Three Interlocking Forces

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air… But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:1-2, 4-5

Everyone knows that “sin” means bad behavior—-“the works of the flesh are obvious” (Galatians 5:19 NRSV). But what else is it? Our actions, attitudes, words, thoughts, and emotions do not arise in a vac-um. The Bible embeds and locates the obvious behaviors in an intricate, cooperating web of dark forces.

Wise Christians have classically identified three interlocking forces: the flesh, the world, and the devil.

The flesh describes the personal dimension of sinfulness. This personalized iniquity not only “works” and takes action, it also “lusts” inwardly. Sin’s operations include an inner psychological dimension that is relentlessly self-centering, self-exalting, self-willed .and self-deceived. Ego usurps God and assertively self-destructs. We are tempted by our own desires, which birth sins, which result in death (James 1:14-15).

The world describes the situational dimension. Our social and cultural surroundings marry the heart’s proclivities to a buzz of deceitful voices, values, vanities, promises and threats, pains and pleasures. In other words, sin is highly sensitive to peer pressure. We not only sin against others; we also are drawn into sin by the influence of others individually and collectively.

The devil adds a false-father, false-lord dimension. An active enemy craves, schemes, lies, tempts, deceives, enslaves, accuses . . . and murders. The enemy minds you, finds you, wines and dines you, blinds you, binds you, and finally grinds you.

O merciful Father, lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from evil.

*Excerpted from Take Heart daily devotions from David Powlison.

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