Oh, By the Way...
“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21
The book of 1 John is known as the book of love. Over and over, John describes the love of God: what it is and what it is not. And then we get to the end of this love letter and we see this last thought. “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”
What? Wait. Where did that come from?
Maybe it’s just me, but as I read through this book over and over myself, this last sentence seemed out of place. It’s good. It’s right. It’s something we need to do. But it seemed like an afterthought. Like an, “Oh, by the way…” kind of thing.
But as we think about this statement and look back at all John has just communicated about God’s love, we see that this is how we do everything else he’s talked about. We will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, walking in His ways, or we will fix our eyes on idols, things of lesser value, power and truth.
The principles discussed in the study Living in the Light of God’s Love: Walk this Way are how we keep fixed on Jesus. We can all get off course occasionally, but by doing these things, we will course correct quickly. What does it entail?
It’s such a churchy word, but all it means is active relationship. We live and engage in an active relationship (in fellowship) with God and with others who know God. We are authentic, not hiding who we really are. We grow and become more invested in Him and each other, able to speak deeper and more gracious truth and encouragement into each other’s lives. We more clearly hear and receive God’s truth and encouragement.
This word entices rebellion right off the bat. “No one’s going to tell me what to do!” But our relationship with God is not just any relationship. His heart for us is one of a parent for a child. And just as our parents told us what to do for our own good, so does God. And God’s direction (commands) are not based on His personal experience in our world; it’s based on His character and the character He’s growing in each of us. It’s completely pure in thought, word and deed. God’s commands set us apart for good in this world, not evil. And if we’re honest, isn’t that what we want, to do good in this world?
At the same time, we all want what we want. And it seems good to us in the moment, even over the years. And yet to follow anyone’s direction requires us to set aside what we think for what they say. Humility lays ourselves down, acknowledges the value and worth of another as more significant than just what we want. It isn’t that we are not also important, it just says that our wants are not more important than another person’s being and needs. We submit to Jesus, what He says and what He does, so that we can actually do things the way He did them.
This word, unfortunately conjures up thoughts of religious practices that have nothing to do with the true and living God. But I refuse to let lesser gods hijack words that have good meaning and purpose. Meditation is simply the things we think about throughout our days and nights. What thoughts roll through your mind on a regular basis? Worry, anxiety, revenge, achievement, proving yourself, loss and sorrow? God has given us His Word in both the person of Jesus and through the Holy Scripture. We can think all sorts of things, but all we really need to know is found within the pages of our Bibles. We can read and know that God’s grace and truth will see us through, and as we think on His Word, our perspective, understanding and response to our situations will change. We can know God and through the power of His Spirit, find joy in His Word.
As I was growing up, I thought of prayer as me thinking, maybe speaking my requests to God hoping that He’d hear them and answer them. When I was in my late 20’s, I heard a woman at church talking about how she was talking to God and He was talking back! Really? Was this older woman for real or just “thinking” she heard from God? Can we really hear God? Does He really speak to us personally, individually? Prayer is all about our conversations with God, coming to Him with everything. We seek to know Him and hear from Him. What God says to us when we pray has the power to change our lives if we let it. And therein lies the challenge of prayer…
“Dear children (you who are loved), keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Deuteronomy 5:7) (Jesus replied:) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
How do we love each other well? We worship God and God alone. As we seek to follow Jesus in relationship with Him, doing what He says, submitting our will to His, knowing His truth and grace, seeking to hear from Him regularly, we follow the example He set of what it means to love God and love others. We focus all our attention, all our purpose on Him. This is our worship: to be a living sacrifice offering our whole life up to Him for His purpose. His love is good in us and it’s good through us. Walk as Jesus did. Love God and one another well.
Want to dig deeper into the book of 1 John?
Living in the Light of God’s Love: Walk this Way is available at the Welcome Desk or at MariKeisling.com.