Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts." (1 John 5:21 NLT)
This is the last verse in a book written by "the disciple Jesus loved", John the Apostle. And for the last verse in an epistle, a letter to a church, it's quite a zinger.
Keep away from ANYTHING that might take God's place in your hearts.
In those days, when John was living in Ephesus, a city in an eastern Roman province, there could have been many things he was thinking of when he made such an authoritative statement. Perhaps he was thinking of the pagan practices of deity worship, or of sexual practices of the day which were often intricately tied to deity worship. Or maybe he was thinking of various heresies within the church, like Gnosticism, which much of the rest of his epistle addresses.
Regardless of what he may have been thinking about, he makes it abundantly clear what we should do... Keep away... Or steer clear, avoid, and shun ANYTHING that *might* take God's place in your heart.
For us today, what are the things that take God's place in our hearts? Pornography, obsession with money - greed, a woman, a man, power, lust, a spouse, or sexual escapades. Wait, a spouse? Remember, it's not always bad things that can take God's place in our hearts. It may be more obvious to the average Christian to "keep away" from the "bad" things, like too much booze, women or men we aren't married to, love of money and power, and wicked sexual practices. But sometimes it's the good things which sneak their way into God's place in our hearts.
What about your spouse? Your children? Your job? Your ministry?
I have seen - and I'm sure you have too - people who love their ministries more than they love Jesus. Who love and even worship their children more than they love Jesus. Who idolize their pastor, spouse, or ministry leader and put them above Jesus.
You may see and recognize this in your own life.
I see it in mine.
Obviously if there are "bad" and sinful things in your life, which you are placing before God, they need to go. Confess them before God and let Him help you get them out of your life. BUT don't think that just because you are free of the obviously "bad" things, that you are free and clear...
Place your heart before God and let Him show you what you are placing before Him. Confess it and ask Him to place those things in their proper place in your life.
Your spouse, children, job, and ministry don't save you and give you everlasting life, only Jesus does that. Honor and worship Him with the honor and worship only He deserves, and keep away from the things that would take His place in your heart.