So, what does it mean to "keep yourselves from idols"?
It appears that John wasn’t addressing a physical idol to which pagans pay homage. It seems to be a figurative language, using the term “idol” to make a significant point. An idol is anything that takes God’s place, robbing the attention, passion and devotion which belong primarily to God alone. Although believers may detest worshiping pagan idols, it is quite possible for us to erect earthly things in our heart, substituting God’s place, which could become no less than an idol.
If we devote our attention and passion to anything more than God, it becomes an idol, making us idolaters. An idol is anything that dethrones God and enthrones itself in God’s place.
What could be the possible idols in our lives?
An idol could be entertaining things like movies, television, music, mobile phones, iPods, iPad, video games…etc. An idol could be recreational activities like sports, hobbies, parties or travel…etc. An idol could be social networks like Google, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, E-mail…etc.
An idol could be food and beverages. An idol could be education and job. An idol could be sex and other pleasures. An idol could be power and success. An idol could be preoccupation with personal reputation (what people think of me???). An idol could be money and possessions. An idol could also be people like family, friends, girl/boyfriend, and celebrities (secular or spiritual). It may seem strange, but even church and ministry could become idols.
How many of us have idols as mentioned from the list above (one, few or many)? How many of us often think about these things more than God’s glory and goodness? How many us are more passionate for them, giving less attention to prayer and meditation of God’s word? How many of us are deeply attached to these things and lack passion for God’s kingdom and His righteousness? How many of us are pursing such things and lack hunger and thirst for God and His intimacy? How many of us admire the created things more than worshiping the Creator of the heavens and the earth? How many of us have placed them on the throne of our heart, pushing God to the footstool?
Turning Blessings into Idols
Remember, an idol may not necessarily be evil in itself; it may be a good thing to which we may devote our hearts more than God Himself. It is easy for us to become addicted to good things and remain blinded to sin by justifying ourselves, “What’s wrong with this or that?” Let us take heed to these words of Susannah Wesley, which she wrote in a letter to her son, John Wesley, describing about what sin is:
Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over mind, that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may be in itself.We need to understand that sin is not just stealing, committing murder and adultery; it is also giving God the secondary place in our lives by indulging ourselves in the good things of the world. We may love Jesus and yet sin against Him when we love Him less than other things (Matt. 10:37). We may thank God for what He gives and yet idolize those blessings.
If we examine our heart, what does our thoughts, dreams and passions speak about? Are they set upon God or upon the world?
We may be active in some of the spiritual activities, but if the Giver of life has not been given the central place in our lives, we are still idolaters and no better than pagans.
So, here is the fact—one of our greatest battles in Christian life is to fight against anything (be it inherently good or evil) that tries to penetrate our hearts to take priority over God’s place. And this is what holiness is—separating ourselves from everything and consecrating ourselves in everything to live for God's glory.
Dear believers of Christ Jesus, God gave us every blessing on earth so that we would enjoy them with gratefulness towards Him. He gave us everything as a means to manifest His love and mercy so that in turn we would be devoted to Him in our daily life. However, we sinful people often turn those means into objects, blessings into idols, and treat God as a means to possess them.
Don't we often ignore God and give ourselves to be enslaved by those things which God has given us for His glory and for our welfare?
Therefore, shall we allow the Holy Spirit to convict us of idols within us? Shall we repent of any idols which we have erected in our hearts? Shall we turn from those good things of which we have become slaves and return to the good Lord who loved us and gave His life for us? Shall we give the Living God the utmost place He deserves in our lives? Shall we make a commitment, “I will not allow anything to divert my attention, passion and devotion from the Lord in whom there is fullness of joy, peace and satisfaction?”
When the world makes much noise, enticing us to itself, let these words of apostle John ring constantly in our ears, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
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