KEEP YOURSELVES FROM IDOLS!

Really? Just like that? Ist John–a powerful letter from a man who had walked with Jesus longer than anyone. He writes toward the end of his difficult life. His epistle to churches in what is now Turkey proclaimed strong declarations: God is light and God is love. Bold, in-your-face exhortations grow out of these two statements: we need to walk in the light and we need to show love to brothers and sisters. Failure to do so proves that we are not in the family. John is not afraid to use the word “liar” for those who say one thing and do another.

At the same time, Pastor John talks like a father. He calls them “my little children.” And he closes his message of 105 verses with one final admonition: “keep yourselves from idols” (I John 5:21). As a father, he affirms them joyfully and warns them strongly. If you see a blind man walking toward a cliff, you would warn him, wouldn’t you?

Strange ending, however. No benediction, no farewell, no greeting the saints, just a sober admonition. It must have been heavy on his pastoral heart.  First time in his letters and Gospel that he uses the word “idols.” But churches like Ephesus saw them on a regular basis, and they had pull for these former pagans.

What are the four idols that we are most prone to bow down to?

PLEASURE

“It can’t be wrong when it feels so right”–a popular song that preaches the gospel of feel good.

That gospel has reached down to grade school. An increasingly secularized society goes after what it likes–which eventually destroys them. Very sad. We are called to die to ourselves and thank God in the midst of suffering. Jesus didn’t enjoy the cross–He endured it. Better to do what we should than what we could. When we find our pleasure in God, it doesn’t end up biting us. My mentor Larry Christenson used to say, “Expect everything of God, nothing of man.”

PRESTIGE

It feels good to be appreciated, loved, honored. Social media has made fame a fetish. How many likes determines how the day went. I wouldn’t bet on it. Jesus chose the servant role. King comes next time around. Same for us. We get to reign–some day. For now we serve! Go low. If you are counting likes, ask what the Father likes.

POWER

Satan is willing to give people power if they bow down. Some decide the risk is worth it and sign on. But Satan is not kind to his customers and tears them apart for believing in him. The subtlety of power is enticing. That is why Jesus told us to be under rather than over. For the Christ-follower, the lower we go, the higher we get. But some don’t want to pay that price, and like the disciples choose the best seat, the front of the line. Feels good–for a little while.  

PROSPERITY

Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is. For some, getting more means wanting more. Money and time are similar in that they both make good servants and terrible lords. When we are controlled by money, it just became our god, an American idol. My dear friends, keep yourselves from idols!

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