1 John 5:21 Understanding Life's Problems

We all worship. We just need to find out who we worship!

This is part '4/5' to a study entitled 'Understanding Life's Problems' on 1 John 5:21. This page describes the idols that we face in our society. Most of us have a difficult time understanding what idols influence us and therefore are caught unaware by them. At the bottom of the page an index is provided.

D. Describing Our Idols

1 John 5:21

Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

But we need to start thinking what these idols are. Perhaps this following Bible passage will come to most people's minds if they are at all familiar with the Bible. Here God speaks on the issue very clearly.

Exodus 20:1-6 would seem to settle the issue.

Then God spoke all these words, saying, I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

The instruction is clear. We should not make idols, have idols or have any other gods before us.  God’s Word is to protect us from harm. But most of all just do not realize the idols that surround and influence our lives.

There is a natural tendency or pull from giving our full devotion to God.

Common Idols

In countries where idols are prevalent, we will find them in stores, homes and government buildings. We would even find charms closely associated with idols. Now when we go to Wal-mart, Giant Eagle food store, or CVS some drugstore, do you find idols there? How about your parents home? Your own dorm? Are there idols there? I suppose the closest thing you might come to it is a figure that looks like an angel or Jesus. Are they worshiping idols? But is that all that you find? We sometimes go to a Christian’s home and find a Buddha statue? Is this art or an idol? We have so many questions and these still are not the main questions about modern idols. Let's first try to figure out some of these other ones.

What about having an angel on my dashboard or Jesus figurine? Is this idol worship? The question is not phrased right. We should ask whether such images are encouraged by the Lord. An idol for one person might not cause idol worship in another. But if we are to guard ourselves from idols, it should at least in the minimum mean that we eliminate those objects that people associate with idols. Included in this is works of art such as Buddha statue. Yes, you might not even know it is an idol, but a friend that comes to your house draws a quick conclusion. “A person can both worship Buddha and Christ.” The Christian might never know this is how the person who visits his home draws conclusions, but it very well can be. On the side Christians have come to me and asked, “Isn’t it wrong to have idols?”

Every once in a while we read about a crowd of people hovering about this mysterious stone that looks like Jesus on the cross or Mary crying. All these things certainly have the making of an idol. Here is a recent report, about “Mary   -Believers Flock to 'Crying' Virgin Mary.”

Carrying rosary beads and cameras, the faithful have been coming in a steady stream to a church on the outskirts of Sacramento for a glimpse of what some are calling a miracle: A statue of the Virgin Mary they say has begun crying a substance that looks like blood. It was first noticed more than a week ago, when a priest at the Vietnamese Catholic Martyrs Church spotted a stain on the statue's face and wiped it away. Before Mass on Nov. 20, people again noticed a reddish substance near the eyes of the white concrete statue outside the small church. 1

We might think that we have never done this, but this is just the shallow end of the pool of idols. They have infiltrated our society. They are all over the place. You say Where?”

The Most Common Idol

Unfortunately, there are many other idols about that we have never even noticed such as man.

"Move over gods, We have come!"

The most common idol in the Western world is man himself. Rare early on in the overall history of this world. People knew their were powers beyond themselves. They wrongly understood them. But along with the Enlightenment came the philosophy of humanism. Once man gets wealth and power, he loses his fear of God. In his pride, he thinks he has come to it by his own ways.

Humanism: Lives in the confidence that man with his superior mind can make all the ethical decisions to bring about a great world.

Hedonism: Lives for the pleasures and delights of man. He sacrifices all to gain those pleasures.

Humanism is the worship of man's reason.Religious and secularistic humanism agree that man can solve their problems by use of their reason and common purpose. The International Humanist and Ethical Union” affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives.”

It is easy to miss the idols in humanism. Perhaps this is because humanism worships and idolizes their own selves. They pride themselves in their reasoning power and live for what they count as most important. It is so obvious that humans have become the new breed of idols.  “Move over gods, We have come!”

The humanist is so convinced in his reasoning power and technological prowess, he no longer needs God. They believe that they can solve the world’s problems. This is the mentality behind the world ecological pact. This is what is happening when they are adjusting the lines of what is moral or immoral. They reject what God says. They are convinced of their ability to solve things. They worship themselves and are glad to tell others of it.


Now I doubt that any here might believe such things. But certainly this worldly spirit has infiltrated the church. For whenever man exalts his own reason, he will of necessity despise God’s wisdom. Man’s word will be counted as much more valuable than what God has said. Let me identify some areas that this has become very evident. We will notice that the contrast is between the way a person would listen to God’s Word or man’s own words (thoughts). There is either a set moral code or not.



Man should not lie.

 It is okay to lie sometimes.

Man shall not murder.

It is important to give women choice.

Man shall obey God’s Word.

“I like how I do things, thank you!”

Man needs to pray always.

Prayer is one life option.

Observe the sabbath day.

 “I have my own plans.”

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Sex only becomes wrong when one side doesn’t agree.

Forgive one another.

“He deserves what is coming to him.”

Be kind to one another.

Why should I do him any favors?!

Detecting our problems.Remember whenever we deviate from the norm of obedience or compliance to God’s Word, we then will begin to suffer. Everyone of course will still have difficult things happen to their lives. This is the part of living. Jesus met up with unfair situations just like you or I. We are instead talking about how we live through our lives–our emotional response or attitudes. For example, we might lose a loved one. We all will suffer through this, but the key is how you respond to it.  We will grieve of course, but it will not throw our life into a spin because of bitterness or lost of hope. Our real hope is in the Lord.

When our affection begins to fascinate itself with other things, then all sorts of problems develop:  anxiety, envy, greed, anger, lack of joy, spirit of revenge or self pity. Put a check mark next to the things that you have a problem with. Each check mark reminds you that you have some idol hidden about your life.  You have placed your attachment upon it rather than to the Lord.

They all have the power to destroy a person, relationship, marriage, family or church.

Different Lives

We need to guard against idols because in every area that they are tolerated, they defile our lives and bring poor testimony to God. Every affair with these idols, whether it is with our own bodies and desires or not, leads us down to trouble and despair. The end of sin is death.  Let me summarize these points. The lost of joy, the boredom of life, the sad lives that we have are a result not of the difficulties that we face but because of the idols in our lives. Because we do not wholly trust in the Lord, we use different means to try to solve our problems. None of them work for long and they all produce problems. Let me list some of these.

  1. Pain, isolation and boredom: Not just the problems of living on earth but not knowing God.

  1. Have idols: Focus on things other than God as revealed in Christ

  1. Loss of Affection in God: Steal affection from God and put it on other objects and people.

  1. No real belief in God: No true confidence in God or the way He does things.

Our joy is truly made complete by the Word of Life. God’s people fully trust that His way is best. When all of God’s people understand the glory of God seen in Christ. Let's see how we can make room for the Lord in our lives. Next =>

Understanding Life's Problems (1 John 5:21)

A. The Source of Life’s Problems
B. Understanding Idolatry
C. Guard Yourselves: Being Delivered from Idols
D. Describing Our Idols
E.  Making Room for the Lord
Bible Study Questions on 1 John 5:21

  BFF Homepage  | Top | Back | Bible Topics | Questions on 1 John 5:21 | 1 John intro

Biblical Foundations for Freedom

Rev. Paul J. Bucknell

1  Associated Press story at Yahoo News (dated November 27, 2005).