"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest." (Ephesians 2:1-3)Death is not just the judgment of sin, it is also the present and ever increasing consequence of sin in our lives. Sin represents not just acts of disobedience, but also a progression in our lives where its effect on us grows, like leaven, over time until it fully consumes us. James writes of the progression of sin. "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death." (James 1:14-15) This death he speaks of is not just a physical death, although that is certain, but it is also the corruption the works in our lives as sin works to destroy all semblance of decency, morality, and propriety in our lives. It also eats away at our relationships, both with God and with each other, destroying all that is good and right in our lives. In the end, it leaves us as nothing but an empty shell. We may look fine on the outside, but sin has destroyed all that is within.
This death, this decay of the soul, is the natural outgrowth of our trespasses and sins. The Greek term for trespasses refers to lapses in our morality and/or deviations from what is normal and right. These lapses may be unintentional or intentional, but left unattended, will work their work of corruption in our lives. Sin, however, can be more pernicious. The Greek term means to miss the mark or to come up short. It is the gradual decline into dissolution, a path taken by many small, and seemingly insignificant, deviations into disobedience. One may not die from the sting of one bee, but the stings of a thousand can kill. One sin may not seem too bad, but over the course of our lives they take their toll and leave us just as dead no matter how small the sins first appears. Death is the proper desert for our sudden acts of departure and our slow life of decline.
This life of sin and death is the natural course of this world; we are born into it, we live in it, and we will die in it. No one is exempt, all have sinned, and all are partakers of death, both now and in the end. Furthermore, it is not only our own propensity towards sin that drives us on, but we also live under the rule of a spiritual master who is actively at work in our lives to drive us to sin and towards destruction. He exercises his power in his energetic working in the lives of those over whom he claims dominion. Not only are we weak in our flesh, but the death of our soul, being found in our separation from God, has left us under the control and influence of one who hates us and desires our destruction. Jesus said of him, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) Our need is not only to be free of sin but also to be free of him.
This is the life, as Christians, that we used to live and the life many around us still live today. It is a life controlled by our lusts rather than by our rational mind as expressed through our morals, ethics, and principals. We live by what we want not by what is right. Paul speaks of the lusts of the flesh and the desires of the flesh and mind. Lust is an inordinate desire, often for what is forbidden, that leads us into transgressions; lapses of judgment and moral resoluteness. The desires of the flesh and mind speaks more to their decisions, will, and desires. They represent a more systematic decline into sin; following after what the flesh wants, wills, wishes, and desires. Lusts lead us to impulses, desires form and molds the course of our lives.
The end results is not only death, but the assignment of our lives unto wrath. When Paul speaks of us being children of wrath by nature, he is describing what is the natural growth and production of our lives. Jesus said, "For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart." (Luke 6:43-45) We were born of bad seed, the offspring of a bad tree. We have grown up a bad tree and the natural fruit of our lives is bad. As such, we are not a tree to be desired, but a tree upon which the wrath of God resides. The only hope for our lives, in the end, is wrath and punishment. This is, or was, the sorry state of our lives and the lives of those around us, "But God..." (Ephesians 2:4)