What do I want my last words to be? I’m not morbid, but I’ve pondered this topic. I’d like to say something profound that would be quoted for generations. Or maybe I’d quote a favorite verse of Scripture. But what if I don’t have time to choose? Unfortunately, my last words might very well turn out to be a “Dad joke”!
Especially compared to Paul’s letters, the last words of 1 John may seem abrupt: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (v. 21). Period. Stop. End of letter. What is an “idol”? It’s anything in which we seek satisfaction apart from God (see February 8). It’s anything that rules or takes top priority in our lives, including finances, career, convenience, or power.
An idol can also be anything that corrupts the biblical gospel, such as the “prosperity gospel” or “Christian nationalism.” It’s anything that’s contrary to Scripture, such as the Gnosticism of John’s day. Some idols can even be good things that we mistakenly elevate to the status of the best thing. For instance, we can turn our children into idols. We can turn ourselves into idols, putting ourselves on the throne of our lives.
Idols stand opposed to the true God (v. 20). Idolatry contradicts what God created us for and what He saved us for. It stands in the way of a close relationship with Him. Verse 21 is a very appropriate last word for an epistle focused on assurance of salvation and the outworking of God’s saving love in our lives.
Instead of idolatry, we’re to worship God alone, in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To “keep yourselves from idols” means, then, in the words of another translation: “Keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts” (NLT).
>> At first glance, we may think we don’t worship any idols. But do we? What might those watching our life see at its center? Is it clearly Christ? Or something else? Ask the Spirit for an honest assessment.
We have seen believers who have lost their fervor. We are moved to compassion but also fear, lest we too lose our focus on You. Father, reveal any idols in our lives and help us turn back to You, the Lord of our hearts.