“Dear children, keep yourself from idols.”  (1 John 5:21)

Simple.  Clear.  Direct.  Easy to understand.  Oh, so important.  This is the essence of the Christian faith.  Idols shall not exist.  Let’s define an idol by using the NLT’s translation of this verse: Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.  There is no hidden meaning in the Greek of this text.  An idol is something that takes the place of God.  We would do well to run from them.

My heart breaks for American Christianity.  We have so many things that are lobbying for our hearts.  While the Bible teaches a pure, simple, and stripped down life of faith, we have luxuries, toys, and power that wage war on our hearts.  We have the ability to do, have, and become anything we want.  We are blessed for sure, but I believe poor nations often have an easier time following Christ.

Every fiber in your body was created to worship.  What you choose to worship is where the rubber meets the road.  If God is not everything to you, idols will have their way with you.  Read that sentence again because it should shake us to our core.  If you are not worshiping God above all, you will worship something else.  Anything else will make a terrible god.

Think about the Israelites with the golden calf in Exodus 32.  These were the people who had seen God work miracles in their lives and deliver them from bondage.  What did they do?  They got so bored while Moses was on the mountain that they decided to create a calf out of gold to worship.  Are you kidding me?  This is exactly why I say that you will ultimately worship something, whether it be God or an idol.  If not God, it will be as empty as a golden calf.

A golden calf sounds bizarre to me.  How did the Israelites trade God for a figure of gold, especially after they had experienced God’s power?  How do you give up the God of the universe for an empty idol?  It sounds crazy, but we do it every single day.  We choose money over God.  We choose luxuries over God.  We choose sinful pleasures over God.  We choose our spouse over God.  We choose our children over God.  All of these idols have one thing in common: they are empty.  Your child may be cute, but he or she is not God.

   Let’s end with Abraham and Isaac.  We all know the story.  Abraham waited years and years for the promise of a son to come to fruition.  Isaac was born, just as God had promised.  If anyone had an excuse to idolize his son it was Abraham.  He had to wait until he was 100!  But no, Abraham held God as his greatest Treasure, even after the promise was delivered.  God asked Abraham to slay his son, and he did not even hesitate.  God was first place in his heart.  While slaying Isaac with a knife may have been hard, it was the only option for Abraham.

On the mountain, Abraham lifted the knife in obedience to his God.  Before he could strike Isaac, God provided a ram to take Isaac’s place.  The lifting of the knife showed an idol-free life.  God now knew where He ranked in Abraham’s heart.  Abraham loved Isaac, but he did not idolize him.  As Tozer said, “He (Abraham) had everything, but he possessed nothing.  There is the spiritual secret.”  Abraham had it all, but nothing held his heart for God captive.  He was wealthy and had all he needed, but God was his only object of worship.  I pray for this in American Christianity.  We must slay our idols.  A refusal to lift the knife proves the presence of them.  Idols will creep in when God is not everything, and they are an empty, empty pit.

“Dear children, keep yourself from idols.”  (1 John 5:21)

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