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1 John #12 Guard Yourselves Against Idols

Notes & Transcripts

That Your Joy May Be Complete #12

Guard Yourselves Against Idols

1 John 5:18-21

As John brings his letter to a close, his final verse might SEEM to be a rather awkward closing. He says “Little Children, keep yourselves from idols”

But we know that John was writing to counter false teachers. To encourage us to avoid the lies of the self-serving Gnostic teachers of their day. Those teachers did not worship Jesus, they worshiped something that they had created themselves. Their teachings were a direct attack on the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.

In 2 Corinthians Paul warns against anyone who comes along and preaches a different Jesus, provides a different spirit or proclaims a different gospel.

People you can use the same names and terms but if it isn’t the same in nature and personhood, it is not Jesus, but an Idol.

And John says “little children, keep yourselves from idols”

So, keep in mind John’s purpose as we read the rest of this chapter. Allow his final words to be a lens through which we see and understand his instructions.

READ 1 John 5:14-21

Now, let me say one thing as you take notes. I tossed and turned with this outline. The problem is that I need to give Donna an outline early in the week but I don’t finish until late in the week, so sometimes the path changes though our purpose is the same ..

SO … you might need a little room on the back … for the last part of your notes

In 2 Peter 2:17 Peter says be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position

Here … John says “keep yourselves from Idols”

“Idols” = eidolon (ay-do-lone) = image, likeness

The worst thing here is that the instruction of John, the idol, the false worship, that he is concerned with is NOT to some pagan god or goddess like Artemis in Ephesus, but was within the church and used Christian words and names even Jesus himself

And John calls to us today from 2 millennia and says

Little children keep yourselves from idols

Let me give you three false gods that I think are referred to here and a danger to us.

The first “idol” false image, we addressed last week, and if you missed you should go watch on ustream or read the manuscript online or get a copy of the audio cassette …

I am calling it the

1. Prayer Idol

By that I mean when we lift up our prayers and make the prayer itself the object of our attention, worship, desires, and demands.

Yes, we said last week that often we only come to God when we are hurting or in need.

In those cases we come and we lay our requests before God. We tell God what we think we need. We demand, what we think best …

Folks we SHOULD pray in faith.

We SHOULD believe that God is able.

We SHOULD make our requests …

But do NOT worship the request.

Do not place your hopes and dreams on what you think God needs to do for you.

If you place your hopes on the prayer, you are worshiping an idol

God is our refuge and our strength and ever present help in times of troubles”

NOT An answer to prayer



But do not believe in Prayer,

believe in GOD

Because He may say “NO” because what He has is better

If, as Paul teaches, Jesus is the YES to every promise of God, then if God says NO to what YOU or I ask for, that is YES to something BETTER!

Prayer is not about the things we want. It is about KNOWING GOD

In Philippians 3, Paul said “I want to know Christ

Paul said “I consider everything rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of Knowing Christ Jesus our Lord”

Worship Jesus, don’t worship Prayer

Keep Yourselves from idols

But there is another Idol

2. Personal Idols

Now, we could list many things here … but in addressing the Christian, I think there are two things we idolize …

The first is the most obvious

A. Sin

Can a believer sin? YES v16 says “if anyone sees his BROTHER” … this is not a familial term but a sacred one …this is one who is a Christian …

“A sin unto death”… While I will not spend an exhaustive time here … I will address albeit briefly this terminology … there are two ways that I think we can view this category of sin here …

I think there are two kinds … one could be done by a Christian and one could NOT

One, could be the rejection of Grace offered by the Holy Spirit. It is the lifelong, constant saying of “NO” to the gracious offer of Life in Jesus Christ. Jesus called it “Blasphemy of the Spirit” in Matthew 12:31 … this is not a sin by someone who didn’t know … but this is someone who hears the gospel presented, preached, and sees it lived and yet they keep on saying “NO” right up until death. There is NO PRAYER to be offered for this one so do not waste your time. It is a sad thing to share the gospel with someone and see that they aren’t even wrestling with it … it is as if the spiritual light is turned off and God has stopped calling them.

Another “sin unto death” CAN be committed by a Christian or a Non-Christian. IN the case of the non-Christian it may be the final straw of one who has rejected God for too long. But for the Christian it is a final act of correction by a loving God. Let me explain it this way … I used to know a preacher who said “If God’s child will not obey him here, he knows how to take them home where they WILL obey” …

Have you as a loving parent ever taken your child OUT of the public, away from the blessings you were giving them because they would not obey you? Maybe you corrected verbally. Perhaps then upon continuance, you took them into the privacy of a separate room for more stern correction, and then with further continuance you said, “That’s it, we are going home.”

Pro 3:12 the Lord disciplines those he loves

Remember that our whole purpose is to be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, and there IS precedent that SOMETIMES … only known in the Mind and Plan of God, when God must take one HOME in order to complete his work in them.

There are MANY in scripture who sinned “unto death” … you can get my manuscript for this list … but

Lev 10:1-7; Numbers 16; Joshua 6 and 7; 2 Samuel 6; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor 11:30; 1 Cor 5:1-5; 2 Cor 2:6-8

This is not a specific singular sin, but a TYPE … it is an attitude of Rebellion that in God’s wisdom and understanding would do MORE damage to the work and purpose of God than to just leave it alone.

Can a believer sin? YES

MUST a believer sin? NO … Romans 6:12-13 – “DO NOT let sin reign in your mortal body” Key words being LET and REIGN … meaning I do NOT have to ALLOW sin to rule in my life, but when I allow it to STAY it WILL rule and direct my life and path

There is good news is this area, I will bring us to that in a minute; But remember

1 John 2:13-14 says that we have POWER to Overcome Sin …and

1 John 1:9 says that when we DO sin … God is waiting to Forgive and cleanse us

But Physical Death IS a possibility. Certainly death is NOT always the result of sin … but sin CAN shorten the time we COULD have had

One other idol that is a Personal Idol for Believers is

B. Perfection Idol

I know some folks that don’t necessarily do anything “WRONG” … they seem to be righteous, they ACT holy … but they don’t do it because they love God. They don’t do it because they want to please him. They do not do it as an example to a watching world. NO … they do it because they want to be WORSHIPED … “LOOK AT ME … I am HOLY” … if we are not careful, striving for perfection can be an Idol too if our heart is not in the right place.

Do I think we should strive for Holiness? Absolutely … do not hear me wrong … we SHOULD strive for Holiness

But ANYTHING that takes the proper place of God is an Idol …

If you have ever said “I don’t sin, I’m a Christian” … you might have a problem with perfection idols

If you have ever thought “I don’t understand why they sin, they should be more like me” … you might have a problem with a perfection idol

If you have ever overlooked your “minor indiscretions” or called the actions of others “sins” while calling yours “mistakes” … you might have a problem with perfection idols

If you dismiss even the thought that you MIGHT have sinned … you might have a perfection idol

The story goes that John Wesley was traveling, preaching town to town on his horse, and it struck him that while he sought to live a holy life, no one had mistreated him, or made fun of him, thrown a brick or an egg at him in 3 days … so he got off of his horse, and began to pray and ask “Lord have I sinned and missed it, have I been less than you demand of me?” He wanted God to reveal his unknown sin because he was not feeling the attack of evil and so was afraid he HAD sinned. While he was praying some heretic threw a brick that just barely missed him and Wesley said “thank you Lord, that I am still walking with you”. The point being that even in his holiness he knew he MIGHT have sinned.

If God has convicted you of reveling in your perceived perfection, this is PRIDE and is wrong … and v17 here says all wrongdoing is SIN

Keep yourselves from the idols of sin and perfection

Very quickly then, one other category of Idols from which we are to keep ourselves …

3. Profane Idols

By this I mean ANYTHING of this world that would seek to take the Rightful Place of God in your life

Profane means secular or blasphemous …

V20 says the whole world is under the control of the evil one

The YLT says the whole world in The Evil doth lie …

Anything that stays within the control of and according to the ways of Satan is an Idol and lies within the influence of Satan

Satan doesn’t care if you worship him by name … because as long as you do NOT worship Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God, Second Person of the Trinity, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Incarnated in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, lived a perfect life, died on the cross, resurrected on the third day, ascended to the right hand of the Father and coming again, if you don’t worship HIM then you WORSHIP the EVIL ONE … even if you do not know it.

And so, if you worship your Job, your Spouse, your Children, your Name, your Reputation, your wealth, your leisure … you are worshiping profane idols.

How do we know if it is WORSHIP and not just good priorities?

Worship as a verb is to show reverence and adoration for; great admiration or devotion for


Whatever everything else in your schedule bows to is at least in DANGER of being a profane idol in your life


Now, I need to stop here to give you some GOOD NEWS … There is GOOD NEWS in this passage … because we are ALL guilty of and in danger of giving worship to things that don’t deserve the place in our life that belongs to Jesus Christ to the Father, to the Holy Spirit … BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS …

There may not be a Cure for the Common Cold …

But if there’s an alternate title for my message today it is this

4. The Cure for the Common Idol

There are THREE positive statements of CONFIDENCE as John completes and BEFORE he tells us to KEEP OURSELVES from Idols

Cerinthius, that false teacher in the late 1st Century Ephesus claimed a “special knowledge” was his and was the only way to truth … but all through this Letter John gives us confidence …we don’t need a special knowledge because we have certain things in Christ … three times we are told what we KNOW … and in this KNOWLEDGE we have the CURE for the Common Idol

A. We KNOW that we Can’t CONTINUE in Sin v18

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin

This is both a warning as well as an encouragement … the encouragement is don’t waste your time worshipping false idols, which is the basis for sin, because you can’t stay in it anyway. … WHY?

1. Jesus Will Work Against us so that our success in sin is hindered

V18 … did you see it … the reason we KNOW that we can’t CONTINUE … is JESUS … Jesus is STILL the answer … for EVERY QUESTION … why? Because the ONE who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil can’t harm him

Again it doesn’t mean we CAN’T sin, but we can’t keep on sinning … Matthew Henry says we are “secured against the fullness of sin’s dominion or the fullness of its guilt” …

It says anyone BORN of God … which is in the present perfect tense so that refers to the Christian who has received Christ and his sacrifice and become a child of God … doesn’t continue to sin because “the one who Was Born of God” – was indicates an event in the past … thus referring to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, his miraculous birth by the power and plan of God … JESUS keeps us safe. We cannot be harmed even by our sin, nor by the attempt of the evil one

John 10:10 says “the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I came that you might have life”

This shouldn’t make us say that we can do what we want, but it is an encouragement that Christ protects us even from our sinful selves and he keeps us … What did Jude write

Jude 24 – to him who is able to KEEP you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy

2. The Spirit of Christ within us will keep us from enjoying it long term

Have you noticed that IN Christ you can’t enjoy everything you enjoyed BEFORE Christ?

Matthew Henry says we can’t sin “with that fullness of heart and spirit that the unregenerate do”

Eph 5:8 you were once darkness, but now you are LIGHT in the Lord, LIVE AS children of Light

It doesn’t say we CAN’T sin … if we couldn’t sin Paul wouldn’t encourage us to LIVE AS … but we certainly can’t STAY there … we can’t ENJOY it … we can’t THRIVE there … when we sin we go against our new nature

We can’t continue because

3. Jesus can take us HOME …

we have already spoken about it … but we can’t continue to sin because, if necessary and according to his wisdom, God CAN, in extreme cases, take us HOME where we WILL behave … in cases of a rebellious attitude and action by a believer that will not obey.

So, we KNOW … that we cannot CONTINUE in Sin … because Jesus himself is conforming us to his image so He will work against us in sin, just as he works FOR us in transforming us

Then John says

B. We KNOW we Belong to God v19

So don’t waste your time on idols

That idol has done nothing for you and cannot, ultimately, do anything FOR you in the future that is lasting and effectual for REAL Life

Colossians 3:3,5,7 says you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God … 5 put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry … 7 you used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 but now, you must rid yourselves of all such things

We do not belong to the world which is under the control of the evil one …

1. we are born of God

John 1:12 – to all who received him, to those who believed on his name, he has given the right to become children of God

1 Peter 1:23 for you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable

1 John 3:9 no one born of God keeps on sinning, for God’s seed abides in him

2. we are destined for Eternity

Hebrews 13:14 says “this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come” – so no need for us to protect to keep things that are of THIS house … if you are living in a rental … you aren’t going to invest too much in that edifice …

This World is just a rental … oh we live in a rental, you want it to be nice, you want to take care of it … but don’t place everything you have in it …

3. We are Bought with a Price –

1 Cor 6:19-20 – know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is IN you which you have of God, for you are NOT your Own you are bought with a price therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit

You belong to GOD … so seek to make HIS name great, his reputation spread by your life because you are his

And then … one more cure for the Common Idol

C. We Have the Real Thing

1. The Son of God has come and given real understanding …

John 14 Thomas said “Lord we don’t know where you are going and don’t know the way” and Jesus said “I am the way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me” … you don’t need to keep searching the answer is in Jesus for everything you seek, he is the answer … There was a time we didn’t know … you sought your own way or the best way you could find … you worshiped one sort of idol or another … but once the word of God is preached and explained you know Jesus Christ is the only way, creator, Savior, and Sustainer of all things

Augustine said “I had to believe in order that I might understand”

Paul taught us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God

He is the Real thing and because we know him

2. we are IN HIM and so have a real relationship …

you don’t have to waste your time with anything else because he is the REAL THING … You can spend all of your time trying to fill your life and satisfy your life and find the meaning for life … but John 1:4 says in him was life and that life was the light of men … so it is when we are in our that Real Relationship gives us all we need

3. and we know that in him is the only Real Hope …

he is the True God and Eternal Life

John 17:3 … This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent


Let me get some help before I finish … I brought something with me …

Who Really Enjoys a Coke? Come here

What about Diet Coke? Come here

Someone love Country Time? Come Here

I have a coke … <offer the generic> … Oh you don’t like that

What about died <offer the generic> … you don’t like that either

Isn’t it the SAME THING?

But you like lemonaide … I had this made for you <show the “lemonade idol” … take it home and hope to lose your thirst … pray that it will moisten your mouth

You guys take those generics and drink them later and imagine that they are the REAL THING … and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it anyway …

You guys aren’t going to enjoy these are you?

Would this be better? <Offer the Real Coke, the Real Diet, the Real Lemonade>

Why is that better?

It’s the Real Thing

Little Children, Keep Yourselves From Idols

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