Idolatry

In this morning reading, the apostle John exhorts us to have Faith in the Son of God.   1John 5:1 “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.”

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.  We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments for loving God means, keeping his commandments, and John tells us in v3 that his commandments are not burdensome.  For every child of God defeats this evil world, and achieves this victory through our faith.  And only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God is able to win this battle against the world.

 

In v6 John tells us that Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross—not by water only, but by water and blood. And by the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony.

So we have these three witnesses—  the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and all three agree.  Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from God. And God has testified about his Son. All who believe in the Son of God know in their hearts that this testimony is true. Those who don’t believe this are actually calling God a liar because they don’t believe what God has testified about his Son.

 

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Simply put, whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.

 

In v13 John tells us that he has written this to us who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that we may know we have eternal life.

And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God.  And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.

 

John exhorts us (1John 2:15 -17) to ‘love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

 

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

 

17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”

 

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

 

John gives us a lot to think about in today’s reading and he emphasizes the importance of having faith in Jesus, as the son of God, by the way he ends this chapter (Verse 21) “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”

 

At first reading I didn’t see any connection.  Whenever I hear the phrase “keep yourselves from idols” my first thought turns to the golden calf.  

My mental picture is of the Israelites at Mount Sinai when they saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain.

They all gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.”

 

So Aaron said ok, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.”

 

All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron.  Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

 

Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then he announced, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!”

 

The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking and dancing.

They indulged in pagan revelry.

That sort of thing doesn’t happen in today’s world. 

The phase “keep yourselves from idols” doesn’t have any relevance to our time.

It’s one of those passages that we just read and move on.  Never giving any real thought to it, because we think it doesn’t apply to this time in history.

 

But, what happens if we read it differently.  Instead of reading “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” what if we read it like this;

1John 5:21 “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” Let’s hear it again, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”

 

When I read it like that I don’t get the image of the golden calf of the Israelites, or Baal of the Canaanites, or Dagon of the Philistines, or Milcom of the Ammonites.  Instead, I picture things that could take Gods place in my heart.  And in the world we live in today they are countless.  No matter what they are, they have one thing in common; they are the “earthly things lurking within us”.

In Colossians chapter 3, the apostle Paul exhorts us to “put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within us. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires.

Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. He tells us that because of these sins, the anger of God is coming.  He goes on to say that we used to do these things when our life was still part of this world.

But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.  He encourages us not to lie to each other, for we have stripped off our old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.  He tells us to put on our new nature, and be renewed as we learn to know our Creator and become like him.

In this new life, God chose us to be the holy people he loves.  We are to clothe ourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  We are to make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends us. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, we are to clothe ourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  The apostle Paul urges us to let the peace that comes from Christ rule in our hearts. For as members of one body we are called to live in peace.  And always be thankful.

 

We are to let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill our lives.  To teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.  And whatever we do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

The apostle Paul was not ashamed of the Good News about Christ and neither should we.  He said that it is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes.  This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith.

As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.

When we allow anything to take God’s place in our hearts, we open ourselves to became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.  We are ripe to become backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful.  We are capable of inventing new ways of sinning, refusing to understand, breaking our promises, heartless and without mercy. We know God’s justice requires that whoever does these things deserves to die, yet we do them anyway. Worse yet, we may even encourage others to do them, too. 

This is why the apostle Paul exhorts us who have been raised to new life with Christ, set our sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 

He exhorts us to think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

For we died to this life, and our real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is our life, is revealed to the whole world, we will share in all his glory.

 

Brothers and sisters, God has revealed to us his mysterious will regarding Christ—which is to fulfill his own good plan.  And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. And because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

And now as we prepare ourselves to partake of the emblems set before us, let us ask God to forgive us -  If at any time;

-       we have allowed anything –

-        

-       to take His place –

-        

-       in our heart.


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