contemplative spirituality

Three Enemies of the Soul

For centuries, apprentices of Jesus have spoken of the “three enemies of the soul” – the world, the flesh, and the devil. As the sources of temptation, they are viewed as a kind of “unholy trinity” in opposition to the Trinity.

They are reflected in the Temptation of Christ in the desert: 1) the world: to tempt God by casting himself off the pinnacle; 2) the flesh: to turn stones into bread; and 3) the devil: to worship Satan. These are the same three temptations one renounces at baptism.

The roots of this triad are possibly to be found in Jesus’ parable of the Sower: the three scenes of unproductive soil represent “Satan” (birds eating the seed), shallow and unreceptive believers (corresponding to weak “flesh”), and “the cares of the world and the lure of wealth” (Mark 4:15–17).

But all three have faded from the conversation in the modern, western church. So often we struggle to experience the life God had for us and our world. Gaining a greater awareness of this three-way battle has the potential to unlock new pathways to victory, greater freedom and growth in our lives.

That’s some of what we’re trying to do in our Pilgrimage of the Soul series these days. Here are just a few scriptures for the inward Pilgrimage of the Soul that awaken our knowledge of this inward battle for our True Self as we expose and overcome the wiles of the evil one — “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11).

“You laid aside the old self with its bad practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Col. 3:9).

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh [Ego, False Self]” (Gal 5).

“Lay aside the old self…be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4).

“Do not be conformed to the schemes of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Rom 12:2).

“For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds [i.e., mental, emotional, spiritual]. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 cor 10:4-5).

“Repent [change your way of thinking] and believe the good news [that you are the beloved]” (Mark 1:15).

“Love God with all your heart (feeling), soul (true self), mind (thinking) and body (doing)” (Jesus).

“You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses” (Ephesians 2:1-3).

What other Scriptures come to mind?

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