Summary: Part of a series on 1 John, this sermon is a call to a steadfast commitment to God alone.
Guarding Our Loyalty to God — 1 John 5:21
As we come to the end of First John, we come to a surprising text. John doesn’t give one last word of encouragement to his people. No, he gives a new command, one that doesn’t seem connected to anything he has said in the letter. In our text, John told his struggling readers to guard themselves from idols. Now, idolatry had been a problem in Israel since her beginning (Golden Calf; Baal of the Canaanites; Moloch of the Ammonites). And John’s readers were living in the headquarters of one of the most popular pagan gods of the first century — Diana of the Ephesians. Idolatry was a problem, that’s for sure. And in light of the true vs. false themes that run throughout the text, maybe no so surprising after all.
Whatever John’s reasons for the command, it is still important today. For the warning against idolatry is a warning to maintain loyalty to God. And friends, I believe that God calls us to guard our loyalty to him. How can we guard our loyalty to God? Our text suggests two truths that will help us guard our loyalty to God.
I. We can guard our Loyalty to God by practicing diligence in our walk with Him.
A. Explanation: John gave his readers a forceful command to guard themselves.
1. Strongest way he could word it.
2. Shows that it will take great effort on their part.
B. Illustration: The resolutions of Jonathan Edwards.
To live with all my might while I do live; Never to lose one moment of time; Never to do anything which I should despise or think meanly of in another; Never to do anything out of revenge; Never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
C. Argumentation: This responsibility of guarding our hearts rests squarely on our own shoulders.
D. Application. Everyday our lives need to be yielded to the purposes of God.
II. We can guard our loyalty to God by rejecting the rivals for allegiance that lead us away from God.
A. Explanation: John’s commands to keep away from idols had many applications even in his own day.
1. He may have referenced the idolatrous teachings of the false prophets.
2. He may have been encouraging his readers to stay away from the temple of Diana — note Barclay’s observations.
3. Or he may have used it figuratively for anything that sidetracked the believer from God.
B. Argumentation: We will be mistaken if we think of idols purely in terms of false religions.
C. Illustration: Many false religions are out there — show slide; but maybe Aaron would use different models today (our own plans; our possessions; our games; our wealth; our families; even our churches?)
D. Application. We must be careful that we do not let anything push God aside from the throne of our lives.