Satan’s Threefold Formula
“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. – I John 2:16
The Apostle John warns the early church the dangers of the devil’s trinity of temptation; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. These Satanic snares have snagged many believers through the history of Christianity. They are not from God our Father, but from that ancient serpent himself, the devil, and they are his primary weapons within his arsenal against the people of God. Therefore, we must proactively stay alert at all times, knowing that the enemy is aggressively on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8).
John clumps these horrific sins together as all being “in” the world and “from” the world. The word “world” is the Greek word “cosmos.” It is used in three primary ways within the New Testament. It can serve as a reference to the human race (John 3:16). We also find it descriptively referring to our planet earth as part of God’s creative order (Hebrews 1:2). Finally, it can serve as a reference to the evil world system. It is the latter usage which we find in our passage above. These two forms of lust; the flesh and the eyes, along with the boastful pride of life are deeply rooted in this wicked world, a place where Satan casts his influence as prince of the air (Ephesians 2:1-3).
We find this threefold cord of temptation evident within the events surrounding the fall of man. The lust of the flesh was displayed in Adam and Eve’s desire to have something that God had specifically said was off limits (Genesis 3:2-3). The lust of the eyes is evident through their actual seeing of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6). The pride of life is evident through their desire to have their “eyes opened” and be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). And as this cluster of temptation was unleashed by the serpent, Adam and Eve took the bait.
John warns believers that it is this threefold formula of temptation that acts as the blueprints for Satan’s attack against us. The fiery darts hurled at us from the tempter (Ephesians 6:16) will be doused in the oil of lust and pride. And, when these temptations manifest themselves into sin, it is crippling to the child of God, and hinders the flow of the Holy Spirit.
Oh how deceitfully subtle and crafty our adversary the devil really is; for he readily entices our appetites with the vast menu of the world. And oh how often we easily fall into his devilish traps! In response, we must determine to wage war against these lusts each and every day. It is a dangerous thing to feed the flesh, enchant the eyes, and puff up our pride with the world’s variety show. We must remember that there will never be a point in our earthly state while on this side of eternity that life will be free of these temptations. Why; because we are temporarily residents of this world, and the temptations found within this world will be a constant factor we must face. Yet our temporal world residency does not grant us the liberty to embrace the ways of the world; for friendship with the world in hatred towards God (James 4:4). Is it any wonder Jesus told His disciples that they are not of this world (John 15:19)? Yes, our temporal home is the world, but our glorious permanent home is heaven. We are only strangers trekking through a foreign land on a temporal journey, but we are not home yet.
The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life; take time out today and ask God to help you prepare for battle against the enemy as he persistently hurls and slings this threefold formula of sin down your life path in an attempt to make it crooked. What comfort we have in knowing that when we trust the Lord with all of our hearts, He makes our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).
– Pastor Eric