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Not everything is the real thing. There is the real GOD and there are clever facsimiles. It may, in fact, be difficult to see the difference. They look the same. They sound the same.

Jesus brings truth and life. The evil one lies and cheats us of life. GOD holds us firm. When we came to realize we were missing GOD’s goal for our life, we changed our mind and came to trust Jesus as the one who could save us from that type of life.

  • We know we are children of GOD and we live in His world.
  • We are protected by GOD.
  • God is great.
  • Jesus, the Messiah, has defeated the evil one. GOD protects us.
  • GOD is in a good mood and we can live in truth.

We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus the Messiah [Christ]. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

English Standard Version. (2016). (1 John 5:18–21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Jesus the Messiah is the true God. We know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true. We have “the real thing”! Reality has been the theme throughout John’s letter, and now we are reminded of it again. “We know that our real life is in the true One, and in His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the real God and this is real, eternal life” (1 John 5:20, Phillips).

  • John was probably writing to believers in the city of Ephesus, a city given over to the worship of idols.
  • The temple of Diana, one of the wonders of the ancient world, was in Ephesus, and the making and selling of idols was one of the chief occupations of the people there.
  • Surrounded by idolatry, the followers of Jesus there were under tremendous pressure to conform.

But “we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4, NASB). That is, “an idol has no real existence”. The tragedy of idolatry is that a dead image can do a worshiper no good because it is not genuine. Hebrew writers in the Old Testament called idols “nothings, vain things, vapors, emptiness.” An idol is a lifeless, useless substitute for the real thing.

The Psalms contain caustic indictments of idolatry. To human vision, an idol looks real—eyes, ears, mouth, nose, hands, feet—but these are but useless imitations of the real thing. The eyes are blind, the ears are deaf, the mouth is silent, the hands and feet are paralyzed. But the real tragedy is that “those who make them will become like them; everyone who trusts in them” (Ps. 115:8, NASB). We become like the god we worship!

  • This is the secret of the life that is real. Because we have met the true God, through His Son Jesus the Messiah, we are in contact with reality.
  • Our fellowship is with a God who is genuine. As we have seen, the word “real” means “the original as opposed to a copy” and “the authentic as opposed to an imitation.”
  • Jesus is the true Light, and true Bread, and true Vine, and Truth itself.
  • He is the Original; everything else is a copy.
  • He is authentic; everything else is only an imitation.

Disciples of Jesus live in an atmosphere of reality. Most unsaved people live in an atmosphere of pretense and sham. We have been given spiritual discernment to know the true from the false, but the unsaved do not have this understanding. We do not simply choose between good and bad; they choose between true and false. An idol is that which is false and empty; and a person who lives for idols will himself become false and empty.

Few people today bow to idols of wood and metal. Nevertheless, other idols capture their attention and affection. Covetousness, for example, is idolatry. A man may worship his bankbook or his stock portfolio just as fervently as a so-called heathen worship his ugly idol. “You shall worship the Master your God, and Him only shall you serve” (Matt. 4:10). The thing we serve is the thing we worship! Whatever controls our lives and “calls the signals” is our god.

This explains why God warns us against the sin of idolatry. Not only is it a violation of His commandment, but it is a subtle way for Satan to take control of us. When “things” take God’s place in our lives, we are guilty of idolatry. This means we are living for the unreal instead of for the real.

  • To a man of the world, the discipleship life is unreal, and the worldly life is real.
  • This is because a man of the world lives by what he sees and feels (things) and not by what God says in His Word.
  • An idol is a temporal thing, Jesus the Messiah is eternal God.
  • “For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18, NASB).

Like Moses, a Christian endures “as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27). Faith is “the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

  • Noah had never seen a flood, yet by faith he “saw” it coming and did what God told him to do.
  • Abraham “saw” a heavenly city and country by faith, and was willing to forsake his own earthly home to follow God.
  • All of the great heroes of faith named in Hebrews 11 accomplished what they did because they “saw the invisible” by faith. In other words, they were in contact with reality.

The world boasts of its enlightenment, but a disciple of Jesus walks in the real light, because God is light. The world talks about love, but it knows nothing of the real love which we experiences because “God is love.” The world displays its wisdom and learning, but we live in truth because “the Spirit is truth.” God is light, love, and truth; and these together make a life that is real.

A disciple has turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. Idols are dead, but Jesus the Messiah is the living God. Idols are false, but the Messiah is the true God. This is the secret of the life that is real!

So, John’s admonition, “Keep yourselves from idols,” can be paraphrased, “Watch out for the imitation and the artificial and be real!”

Source: Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 531–532). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.