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Created to Worship ... Prone to Wander

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
May 29, 2023 12:00 am

Created to Worship ... Prone to Wander

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 29, 2023 12:00 am

(1 John 5:21) Human beings were made to worship. The object of that worship will either be the one true and living God…or it will be an idol. A “god” is whatever we choose to serve, rely on, find refuge in, and love. And the more we worship that false “god”, the more we come to resemble it. Here, Pastor Davey expounds upon the Apostle John’s warning for believers to guard themselves from idols. Jesus Christ is the only God both worthy of worshipping and worth becoming more like. Anything else is a shallow, temporary substitute.

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Leading the Way
Michael Youssef

You and I, created to worship, are actually in the process of being conformed into the image of that which we worship. David put it this way in Psalm 115 verse 8, Those who make them, a reference to these idols, will become like them. Warren Wiersbe put it this way, an idol represents that which is false and empty. And a person who lives for idols will himself become false and empty. Human beings were made to worship. What that means is that you'll either worship the one and true living God or you'll worship an idol. Your God is whoever or whatever you choose to serve, rely on, find refuge in, and love.

Now, here's why it's important to choose wisely. Because whatever you choose to worship, you will eventually come to resemble. Today, Stephen Davey returns one last time to 1 John 5 and a lesson called, Created to Worship, Prone to Wander. Try asking the average person, ask the person on the street if they struggle with idolatry. Ask somebody in the church, how's your struggle coming with idolatry?

And they'll think you fell off the turnip truck and bumped your head a little too hard. Which is one of the reasons the last six words of John's letter are either ignored or relegated to some Stone Age error. We're over that now, we don't have that problem anymore. So turn to 1 John, would you? One last time, in my lifetime. Although we'll go back and forth often to this wonderful letter, but this ends our exposition of this book.

And look at what he says here as he wraps it up. In fact, let's get a running start back in verse 20. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true.

Remember? Who is real. And we are in him who is true, authentic, real in his Son, Jesus Christ.

This is the real, this is the true God and eternal life. Now verse 21, little children, guard yourselves from idols. By the way, John ends this letter with the same kind of tough and tender approach he's used throughout it, doesn't he? Chapter 2 and verse 1, he referred to us as little children. It's an affectionate term revealing sort of the vantage point of John's thought, his heart. That of being a loving parent to those spiritual children in the faith. Even though he has given it to us squarely between the eyes often, hadn't he?

Without apology, with no mincing of words, boldly at times. Even though it's uncomfortable, yet behind his words has been this context of pastoral care and parental love. He loves us and the Spirit of God communicating through him wants us to know that we are loved. We didn't take time to stop through the letter, but if you go through this letter again as I did just by summary, in my own thinking, you discover that six times throughout this epistle, he has called us beloved.

Beloved, it's an affectionate term of love. In chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4. Three times, John has reminded us all of our family connection to each other. He calls us brethren. Within that then is the concept of we are brothers and sisters. We belong to the same family, chapter 3, verses 13, 14, and 16. But nine times, nine times throughout this letter, John refers to his readers as children.

Technia, chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4. It can be translated little children. John pretty much began his letter by referring to us as his little children. And now he wraps up the letter with the same sweet term, little children.

Why? It's because it's the perfect term to communicate not only his love for us, but his great concern for us in view of the dangers confronting us. He's effectively talking to us like a concerned parent who's worried about our safety and just like a concerned parent, John comes to the end of his letter. He could have ended it with, you know, Jesus is the real authentic God, period.

We're done. But he says, oh, by the way, be careful little children. Be careful. The same way you might with your own children guard yourselves.

He writes little children from idols. Guard yourself. Be on guard.

In other words, you could write into your Bibles and I would recommend that you do that. At the very end of this letter you could write in an exclamation point. That's the intensity and the urgency in this verb tense.

He effectively ends his letter with an exclamation point. It's like John is saying, little children, guard yourselves from idols and I mean it. Be careful. Be alert.

Do it. The word for guard here is a word in the original language that refers to someone standing like an armed guard ready for any and every attack. They just don't lose their concentration. They just don't budge. You go to England, you go to Buckingham Palace and there they stand in their tall hats and you wonder, can I distract them in any way? The oldest daughter came back from a visit to England and she said, Daddy, I got him to look.

I said, well, go figure. He's not going to look at me. But she said he looked. You think of that kind of guard. Nothing distracts them.

That's what he has in mind here. Keep focused. Stay alert.

Be careful. It's obvious. He knows it's going to happen. In fact, the only time the verb appears in 1 John is that text. But it's obvious in John's mind that attacks are coming.

We're going to have a problem with idols. So the verb has this urgency. Watch out.

We might say it in our vernacular. It's a jungle out there. Be careful. Much like you end your conversation with your children as I did as they were growing up and still to this day if they're coming over and it's dark, I'll say, watch out. I'll end that phone conversation.

We'll talk about anything. It's going to end with watch out for what? Deer. It's the only way deer are allowed to be killed around here. Evidently, they know that.

They play chicken by the road. I've often turned some corner and realized I just passed a deer on the side of the road. Careful. Be careful. Be alert.

The truth is the Christian is more likely to come across the path of a lion than they are a deer. The Apostle Peter tells the believer that you need to be alert. Watch out for your enemy. The devil prowls around like a roaring lion. One that's informing everyone that this is his territory. He's roaring.

This is my turf. Be careful. He's looking for someone to devour, literally, to ruin, to discredit. He's writing this to Christians. He will rejoice over the casualties, 1 Peter 5. Little children, I love you and I'm warning all of you, stand like an armed guard, like one of those British sentries, don't move a muscle.

Stay alert. Now, what exactly is John referring to in light of this word, idols? Be an armed guard on the lookout for idols. I read the dissertation of one scholar who uncovered in his 200-page treatise more than nine different possibilities.

It was an exciting week. He'll bring out, and I'll give you a few of them. These idols were, in his mind, pagan images. We think of that as idols, statues before people, before whom people bow.

He could have that in mind. It could be a reference in the context of the first century to food offered idols. It could be a reference to compromise with pagan lifestyles. It could be a mystery religion, he's warning. In fact, the Gnostic ideologies that he warned the believers of could be that indeed in his mind. They could represent a return to worshiping in the temple of Judaism. Idols could have been in the mind of John any form of sin. They could be a figurative expression for anything taking the place of God. As I read quickly through his dissertation, it seemed clear to me that in the context of what John is writing that every one of those could be true. And he sort of left it with the possibility that it could mean many things. He doesn't identify an idol, he just says, be careful of idols.

Idolone. Certainly, there would have been a temptation to return for these early believers to, you know, the flamboyant, the spectacular, the sensual worship of the temple of Aphrodite, especially for the Corinthian believers there to re-enter that world of sin. Corinth was so saturated with the flesh that the very name of their city would become a Grecian nickname for immorality.

A loose woman in Paul or John's day was simply called a Corinthian. Surely, the New Testament Christians would be mocked for their simple, their crude, their less than elaborate memorials to the carpenter they called Lord Messiah. I mean, can you imagine the stark contrast of Christianity in the city of Ephesus to the temple of Diana, whose columns rose 60 feet into the air, twice the height of the ceiling in here. And then at the top, sculptures of the pantheon of gods around the temple were elaborate, magnificent gardens. Inside that temple was the massive isle of Diana standing on that pedestal of black marble where she had stood for 200 years. Her religion had institutionalized sexual orgies, drunkenness, drug-induced rituals of worship. The temple of Diana was the temple of here and now. Her priest would stand near the temple as the people would flock to it for their festivals, the priests with their tattoos from head to foot selling little replicas of the idol Diana and little replicas of the temple.

They'd done that for centuries. Now, can you imagine it? Uneducated fishermen and former Jewish zealots have arrived to announce that their gospel was actually based on the incarnation of the only true and living God. Yeah, the one the Romans crucified, yeah, they buried him, but he's alive and he's coming back. You can't see him now, but his kingdom has no rival. You can't imagine the gardens of his celestial city.

In fact, the streets of his capital are gold, but you have to wait. Would idolatry so intimidate these early believers to lure them back into the sensual, the sensational, the powerful, the physical, the here and now, the majority opinion. The word John uses here for idols is an interesting word. In fact, from classical Greek and into the New Testament text, it's a word that can be translated woodenly, shadows.

Be careful of shadows. It's a word that can be translated reflections, like a reflection off water or a reflection you might see shimmering from a mirror. Plato gives us a little insight as he used the word in classical Greek to refer to the pleasures of life which are illusory phantoms, and he uses this word idolone, of pleasure. He said they are implanted in the breasts of fools as they blindly pursue these phantoms, these idols of pleasure. In other words, idols are mere reflections. But in reality, they're more like a mirage than the real thing, which has a kernel of truth, doesn't it, from what we understand of the gospel? People worship pleasure, money, power, fashion, fame, whatever. They can get their hands on some item, some thing, some person, some toy, some accomplishment, some title, and they discover when they finally get it that it's a mirage. The hand that slips through their fingers and they're not satisfied after all.

You see, the mirage can never quench thirst. The truth is, and I agree with one author who writes the danger of idolatry, and the reason it's so prevalent is the simple fact that God has created mankind to worship. He's created us to worship. We must worship. Furthermore, we will worship.

We will. Even as nature abhors a vacuum, so does the human soul. The human soul will find an object of attraction. It will find an object to worship, either on the shelf or on some altar or in the mirror, whatever. Is idolatry a thing of the past? Is it from some dark age? No, it is alive and well. In fact, you will battle idolatry and hope by this exposition to make you more aware of what that will be. And I will too.

It is not dead. In fact, Martin Luther, the converted monk, wrote in the 16th century, an idol is that upon which one relies. It's a God to which we look for and in which we find refuge. That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, your God.

J.I. Packer, in more contemporary language, wrote, Your God is whatever you seek, serve, love, and allow to control your life. That's the real God upon the throne of your heart. That's why the Apostle Paul will call covetousness idolatry.

He's writing to Christians. He challenged the believers to resist it. Coveting.

More, more, more, more. Covetousness, which is idolatry, he says, is whatever you crave is truly that which has first place in your life. So he writes to the Corinthians, My brethren, flee from idolatry. 1 Corinthians 10, 14. He's not talking about some big image somewhere, you know, in some temple. He's talking about that heart that one author said manufactures idols every day.

But you have to battle. He writes to the Colossians. Impurity, passion, evil desire, greed amount to idolatry.

There are plenty of idols, alive and well. They may not have ornate temples and tall columns and tattooed priests, but they are alive. There's a principle behind them, pursued by billions worldwide in some shape or form, ever ready to slip onto the throne of our hearts and displace God. At a conference not too long ago sponsored by the World Council of Churches, not exactly the center of Bible exposition, mainline Protestant churches get together. The issue on this particular one a few years ago was soteriology, that is the doctrine of salvation.

This was hotly debated and for the most part scuttled or guttered, hotly debated by the delegates in the audience. It was attacked as promoting violence. A father God killing his son Jesus was a formula for child abuse. One delegate said, and I quote, We don't need a theory of atonement. We don't need folks hanging on crosses. We need to listen to the God within. Oh, at least we've arrived clearly at the God they worship. Imagine Protestant mainline denominational churches to this day, by denying the revelation of God's word or in reality promoting nothing less than idolatry, right inside their little sanctuaries. They think they're worshiping God. They're having their services and everybody's following the order of service, but they are in reality worshiping an idol they have created.

Because a God whose attributes and doctrines you scrub away or you polish off to make him more palatable and acceptable and politically correct is not God. That is an idol. So God becomes anything. You fill in the blank, a spark within.

That's popular today. God is earth. God is universal force.

Go to a church in our community here, God referred to as she, mainline Protestant church. God is mother, child. God is evolving. God is learning. God is here for you.

This is all about you. And God has certainly not determined a future accountability. We'll polish that one off. That's the kind of God we'll bow to. In light of what we learned in this letter, that would be bowing to the shrine of a false God.

No matter how comfortable we feel about it. In fact, in one survey I read just this week, nearly half of the students at Protestant colleges and seminaries now believe that talking about divine judgment is actually, quote, bad manners. So was Jesus Christ demonstrating bad manners when he said to his audience who refused to repent, listen, nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.

Bad taste. Was the apostle Paul expressing bad manners when he preached to the upper echelon of the Athenian council on that windswept stone hill and he described to them the unknown God who was Jesus Christ, the God-man, and he said as he ended his sermon, by the way, God has fixed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness. We're in trouble with the real living creator God.

Apart from his son who will be our savior if we place our faith in him. It isn't bad taste to tell the truth. And I think this is part of John's warning. Don't get tripped up by the idols that are going to be created for you by these false teachers. Don't get tripped up by those who are doing nothing more than creating lesser gods that aren't worth following. To take away attributes of God, Father, Son, or Spirit is to subtract from God.

And whatever God you end up with after your little subtraction process isn't really the God of the Bible. Let me give you one more danger to avoid. And certainly this is something that we want to avoid. In fact, the whole council of God gives us this warning and perhaps John the apostle had this one in mind.

Here's a danger to avoid. You and I and everybody else in the world created to worship are actually in the process of being conformed into the image of that which we worship. David put it this way in Psalm 115 verse 8. Those who make them, a reference to these idols, will become like them.

Everyone who trusts in them. You pursue sexual experiences outside God's prescribed norms and you're going to end up dissatisfied and empty. It will consume your life. You pursue money and you're going to end up embittered by those who have more than you because you just can't get enough. It colors everything of your life. You pursue fame or approval and you'll end up egotistically consumed by your own achievements and the utter despair at the end of your life having completed so little.

Or perhaps not receiving the favor and approval that you believe you deserve. You pursue shallow, temporary idols like beauty or strength and as you age you will die a thousand deaths of frustration and ultimately fear before they finally bury you. Consumed by it. You'll die by it a thousand times over. Or in Weresby put it this way, an idol represents that which is false and empty and a person who lives for idols will himself become false and empty. You become like that which you worship.

You worship the wrong gods and they will eat you alive. Little children, be careful. Be careful. Stand guard. Watch out. Be alert against idols. Simply put, for the believer, and John is writing to believers here, anything that comes between a Christian and Jesus Christ, anything that relegates him to the side, I know, Lord, you wouldn't be happy with this, but this ambition, this relationship, this pleasure, this desire, this habit, this plan, even if it denies your sovereignty and disobedience to you, listen, friend, if it leads you to disobey the word of God, but you will pursue it, you will have it, you will experience it, you will embrace it, at that point you become an idolater. Pure and simple.

It's possible for Christians to chase a mirage and catch it and watch it like sand slip through your fingers. Unable to quench your thirst. Careful, little children of idols. Robert Robinson, his father died when he was young. His mother, unable to control him, sent him to London to learn how to be a barber. I guess that would settle him down, I don't know, but anyhow, he learned it instead, hard drinking and a gang life. When he was 17, some of his buddies and he decided to see a fortune teller and kind of mock her, you know, as she tried to tell their future, just to spite her. Something about that encounter bothered Robert and then that same evening, troubled, he decided to go hear a preacher preaching outdoors by the name of George Whitefield and George Whitefield preached on the wrath of God. A message so impacted Robert that he would accept Christ giving his life to the Lord and a few years later, in fact, he entered the ministry full of desire and passion for the gospel.

He even wrote a hymn for his congregation to learn as they celebrated at a special Sunday service. One of the stanzas to him reads, O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be. Let thy grace, Lord, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, Lord.

Take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above. That is a wonderful prayer to pray daily. We're created to worship.

We're prone to wander. Our hearts so easily, effortlessly, continually manufacture idols, priorities that pull us away from the feet of Jesus Christ and the glory of our great God. Sam Gordon, a Welshman who has preached for me on occasion, wrote this at the end of his commentary on 1 John. Anything that squeezes God out of number one position in my life is an idol. Anything that relegates him to a lower rung on the ladder of my pursuits is an idol.

Anything that moves him to the fringes of my life is an idol. Well put. I like the Amplified Bible's rendering of 1 John 5 21.

It correctly conveys and expands on these verbs and tenses. The idea, little children, keep yourselves from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God. From any form or substitute for Christ that would take first place. When you think about it, Jesus Christ, the true, real, authentic God, the expression of deity, is the only God both worthy of worshiping and worth becoming more like. Everything else is sand.

Everything else is shallow. Jesus is the real true and living God and I find it interesting that John takes us as little children at the very end of his letter effectively placing us at the feet of this true and living God and telling us, be careful. Make sure he is your greatest passion. He is your highest pursuit. He is your greatest love. I hope today's message renewed your commitment to worship the one true and living God.

Stephen Davey called this lesson, Created to Worship, Prone to Wander. We'd love to hear from you and learn how God is working in your life. Email us at info at If you prefer writing, our address is Wisdom International P.O. Box 37297 Raleigh, North Carolina 27627 Again, it's Wisdom International P.O. Box 37297 Raleigh, North Carolina 27627 I hope we hear from you. If you want to share a prayer request online, visit forward slash prayer. Next time, Stephen will be in the book of James. Join us then for more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-29 00:22:02 / 2023-05-29 00:32:00 / 10

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