you know how many more years Isaac lived after this? Probably about 43 years. So here he is, it must be man flu or something like that, and he thinks he's dying - and what does he do? He panics, he's panicking, can you see it? It's his flesh trying to sort things out before he dies - I've seen this before. A man who thinks he's on the way out, and he has to secure the future, he has to secure the future for his family, for his business, or even the church. I've seen this happening in families and even churches, where people who are obsessed with control try to manipulate situations on the brink of their grave, and leave the fallout for others to grapple with because it was the flesh.
Here in verse 4, if you look at verse 4, he says to Esau: 'Make me savoury food, such as I love, and bring it to me that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die'. Now there are so many questions in this story of Jacob, it's incredible, that's why it's such an enigma. One that is obvious is: why was Isaac going to bless Esau? What? I mean this is Isaac, that we would consider reasonably godly from his life, but what is he doing here? Does he not know that God promised in chapter 25, through a prophetic promise, that the elder would serve the younger? So why is he not going along with God's promise and God's will? Well, he obviously favoured Esau, didn't he? So what are we seeing in Isaac, are we seeing a spiritual man? No, we're seeing a fleshly man, at least at this point. 'Why does he favour Esau?', is the further question. Well, I've got a hunch that it was because of his way of life. He preferred Esau's hard-man sort of attitude, out in the field working as a farmer, and he definitely liked his food - but we see that that was a bit of a smokescreen, because Rebekah could rustle up the same sort of meal that was as tasty, and duped him into thinking it was Esau. So it wasn't his cooking as such, but it was the idea of this red, rugged, hairy man going out hunting game and being out there, a man's man. This was, I believe, Esau's fleshiness, a false masculinity that we even see around today. We see his flesh displayed - but even in his enjoyment of food, I mean Philippians talks about people whose god is their belly, they are sensual people that live for the appetites and the tastes of the senses. So, as we're reading this story, you could write over it all - if you were writing a book, apart from 'The Jacob Enigma', which is taken, so you can't use that one! - but 'flesh, flesh, flesh', isn't that it? It's just flesh all over. Here's Isaac going to give the blessing to the wrong boy, why? Because he prefers him, he's more of a manly man's man, and he likes his cooking.
Now if Isaac had waited on God - how do we know he didn't wait on God? Well, he didn't wait on God because there were another 43 years until he dies, so there was time enough to bless his sons and get it right. If he had waited on God for the right time, whatever reservations he may have had about Jacob, they would have been resolved - I have to believe that - and he would have got it right. But what was he trying to do? He was attempting to go round God's will to get his own fleshly way, and we know that because he was doing it in secret. You read the story, he knew what he was doing was wrong. Isaac, the flesh.
Then verses 5 through to 10, who do we see now? A fleshly mother, Rebekah. Look at verse 8: 'Now therefore, my son, obey my voice according to what I command you'. Now she had been eavesdropping, and she had heard the whole plan being hatched by Isaac and Esau, and now she brings Jacob in on this plan. Instead of trusting God to fulfil the promise upon Jacob's life that she herself had heard from the voice of God, what does she do? She tries to manipulate the situation, and many a mother has done this. Manipulation and control are often the domain of the matriarch. Many of our mothers have being smotherers, rather than mothers, haven't they? Perhaps for the right reasons, they have manipulated control, and tried to pull the strings of our mannequin in order to get their way. I have to say something to you, and this is important if you are a parent or you have a parent who has been like this: all ungodly control is wrong, all of it. To control or manipulate or foist your will upon another in an ungodly way is wrong, because ultimately what it is is a mistrust of the Holy Spirit. You see this even in churches, because there is a lot of ungodly control goes on in leadership of churches, where there is a dictatorial attitude, a heavy-handed lording it over the brothers and sisters. Do you know why it's there? Because they do not trust the Holy Spirit to lead God's people, and that's why you have to have so many rules and regulations in some places, and so many boundaries; and, you know, you're always afraid if somebody in the church sees you doing something, or going to certain places, or wearing a certain thing. All these fences are put around the sheep because these so-called 'shepherds' do not trust the Holy Spirit, who is the Shepherd, to lead the sheep.
But this is serious, particularly when it comes to mothers. I want to home in on this tonight, because I believe the Holy Spirit has led me to do this. I remember talking to a woman who had heard preaching on the Holy Spirit many times, and she often heard the preachers preaching on the fullness or baptism of the Holy Spirit, life in the Spirit, and they would preach that 'You need to be under the control of the Holy Spirit'. She said that every time she heard that, there was something rose up within her, and it just grated with her. She couldn't get that, and she certainly didn't feel that she was being influenced by the Holy Spirit. Every time she heard that, she thought there was something really radically wrong, because it grated against every fibre of her being, it went against the grain of who she was. Then the Holy Spirit started to work in her life, and started to reveal to her that, because she had had a very manipulative and controlling mother in particular - and fathers can be like that too, but in her case it was her mother - she had determined within her heart that she had been so controlled that she would never allow anybody ever again to control her in her life. So the concept of being controlled by another was absolutely abhorrent to her - and who would have blamed her, honestly? Now you have to be very careful not to vow things like that, you shouldn't really do that, to say 'I'll never be this, and I'll never be that', or even to say 'I'll never be like my mother', that's not a good thing to say - not because you want to be like your mother, but because you should never say 'I never will be this or that', you should be saying 'Lord, I will be what You want me to be'. Because when you say negative things, that can actually give the enemy a right to oppress you, even on something like that.
Anyway, she began to see that she had been controlled by her mother, and she was resisting the control of the Holy Spirit. Now I, from that, actually learned that sometimes we have to be very careful how we preach on subjects like this. Rather than talking about the control of the Holy Spirit, we should be talking about the influence of the Holy Spirit - because here's one thing the Holy Spirit never wants to do: He never wants to take away your freedom, did you know that? We sang tonight, and it blessed my heart tonight, I've sung that I don't know how many times - the 'Surrendering to Jesus' one, the Robin Mark one - and the line in it says: 'It's only in Your will that I am free'. You see one of the lies that the enemy has sown in the church, and even through some of our preaching, is that 'If you surrender to the will of God, and you put your life on the altar, you're going to be sent to the back end of the jungle - and there are no toilets, there are no showers, and there are cannibals, and you'll lose your life and your head and everything will be over' - isn't that right? The enemy makes us scared of the will of God. Listen: there is no better, there is no safer place to be than in the will of God. Amen? It doesn't mean He'll not ask us to do things we're uncomfortable with, He will, and He will push our boundaries - but listen, don't listen to the lies of the enemy, here is the truth of God: God does not want to take away your freedom, He wants to give you true freedom. Do you know what? One of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control, self-control! He wants to actually give you control back in freedom, not take it away! That comes through the influence of the Holy Spirit. But then I began to learn - and she had learned it, of course, first hand - that just as there are people who can't get to know God as their 'Abba Father' because they've had rotten earthly fathers, or maybe absentee or abusive or deserting fathers; so there are people who are stunted in their relationship, personally, with the Holy Spirit, because they're afraid of being controlled because they've had manipulative mothers. Is that someone here tonight? I dare to say it's more than one.
Well, Rebekah was being manipulative mother - what a family, eh? A fleshly father, a hedonistic brother, a manipulative mother, and Jacob was a total opportunist - and it was all flesh. But, you know, let's be honest: what are families like today? What is the general family unit like today? It's broken, it's shattered, it's fragmented. James 3 came to my mind very readily, verse 16: 'For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there', and that's what you're finding in the family. God has set us in families, and so we could talk about deliverance issues, and how the enemy gets a foothold in our lives through sins and wounds - but ultimately we can put that on a corporate level in the family, and then when we take this inherited thing in, that things are passed down to us, and also the learned thing, in corporate learning as we gauge how others around us in our families are reacting and behaving - the whole modern family is in a mess! In fact, the whole family of the human race is affected by sin and fleshiness. You see yourself in Jacob, you see yourself in Esau, you see yourself in Isaac and in Rebekah - it's both inherited and it's learned, this twistedness in this family.
Of course the situation is exacerbated, and I don't have time to go into it tonight, it's such a convoluted plan, isn't it, how Rebekah gets Jacob to get the blessing from Isaac, instead of it going to Esau? Look at verse 12, Jacob objects: 'Perhaps my father will feel me', you know, 'If I put all this fur skin on me, perhaps he will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him' - you are a deceiver, Jacob! What do you think you're doing? You're dressing up and smelling like your brother, and deceiving your Dad! But there is a semblance of morality there with Jacob, he doesn't want to be what he is, he doesn't want to be what he is! Who of us wants to be like this? None of us want to be twisted and fleshly, 'and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing'. You see, this is what will always happen, Proverbs says 'a curse without a cause shall not alight', it comes because we live in the flesh and even try to grab at God's blessings in the flesh'. Jacob knew he was wrong, he objects to this as wrong, or maybe it was just the fear of getting his hand caught in the cookie jar - but he capitulates, why? Because the flesh always caves in, it always sells out and it always caves in. If you operate in the flesh, even if you're seeking after the blessing of God in the flesh, you will always capitulate to the flesh: that which is born of the flesh is flesh, it cannot produce spirit.
Now, let's fast forward a wee bit, look at verse 33 - OK, the whole plan has been blown, and in verse 33 it is realised now that the wrong guy got the blessing, according to Isaac anyway: 'Then Isaac trembled exceedingly', when he heard what had happened, he trembles - why? Because you can't defeat God, you can't work a move on God, you can't do it! You see, what happens is: when we operate in the flesh - and we're going to see this letter in Jacob's story, he meets himself in Laban, he's looking at his reflection in the mirror when he meets uncle Laban, he's met his match, somebody as twisted and fleshly as himself - but this always will happen, God will lead us into this cul-de-sac experience to show that you cannot defeat Him. You can't wipe God's eye. In verse 34, then it dawns on Esau, and what does he do? When he hears the words of his father, 'He cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry' - can you hear that? It's a real wrenching wail, all of a sudden his tune has changed, hasn't it? He has been laissez-faire, totally disinterested, 'This blessing, I'm going to die one day, and then what good will such a blessing be to me - eternal blessings and all, I want it here and now, I want the things that come to me here and now'. But now, all of a sudden he's interested in the blessing, but it's too late. How much of an epitaph will that be upon our whole human race, upon our society, but even - sadly - upon many Christians who start to value spiritual things too late in life. Jesus did say: 'If you lose your life, you will find it; if you try to keep your life and save your life, you will lose it'.
But listen to Hebrews 12, there was a verse I didn't read where it says in Hebrews 12:17, after the verse that says that Esau was a fornicator, profane, unholy, and godless, a person 'like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright', Hebrews 12:17 says, 'For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears'. Wow! He is breaking his heart now, he wants the blessing, but what is it? It's not true repentance it's not godly repentance, it's frustrated selfish ambition. It's the flesh that has been thwarted, he has been beaten by God - checkmate. I think he was crying because in fleshly competition his brother had got one over him, again listen to the words that he says in verse 36, look at it, Esau says: 'Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing!'.
Now, you can't really say that, Esau, can you? Look at verse 36, 'He took away my birthright' - is that what happened, really? Isn't it interesting how the flesh can revise history? Did Jacob take away his birthright? No Esau, you sold your birthright - a done deal! You despised your birthright, and you sold it for a pot of stew! The sign of the flesh is that we blame others for our own mistakes. Look where all this fleshly jealousy ends, verse 41: 'So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, 'The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob''. Now this is serious, listen carefully: flesh always ends in murder and death. You might say: 'Well, that's a bit strong, even the good flesh?' - even the good flesh. You read the book of Galatians, and they were manifesting immoral flesh - but what was it coming out of? It was actually coming out of a Judaising teaching, where these Jewish false teachers were coming in and saying: 'It's Christ plus the law, Christ plus keeping Judaism and the rites and the dietary laws and social rituals'. So they were adding to the Gospel, which was legalism, which is flesh, living in your own effort. That's why Paul says in chapter 5: 'All these works will come out of your religious observance, because flesh only produces flesh', but then he goes on to say that, 'you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another'. What's he saying? 'The flesh is manifesting in contention, a divisiveness, a murderous hateful spirit among you' - that's where flesh leads. It's serious.
Now I want to close by talking for a few moments, very practically, on the answer for the flesh - or, to put it another way: the how of holiness. Did you ever wonder how to be holy? How is it done? Now, I have to say this: I thank God for many holiness people in the past, who preached holiness teaching; but I have to say that there have been, over the years, some grave errors in that particular camp. Often it has bred a legalism - and what I mean by that is, people who say: 'Oh, I'm not holy, and I need to be holy, and to get holy I need to pull my socks up and I need to try better', and they form a whole list of their own rules and regulations to live by, or other people's are enforced upon them, and they end up actually multiplying fleshly tendencies within, because that's what law always does - that which is of the flesh is flesh. Here is the key to holiness, now listen, never forget this: holiness, the secret to it is intimacy with God, period. That's it! If you want to be like God, you come to know God; and the more you get to know Him, the more you will love Him, and the more you love Him the more you become like Him. It's as simple as that - and if ever you complicate it, you're on the wrong track. Holiness is not achieved by rules and regulations, by a load of flesh - here's the reason why: flesh breeds flesh, fleshly rules will multiply, exacerbate. Paul says in Romans 7:8-9, that if it wasn't for the law of God that was sent, I wouldn't have known my sin - but when the good law of God, which is holy, came along, what did it served to do? It magnified my sin, it's like a magnifying glass to show how sinful I am - but what did it do? Did it help me to keep the laws? What did the law of God do? No! It made me an even greater sinner than I was before; because just like when you tell a child 'Don't do that', and they go and do it, when you told me the Commandments, Lord, then I knew what sin was and I had a law working in me, a law of sin, that was drawn to that - the flesh!
Do you know what the only answer for the flesh is? The coffin, death! Death is the only answer. I've got flesh, we've all got flesh, but listen: I can't exorcise the flesh out of me, it's not a demon, it's the flesh. I can't fast the flesh out of me, fasting can deaden the flesh quite significantly for a while, but I can assure you: once the fasting is over, the flesh comes up again and shows you how strong it is. The only answer for the flesh is death, that's what the Bible teaches. Listen to Galatians 5:24: 'Those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires'. This is the only answer, the nail of the cross, Jesus puts the flesh to death. Now I want you to turn with me to this portion, Galatians 5:16-17, because I believe this will be very significant to you. This is just before Paul talks about the works of the flesh, but he exhorts the believers to walk in the Spirit, Galatians 5:16-17, you might want to take a couple of notes at this point because I'm going to be very practical in these closing moments: how to be holy, how to overcome the flesh. Galatians 5:16-17: 'I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another', or we could put it that the flesh strives against the Spirit, and the Spirit strives against the flesh, 'these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish'.
On the screen is a picture of a tug-of-war, and that's like the battle between the flesh and the Spirit in you - but here are a number of truths that you need to really get into your mind and your heart if you're going to overcome the flesh. Are you ready? Number one: you are not the sinful nature, you are not your sinful nature. Now, if you look at the verse, look at verse 17: 'For the flesh lusts', or strives, 'against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you...'. Imagine these are personalities that are being spoken of here: there is the flesh, there is the Spirit, but then 'you' do not do the things that 'you' wish. You are being distinguished there from the flesh, which is the old nature, or you could say 'the old you', but Paul is reckoning that to have died in Jesus Christ. You're not meant to breathe new life into it again, you're meant to reckon it as dead - but if you consider yourself as that sinful nature, what way are you going to live? What way are you going to live? If you see yourself as the sinful nature, if you're always 'Woe is me, and my heart is so always wicked and deceitful', and you don't move into the new heart that God has given you, taking away your old deceitful heart and giving you the heart of flesh, how are you ever going to move?
You see, the devil has many of us on the back foot, because we're still living as if we are the old nature, we still have an old heart, we are not dead and resurrected in Jesus Christ. Now this is your first primary foundation: you are not your sinful nature. What am I then? You are the battleground on which the battle, or the tug-of-war, between the flesh and the Spirit is fought. Do you understand? There is a great difference, I know you might think it's semantics and hair-splitting, but I assure you it is not, and we will see why it is not. You're not your sinful nature, you are the one that the battle between a sinful nature that you have had, and the Holy Spirit's nature which you are being gifted by grace, fights. But here's the second, coming out of that: you must not fight the flesh with flesh, OK? You're the battleground, and here's what a lot of us do: we reckon ourselves as the sinful flesh, and we're trying to beat the sinful flesh into submission - and the sinful flesh is too strong for us, it will always win out. So what does it have to do? It has to be put to death, it has been put to death at the cross, but you've got to reckon it so. But you can't with the 'good side' of your flesh - alright? - you can't try to beat it up, that will never work, because that which is of flesh is flesh. You must not fight, but let the Spirit - now I'm not saying there aren't things for you to do, there are - but you must let the power and force of the Spirit win out against the flesh.
So a third thing comes from that - one: you are not your sinful nature, you are the battleground; two: you must not fight in the flesh, but let the Spirit fight; but three: therefore you must give way to the Spirit - that's how you win out! It's not by struggling and striving - I'm not saying there aren't things for you to do, of course there are, there are boundaries we will see in a moment - but you must give way to the Spirit. A brilliant illustration of this is how to surf - and I don't know how to surf, I just know how to sink! I've never even tried it! I go on a Li-Lo on my tummy, that's the nearest thing I've ever done to surfing. But I'm told by those who know how to surf that here is essentially what you to do in your mind: you have to become one with the wave, one with the force of the wave, and just let the wave carry you - that's how to surf, and that's how to win the battle over the flesh. You are not your sinful flesh, you have sinful flesh, but it has been disempowered at the cross, you've now been given the new nature of Jesus Christ, and you must reckon your old nature dead - not breathe new life into it by your habits - you must reckon it dead, but you must understand that the Holy Spirit's power must overcome the flesh; and so you go with the flow. You've heard that expression, it's usually put in the wrong connotation, 'Go with the flow', but we are people who have to go with the flow of the Spirit, and just let Him have His way.
Now, fourthly, we do have to call time on the avenues of the flesh - Galatians 6 verse 8: 'He who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life'. You see, here's what some of us do, myself included: we reckon the flesh dead at the cross; we realise that we are not the sinful flesh, we are the battleground; realise the Spirit is the only One who can war and win against it, and we try to give way to the Spirit - but then we also keep certain avenues of the flesh open, and we flirt with the flesh. OK? We need to be ruthless with the flesh. Jesus said: 'If your eye offend you, pluck it out; if your hand offend you, cut it off'. You have to be drastic, you have to be radical. If you're on a diet, you don't go to the bakery, and walk around the bakery and sniff the cream puffs, and study the cream puffs - before long your face will be buried in the cream puffs, isn't that right? If you're on a diet, you don't drive by the confectionery. When you don't need to go, on your way to work, you drive by the confectionery, then you decide: 'Oh, I wonder the papers are saying today?', and then you go into the newsagents and you browse the chocolate shelf. You know what I'm talking about, you lift it, you look at the price, you smell it - that's often what we do with sin. We're trying to battle, we're trying to overcome, but secretly and even subconsciously we are giving ourselves over in ways - even if we're not completely sinning - but we are allowing the enemy a certain foothold that he can empower that behaviour, and eventually get us to fall flat on our face.
There need to be barriers. Romans 6:12-13, listen: 'Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God'. So what do you do? What do you present your eyes as instruments to do? What do you let go in eye-gate? What do you let go in ear-gate? What do you put in mouth-gate? What happens up here in the mind? What do you feed your mind with? What do your hands touch? Where do your feet take you? Is that conducive with walking in the Spirit, or are you walking in the flesh - and therefore you end up hatching the flesh, reproducing, conceiving flesh?
Now, I want to encourage you tonight: we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us, there is the Spirit-filled life, there is victory. We will always, until the day we die, struggle with the flesh to a certain extent in these bodies of ours - but, praise God, there is victory! Let it be known that, though we look and see ourselves in Jacob, and we see our families in this family, and maybe we see ourselves in each of the members of this family - you don't need to watch Eastenders to find out how broken society is, you can see this dysfunctionality in the Bible - why is it there? To show us: this is the way we are, but with Christ we are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us, given Himself for us, died our death, put flesh to the death, and gives us our lives back in His life if we will only believe in Him.
I want to finish by encouraging you with two verses, turn with me as I close - and I'm only going to read them to you - Isaiah chapter 41, you'll love this one. Isaiah 41 verses 13 and 14, this is wonderful when you consider everything we've looked at these last two weeks on Jacob, verse 13 of Isaiah 41: 'For I, the LORD your God' - now, you apply this to yourself, will you? - 'I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand', Amen? Isn't that lovely? 'Saying to you, 'Fear not, I will help you''. Now listen, you might be broken tonight because of flesh, and maybe the devil has got on board as well, and you might need deliverance - alright? But you could be really broken tonight, and think there is no hope, God is saying to you: 'I want to take your hand'. You might have sold out and given in, caved in, but He's saying: 'Fear not, I will help you'. But look at verse 14, this is precious: 'Fear not, you worm Jacob'. I mean, you could say, 'Oh, but that couldn't apply to me here, you know, this verse, I mean, you don't know what I've been into, you don't know what I've been up to, you don't know what my price has been, what I've been selling out for and caving in to. I'm worse than Jacob, I'm worse than any of that dysfunctional family you've showed us tonight'. Listen, look: Jacob was a worm, like all of us are in and of ourselves alone, but 'Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel!' - all the descendants of Jacob who were stiffnecked and rebellious people, listen to what God says, ''I will help you', says the LORD and your Redeemer', the One who will buy you back from the slave market of sin, the One who will restore you, who will renew you, 'I am the Holy One of Israel, I am absolutely holy, and yet I'm going to do this for you because of what Jesus did'.
That's some love on Valentine's Night, isn't it? Let's pray. Now I just know that God has been speaking tonight, I just know it. Whatever responses there are, I am satisfied that God has been speaking - but, you know, that might satisfy me, but it'll not satisfy you if you need change and transformation in your life. You need the flesh to really die, and the life, the resurrection life of Jesus to come alive. As I said, there might be ministry that is needed afterwards, and often what happens is the flesh becomes a breeding ground for demonic empowerment and even brokenness and woundedness can - but we can deal with all that.
First things first: there needs to be repentance for how you have indulged the flesh in your life. You can't expel flesh, you've got to repent of sin and flesh, and flesh must die at the cross - the place of repentance, the place of surrender. You know, some of us were just chatting about this earlier, I am uncomfortable and I won't pray for deliverance with people who are not prepared to repent and surrender - because you will end up in a worse state than you are at the moment. So don't be coming for deliverance prayer tonight, I would rather nobody came, as people who are coming who want to get rid of demons or something like that, or some evil tendencies, but they're not prepared to repent. You see, the flesh will always blame others, and 'The devil made me do it' doesn't wash, OK? It doesn't wash - and here's why I know that: I believe that perhaps one of the most demonised persons in the world was the demoniac, and the demons didn't want to be anywhere near Jesus, and yet the demoniac threw himself at the feet of Jesus for help. You might say, 'Oh, was it not the demons?', no, the demons wanted to run away from Jesus, 'What have we to do with You, the Holy One of God?', they didn't want to be near Jesus. But the man had enough in him, even if it was only 1% of 99% demonisation, he had that fraction of a percent that was able to throw himself at the feet of Jesus, and say 'I need help'.
Now you mightn't know how to help yourself, you mightn't know if you've got it within you to repent, you maybe don't even know what that is - but if you know you don't want to be the way you are, and you're prepared, if God helps you (and it's a big 'if' for you at the moment, but if He gives you the help), you're prepared to stop, you're prepared to let go - that's the people we need to be talking to tonight. Those are the ones who are ready to have God's help, who are truthful, and you're not trying to reach one hand out to God, but their other hand is still holding onto their sin - that doesn't work, it never did and never will, OK? So don't kid yourself. That's why people say: 'Oh, I tried that, but it didn't work. Oh, I used to be a Christian' - that's all rubbish you know! So if you're ready to say: 'I agree with what God says about sin, I agree with what God says about my flesh, I agree with what God says about how I have agreed with the enemy, the world; and I am ready to agree with Him, put my hands up and say 'Guilty as charged, I confess my sin, I ask You to forgive me, and I'm prepared to let go of it if You will empower me to do that' - and only He can empower you to do that - well, then you pray that right now.
I want you to pray with me these words, if you're ready for that: 'Lord Jesus Christ, I come to You as my Lord and Saviour, and I confess to You that I am a sinner. I thank You that You died on the cross for me, and I agree with You that I have fallen short of Your glory. Even the good things that I try to do are of the flesh. I come to the foot of Your cross now, Lord' - by the way, you can pray this if you're not a Christian, or if you are a Christian, it's just the flesh, we've all got it, OK? 'I come to the foot of Your cross, Lord Jesus, and I repent of my sin, and I repent of my fleshly tendencies. I repent of flirting with the flesh, I repent of giving myself over to the flesh, I repent of giving the members of my body as instruments of unrighteousness of the flesh, rather than giving them to You as instruments of righteousness for Your glory'. Maybe you need to repent of trying to do good things, as a Christian, in the flesh: reading your Bible, praying, doing alms, witnessing, going to services, being an officer in the church of some kind, or whatever. You know that you've been doing it out of the flesh, and what happens when you do it out of the flesh is that you burnout, the flesh gets weary. Maybe because you've been moving 'as a Christian' in the flesh, you are manifesting secretly the works of the flesh in Galatians 5. This will happen: there will be secret immorality in your life. Now we all know, God and I know what is going on in my head and heart, OK? I'm not hiding anything from Him, but you're trying to hide this secret part of you from God and from others - you're not honest. We're all struggling with the flesh, we're all struggling with sin, the world, and the devil - but you're not being open and honest with God, and there are not other people who you are being accountable to on this journey of struggle. You need to say: 'Lord, I confess my flesh to You now'.
Could it be, while you're kneeling at the foot of the cross right now - that's where I hope you are - that you need to ask the Lord to cut you off from any generational iniquity or generational sin that has been in your immediate family, things that have been passed down to you by your mother or your father, or further back, tendencies? Could there be things that maybe haven't come from nature, but from nurture, and you've learned them in your own family? Well, ask Jesus now, just pray this prayer: 'Lord Jesus, I ask You now to cut me off from all generational iniquity, or generational curse, coming down to me through my mother or my father's family line. Separate me, spirit, soul, and body from these, and release me to receive complete healing and deliverance'. Maybe you need to repent of having partaken in some of your forefather's sins, you've maybe passed them on to the next generation. Rather than leaving a righteous inheritance, you're leaving an ungodly inheritance; maybe you've undone some of the inheritance in your father or mother's generation, or further back, maybe you're raising your children in a more materialistic way, maybe you're emphasising that it's about education and career and marrying well and getting a nice house and car, rather than investing in the things that really will last for all eternity. You need to repent of that, parents, if that is the emphasis that has been in your family. It can be a very sanitised, Christianised version of that, but it's abhorrent if God is not on the horizon, if it's at the expense of those things that moth and rust does not break in, and thieves do not break through and steal.
We need to repent of the flesh, and we need to say this to the Lord Jesus, OK? 'Lord Jesus, I reckon that my flesh has died with You when You were nailed to the cross, and I choose to believe that I am free, and I choose to abide in You, and I ask now that Your resurrection life will live in and through me. I refuse to strive and struggle with the flesh, but rather die to myself and allow Your life to live through me. Fill me now with the blessed Holy Spirit to empower me to live Your life for Your glory, in Jesus' name, Amen'. Now, let me pray for you all, stay in the attitude of prayer just now.
Father, I want to thank You tonight for Your book, the Bible. I want to thank You that it is so truthful. I want to thank You that it is warts and all when it comes to these Bible characters, there is no hidden aspects to their life - even the godliest people, Lord, we thank You that we see their frailties; not for some gratuitous satisfaction, but to realise, Lord, that we are normal, and everybody in this world who is fallen and depraved. We can see that this isn't a book of heroes, apart from Jesus, but this is a book full of ordinary people who need a Saviour. Thank God we can say of ourselves, 'O worm, Jacob', that You are our Deliverer, Lord, You are the God of Jacob, You have married Yourself forever to Jacob, and You've married Yourself forever to us. You're not going to leave us or forsake us, if only we will avail of Your help. Lord, I just pray now that as people have met You on the terms of truth tonight, that You will now meet them with Your grace. I pray that You will break the powers and the bondage of flesh in people's lives, that You will put it to death through the power of the blood of Jesus and the victory of the cross; that the cross will triumph over flesh tonight, that the cross will triumph over self tonight, that the cross will triumph over sin and Satan and every ungodly spirit. We would speak to even strongholds that have built themselves upon fleshly edifices, and spirits that have inhabited fleshly houses tonight - we command you now, in the mighty name of Jesus, to go. Every spirit that has been manifesting out of a place of flesh, every spirit that has a foothold in a place of flesh, for those who have surrendered themselves - spirit, soul, and body - to Jesus, I now command every one of those spirits to leave in the mighty name of Jesus. I break your power, I strip you of your job function, I declare to you that you have lost your authority, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I command you to go right now in Jesus' name - right out, leave, lift off and go. I pray now, Lord, that the blessed Holy Spirit will fall upon lives here tonight, fall upon spirits, souls, minds, emotions, wills - fill the bodies of the people gathered here that are really surrendered, and really repentant tonight, and really believing that their flesh has died at Calvary. Fill them full of the mighty power of God, the mighty fruit of the Holy Spirit, give them gifts of the Holy Spirit, baptise them in the liquid love of the Holy Spirit tonight. Give them their identity, and their sense of being and worth, through the Divine nature being birthed in their hearts, that Your Spirit would witness with their spirit that they are children of God. Birth something of the Holy Spirit tonight, banish all flesh, bury all flesh tonight, and birth something in people's spirits by the Holy Spirit we pray. Oh, come Holy Spirit, do a work of healing tonight, do a work of healing, inner healing, Lord. Heal brokenness, those who have been broken and the flesh has been a way for them to cope. Lord, whether it's fleshly reactions in response to wounding, or whether it's fleshly coping mechanisms of addiction - Lord, break the flesh, set them free from demonic enslavement, we pray. Lord, break habits tonight we pray, lifelong habits, break mental strongholds that have been engraven in the flesh - those tyre tracks that they're always going down in their mind, Lord, break it and make new tyre tracks in the Spirit, through the mind of Christ, we pray, Lord. Break down strongholds, Holy Spirit, to the obedience of the name of Jesus Christ tonight, in minds. Lord, mould emotions according to the truth of God - not the flesh, not any weepy, whininess of the flesh, or any hard false masculine, any proud, bold, rebellious flesh. Lord, let it only be the blessed Holy Spirit's characteristic of Jesus that is manifested in our hearts. Lord, I pray that You will break control, and the Jezebel spirit over people's lives, some daughters here who had manipulating mothers - I pray in the mighty name of Jesus that the Jezebel strongman will be broken tonight, and will go. Any passivity that there has been, any Ahab-like spirit, will be broken, and will go in Jesus' name out of people's lives. Any sons that have had mothers who they are still beneath their skirts, and they haven't been released into manhood; I ask, Lord, that You will cut those ungodly ties with mothers tonight, that that umbilical cord will be cut, and that they will become real men in their own right, and they will love their wives, and they will leave and cleave, and stop running home. Lord, I pray for healing in marriages tonight, I pray for healing in marriages that are dysfunctional - where, like Isaac and Rebekah, there is whispering behind-the-scenes, and there is plotting and all sorts of plans being hatched, and they are turning one child against another. Lord, put that to death tonight, and let husbands and wives be united, and let there be godly headship in the home, and not any dictating from a husband, but together before the Lord may there be true headship. Lord, I pray for healing in the family where there is real rebellion, that prodigals will come home, Lord, we pray. O Lord, we need healing in our families, we need healing in our marriages, we need healing in our homes. Oh, would You come, Lord, would You do a work of healing - I don't know what You're doing, but I know You're doing something, Lord. I'm just glad here to pray away while You're doing it - whatever it is - because whatever You do, it's marvellous in our eyes. We give glory to You, and we pray that tonight there will be testimonies of what You're doing in the quiet of the Spirit, what is moving upon hearts, Lord - people are being set free, I believe it, and I pray that we will hear the testimony that marriages have been healed, Valentine's night Lord, may marriages be healed, relationships be healed, parent-child relationships be healed - or at least people be broken away from bondage, and put the true godly barriers and boundaries that need to be there. Lord, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free, let us not be enslaved by any yoke of bondage, but let us all tonight be in the wonderful liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us be children of freedom tonight, we pray. So we thank You, Lord, for this evening; and we pray, Lord, that You will go with us now. Whatever the rest of the night has to hold, we pray that You will give Your benediction to it with Your lovely, sweet presence - and, Lord, that we will know for the rest of this evening, whether we're here or whether we are somewhere else at home, we will know that You are with us, and we will hear those words ringing in our ears: 'Fear not, O worm, Jacob, I will take your right hand, I will help you; for I am your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel - in whose name we pray, and everybody said 'Amen'.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Stables in Enniskillen by David Legge. It was transcribed from the second recording in his 'The Jacob Enigma' series, entitled "Flesh Sells Out And Caves In" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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