The women in our church recently finished a study on 1 John, and I had the honor of helping to co-teach the last session with a dear friend of mine. Below is an excerpt/adaptation of some of what I shared.
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21
Keep yourself from idols: the very last sentence in this epistle.
At first glance it seems like an abrupt and rather random statement at the end of a letter where idols weren’t mentioned anywhere else. But sin and idolatry are intricately connected with one another throughout Scripture, and instruction about sin is all over in 1 John. All sin is, at its core, idolatry. It is the worship of something above the One True God.
Warnings were often issued at the end of the New Testament letters. And this was probably a practical application that made perfect sense to the original readers in the pagan context in which they lived. They couldn’t keep themselves from the idols (and sins) of that day without heeding and obeying everything else John had written in the letter (which I’d highly encourage you to dive into for yourself). Even though this was written to believers thousands of years ago, the truths are timeless and still apply to us today. There is increasing pressure to tolerate and accept the idols—sins—in our current culture. And if we’re not loving God, loving others, abiding in God, keeping His commandments, and being guarded against false doctrine we’ll begin to slip into tolerating and even accepting those idols for ourselves.
However, we cannot love God unless we know Him. We cannot keep God’s commands without knowing what He commands. And how has He chosen to reveal Himself and His commands? Primarily, through His Word. We must know His Word. His Spirit that lives within us will lead us into all truth, and that truth is found in the pages of Scripture. Don’t fall for any kind of diminishment you might hear about the importance of spending time in God’s Word: that’s exactly what the enemy wants. And because we so easily forget, just going back every once-in-a-while isn’t enough. Treasure God’s Word. Treasure God through saturating yourself in the pages of Scripture that He loved us enough to give us. But don’t stop there: proclaim it with your words. Encourage one another with it. Obey it joyfully. As you do, your love for God will increase, your love for others will increase, and your fear of man will dissipate. God’s Spirit will empower you to obey even when people are trying to force you to your knees in front of those idols. Why? Because you know Him, you love Him, and you have confidence in the obedience to God’s truth that’s been hidden in your heart.