A few weeks ago we studied the life of the apostle John, a man so captivated by the love of Christ that he referred to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” That love transformed John’s life from someone who was self-serving, judgmental, and lacking in love to someone who radiated God’s love to others. John is a great encouragement to me as I consider my deficiency in love—that the Lord is able to do this work in my life as well.
As John writes his first epistle, he speaks over and over of God’s great love and how we as His children should love the Lord and one another. But then as he brings his letter to a close, John does something surprising. Seemingly out of the blue he ends with these words,
“Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
What is the relationship with that to the love that John has been writing about for five chapters?
The connection is that our hearts are susceptible to other affections that can displace our love for God (1 John 2:16). Idols are not just religious statues—they can be thoughts, desires, and expectations that we unperceptively begin to worship instead of God. And so, instead of having your trust and satisfaction in God, your trust, expectations, and delight can be in other things, which never give what they seem to promise.
The question to ask yourself is this: “What is it that I need to be happy?” Is it God? Or is it God plus something else? One key indication is how frustrated, worried, distracted, or disappointed you are in your day to day living. These responses reveal a heart that is dissatisfied, a heart that is not trusting and delighting in the sufficiency, goodness, and promises of God.
So, take a moment with me to pray that God would reveal any idols lurking in our hearts (Psalm 139:23) and thank God that His love is better than life (Psalm 63:3). Pray that He would renew your first love (Matthew 22:37) and that the Lord’s love would be your true joy, sufficient for all you need.