“KEEP YOURSELVES FROM IDOLS” 1 John 5:20-21
INTRO – Interesting way for Apostle John to end this letter. Almost seems out of place. After all that John has taught in this letter, he ends w/ this almost abrupt command. REVIEW 1 JOHN. Almost feels like an afterthought. But, of course, IT’S NOT! IT’S IN THERE B/C GOD WANTED IT IN THERE!
John’s audience most likely in city of Ephesus. Temple of Diana there. Filled w/ idols. The making & selling of idols was big business. Lots of money to be made. Christians there were surrounded by idolatry. The temptation to give in, to conform would have been tremendous.
But even more applicable is the truth that the Holy Spirit of God inspired & led John to write this final exhortation in his letter b/c the Spirit knew that, in 2017, the temptation to be led astray by idols would be as powerful as ever, & that we today would need to hear this challenge & heed it.
Augustine: “Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, & using anything that ought to be worshiped.”
John Piper: “What is an idol? Well, it is the thing. It is the thing loved or the person loved more than God, wanted more than God, desired more than God, treasured more than God, enjoyed more than God. It could be a girlfriend. It could be good grades. It could be the approval of other people. It could be success in business. It could be sexual stimulation. It could be a hobby or a musical group that you are following or a sport or your immaculate yard.” (http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-idolatry)
So prevalent in our day! Idolatry is everywhere.
Not many of us bow down to little statues on their fireplace mantle. But how many of us bow down to other things that move God out of His rightful place in our lives?
- What is it that consumes so much of your time that you don’t have time to read your Bible, or pray, or come to church regularly? There’s your idol!
- What is it that gets you more fired up than you are about a personal relationship w/ Jesus? There’s your idol!
- What is it that is in your life that has caused your zeal & passion for the Lord to decrease, & your fire for the Lord to cool? There’s your idol!
- What is it that occupies the majority of your mind’s attention & your heart’s affection? There’s your idol!
The Foolishness of Worshiping Idols
Hideyoshi, a Japanese warlord who ruled over Japan in the late 1500s, commissioned a colossal statue of Buddha for a shrine in Kyoto. It took 50,000 men five years to build, but the work had scarcely been completed when the earthquake of 1596 brought the roof of the shrine crashing down and wrecked the statue. In a rage Hideyoshi shot an arrow at the fallen colossus. “I put you here at great expense,” he shouted, “and you can’t even look after your own temple.”
Look at v. 20: Another “we KNOW” verse (word “know” used about 35 times in this letter) – It’s a one-verse summation of the Gospel.
- Jesus came
- Jesus gave
- We know Him
- We are in Him
Jesus is TRUE!
Jesus is REAL!
Jesus is ALIVE!
To even TRY to compare any false god to Jesus is so foolish! And yet we see people doing it every day everywhere. They are living their lives bowing down to dead idols & false gods.
- False gods that appeal to our fleshly desires
- False gods that seem to promise happiness & fulfillment
- False gods that feel like they’re smarter & stronger than the real God.
- This is one of the reasons that so many people – even Christians – are living together these days.
- They’ve given into the false teaching of the world that appeals to their flesh (need to make sure you’re compatible; can have sex any time you want)
- They’re obeying a false god that promises them happiness & fulfillment – And they may experience it TEMPORARILY. But the pleasure of sin lasts only a short time, & is always followed by pain & death.
- They’re listening to a false god that seems to make more sense to them than the God who demands that we obey His teachings & commands in His Word. (“That stuff is so outdated!” “Things are different now.” “This is just the way everyone lives now.” “It’s not that big a deal.”)
The False Security of Worshiping Idols
- It’s a control issue – G.I. Joes when I was a kid – I controlled everything about him. He didn’t do anything on his own. I did everything for him. I decided the rules about how we were going to play. I was in complete control.
- Same way w/ idols. I call the shots, instead of God calling the shots. I want to be in control of my life, instead of submitting myself to the control of God over my life.
- Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
- It’s a confidence issue – In the Christian life, we are required to walk by faith & not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). It’s the very foundation of our lives as Christ-followers – Prov. 3:5-6.
- And, yet, many times we don’t want to trust a God we can’t see. We want to take these into our own hands. We think we know better how to run our lives than He does.
- People of Ephesus – Why trust in an unseen God when you can run down to the temple & get an immediate audience w/ a god you can see & touch & feel? So many others are doing that, so there must be some validity to it.
- It’s a convenience issue – Handy Pantry/Pic a Bit – convenience stores in Cleveland when I was a kid. We called them “curb markets.” The big grocery stores had the same things, but more convenient to run in one of these stores. Willing to pay more for a gallon of milk or loaf of bread. Don’t want to take the time to walk up & down aisles of big stores when there’s the convenience store on the corner. We don’t want to WAIT for anything, & we don’t want to WORK for anything.
- Building a relationship w/ the one, true God takes time. Takes work. Takes effort on our part. Takes faith. Takes patience. It’s SO worth it, but it’s a lifelong process of starts & stops, mountaintops & valleys, sacrifice, discipline.
The Frightening Consequences of Worshiping Idols – 2 frightening consequences:
- What we become: We become like that which we worship
- Psalm 115:1-8
- Psalm 135:15-18
- 115:8 & 135:18 BOTH say, “Those who make them become like them, so do ALL who trust in them.”
- What is coming: Colossians 3:5-6 – “…the wrath of God is coming.” Idolatry is so dangerous b/c God has promised to pour out His wrath on those who bow down to idols.