“Children! Protect yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
Idols are those things that turn our eyes away from God; generally they are things of this world; they turn our eyes away from the real world and fix them upon this world. That is why Jesus, in the parable of the sower, spoke of the deceitfulness of riches, the desire for other things, the cares of this world and the pleasures of this life; they are all idolatrous; they turn our eyes away from the living God towards our mere mortal existence in this world.
It is a mistake to think that we can live our Christian lives out of our will; that we can will to live like Christ; we can will not to tell lies, etc. This is a mistake; as long as our will belongs to ourselves, we are kidding ourselves. We must die so that He can live; it is He that must live, not us.
There is an old saying that time is a great healer; it may be in terms of bodily wounds but we make a grave mistake if we think that time has any capacity to change the human heart and somehow perfect a man. The human nature is not rigid and inflexible but it is not time that has the power to change it; it is the Spirit of God alone.
It is not time that turns a cheat into an honest man, a liar into one who tells the truth, a covetous man to generosity, a proud man to humility. Saul, the persecutor of God’s people became Paul, the faithful servant of God; but it was not time that made the transformation.
The truth is that time has no more power to change a man than space has; it is a spiritual transformation that turns sinners into saints and fools into wise men and that transformation can only be worked by the life of Christ Jesus taking root in the heart of a man.
We may set out to improve the old man, to fix him over and straighten him out a bit; but if we try and add up our human virtues we are missing the point.
Jesus told the story of the religious man who came into the temple to pray saying, in effect, “here I am, all fixed up, every hair in place”. Another came saying he was a sinner and seeking forgiveness. God forgave the latter and sent the former on his way, hardened in his unrepentant heart.