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Day 9 – Why We Must Understand the Real Problem

Ephesians 2:1–3

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil’the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

Consider This

The Bible all at once possesses an astonishing ability to be both clear and complex. Like a good Easter egg hunt, one can always find a lot of eggs in plain view. Other eggs are more hidden, but often in places we would expect to find them. The prize eggs tend to require more careful searching. Let’s be clear though, that while much of Scripture’s meaning may be hidden from plain sight, none of it is secret. Beware of interpreters and teachers who boast of cracking some kind of secret spiritual code when it comes to the Bible. Beware also of teachers who try to undermine the plain meaning of the text by attacking its historicity, authorship, and core theological underpinnings.

The best way to delve beneath the surface of the text is to ask the text good questions. For instance, in today’s text we might ask, Who is the devil? Watch out for modern experts who would label this as ancient mythology, suggesting there is no devil, all the while acting as his unwitting agents to undermine the very source from which we would be warned of his presence. We will come back to the devil in chapter six.

The best interpreters of Scripture tend to be those who ask the best questions. Albert Einstein once famously said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first fifty-five minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

The big question I propose for today is, What problem is Paul identifying and whose problem is it? Is it a behavioral problem, or is it deeper than that? Is the problem caused by exposure to some toxic contaminant, or is it something we were born with? Is it a problem that some people have and others don’t? If everyone has the problem, do some people have it worse than others? Can people have the problem and not know it? Can the problem be solved? Is it a problem for Jews, Gentiles, or both?

If all you had was this scrap of the following revealed text, how would you answer these questions? It will be hard, but for the purposes of this assignment, do not import any other evidence or prior understandings or teachings other than the following words.

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil’the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. (Eph. 2:1–3)

On your mark, get set, go!

Sometimes it is good to ask challenging questions of ourselves and each other. Here’s a good one: Am I dealing with the symptoms of the problem, or am I attacking the problem itself? We tend to live at the level of our behaviors, which are themselves symptomatic of a deeper problem. Sinful behavior is a symptom. Our sinful nature is the problem. Asking these kinds of questions invites us to delve deeper than our behavioral management strategies and into the nature of the problem itself to understand just how deeply we are affected (and infected). This paves the way for the cure to deepen in us.

The Prayer

Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, our Savior, who can solve the problem. Because we can be confident in his salvation, we can have courage to understand our problem. Grace me with the self-knowledge to understand how the problem is actually my problem. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

The Questions

How do you understand the problem Paul identifies in this text?

How would you describe the interplay between our sinful nature, our disobedience, and the devil?

Does your sinful nature continue to rule your life? How might this be overcome?