The Seduction of the World
Jesus spoke a deep truth about human nature when he said that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6:21 NIV). This truth has never been more apparent than in our present world and age. For with all the advances in technology and production from factories, people today have luxuries that kings of former times could not have even dreamed about.
But along with this great abundance comes great temptation. Everywhere we look we are bombarded with advertisements to buy, buy, buy (1 Tim. 6:10, Rev. 13:15-17). The glamour of this world, liberally promoted by the world, is a dangerous snare that has caught and destroyed many a precious soul. That is why God’s Word often warns about the danger of desiring the things of this world.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15 NIV).
Jesus loved the Father (Jn. 14:31) and the only sense in which he loved the world was for the people of the world, for whom he came to die (Jn. 6:51). Other than love for its people, Jesus had no desire for the things of this world (Lk. 12:29-31, Mt. 8:20). And why should he? He had come down from heaven and all its glory, in comparison to which all the best which the world had to offer is as nothing.
“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only”‘” (Mt. 4:8-10 NIV).
“Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing” (Is. 40:17 NIV).
Jesus kept his eye on the reason for his coming to the world.
“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:51 NIV).
Jerusalem is where Jesus fulfilled the purpose for his coming to this world, to die on the cross for its people.
“And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:12-14 NIV).
Just like our Lord Jesus, we should disdain the things of this world, keeping our eyes resolutely fixed upon the reason the Father has sent us into the world: to be witnesses to the world of what the Lord has done for this world in providing for its salvation. We are to go to him outside the camp, that is, go to the world outside the sin which has camped in the world and within ourselves, to be a faithful and true witness to the truth.
This is what we are called to do (Rom. 1:6, 1 Cor. 1:2, 1 Peter 2:21). Sadly, there are those who ignore that call or fall away from it.
“Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone” (2 Tim. 4:10 NIV).
“The seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth choke the word, so it produces nothing” (Mt. 13:22 NET).
The seduction of the world and its wealth is indeed very powerful. This is poignantly illustrated in the exodus of the Israelites out from slavery in Egypt. They did not go alone, but some other peoples went with them (Ex. 12:38). Thus there was a mixture of God’s chosen people and people of the world that went on this momentous journey. But as they went along through the wilderness and things got tough, these people began to have second thoughts.
“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!'” (Numbers 11:4 NIV).
Their discontent began to affect the Israelites, until they too began to desire what their familiar world had had to offer them instead of the new and unfamiliar world of traveling through the wilderness, depending upon God to provide for them.
“The people were very discouraged; they began to murmur against God and to complain against Moses. ‘Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?’ they whined. ‘There is nothing to eat here, and nothing to drink, and we hate this insipid manna.’ So the Lord sent poisonous snakes among them to punish them, and many of them were bitten and died” (Numbers 21:4-6 TLB).
To those in love with this world and what it has to offer, the offerings of God seem insipid, paling in significance to the tasty, glamorous offerings of the world. But to the one who loves the Lord, even seemingly tasteless manna is treasured, precisely because of its source: because it comes from the Father in heaven.
“Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world'” (Jn. 6:31-33 NIV).
Just as those in love with the world rejected the bread from heaven, manna, in the exodus from Egypt, so do they today reject the true bread from heaven, the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. He is not exciting enough for them, and besides that, he calls them to forsake the things of the world for the higher things of the higher world of heaven. He even calls for them to die, die to self (Mk. 8:35). But, no, they prefer to answer a different call, the call of the world which says that they can enjoy all the riches that the world has to offer, if they will only answer that call, the call of the world, instead of the call to die to self which Jesus proclaims. It is the same situation which Scripture describes as having happened long ago, before the King of kings came to this earth, and another battle between the two calls of two kings was heard, as a king of this world called out to God’s people and their king:
“Don’t listen to King Hezekiah. Surrender! You can live in peace here in your own land until I take you to another land just like this one–with plentiful crops, grain, grapes, olive trees, and honey. All of this instead of death” (2 Kgs. 18:31-32 TLB).
Thus there are these two, similar calls to our ears: the call of the world and the call of the Word, Jesus (Gal. 1:6), who is the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14). It is the world and the Word. Both call for surrender. Both claim to offer life and riches. And both speak of death. For one, the world, it is life now and death later. For the other, the Word, it is death now and life later.
Yet the death for which the Word of God calls us to live now is really the gateway to life now, as well as later. For Jesus has said that he came to bring us fullness of life, fullness now (Jn. 10:10), not just later. The life that the world claims to offer is nothing more than the temporary, never-satisfying enjoyment of our brief stay here on earth–an enjoyment which God’s people also can enjoy, but even more so than those who follow the world because they have fullness of life in Christ, rather than the ordinary existence type of life outside of him who is life.
It is worth noting that the ancient call proclaimed by a worldly adversary to the people of Jerusalem did not tempt them with the luxuries of the rich of the world, but only with the common things of everyday life: plentiful crops, grain, grapes, olive trees, and honey. It is not always an extreme desire for great things of this world that leads people to stray from God, but the ordinary pleasures of life, to be comfortable and well fed. Notice that the offer from the adversary ended with the words, “All of this instead of death.” Who wants to die? Life is meant for living!
“And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry'” (Lk. 12:19 NIV).
This shortsighted view of life is condemned by God, who offers us life eternal, compared to which anything else is as nothing.
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Lk. 12:20-21 NIV).
There are riches to be had in this world, it is true. But those riches do not last; neither do they satisfy. Those who have been instructed by the Lord know this and want to warn others in this world not to listen to the siren cry of the world to pursue its own riches. They want to cry out to warn others, and they have that commission from the Lord to do so:
“A voice says, ‘Cry out.’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’ ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is. 40:6-8 NIV).
“In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Heb. 1:10-12 NIV).
Even those who know the Lord are not immune to the call of this world. That is why it is good to be reminded to keep our eyes focused on the lasting riches of heaven. This is what upheld Moses, as he led God’s people through the wilderness of this world and many sought to go astray from that path chosen for them by God. They desired to answer the world’s call instead of God’s, because they took their eyes off of the goal and could not see in their mind and hearts their glorious destination. But not Moses:
“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Heb. 11:24-26 NIV).
The choice that Moses and the people of God had in their wanderings through the wilderness is the same choice that we have today. Are we going to choose to answer the call of the world or the call of God? the things of this world, or the things of God? It all depends on what we treasure and where our heart is. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Do we love the world? Or do we love the Word, Jesus Christ? That is the question upon which hangs everything. I know my answer, how about you? I love the Word.
“Your word is absolutely pure, and your servant loves it!” (Ps. 119:140 NET).
I love you, Jesus, the Word of God.