We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 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. – I John 5:18-21 (ESV)
Beware of making an idol out of a quick, easy declaration of what are idols. Today one can read or hear all kinds of declarations of how things like sex, job, family have become idols. Those are gifts of God to be enjoyed. They didn’t make you turn from God. You did. At its root, idolatry is a false or diminished view of what God has revealed to be true about Himself, about His Son, about His Word, about us. Idols are not first material things; they are ideas.
That’s what the Apostle John is trying to tell his readers in his first epistle. A false/altered/diminished view of what has been revealed about God in Jesus Christ is what makes us idolators. He sums up his letter with the tender but forthright exhortation, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (5:21). Here are three false or idolatrous views from I John 5:18-20. Note, they contradict each other – multiple gods tend to do that when they compete with the One, True God!
#1 (v.18) – The idol of an insufficient Christ.
This idol would have us believing Christ may be capable of forgiving our sins but cannot keep us from practicing sin or protect us from the evil one. For the true Christ and Spirit of Truth meditate on Jude 24,25; Romans 8:9-17.
#2 (v. 19) – The idol of sentimentality.
This idol wants us to think people are basically good, and refuses to acknowledge the presence of the evil one – albeit limited and temporal presence (v. 19; 2 Thess. 2:7). It ignores the doctrine of man’s sinful nature. It dulls our minds to the humbling logic there would be no need of God sending His Son as a second Adam to fulfill His perfect law if the first Adam’s offspring were capable of doing so (Romans 1-5). Yet in love for sinners, that is exactly what God did; He has given us a victorious second Adam to represent us before Him!
#3 (v. 20) – The idol of uncertainty.
This idol would have us believing truth is relative; life is best explained as a chaotic jumble of events and powers; therefore no one has the capacity let alone the right to say there is a standard of truth for all people. This idol will have you being adamant there is nothing to be adamant about! The reality is that Christ has come and given us understanding that while we may not have perfect or exhaustive knowledge, we can know Him who is true. There is a true God and there is eternal life.
I’m so grateful for a church family who help each other guard themselves from idols which cannot save!