Little children, guard yourselves from idols.
1 John 5:21
Guard yourselves from idols. Guard yourselves from idols! Guard yourselves from idols?
What does that mean? Why such emphasis? It’s the last sentence in arguable one of the most profound books of the Bible.
“Guard yourselves from idols.”
To ease into this passage I think we must redefine idols. For those of us who are concerned that idols are irrelevant today and that what John was talking about were well distinguished gods formed into statues in places where pagan gods were located. I don’t think he’s talking about that although we should obviously avoid those places, too. Does John think we’re dumb? That we would conscientiously choose to serve and worship an idol. No way. The implication of the text is that idols have a way of attacking and infringing themselves upon us. And that we should be guarding ourselves from them. One definition of idol says “any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion”
So, we are to guard ourselves from idols.
What are some of the idols that you regard with “blind admiration”?
Did you choose it or did it choose you?
I think what John is saying here is that idols have a way of drawing us into them to distract us. I would rightly argue that in the unseen world that there are spiritual forces that instigate this drawing and wooing. And we are to guard ourselves from that. In essence there is war going on for our attention and our focus. I bet as I say this your mind is spinning thinking about all the things that draw you into them. Your love for ______.
Try and fill in the blanks of these sentences for yourself. “I just can’t stop ________.” “When I get up the first thing I do is ___________.” “Whenever I get lonely I feel most comfortable ____________.”
Sometimes the things we’re drawn to is directly related to sin. But most of the time it’s not that obvious. Our adversary knows that if he can distract us from being obedient to the first commandment in the New Testament of “loving the Lord God with all your heart mind and strength” he’s trapped us in defeat.
The only thing in the universe that is not a potential idol is the Lord. The Lord stands in the central place of all creation loving and extending Himself in pure kindness. There is no shadow in Him. He is perfect in every way. He’s not trying to prove Himself. He is wanting for us to receive His love.
But is is very opinionated about our welfare, hence the Bible, documenting His interaction with humanity.
The Bible teaches that He does not like when we get trapped by idols and He doesn’t set us up to get trapped by them. “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” James 1:13
But He will bust our bubbles to get us free!
Sometimes we get too fixated with money or with power or with video games or with a person or with ourselves or with our religion or with…. an idol?! So He has to go in and set us free. But what He would much rather prefer is… for us to “guard yourselves from idols.”
So how do you know if you are trapped by an idol?
How easy is it for you to bow down and worship Jesus?…
That’s the litmus test, and that’s the way we guard ourselves.