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1 Peter 2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
Peter is talking to Christians, to those who know and follow Christ. Even though born-again, Christians continue to have this internal struggle with fleshly lusts which, according to Peter, "war against the soul".
What are fleshly lusts? Fleshly lusts are those things the natural man wants. We all understand there is a difference between what God wants and the wants that flow from our human nature. This is what lusts are about- human appetite, desires, ambitions, dreams, etc., all proceed from the human heart, which Jeremiah describes as desperately wicked and beyond cure. The problem is not that some wants are evil and some good. No, the problem is that everything the natural man wants is tainted for it flows from the poisoned well of Adam's sin. Even if we want something outwardly good we want it for the wrong reasons, i.e., not to honor God, but to choose our own way. The natural man is an enemy of God and apart from the redemptive work of Christ can never be reconciled to God's way of thinking. Everything he/she wants is an expression of a desire to reject who God is and what He says. God says that He is our Creator and we are to love Him first, with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Fleshly lusts are not about loving God first, and not about giving Him our heart, mind, soul, and strength. The essence of fleshly lusts is loving ourselves first and choosing what we want above what God wants. This is why Peter warns the Christian to abstain from fleshly lusts, they really do war against the soul.
Outwardly, a fleshly lust may appear to be good such as working hard to achieve success. But a lie lives at the center of a desire to be successful apart from Christ. The lie is that there is any success at all apart from Christ. Never is success about money, power, or pleasure. Real success is godliness with contentment. Wanting more of this world is a poison that deadens the heart to God. We should never underestimate the power of human appetite. God has given life, and a way to live in a good way, but human appetite has the power to destroy what God has given, We see destruction all around us, and all of it is the result of putting our ways above God's ways. The truth is that if Christ is not ruling from within the heart, then fleshly lusts rule.There are no other options.
Esau, An Example of a Man Driven by Fleshly Lusts
Esau was the first-born of Isaac and enjoyed a blessed position within his family. On Isaac's death he would be given a double portion as his inheritance, and would take Isaac's place as head of the family. He took for granted the eventual blessings of his birthright, never questioning his inheritance. But Esau didn't understand who he was. He was not a spiritual man; he did not value the things of God. His birthright was a spiritual gift, given by God to the firstborn of every family. But Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. Life will bring us to a place of decision, will we sell our blessing, will we give it away for a moment of pleasure? Life brought Esau to a place of decision, and sadly, Esau sold what God had given him for a bowl of soup.
Fleshly appetite will not value the gift of God. The Scriptures say that Esau had been in the field, probably working or hunting, and he came from the field and saw Jacob who had made some soup. He asked Jacob for something to eat "because he was faint", which means he felt weak and tired. Jacob offered to give Esau some his soup if Esau would give Jacob his birthright. Listen to Esau's sad response when Jacob offered a bowl of soup in exchange for his birthright.
Gen 25:32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?
Fleshly lusts capture the heart. All fleshly lusts live in the realm of fantasy, they are birthed from a lie. What Esau said was not really true. He was not near death, but to rationalize the selling of his birthright, he painted a picture that justified his desire to satisfy his appetite. What was true was that Esau was a member of an affluent family, there was an abundance of food, and he could have had any food he wanted simply by asking. But at that very moment Esau had a strong desire and He wanted only the soup that Jacob offered. He could have told Jacob his birthright was not for sale at any price and then found another source for food and water. But lusts are foolish, they do not act in a wise way, they drive our behavior, they have to be satisfied, and the future be damned. So with a heart completely indifferent to the consequences of his decision came the words, "I am about to die, what good is this birthright to me". Lusts make a person stupid! We are told to guard our heart, that out of it flows the issues of life. How many lives, how many families have been ruined by stupid decisions that value only the moment.
When it came time to receive the blessings of the first-born, Isaac placed his hands on the head of Jacob and gave him this blessing:
Gen 27:28-29 Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine: 29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.
This blessing promised Jacob the fatness of the earth which means that Jacob would enjoy the best yields of food/crops this earth could offer. He was blessed with abundance. He was blessed with a leadership position with the words, "let people serve thee and nations bow down to thee", and he was blessed with God's protection with the words, "cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee."
Jacob valued the very blessings that Esau threw away. As Moses valued the reproach of Christ above the riches of Egypt, so it is with all the redeemed, they value the blessings of Christ more than the soup of this world.
Fleshly lusts war against the soul and fleshly lusts caused Esau to sell his blessings for a bowl of soup. Every person who lives only for the moment sells their soul for nothing, they give their lives away. They sell the blessings of eternal life for temporary pleasure. How foolish to trade away the eternal riches of Christ. How foolish!
You say "I would never do that". Every day we are placed in circumstances that force us to choose God's way or my way. Do I value Christ or the moment? Am I willing to risk the destruction of my family, or my future, to satisfy this lust? Wisdom chooses Christ, fleshly lusts choose the soup. We all need to take the time to examine our heart. Am I a spiritual person or a fleshly person? Do I value Christ above the world? Am I living the life Christ has called m to live, or am I going my own way? Make no mistake, these questions will be answered, and what is in our heart will be expressed by our choices. If we are wise we will run from fleshly lusts and to Christ. Soup will never satisfy the soul, the moment always passes, and only Christ brings lasting satisfaction. If you are wise you will not live for the moment, you will refuse to be driven by appetite, and will never sell your blessings for any price.
God bless you,
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