The Reality of Evil

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.’Jeremiah 17:9-10

The Bible is very clear about the reality of evil—and it is equally clear about the personality of the one who is behind the evil in the world. Satan, the Evil One, is completely opposed to the spiritual well-being of his victims. He is a ferocious lion, and (though not outside of God’s sovereign control) he is the ruler of this world. He is behind all sin; and before anyone is born again of the Spirit of God, they actually belong to his domain, and their evil actions give proof of his ownership.

Of course, the idea of an actual Evil One is laughed at by most of our contemporaries. They say, “Oh, you can’t possibly believe in the existence of an evil spiritual force called the devil, can you?” But at the same time as they downplay the idea of a personal devil, such people are at a loss to explain why we’re able to make such great technological advances and yet are unable to control the sinful impulses of our own lives any better than previous generations. Why is this? 

The Bible teaches that when Adam followed his wife in placing himself under the influence of the deceiver and sinning, he took the whole of humanity down with him. In other words, when Adam sinned, we all sinned. Each of us was born fallen. Therefore, our hearts—the core of our being, the source of our feelings, our longings, our decisions—are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” Jeremiah anticipates what Jesus would say to the Pharisees: “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him … For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality,” and all other sorts of wickedness, both blatant and discreet (Mark 7:15, 21).

The truth is that we are not good people who make mistakes; we are sinful people in need of mercy.

While these truths provide a compelling explanation of what we see in the world, they also confront us with a very challenging view of ourselves. The truth is that we are not good people who make mistakes; we are sinful people in need of mercy. Because it requires humility to accept what our hearts are truly like, those same hearts will tend to prefer to be deceived by preachers of self-esteem and self-confidence rather than listen to prophets such as Jeremiah.

The truth is that everyone is born in need of a heart transplant—not a physical one but a spiritual one. Only God can accomplish such a transformation. Just as God charged us with Adam’s guilt, by grace He credits believers with the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. As believers in Jesus, we have been changed from the inside out. Today, as with every day, the only antidote for your deceitful heart is to come humbly and sincerely before the Lord, praying, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.