BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” 1 John 5:21 NLT
This is the final verse of 1 John. John shares with his readers, instructions and gives warnings about living life in a challenging world. His letter ends somewhat abruptly. Most translations word this final verse as, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” The New Living Translation speaks to the “modern” heart with relevance about the real issue, “the heart.”
If prostitution is the “world’s oldest profession” then idolatry is the world’s oldest sin. It should be no surprise the first commandment is, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20)
The history of God’s people is rampant with the issue of idolatry. The four hundred years of captivity in Egypt among all the idols in the land, had generational ramifications for God’s people. Idolatry become their “Achilles heel” that brought their downfall.
However, the record reveals the issues of worshiping God alone, and the influence of surrounding cultures predated their centuries in Egypt. As Jacob’s family prepared to return from the house of Laban we read his instructions to his family, “So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.'” (Genesis 35:2 NIV)
We see during the Exodus, that early in their journey to the promised land, as Moses was on Mount Sinai in their impatience the people turn to Aaron and ask him to make them golden caves as their gods.
As God’s people prepared to enter the promised land under the leadership of Joshua, they declared that they would serve the Lord. Joshua commanded them, “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 24:23 NIV)
Samuel who was the priest-judge of Israel, before Saul was chosen as the first king of Israel told an imperiled people threatened by the might of the Philistines, “…If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:3 NIV)
The next significant point in their history was when King Solomon in his old age accommodated his foreign wives by building shrines to their gods. This began hundreds of years of idolatry and at its best split loyalty between Jehovah and the idols of the nations around Israel. Finally the Lord sent His people into captivity in foreign lands in an attempt to rid their hearts and lives of idolatry.
Even when the idols in their forms where absent, there remained a deeper issue. The Lord spoke to the prophet Ezekiel, “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces….” (Ezekiel 14:3 NIV)
So, as John writes to first century believers and warns them about loving the world, it seems fitting for him to warn them about the devotion of their hearts. What is needed is a “new” heart, a transformed life….a heart “transplant.”
The Lord’s promise through the prophet was, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you…” (Ezekiel 36:26 NIV) Jesus said the greatest commandment was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” (Luke 10:27 NIV) Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.” (Ephesians 6:6 NIV)
An old chorus contains the words, “change my heart O God, make it ever true…” That is our sincere prayer to God, our responsibility before God is to heed John’s words, “keep away…from anything that might take God’s place in your heart.” As Solomon learned perhaps too late, but wanted to pass one to other, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)
Christ can change our heart, we have the responsibility to guard our heart.