Guarding Your Heart Against Idolatry
READ: PROV 4:23; DT 32:39; ISA 43:11-13; 1 COR 10:7-14; 1 JN 5:21

Have you ever wondered why Christians (of all people) find themselves in places of great disappointment? For instance, a man and a woman exchange their vows before family and friends. Some people say the wedding was “made in heaven.” And yet ten years later, the couple sits in a counselor’s office contemplating whether divorce isn’t a better option.

Two guys tell how they were “best friends” from the first day they started school. And then after college they decided to start a business together. But two years into their new enterprise, they find themselves in constant arguments over what the business should be. Their relationship can hardly be called a “friendship.”

And then consider the parents who did all they could to raise their children to get good grades, a good education, and a good start in life. But during a family Christmas gathering a passing comment turned into a family feud. And the parents and children have not spoken to one another in months. 

The core problem behind these scenarios (and hundreds more) is found in a rather obscure comment the Apostle John makes in 1 John 5:21. (Please read this text and the others cited at the beginning of this post.)

John writes,“Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” If you are like me, you are inclined to say, “This verse has absolutely nothing to speak into my life. After all, I’m not an idolater!” 

Are you sure? That’s what I thought as well, but my worldview has been radically reshaped by John’s exhortation. Consider just two texts that set the stage for how Christians are to think about God:

  • Deuteronomy 32:39 declares that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is the One who gives life and ordains death. He alone is God.
  • Isaiah 43:11-13 declares that there is absolutely no other God but the Triune God of the Bible. He is supremely and exclusively God.
  • And then in conjunction with this idea of God’s exclusivity and supremacy, there are consistent appeals in the Old and New Testaments commanding God’s people to “flee from all forms of idolatry.” Apparently, human beings, including Christians, often revert to practicing idolatry as a way of life. 


In this post I want to define what idolatry is, and why it must be taken seriously. Then in the next post I want us to see what steps we can take to pull down the idols that we have erected in our lives.

First off, what is an idol? You might be inclined to think that an idol is something carved out of wood or stone. That certainly fits the imagery we read about in the Bible. 

An idol then and now is a “representation.” It can be any idea or thing that is perceived to have power that can somehow meet our needs.  

What fuels our desire to erect these idols in the form of ideas and things is our inherent selfishness!  

We want someone, some substance, or some activity to satisfy the deep longings of our hearts! Unfortunately, the idol we give our allegiance to means that we are actually rebelling against God—the ONLY ONE who can meet all of our longings perfectly.

Second, why should we be concerned about idolatry? Because it’s real!

We don’t like to think of ourselves as idolaters but the truth is that idolatry is behind so many of the heartaches we face in life. 

You can get a glimpse of the symptoms of idolatry by reading 1 Corinthians 10:7-14. Citing three examples from the people of Israel, the Apostle Paul points out that idolaters are impatient when it comes to waiting on God (v. 7); they are pleasure-seekers (vv. 8-9); and they are complainers about the situations they have to face in life (v. 10). And behind all three of these examples is a “demanding spirit” that says, “I want what I want, and nobody should stand in my way.”

We need to remember is that all forms of idolatry let us down and ultimately lead to a withdrawal of God’s blessings in our lives.

There is so much more that could be said about idolatry. In the next post I am planning to identify some ways we can move away from idolatry to be all that God wants us to be. Until then, take some time to read the texts listed at the beginning of this post.

Take time this week to check to see if any of the three symptoms of idol worship identified in 1 Corinthians 10:7-14 are evident in your life. If they are, pray this simple prayer, “O God, deliver me from my spiritual rebellion, and make me the person you have always intended for me to be. Amen.”

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