Sunday, January 23, 2011

Week #3 1 John 5:21 "The Battle for Our Hearts and Minds"

"Dear children, keep yourselves from idols."

I pondered this week how God would have me apply this verse to my own life? At the outset, this seems like a slam-dunk of a verse to understand. It's pretty straightforward: stay away from idols.

1 John was written as a reaction to a religion/philosophy that was prevalent in John's day: gnosticism. The particular false god he is referring to here is the gnostic worldview and, more specifically, their erroneous view of Christ and man.

We may not have gnostic philosophers bombarding our society or invading our churches in America, but we are bombarded with world views that do not honor or acknowledge God. I see this warning, to stay away from idols, as an encouragement to me in my personal quest to find balance in my life between the world of popular culture and the pursuit of personal holiness. Allow me to explain.

As I have been taught to always look at the greater context of any bible verse, I peeked at 1 John 4 and 5, and observed what that had to say. First, it talks about how we believers need to "test the spirits" of the messages we receive in our lives. Are they from the Spirit of truth or the spirit of lies? This tells me that discerning between the two is not being judgmental. It is being wise.

It also talks about how the true test of a believer is love. Do we love God and love one another? It is, after all, God who loved us first, so how can we not make love our aim? God is telling us to live our lives with graciousness, kindness, forgiveness and patience. No fire and brimstone personalities needed.

And then, it talks about how our faith in Christ means eternal life and understanding of the true God, despite what the world will try to tell us.

When we know in our hearts and minds that we have eternal life and that Jesus is the One True God, the battle for our hearts and minds has already been won. I don't have to either "sell out" to the world and adopt their values and attitudes, or "hide out" from the world, keep company with only other believers and totally ignore all influences of our "secular" culture and art. I can face the world, and all it's godless messages, and have peace in my heart. For 1 John 4:4 tells us that "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world."

So, I will have peace in my heart as I stay away from idols, or false gods. I will know that I am not being anti-social or unbalanced when I abstain from watching or listening to certain celebrities or movies (and yes, even some theatrical productions). And on those occasions I am forced to look an idol in the face, I can call upon my LORD, who is greater than any idol in the world.

So, I can be IN the world without being OF the world. Yes, that's what that old saying means....

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