The more time goes by, the more fake our world becomes.
Modern food, frozen, pumped full of chemicals, lacking in any nutritious value, bottled up and boxed up, is fake. Modern sex, i.e. pornography, is fake. Modern money, printed on demand with no backing whatsoever, is fake. Much of modern ScienceTM, subservient to political power and financial sway, is fake. Modern political discourse, often hyper-focused on the immaterial while blind to the truly weighty, is fake. Our schooling, which churns out millions who have no recognizable, marketable skills, is fake.
It makes sense, then, that some of the more abstract things in life are fake, too. Popularity and social status, largely decided by some social media algorithm, is fake. Billions of friendships, in which seeing a post from each other from time to time makes us think we “friends,” are fake. Plenty of what counts as church membership, simply choosing the place you like best and going there until they offend you or can’t match what another church offers, is fake. Much of what is now considered fact, based only in emotion that shouts down and “cancels” any opposition, is fake. As it all begins to pile up, it gets harder and harder to climb over the mountain of fakeness to reach that which is real.
Notice the characteristics that are shared almost universally in each of these fake offerings. They are all easy. Convenient. They all choose cheap, instant gratification rather than putting in the time to cultivate that which is lasting and valuable. They all cater to laziness and selfishness, incentivizing us to take life as it is handed to us. They turn us into passive consumers of life rather than active producers and spreaders of God’s life-giving purpose.
When we speak of worldliness, the conversation typically turns to the ideas and actions that infiltrate the Christian individual, home, and church, and how those must be resisted. That is a valuable, needed discussion. However, what is often lacking is a positive focus.
Yes, we must avoid the kinds of shows, movies, and websites that are trying to pull us away from our Lord. We are in need of constant vigilance against those influences that would make us conform to the world. But what we also must do is actively pursue the path of living that God has set out for us. As long as we are conforming to the passive, consumeristic fake lifestyle we’re all herded into, we will not show the world a higher and holier calling, and we will leave ourselves and our families vulnerable to creeping worldliness. If we aren’t growing more like Christ then we’re moving in the opposite direction, no matter how slow and unnoticeable the progress may be.
One of Satan’s most-used tactics is to keep us distracted from the good works God wants us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). To do that he does not need to get us dragged down into some scandalous battle with sin. Sometimes all he needs to do is get us distracted with useless pursuits instead of that which really matters.
C.S. Lewis highlighted this phenomenon in his classic, The Screwtape Letters. Writing as the satirical demon, Screwtape, to his underling nephew, Wormwood, Lewis observed:
“But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Satan doesn’t need every Christian to turn into an atheist. He’s doing a fine job with his strategy to make as many people as possible into mindless consumers who settle for the convenient and accept the world as it is handed to them with no ambition to shape it to the glory of God.
How do we break out of the fake and pursue the real?
- Prioritize what matters
Consider the sheer value of a human life and how much potential each one holds. Consider how much God has blessed us with to take that talent coin, invest it, and return it to Him. Then consider the tragedy it is to throw all of that away on that which is fake and doest not last. Spending hours in front of a screen every single night, scrolling social media, binging Netflix (or worse)… what a waste.
There is a time for everything, including things like relaxation and vacation. We should plan them into our schedules. But those are not the purpose of our lives. In order to rise above this malaise that is miring so many, we must have priorities, and we must live like we mean them. Our priority in life should be to be more like Jesus every day (Romans 8:29, Galatians 4:19). That priority means leading more moral, upstanding lives, yes, but most of all lives that are completely submitted to the Father’s will. We aim to become the people He wants us to become, and we aim to do the good works He wants us to do.
I may be a Christian, but if I’ve got 50 binged seasons of television under my belt yet can’t name the 10 Commandments or recite the Great Commission, it’s time for a priority check. I may “go to church” every week, but if I’m living my life as a series of low points to be trudged through between my Instagram-worthy vacations, it’s time for a priority check. We were put here for a purpose. Living as though that’s the case starts with making sure our priorities are where they need to be.
2. Love in deed and truth
“My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). A fake world has taught us the habits of fake caring and fake activism. Clicking “Like” on someone’s post about losing a family member or about a need for prayers may seem like we’ve made our care for them known. Changing a profile picture after a tragedy may feel like we’re part of a cause. But ultimately those gestures come to very little, if anything at all.
Loving in deed and in truth means determining to act in ways that truly matter to others. Fake caring has made us wildly overestimate the global impact we can have and grossly underestimate the local impact we can have. You might have 1,500 Facebook friends, but you can’t love and serve that many people well. Focus on a handful of the people in your immediate surroundings. Be present in their lives. Make the phone call or send the text when you know they’re hurting. Consider how to stir them up to love and good deeds. Be hospitable. Bear the burdens of others. Make a habit of stepping away from the digital connections to put more time into the real life connections.
3. Roll our sleeves up and get to work
If the fake world is defined by the ease and convenience it promises us, one of the best ways out of it is by setting our minds to work. Work on your walk with God – it doesn’t just happen. Work on your marriage – real love is not a Hollywood fairytale. Work on your parenting – training up children in the way they should go takes constant vigilance and a health dose of the fruit of the Spirit. Work on your occupation – show those around you the diligence of one who walks with God.
Regain a sense of the dominion God gave Adam in the garden. Work was always in God’s plan for us, and it is our duty to make beauty and order come from the good things He has given us, just as God made beauty and order from that which was formless and void. In a world that is slowly losing love, effort, passion, and care, because they cost too much for us as creatures who are addicted to convenience, commit to showing people God’s path is better in every way.
As always, remember we don’t work to earn God’s love. We work from a place of assurance of His love and grace, and this gives us the fuel we need to keep reaching higher.
Start developing a disgust for the fake world, and really for anything that aims to distract you from becoming the kind of person God desires for you to become. Fighting the pull to worldliness is not just a matter of resistance to vices, but resistance to all that which would stand in the way of our growth into who God wants us to be. Don’t settle for the convenient. Set your eyes on Jesus and run with all your might. Let Him permeate every facet of your life and show a darkening world a Light they can’t possibly ignore.