More than likely, there are things in our lives to which we have allegiance. Whether they are schools we attended or sports teams we cheer for, they require a certain standard of devotion. Some may be more serious and demanding such as joining the military or holding a rigorous job. Some have the serious loyalties within life of dedication to family. It is not unusual to have loyalties. And, more often than not, we choose that to which we want to be committed.
But there is a loyalty that far exceeds all other loyalties:
“Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:25-27 NASB
This is a loyalty, found in Scripture, not to some thing, but to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is a loyalty to His Person above all else. This is a loyalty clearly articulated by Jesus when He walked the earth. He demanded absolute loyalty to Himself and He had (and still has) the full right to do this because He is God the Son.
Even Christ’s enemies recognized the authority He was claiming for Himself. During His teaching ministry, Christ claimed authority to forgive sins and that He was specially related to God, His Father, who had sent Him into the world. This dynamic in His ministry was so troubling for the Jewish authorities of His day that we read the following:
“The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?’ The Jews answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”’ John 10:31-33 NASB
In Christ’s teaching and calling disciples, He commanded complete devotion to Himself. His call involved death to friendship with this world especially when it came to putting forth His name and gospel out into that world. There are Scripture texts that give us clear indication of this reality.
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12 NASB
“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26 NASB
Utterly sold out loyalty to Christ was the very common demand that He made as He taught His disciples. It was so much so that many would stop following Him because the price was too high.
In fact, loyalty to Christ at the end of the age would cost them dearly as seen in the following two texts:
“You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.” Matthew 10:22 NASB
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.” Matthew 24:9-10 NASB
In light of what we have just seen in the New Testament teachings and narratives, let me ask you a question. Did Jesus ever portray Himself in such a way that someone could “add Him” onto their life? No! He never did so because He was always consistent with who He is – The God-Man.
There are times when we can “mouth” the ideas of loyalty and commitment only because we have changed or lowered the standards to be followed. There are examples within the New Testament of even His own apostles temporarily faltering in their desires to follow Him. The fact is, we all end up being ultimately loyal to someone. If it is not to God, it will continue to remain loyalty to self.
We should make sure we hear clearly from the Word what loyalty to Him actually is and choose wisely to follow. It will be worth it because:
“Then Peter said to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.’” Matthew 19:27-30 NASB