Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. We are on our third week of our series “Forgotten Virtues” and the first week we talked about the forgotten virtue of honor. Last week I shared with you a message on the forgotten virtue of purity. This week, we’re going to talk about the forgotten virtue of loyalty.
Now how many of you would agree that in our culture today that a lack of true loyalty is a significant problem? How many of you would say that you are a pretty loyal person? Do you see the conflict? This is the challenge for me today. We all say that disloyalty is a significant problem, and yet we’re all basically loyal people. Therefore my conclusion is that there must be churches full of very disloyal people, but this is not one of them, because we’re basically loyal people. And so we all agree that “disloyalty is a significant problem in our culture today, but it’s not me!”
Proverbs chapter 20 presents this dilemma. “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6) In other words, many will say that we’re loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly loyal? Who can find one that is truly faithful?
That means, if you want to stay employed, you show up for work whether you feel like it or not. You take care of your kids, changing the diapers, feeding them, dressing them, whether you feel like it or not. And the Christian life is the same way. We’ve been called to be loyal to God, to be faithful, living by faith and not merely according to our feelings. So when the feelings aren’t there we still need to stay faithful, we still need to do the right thing, and so we continue to love God and love one another whether we feel like it or not. In the midst of this emotional roller coaster ride, we’re called to be loyal, whether we’re feeling it or not, because that’s what living by faith means.
As we consider the forgotten virtue of loyalty, I want to share with you from Hebrews chapter 3 because it not only reminds us of who Jesus is, it also reminds us of who we need to be, and so we find that Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of loyalty. You see, in Christ we know security, in Christ we can escape the struggle of trying to be something we’re not, and in Christ we receive the power to become more than we ever imagined we could ever be. The presence of Jesus is that place of faithfulness, true loyalty, and this is what he wants for you, that we would hold fast to Christ.
So the writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 3 at verse 1, “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast” (Hebrews 3:1-6).
Now I know that most of you are loyal, but what I want to do is to share with you three ways personally and as a church to cultivate an environment of loyalty. So what I want to do is take it up another level. First of all, fix your thoughts on Jesus.
Verse 1 told us, “Therefore, holy brothers (and sisters), who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus…” And what that means is to fix your thoughts on Jesus specifically. It doesn’t mean going to church, watching Christian programming on TV, reading a Christian novel, or surfing Christian websites. This means spending time alone with Jesus, just you and him and no one else; a time when you can tell him what you think, what you feel, what you like and don’t like; you can tell him what you dream about, what you worry about, what you would like to do, but you spend time alone with Jesus.
To fix your thoughts on Jesus means you spend time listening to him. You open your Bible and you read about him; you read the parables, you read his sermons, and you ask him, “What are you saying? What are you showing me right now in this story?” Then you listen to what he says. Some days you’ll listen better than others, but the key is to make a consistent effort, and throughout the day you’ll mentally come back to this passage of scripture, you’ll contemplate his words and his actions. And not only that, you’ll talk to him during the day, asking for his help, asking for his guidance; and the more you keep Jesus in your thoughts, the closer you'll be to him in your daily walk, and the more loyal, the more faithful you’ll be to him.
I'm reminded of this verse from Isaiah, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). God blesses those whose thoughts are fixed on him. Today Jesus sits at God’s right hand interceding for you. He’s thinking of you right now, so fix your thoughts on him, because the more you think about Jesus the stronger you’ll be, the more faithful you’ll be, and then the second thing you need to do to keep holding fast, is to keep your heart close to Jesus.
Let’s look at Hebrews chapter 3 at verse 7. The Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" And then the author writes, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:7-12).
You see, God knew that it wouldn’t be a Promised Land for very long if it was inhabited by people that were griping, grumbling and complaining. He was attempting to lead them on a journey into holiness. He was trying to teach them to trust in his goodness, but they refused to walk with him and put their trust in him. He tried to teach them to be faithful to his word, but they refused to obey, and so therefore he couldn’t allow them to enter the Promised Land. This was the unfortunate decision that God had to make, because he couldn’t lead his people if they were unwilling to be led.
You see, you can’t enter the Promised Land if you’re still embracing a desert lifestyle, and so when you and I don't believe that God will provide, we don't bother to pray and instead we worry. When we don't believe that God will be faithful in a difficult situation, we take matters into our hands and we start doing things our way regardless of whether it's right or wrong. When we don't believe God is watching out for our best interests, we gripe, grumble, and complain; and all of these things get us off course. You know, the one thing that really did the Israelites in, wasn’t the lying, the cheating, or the stealing; it was their disloyalty, their lack of faith in the goodness of God that caused them to turn away; and once their hearts turned away, their feet followed.
Today, just as fixing your thoughts on Jesus helps you to walk more closely with him, keeping your heart close to him, helps you to know him better. Verse 6 tells us, “We are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.”
So how do we keep our hearts close to God? How do we prevent our hearts from becoming hardened? I want to give you three key words.
And I’ll tell you, the people that I know who’ve been successfully married the longest, the ones who are still madly in love with one another, are the ones who said from the beginning, "We’ll guard our hearts together, we’re going to nurture this relationship, and we’re not going to let anything or anyone come between us."
In the same way, the strongest Christians I know, understand that our relationship with God must be nurtured. We must look after it every day, like one cares for a garden. And so if you want to enter into all that God has planned for you, keep your heart close to Jesus. Solomon said in Proverbs, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Here's the last thing you need to do to hold fast... number three, care for those around you.
Verse 13 says it this way, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).
While we have time, as long as it is called today, care for those around you. Verse 13 tells us, “Encourage one another daily…” and since I take the Bible literally, I take this to mean that in every 24 hour period I should encourage somebody. Because when you offer people encouragement, you help them become more holy, you help them to maintain a tender heart, you help them to keep their thoughts directed toward Jesus, and do you know what else you do? You help yourself. The Bible says it this way in Proverbs chapter 11, “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25). And so when you're passing out encouragement, some of it comes back your way.
In our last moments together, I want to share with you three opportunities to care for those around you and prove your loyalty. Craig Groeschel said, “True loyalty is proven, not proclaimed.” And so whether you’re married, or not yet, you need to begin by seizing every opportunity to be loyal to your spouse. This comes straight from God’s word in Malachi 2:15, “Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth” (Malachi 2:15).
God says to remain loyal to the wife of your youth and he continues in verse 16 saying here’s why, "I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16).
Now I know you all are loyal, you all are faithful, but according to studies, about 40-60% of those people in other churches will commit adultery on their spouses. I guess maybe they’re loyal to themselves, and if he or she is not making them happy, they just walk away, they forget about the covenant they’ve made with God, they’re loyal to themselves, but God says, “Remain loyal and do not break faith with your spouse.”
So that’s a great place to start, but let’s look at some other ways to be loyal. One of the best ways, is not to put anything ahead of your marriage or your family except for Jesus and we’ll get to that more in a moment, but it could be your work, maybe a hobby, your friends, or the pursuit of material things. Be loyal to your spouse.
Another great opportunity would be to prove your loyalty to your friends. Here's what the Bible says, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need” (Proverbs 17:17).
A great way to be loyal to your friends would be not to gossip about them. You know, you don’t want to come home from church and say, "Can you believe the way they spend their money? Can you believe the way... whatever…" And you can also be loyal by refusing to be an accomplice, you know, if someone starts to gossip about your friends you stop them and correct them.
Another great way to be loyal to your friends is to tell them the truth. To love them enough to confront them when they’re doing something wrong and refuse to let them do something destructive. Be loyal enough to tell them the truth even if it hurts their feelings.
Another opportunity to prove your loyalty is to Christ's Church. As we consider what that looks like there’s no greater example than the New Testament Christians. Acts chapter 2 tells us, “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).
And so the Bible shows us that they were community, they did life together, they cared about one another, and they ministered to one another. They were committed to one another and had everything in common. If you want to prove your loyalty to Christ’s Church make sure you attend regularly so that you’re able to use your gifts, to give, serve, and get involved. You see disloyalty is a problem in our culture today, but it’s not here, it’s those other churches. We’re the loyal people. We’re loyal to one another, and we’re loyal to Jesus Christ.
God wants you to be involved, engaged, and connected to him in this moment, while it’s still called today. He wants his people to enter into his rest, into his presence, and he’s not trying to exclude anyone, but he’s trying to prepare everyone. He wants to get you ready for life in the Promised Land.
Let me encourage you while it’s still called today, don't miss it. Fix your thoughts on Jesus; keep your heart close to Jesus; and care for those around you. The more you do this the more closely you’ll walk with him, you’ll nurture your relationship with him, and you won’t let a day go by without building up a brother or sister. You see, these things keep us from falling away, keep us holding fast, and they keep our hearts in the right place. As we close, verse 14 says, “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Hebrews 3:14).
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
October 23, 2016
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.