Article by Paul Stiver
I graduated from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities with a degree in Strategic Communication, aka Advertising. Since I graduated in 2009, I’ve never worked a job in advertising or any related field. I do not use my degree. However, I do use the things I learned while acquiring my degree, especially on the communication side. And I still remember some of my education. I’ve been reminiscing on a particular idea from the world of advertising. When you are advertising a product, you are selling someone on the idea of a future version of their life.
Advertising sells you a future you, a future life. The product advertised is the means by which you can become this “better” future you. Car and cologne ads are notorious for selling a better “future life.” But so many products do this.
Let’s look at “The Most Interesting Man in The World” by Dos Equis beer as an example of this concept. We all know these ads, the cool old guy tells us, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” Typically, the cool old man tells us his preference for Dos Equis while surrounded by beautiful young women who are hanging on his every word. Earlier in the commercial we have seen the man have some cool and desirable experiences throughout his lifetime.
Below the surface the advertisement is communicating these messages:
“Drink Dos Equis beer and you too will be a more interesting and desirable man. Your life will be fulfilling because it will have fascinating experiences and a slew of conquests. You will be the kind of mature, rugged man that women can’t resist, all because you drink Dos Equis.”
We know this isn’t true. If we drink Dos Equis beer, our life won’t change in these ways (nor should we want it to). But the message is telling us that this could be our “future self.” In latent ways, Dos Equis is not selling us a beer, but a new future life. We know that this is silly. Dos Equis beer won’t give us some new, cooler life but we bite on the advertising anyway.
This is how sin works. Sin sells us a new future life. Sin sells us a life with greater happiness, less stress, and more control. Sin lies to us and deceives us from the truth.
Sin tells us that the future life we will have as a result of committing the sin will be better than life God wants for us.
We see this pattern in Scripture in Genesis 3 when we look at the Fall of Man.
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. 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.” So when the woman saw 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, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” -Genesis 3:1-6 (ESV)
The serpent advertises the fruit of the tree to Eve. He deceptively compels her, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Eve starts to believe that she is lacking something – that God is “holding out” on her. Before this point, she was unconcerned about the fruit of the tree, for all her needs were met.
“The tree was to be desired to make one wise.” How does Eve even come to the opinion that the tree was ‘to be desired?’ The lie of the serpent is creating an imagined need. Eve now desires to be this new “Future Eve,” where she has eaten the fruit and has acquired the desired wisdom. The serpent’s lie is now penetrating her mind more than the truth of God’s word, and as a result, she sins. Eve believes that the future life she will have by committing the sin will be better than what God has in store for her.
This is an all too familiar pattern of sin. We start to believe that the future life we can have by committing the sin is going to be better than the life God has for us. For me this comes out in my struggle with the sin of overeating and poor bodily stewardship. I start to believe that a “future life” where I can eat a whole pizza and bag of chips will be better life than my current life with a salad and modest meal. I end up sinning and am left ashamed of my decision and asking for God’s forgiveness.
For others this might be the pattern they experience with pornography and masturbation, believing the lie that “men have needs,” more than the truth that God’s grace is sufficient. (2 Cor. 9:8) Maybe it’s the future life promised by financial security that causes someone to walk out of line with God’s will. Whatever it may be, sin promises us a future life which it can’t deliver on, and we end up separated from God and feeling ashamed, just like Adam and Eve.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” -Genesis 3:8-10 (ESV)
How do we resist the deception of sin that promises us a better future life?
- We remember the good news of the gospel that Jesus Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)
- We remember that we have received the Holy Spirit and His immeasurable power. (Ephesians 1:13, 19, 3:20)
- We remind ourselves that God’s grace is sufficient.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)
- We give thanks to God. Thankfulness to God will always combat the lie of a better future without God.
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV)
- We live in community and bear one another’s burdens.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16 ESV)
- We rely on our faith and hope in God.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; (Ephesians 6:16 ESV)
- We protect our hearts with God’s word and we pray.
and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:17-18 ESV)
- We live in the hope of glory knowing that we have peace with God.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1 ESV)
- We remember that God is good and He is for us.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32 ESV)
- We remember that God’s future is better than we can even imagine.
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:3-5 ESV)
Let’s rely on the truth of God’s word to help us fight the false advertising of sin. Let’s be as N.T. Wright says, “future people,” focused on living out God’s will in every aspect of our lives for the sake of His glory and the coming of His kingdom!