“Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (I John 5:21)

This concluding exhortation in the New Testament book of 1 John almost always catches me by surprise.

The entire book is a short, five chapters rich in truths of God being Light and Love and proofs of what being one of His children are. Upon reading it, one might think a more suitable ending to be, “Love one another” or something along the lines of, “My brothers, walk in the Light.” Yet we are given:

Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

Since God communicates in power and perfection (see 2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12; and Psalm 119:105), this means “guard yourselves from idols” is the perfect closure to the letter.

For me, it begs the question:

What did I miss out of the book’s contents which makes this ending seem odd?

* * *

As it turns out, it isn’t a “cultural thing”. When digging deeper into I John, we see God calling to our individual and corporate need for grounding in the truth of the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, His Son. We’re reminded those who put their faith in Christ can know, with certainty, they have eternal life (salvation). This book also blesses the reader with practical help in assessing whether those in his or her midst are children of God or imposters—by their walk in life, unconditional love (or lack of it) and whether what they communicate about salvation and Jesus Christ is in alignment with the whole of Scripture and eyewitness accounts.

Notably, John was writing to encourage and assist believers in a church where false teachers had arisen.

* * *

This is super important. Where false “enlightenments” sneak into or bombard a culture (in or out of a church), the pure water of the Word gets muddied—as do the convictions and priorities of those deceived by them. Subsequently, none of us are immune from the dangers faced by the readers of John’s time.

Quoting from overviewbible.com:

“John’s letter moves around from theme to theme, but he makes three things very clear to the church:

  1. The children of God believe in Jesus Christ
  2. The children of God keep His commandments
  3. The children of God love one another”

Yet we don’t have to look far to find individuals, groups, or churches passionately or smoothly espousing one or more of the following:

  1. Everyone is a child of God
  2. You have to do what’s right for you
  3. Loving others means to affirm and support them regardless of what they do

* * *

Whether or not false teachers are aware of it, they are pawns in Satan’s destructive schemes. Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

The enemy wants to steal from our minds and hearts the truths contained in I John and other Scriptures. He works to kill our appetite for that which is pure and beautiful. His desire is to destroy humanity’s belief in what Jesus came to give us: pardon for sins, joy and intimacy with God: abundant life.

In other words, Satan’s active “hit list” in your life includes:

Truth

Light

Love and

Abundant Life

* * *

Home security systems are designed to help safeguard one’s self or belongings from intruders. Yet among the greatest treasures we can have are the truths of which John witnessed, heard, and communicated. These must be guarded, my friend. Protected. Not only from false teachers (who may seem reasonable and even quote the Bible), but from our own deceitful hearts and the ease with which any of us can compromise our intimacy and walk with God.

Which appropriately brings us to the book’s loving, urgent conclusion: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”

* * *

John wrote to newer Christians who, at the time, lived with objects of pagan worship and temples of gods and goddesses all around them. Yet an idol is anything or anyone we place a higher priority on than knowing, loving, and being obedient to God and His Word. Subsequently, none of us are without need for unceasing vigilance in guarding ourselves from idols.

* * *

Perhaps because the two are never far apart, John did not separate the culture of idolatry from that of false teaching.

Quoting from bibleref.com, “The false teachings they [the church] battled ultimately led back to the very gods they had left to follow Jesus. They were to keep themselves ‘from idols’ and remain focused on Jesus, the Son of God.” (see 1 Thessalonians 1:9)

* * *

I invite you to read the book of I John today with the anticipation of being encouraged in what matters most. Immerse yourself in how sweetly and critically God speaks to us that He is Life, and that we can have abundant and eternal life with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ (which includes loving others well).

* * *

Even if we’ve known the truths of I John since earliest childhood, we should regularly hit the “Refresh” button on it.  Why? Because it is easy to fall prey to society’s flawed ideologies or trusting our sin-prone hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).

We must be on guard to let nothing—whether false teachings or misplaced prioritiescome between us and the wonders of living life in unity with God.

* * *

Making It Real

 Consider taking time out of your busy day to answer a few “security alert” questions:

  1. What areas interfere with your intimacy with Jesus Christ? We all battle them. What are yours?
  2. Think about and identify any possible obsessions or non-essentials in life which dominate your time, thought-life, and/or finances. Are you willing to acknowledge a possible idolatry issue?
  3. What do you most often reach for or access when you have flexible or down time?
  4. What would make you happier today: the blessing of a financial windfall, good health, a well functioning government, or to learn that someone in your community just gave their heart and life to the Lord?
  5. Is there anyone or anything thatshould God remove from your lifewould cause you bitterness?

Talk these things over with God in prayer.

If you think loving God more than a spouse, children, family, or friends means to not love them in beauty and power, tell Him of that struggle. Ask Him to show you how making (and keeping) Him first in your heart will elevate your love for others to heights of awe and wonder you would never have been able to otherwise know.

Ask God to reveal whether there are any idols you need to deal with in your life today. If there aren’t any now, praise Him for that miracle! If there are, confess them to the LORD and ask Him to both forgive and help you make meaningful changes.

The book of I John is deep, yet uncomplicated. Through it, we’re encouraged to know:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

Guarding ourselves from loving ourselves, others, or anything more than God is never a “done deal” this side of heaven. We should not be discouraged by the regularity with which we need to reassess and recalibrate our love and devotion to Jesus. It’s quite thrilling, in fact, to remember:

Jesus didn’t come to load us down with rules or religion, but to give us the ability to walk with Him and know real life!

* * *

And that, beloved, is worth guarding.

June

June

People Lover. Author. Blogger. Speaker. Forgiven Much & Wild About God. Learn about June's latest book on her website.

One Comment

  • Beryl says:

    Those are some soul searching questions. Some I definitely need to address and be on my knees before the Lord. Thank you June

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