Loyalty to God
By Peter Amsterdam
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One of the most significant things Jesus taught through what He said and how He lived was the vital importance of God in our lives. To Jesus, His Father was everything. He was totally dedicated to and dependent on His Father, and He taught His followers to live in the same way. Godliness and Christlikeness begin with embracing God as a living and personal all-powerful Being who created all that is, and who loves and cares for every human being. He is not some faraway entity that created the universe, wound it up like a watch, and then walked away, letting it run on its own.
The whole Old Testament story is one of God’s interaction with humanity, and through the story of God’s interaction with humanity as told in the Old Testament, we understand that God is living, personal, spirit, holy, righteous, just, patient, merciful, loving, self-existent, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, and present everywhere. Because God is our creator and the sustainer of our being, He is our most important relationship and deserves our love, worship, devotion, obedience, and allegiance.
The succinct yet overarching overview of that commitment is seen in the first of the ten commandments which God gave to Israel after He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”1 When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He made the same point with other words: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”2
Having “no other gods before me” means that we are to put nothing in our lives above God. This doesn’t mean we don’t love and care about other things—we do, and deeply. But the ultimate priority is loving God above all else. He is, after all, the creator of all things, and has created all that we love—our parents, spouse, children, brothers and sisters, friends, pets, etc. In Jesus’ words and throughout the Old Testament, there is the expectation that our desire for God, our willingness to love and serve Him, to follow after Him, is pursued with all our heart and soul.
“What does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”3
We are to be loyal to God and His Word. This expectation of loyalty is seen in the Old Testament, based on the covenant God made with Israel—that He would be their God, and they would be His people. As such, they were to keep God’s commands; and God, in turn, would give them a land to dwell in and call their own, and care and provide for them.
The same expectation of loyalty to a covenant is expressed within the New Testament. Jesus shedding His blood for us has brought about a new, better, and eternal covenant between God and His people.4 We hear the expectation of love and fidelity to Jesus when He says that loyalty to Him surpasses loyalty to family: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”5
The principle that Jesus lived and which Scripture teaches is that our first priority is to love God with all of our hearts. We love Him first and foremost, and then we love our parents, spouse, children, family, etc. Loving God most does not take away from the deep love we have for others, but it puts it in proper perspective.
Loving God first and foremost was what Jesus did—so much so that He yielded to His Father’s will and went to the cross so that we could become God’s children, members of His family.
The natural outcome of loving the one who created, loves, and cares for us, the one we are loyal to, is worship. We worship Him for who He is and what He’s done.
In the Old Testament, worship included prayer, but it mainly focused on the sacrifices offered in the temple—sacrifices of animals as well as of flour, oil, and wine. When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, He spoke of a difference that was coming, a time when the place where people worshipped would be unimportant. Instead of a sacred place, like the temple for the Jews or Mount Gerizim for the Samaritans, the believer would become the place where the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit make their home.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. … But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”6
Who or what we worship has to do with who or what has first place in our lives, who we are loyal to. When Satan tempted Jesus, he tried to persuade Jesus to switch His loyalties; he tried to seduce Him through the riches and glory of this world. Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”7
Jesus made reference to His Father over 100 times in the Gospels, and in doing so He conveyed the importance of having a right belief about, understanding of, and relationship with God. God revealed His nature and character to His people within the Old Testament, and more was revealed through the words Jesus spoke and the actions He took during the years He lived on earth.
Jesus deepened the understanding of the relationship individuals could have with God. He brought to the fore the concept of God as our Father and us as His children, and our relating to Him as such. Through this, He helped make the relationship we have with God more personal. We’re His children, and He loves us and takes care of us. We can fully and completely trust Him with every aspect of our lives. We can cease from worry because He knows and loves us, and knows what we need.8
While God was described as a father on several occasions in the Old Testament, He is never directly addressed as such. Jesus introduced the term Father as an intimate form of address to God. He used the Aramaic word Abba, which was a term of endearment used for one’s father. Jesus made the point that the Father loves us and treats us as His children, and we can relate to Him with familial intimacy, as one would relate to a loving father.
The apostle Paul points out, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”9 While Jesus is uniquely God the Son, we are also God’s sons and daughters, and the Father loves us as such, cares about us, and values each of us.
The relationship we are meant to have with God is not meant to be distant, cold, and fearful, but full of love and trust. Knowing the relationship that we are meant to have with our heavenly Father should help us understand and believe in our value as individuals. We have value to God as His children, and because we do, we should recognize our own self-worth.
Jesus revealed to us His relationship with His Father—a relationship of love and trust—and in doing so, set the example of the kind of relationship we are to have with God. Understanding that God is our creator, that He is infinitely greater than we are and yet loves us, should cause us to praise and worship Him, love Him, obey Him, and desire to do the things that glorify Him.
Originally published March 2016. Adapted and republished March 2022.
Read by Jon Marc.
1 Exodus 20:2–3. Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2 Mark 12:30.
3 Deuteronomy 10:12.
4 See Luke 22:20; Hebrews 7:22, 13:20.
5 Matthew 10:37.
6 John 4:21–24.
7 Matthew 4:8–10.
8 Matthew 6:8, 31–33.
9 Romans 8:15–16 NIV.