Pete continues our series explaining the importance of the knowledge of God in 1 John 5:16-21.
What does is a Christian ‘Goodbye’ look like?
Paul finishes many of his letters by saying “May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you”. This is a wonderful goodbye.
However, John ends this letter by saying: “Dear children keep yourself from idols.” Full stop.
This may seem strange but it is in fact a great way to sign off.
Keep yourself from idols!
There are so many idols around us and we are prone to fall for the lies of idols. Any vision of God other than the vision of God disclosed in the historic apostolic Jesus is an idol. Idols destroy. They are ‘false news’.
At best the world’s idols misrepresent what is alive. They bring death not truth. So we must avoid them.
Idols are created and made. They are forged in this world and not eternal. They are limited and we need to keep ourselves from things that are limited.
See Jeremiah 1:16
“I will pronounce my judgments on my people
because of their wickedness in forsaking me,
in burning incense to other gods
and in worshiping what their hands have made.”
The idols they worship have been made by human hands and they are insulting to a living God.
See also Isaiah 2:8
“Their land is full of idols;
they bow down to the work of their hands,
to what their fingers have made.”
An idol is a made thing, which is a reflection of our selves, because it has been created from our own imaginings. So, we are in one sense worshipping ourselves.
The true God makes us in his image. He isn’t a reflection of our experiences. He is a true living God who has revealed himself in this apostolic message.
He is not made, and he is not in time. He is above time and he made.
See verse 20 of 1 John 5
“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
Here is a God who gives understanding. He gives knowledge bigger than the world. John talks about knowing Him. God is relational. John talks about truth. He is a true God. John talks about eternal life – living; not forged in frailty and this world and false news.
Idol worship brings about blindness of mind and heart.
See Isaiah 44:9
“All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
they are ignorant, to their own shame.”
Isaiah talks about worthless treasure. These idols may look like treasure but they contain no nutrients to give life. The words ‘blindness’ and ‘ignorance’ are used. People are blinded to their own shame. And, sadly, they continue to live in shame, thinking it is real treasure
The bible uses the word chaff for idols. Chaff blows away because it is nothing, it has no substance. God is the kernel, the real heart of the grain, which drops to the ground because it has substance and life in it.
“They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.”
There is no understanding about life events, or of the future, or of what is going on in the world. And there is definitely no repentance.
1 John 5:18
“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.”
When we know God, we are given understanding. But the idolator is self-deluded, caught in a web of lies.
In Isaiah 44:20 we read:
“Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”
He cannot even recognise that what he has in his right hand is a lie!
Where is Richard Dawkins in the midst of this virus? At times such as this, atheists are strangely silent. The notion that viruses are good because they will result in the survival of the fittest only sounds convincing when things are going well, but in situations of real need, these ideas are just chaff; self-delusion. When we set our hearts on something smaller than God it produces a smallness of mind, a deluded heart and a denial of truth.
Idolatry causes us to deny truth.
Romans 1:22-23 states:
“Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.”
They have exchanged the glory of God for things that are made.
When people turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, they turn from idols to the living and true God. When people turn away from God they turn back to idols.
So keep yourself from idols! This is the arrow-head of our passage.
The 3 verses that precede these verses give us the tools to guard against idols.
18. “ We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.
19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.
20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
We know - protection
We know that we are given protection from sin and the promise of victory. We are not blindly hoping, like those who believe in idols.
We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin.
We know about sin, and this helps us to understand the world we live in. We know about our own sin, and we know where to go to receive forgiveness and protection.
1 John 1:7
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
We know what to do with sin.
John is not saying Christians are sinless. But in order to walk in the light, we must acknowledge our sins, and go to the perfect one who can cleanse us, give us protection, and help us to overcome. We go to Jesus Christ, the only one who deals with sin once and for all.
This is real obedience. It will not be perfect in this life, but it is real.
The Christian won’t commit the sin that John refers to as leading to death. These are people who have blatantly walked away from the truth, and who are living as Apostates.
The true Christian will persevere and keep coming back to receive blessing and forgiveness from the cleansing blood of the Lord Jesus Christ
In verse 18 we read: “the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them”.
If we are in Christ, we are protected from sin and from the devil and even from ourselves.
Christ has beaten the devil. In Greek the word harm means ‘to fasten onto, to be in the clutches of.’ The believer is not ‘in the clutches’ of Satan, because Jesus had come to rescue us.
Jesus will hold us fast.
When a soldier falls in the battlefield, he doesn’t just stay there. He runs to his commander. In the same way, when we sin, we mustn’t just stand there. We run to the king. We confess our sins and He brings healing and forgiveness. So keep with Jesus.
We know – where we belong
“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. “
We know that we belong to God. We have a different master, a different standard and a different influence. We don’t belong to this world, which is full of these meaningless idols. We are no longer under the power of the evil one who is a liar.
We’ve been rescued, redeemed, and adopted into the family of God.
But to safeguard our hearts from returning, we need to keep ourselves from Idols!
We know – real knowledge.
V20 “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
We know what is really real and important. The best thing to be teaching our children is that Jesus is the son of God. That is the real knowledge.
This isn’t just theology, knowing about God. This is relationship with the living God.
When our lungs are giving up, what do we need to know? We need to know that Jesus is the son of God, He is the ruler. He brings us into a new kingdom.
In our passage, people were betraying that knowledge and were going back to idols.
But we know the truth and this is what will keep us walking in the light.
John Newton wrote these famous words:
‘I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am’
Someone added to this:
‘I am not what I ought to be’ .
Certainly not, says John, in his epistle. For if we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves.
‘I am not what I want to be’.
Certainly not, says John, for anyone who has hope of Christ’s return in his soul purifies himself just as Jesus is pure. We are working out our salvation.
‘I am not what I hope to be’.
Certainly not, says John, for we know that only when He appears shall we be like Him. “We will not continue in sin.” [1John 5:18] We will be liberated for ever from that.
Therefore, keep yourself from idols! Yes, we are failing, and frail, but that is exactly why we must keep going back to Jesus, as the only sure way of keeping ourselves free from idols.
Take time to pray through these things.
1 John 5:16 - 5:21
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.
18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.