Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:20-21)
I used to be a bit baffled by 1 John 5:21. The command to keep ourselves from idols seemed a bit disjointed, like a tacked-on thought at the end of the letter. But recent classes have helped me realize that it is a necessary command. Much of the Bible addresses idolatry. The first commandment to have no other gods before God is a prohibition of idolatry. The history of Israel is one of descent into idolatry and the resulting judgment for forsaking God. We are reminded in the New Testament that even the tenth commandment addresses idolatry: “covetousness is idolatry,” since it is really the worship of sinful desires. But why a command to believers to keep from idols? Are we not followers of the true God?
We who are Christians do follow the true God, but idolatry is a concern for us as well. John wrote in order to show people how they can know that they know God through Jesus Christ. Yet even believers are easily swept away by their imaginations and conceptions of God. We are easily deluded by pretenders to the Throne such as convenience, success, and the praise of man. We can distort and forget the Biblical revelation to help further our wrong desires.
My recent Biblical counseling classes reminded me that everyone is a worshipper. When we act and react sinfully, it is a result of a worship disorder. We truly have idol factories in our hearts, and believers are not immune. The name of my blog reminds me that I sometimes get my focus off God's glory and proudly seek to gaze at my own glory. Something is fundamentally wrong when I can take more pleasure in something I have written or spoken or done than in the Father, Son, and Spirit with whom I have the blessing of an eternal relationship. This is a serious matter. This idolatry is subtle and deceptive, but it is deadly. May God help us to truly worship the true God and keep ourselves from idols.
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:20-21 ESV)