Friday

24 January 2020

1 John 5:1-21

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (v. 21)

Psalm: Psalm 119:161-176

Background

As this letter from John comes to an end, the writer summarises a central argument – that loving God means following God and loving others (v. 2-3). In a world somewhat obsessed by success, this passage reminds us that true success is found in following God (v. 4-5). This loving relationship gives life, and brings eternal life, focussed in Jesus (v. 11-12).

The letter has been written to give us assurance of our relationship with God. There is a challenge in that the bar is set high. We know we belong to God when we love God and love others. But this does bring us assurance, as our faith does not just rely on feelings, but on the witness of a transformed life demonstrated in relationship with others.

And the final words? "Keep yourselves from idols" (v. 21). Years ago, there used to be a TV programme called ‘Pop Idol’. The understanding of idolising individuals because of their appearance, wealth, sporting prowess is very prevalent today, but perhaps we are less at risk of this than some others. However, I wonder if we are more at risk of idolising our past? Of always harkening back to the good old days, to the Wesleys, to the days when the chapel was full (or at least that is the story passed down)? The background to ‘idol’ includes illusion and indeed our remembering of our past often contains a great deal of myth. 1 John finishes with a challenge to keep ourselves from idols. This is as apt for us today, as it has ever been. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, and where we are being led.

 

To Ponder:

  • Is our past an idol that we worship? We need to learn from the past, but do we let it dominate our present and distort our future?
  • Is assurance something that brings you strength and comfort, or is it a strange concept that you are unfamiliar with? What does it mean to have assurance of our salvation?
  • How confident are you in approaching God (v. 14)? Are you bold, or more timid?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Skuce

Stephen Skuce is currently Director of Global Relationships for the Methodist Church. An Irish Methodist presbyter and former mission partner in Sri Lanka, he has served with British Methodism for the last 14 years in roles at Cliff College and as Methodism’s Director of Research.

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