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Beware Idols

1 John 5:21
Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. (NIVUK)

This may seem to be an unusual sign-off line as John completes his first letter, but it summarises the pastoral warnings of the epistle. An idol is anything which is worshipped, but is not God. As far as we know the false teachers did not present physical objects to worship. But they taught that Jesus Christ was not God in the flesh: they wanted people to worship their philosophy rather than Jesus.

Physical idols abound in a world full of materialistic consumerism: so much to desire and lust after … things which boast they will make their worshippers powerful or beautiful, rich or wise (1 John 2:16). Intellectual arrogance loves to worship concepts which purport to 'explain the world'; while our fleshly nature worships self. All these idols demand our attention, time and money; they are given the place which rightfully belongs to God.

When John tells his readers to keep (guard) themselves from idols, he speaks with God's voice. It is a divine instruction which demands active personal attention. We must reject the call to worship which every idol will project. But in the face of so many, how can we be constantly vigilant? The answer is to ensure that we actively place our time, money, energy and attention into desiring and serving the Lord.

It is never too late to reject idols, repent and start again with the Lord. But it is our responsibility. We cannot blame anybody (especially God) for not taking the idols away, because this corrupt world is full of them. Nor can we blame other people for luring us into idol worship. It is our responsibility to keep ourselves from idols, but a responsibility which we cannot fulfil unless we earnestly desire the Lord's help, having received His love. We cannot resist idolatry in our own strength, but in presenting our weakness to our strong God, we can keep idols away from our focus on the Lord. We will only work with Him when we worship Him.

Almighty God. Thank You for the safety of Your instruction to worship You alone. Forgive me for worshipping things, people and ideas instead of You. Please give me a heart which wants to worship You wholeheartedly: help me to keep on rejecting idols so that I can serve You in ways which will please You. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams