Keep Yourselves from Idols

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The apostle John the beloved in his first epistle makes a simple appeal at the end of his treatise: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

What is an idol?
An idol is an object of worship. It is the Dagon of the Philistines. It is Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold which he set up to call his subjects to nationalism and the worship of himself. It is the statue of Buddha and the American Statue of Liberty. It is the political hero during election time. It is the Diana of the Ephesians and the celebrities adored by the masses. It is the golden calf of the wilderness designed as a replacement of the Lord Jehovah who had brought the people out of Egypt. In itself, an idol is nothing, but it represents devil worship. an idol is an object of ardent devotion. The philosophers of Athens were idolaters. So are the modern day philosophers who seek for answers from the venerated god of reason. Those who love the praise of men more than the praise of God are idolaters. Covetousness is idolatry.

Selfishness is an idol expressed by the hyphenated self-sins such as self-love, self-confidence, and self-respect. The self-importance of Pharaoh and the self-esteem of Lucifer produced self-worshiping idolatrous acts. and so does the self-satisfaction of the businessman and the self-righteousness of the theologian. The woman who seeks for attention is guilty of self-consciousness, and the man who desires to be in control is self-assertive. Pleasure seekers commit the sins of self-gratification and self-indulgence.

An idol is an imposter. It offers a fleeting infatuation rather than close, satisfying communion with the one true God. It promotes a false sense of security instead of trust in an omnipotent God. Instead of enjoying a loving relationship with a heavenly Father, an idolater comes under the wrath of a jealous God.

So how do we keep ourselves from idols?
Consider the admonition of John the Beloved throughout his first epistle. The theme of this divinely inspired book centers around a relationship with God and with his Son, Jesus Christ. Note the following phrases expressed repeatedly throughout the book: fellowship with God, fellowship with Jesus Christ, being born of God, love for God, dwelling in God, God dwelling in us, abiding in Him, having His Word abide in us, knowing Him. What a lofty inspiration to realize that mortal man can pursue and experience a relationship with an infinite God!

To truly know God is to be free from idolatry. And to know God, we must...
1. Walk in the light. To walk in the light is to be honest with our sinfulness. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all…. If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Denial of sin is self-deception and a brazen denial of the truth of God’s word. It is also idolatry.
2. Keep His commandments. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” Do we love God enough to obey Him? What about commands such as “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth”? Do we heed the appeal made in romans 15:7 to “receive ye one another”? Do we “esteem others better than ourselves”? Contemporary Christianity has cheapened the gospel by minimizing the importance of bible obedience. Commandments are treated as mere suggestions, explained away or ignored entirely. If we as God’s people would be wise, we need to humbly search the Word and let it speak to the needs of our naturally self-righteous and idolatrous hearts. God does not judge on the basis of the status quo but on His eternal Word.

3. Love our brother. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar.” “We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” We cannot love God and hate our brother. and we cannot have a selfish (and idolatrous) love for ourselves and love our brother. Loving our brother means we will not speak evil one of another. It means bearing one another’s burdens. We will esteem our brother better than ourselves. It involves sacrificing time and resources for the good of our brother. “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” What have I done to show my brother that I love him?

4. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” God’s people have always had a fascination for the idols of the people around them, and today is no exception. The fashions, the tools, the toys, the entertainment, the social life, the values—if these things are the source of our fulfillment, they have become our idols, and “the love of the Father is not in us.” “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

We are creatures of choice. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve”; we may be tempted to serve the fashionable gods of the people around us. Or our temptation may be to serve the pleasures and desires of our naturally sinful hearts. as children of God, it is imperative that we lift our eyes and hearts in true worship of the One who alone can provide us with our soul’s deepest need, a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

“And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”

~ Newville, PA
February 2013