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What is Your Reason for Living?

By David A. DePra

And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:20-21)

In this passage, John is drawing a clear contrast between worshipping God and worshipping idols. On the one hand, John tells his readers that God has given us an understanding of Himself. He says, "Jesus has come so that we might know Him that is true." On the other hand, John adds, "keep yourselves from idols." Clearly, the two are opposites.

John is NOT writing to pagans. He is writing to Christians. Notice what he calls those to whom he is writing: Little children. That is a term which John always uses to refer to the children of God. Christians.

John is telling us that Christians have received an understanding of who God is, and what He is like. It is real and it is life-changing. This true knowledge of God through Jesus Christ is part of what eternal life is. Indeed, John also wrote, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:3) But there still exists the possibility that Christians could be deceived. That is why John tells us to "keep yourselves from idols."

Idols? Who would serve "idols?" Only ignorant pagans do that, right? In this day and age, who is going to carve a false god and worship it?

We are going to see that if I am deceived about who God is and what He is like, that, in effect, I have the WRONG God. In that case, I may be worshipping an idol. For any representation of God which is not the revelation of the Holy Spirit is the creation of man. Just as surely as a pagan takes a knife and carves an idol of wood or clay, so do men, sometimes inspired by the Devil, fashion for themselves a god after their own image. It is this deception against which John is warning.

What is An Idol?

An idol was a representation of a false god. But it did not materialize out of thin air. It was made by people – many times the very ones who would later use it for worship. Most of the time the people who carved these graven images did not think that IT – the physical idol – was the god they worshipped. Most of the time they simply used it as a physical representation of their god.

Now, get the thought here: An idol is a person’s creation. It is his notion of some god. It is what he creates, carves, and sets up as the object of his worship. Ironically, and tragically, the thing that the man creates then becomes the thing he worships and serves.

If we take the principle behind the creation and worship of an idol, we can see the danger in it for each of us. And we can see why God prohibits idols. Today, not many of us may take a knife and a piece of wood, and carve for ourselves a graven image which we call, "god." But we are quite capable of "carving" our "god" from non-physical materials. Some of us "carve" our god from our pride, our fears, and our self-will. Some of us "carve" god out of religious traditions and error. In the end, what we have is not, "Him that is true." We have a false god. We have an "idol."

Now, what is the difference between these false gods and the True God? Both are called, "God," aren’t they? Sure. The difference is this: The True God created man in His image. False gods are the product of man creating god in HIS image.

If a person creates an idol, the only materials he has to work with are those which are OF HIMSELF: His imagination, his limited perspective, and his deception. Consequently, such an idol will, either positively or negatively, bear the image of the person carving it. It will reflect either his fears or reflect his desires.

Herein we have an overall definition of an "idol." An IDOL is any representation of God – even if I call it the true God – that I create in my own image. And IDOL is a creation of man – a suggestion of God which a person creates and sets up as the object of his worship.

Many Christians, right now, are carving an idol which they think is the true God. This idol is strictly a product of THEIR opinions, bias, fears, desires, and unbelief. If anyone, including God Himself, tries to get them to correct course, they will say, "Don’t disturb me. I am fashioning God according to my image. He is a God who accommodates me, and works on my terms. I like Him, and intend to worship Him."

This is deception. And the key to it being successful is the refusal to be open to the Truth. The true God of heaven is a God who is supposed to be our reason for living. We can’t carve Him according to our agenda. He wants to fashion us according to HIS. And if we would just, for a moment, open our ears, we would understand that all of this is, yes, for His glory. But it is likewise for OUR GOOD.

John, however, tells us that God, "has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ." God seeks to reveal Himself to us – in Spirit and in Truth. We are not left to carve for ourselves a god after our own imagination. God wants us to have the real thing: Himself.

The One True God

The Gnostics taught that it was impossible for man to know God. When they got into the church, and "christianized" their heresy, they suggested that God would never stoop to reveal Himself to us. Thus, the Gnostics taught that Jesus did not really become a man. He just appeared to be one. And they taught that the way to be saved was really by accumulating, through human effort, the knowledge necessary to know God.

John wrote continually against the Gnostic heresy which had deceived many Christians. He shows us, in his gospel and epistles, that Jesus was really a man. Indeed, Jesus was the revelation which God gave of Himself to us. John records Jesus saying, "He that has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9) Jesus also said, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you. "(John 16:13-15)

Here we see that the job of the Holy Spirit is to take everything of Jesus and make Him real to us. Thus, rather than a God who hides Himself from us, we have a God who is in the continual process of revealing Himself to us. God wants us to know Him.

Knowing Jesus Christ is knowing the Truth, for Jesus IS the Truth. However, if we do not know Jesus Christ, and therefore, do not know God through Him, there exists the possibility that we might substitute an IDOL. But don’t misunderstand. People don’t normally carve an idol and call it that. No. They carve an idol and call it God. In other words, instead of worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth, they carve a god they can worship on their own terms. This is precisely what it means to create God in my own image. It is "idol worship."

The safeguard against idol worship is God worship. The Holy Spirit will have freedom to show me the Truth if I am open to the Truth. But when all is said and done, I am either going to allow God to carve me to fit His will, or I will carve an idol to fit mine. The terrifying result is that the idol I carve will represent nothing more than the total sum of my self-will, and the deception to which it leads: A god I have created in my own image.

Living for God

It would be bad enough if all people did was carve idols. But the nature of idols is that they are set up as gods and worshipped. Idols are people’s idea of the true God. And once that idol is established AS god, the worship, conduct, and thinking which follows, is the natural outcome.

But wait. What does it mean to WORSHIP? When we speak of "worshipping" an idol, let alone God Himself, often the meaning gets lost in the word. We think "worship" means to sit and admire God, or to pray to Him. However, "worship" means much more than that. The word for "worship" in the NT means, "to do reverence to." In other words, I altar my life because of the value and worth that I place upon the One whom I am worshipping.

What we see in this, quite simply, is that "to worship" means to "live for." When everything is said and done, it gets to that. Worship means to SERVE – but not just with my doing. It means to serve with by BEING. In effect, to WORSHIP God means to LIVE FOR Him.

The more I get to know God, the more I will revere Him. There can be no other outcome of a progressive revelation of God that I am embracing by faith. Why? Because God’s worth is eternal. Thus, I will never reach the limits of the reverence due Him. The limit which I can give Him, however, is that I can give Him all of myself – unconditionally.

I use the term, "unconditional surrender to God," quite often. But with regards to God, the term is almost redundant. Do you know why? Because with regards to God, UNCONDITIONAL surrender is the only kind of surrender there is! It is the only kind He will accept, and the only kind that will do us any good.

God has already given us all of Himself through Jesus Christ. The more we get to know God, the more natural it will be for us to give ourselves to Him. Worship, which is what all of this is, is not supposed to be a compulsive act. It is supposed to be a spontaneous act – the result of seeing who God is. Worship is supposed to be as freely given as is love.

Worship speaks of a relationship of reverence and love towards God. It speaks of my reaction to the One who has saved me, given Himself for me, and my reaction to the One to whom I am accountable. God commands worship, not because He has an inferiority complex. He commands it because WE are the benefactors.

Man was made for God. That is the KIND of creature man is – a "made for God" creature. So if you want to find wholeness and come into the fullness of what you were made for, you will only find it in God. Worship is the expression of this in the highest form. We live for God, and God lives in us.

Like it or not, you are, right now, living for someone. If not for God, then an idol. There is no possibility that you can function in any other way. You are not built to be able to. Thus, right now, you have a REASON – a motivation – which stands behind your living. It may not be a conscious reason, or even one you planned. You may have simply formed it by doing what human being do naturally – living for oneself. But it is there. You are living for someone or something.

The New Birth

If there is one fundamental change in the motivation and thinking of a born again believer, it is here: The reason for living. This only makes sense. If I am born again, the way I GOT THAT WAY was by surrendering my life to Christ. The outcome cannot be "business as usual" – in the sense of living for myself. If I gave my life to Christ, and it was real, I will now live for Him.

Those who are born again are not perfect in their conduct or motivation. Once I am born again, I have a lot to learn about God. But the conversion experience, by definition, was a relinquishment of my old life, and a surrender to God. If I am saved, I belong to God. My reason for living is changed.

Scripture speaks of living for God as the thing which is "business as usual" for a born again believer:

(1 Pet 4:1-2) Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

(2 Cor 5:14-15) For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

(1 Cor 10:31) Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

     Living for God is true worship. Living for myself is idol worship – even if I call it "living for God." For in that case, my "god" is one I’ve carved. It is not the true God of heaven.

John exhorts:

And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

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