In the garden of Eden, the [cunning] serpent was successful at fooling Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree by employing three basic temptations (Ge 3:1).
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)
While you won’t see a three-point outline in the serpent’s speech, he appealed to Eve’s desires of the flesh and desires of the eyes and pride of life (1Jn 2:16). She immediately noticed that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (Ge 3:6).
The fruit’s potential nourishment was the first enticement. Its superficial attractiveness was the second. The possibility of gaining God-like wisdom was the third.
The devil also employed the same tactics against Jesus in the wilderness. First, he tempted Christ’s humanity by suggesting the Lord command a stone to become bread since Jesus was severely hungry (Lk 4:3; 2). Second, he dangled the sight of all kingdoms of the world in front of Jesus, saying, If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours” (Lk 4:5; 7). Lastly, he appealed to Christ’s prospective pride by suggesting the Son of God could throw himself down from [the pinnacle of the temple] and not be hurt (Lk 4:10; 9).
John knows the drawing power of sin all too well. He understands the appeal of Satan’s kingdom on earth. All that is in the world poses constant enticements (1Jn 2:16). Seductive solicitations to our flesh, eyes, and pride are everywhere we turn. Frankly, the devil has better marketing than companies like Apple ever will. He knows the human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, and he doesn’t hesitate to use that to his advantage (Jer 17:9).
Turn on the television long enough to watch a block of commercials. Advertisers will show you products that’ll make you feel good, products that look good, and products that are bound to elevate your status in this world. “Buy this luxury car,” they claim, “and your daily commute to work will be more enjoyable. Notice how sleek it looks. You’ll be the envy of your friends.” The message is clear: “Do your flesh, eyes, and pride a favor; buy this car” (1Jn 2:16).
If the business world knows enough to use this three-fold tactic to sell us stuff, you can probably imagine what the devil is capable of doing with it. The only difference is that Satan doesn’t care whether we buy a new car or the latest iPhone. His purpose is to turn our minds from things that are above to things that are on the earth (Col 3:2). He wants our desires and devotion to be greater for the world than for the will of God (1Jn 2:17).
John, however, cites an obvious problem facing anyone who invests him or herself in the world or the things in the world (1Jn 2:15). The world is passing away along with its desires (1Jn 2:17). If you’ve fallen in love with any part of the devil’s kingdom, you’ve grown smitten with something in a state of transition. John says it’s paragō or disappearing as we speak. The present form of this world is passing away (1Co 7:31). What you love now will soon be something else altogether.
Years and years ago, a former roommate of mine met a woman in a local restaurant. His attraction to her was strong and immediate. I spoke to her briefly and thought she was sweet. Things changed drastically, though, when she visited our apartment for the first time. As soon as she walked through the door, she became strangely hesitant. “There are evil spirits in this room,” she said. “You should have the place cleansed.”
Evil spirits? Cleansed?
As it turned out, she was a practicing witch and recommended a few ceremonial rituals to remove the spirits. I believe the process involved some herbs and a cigar perhaps. To my friend’s credit, he recognized the dangers of his new relationship and promptly ended it. I suppose it helped that she revealed her true self so quickly, not to mention so radically for a couple of small-town boys who had never met a witch before.
This present world is a lot like my roommate’s short-lived girlfriend. As attractive as it seems now, its appeal is fleeting. The end of all things is at hand (1Pe 4:7). What looks so pleasant now will soon prove vain, not to mention destructive. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecc 12:14). The day is fast approaching when:
the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (2 Peter 3:10)
The stark contrast between truth and error will be apparent to everyone. No one will confuse good with evil any longer. The line separating Christ’s kingdom from Satan’s domain will be unmistakeable since the earth as we know it will cease to exist, and the devil and his army will be thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev 20:10).
With that end in mind, what sane person would want any part of what the god of this world has to offer? (2Co 4:4). The Christian should happily refuse his temptations, saying, “Everything you have to give is merely temporary. None of the satisfaction it brings can be worth the cost. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mk 8:36).
Whoever does the will of God will find that his or her life and choices have eternal meaning (1Jn 2:17). When we can testify, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” we can live without the things of this world because we know we’ll abide forever while those things we once sacrificed have passed away permanently (Php 3:8; 1Jn 2:15; 17).
Committing ourselves to the will of God is the only sound investment we can make on this earth (1Jn 2:17). Invest in the pleasures of sin, the conveniences of erroneous doctrines, or even the fun of new cars and football games, not that material goods and secular entertainment are inherently evil, and you may as well hold your proverbial money over an open flame.
Perhaps the following anecdote will help.
Charles Dutton, the Broadway star, spent seven years of his youth in prison for manslaughter. When someone asked how he was able to survive his time in prison, he replied, “Unlike the other prisoners, I never decorated my cell.” In other words, he made sure his every action reflected the temporary nature of his situation. He didn’t decorate his cell because he didn’t plan on staying long, and neither should we.