Loyalty Not Flattery – Pastor Roger Rohde May 21, 2017

Loyalty Not Flattery

Psalm 78:34-38, 56-59

            Today we are privileged to witness two adults confirming their Christian faith in our 8 o’clock worship service, and two teenage boys confirming their Christian faith in the 10:30 worship service. One might think that this is a good thing and it surely has its place as noted in Scripture. The Lord says in Matthew 10: “Whoever confesses Me before men, I will also confess before My Father Who is in heaven” (verse 32). In Deuteronomy 30, the Lord stated: “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that… you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him” (verses 19-20).

The Rite of Confirmation has its basis in the Word of God. In Confirmation one confesses his faith and states his love for the Lord. He commits himself to worshipping the Lord with fellow Christians, studying God’s Word, and receiving Christ’s body and blood frequently in the Lord’s Supper. Also in the Rite of Confirmation, the confirmand promises to serve the Lord and stand up for Christ at all costs. The Rite of Confirmation follows the commitment Christ calls us to in Scripture.

There is a problem, however, a very serious problem. The problem is not found in the Rite of Confirmation itself nor in the biblical instruction that precedes it. The problem is found in the hearts of some who go through the Rite of Confirmation. Statistics from our church body indicate that half of the young people who confirm their faith are no longer active in the church by the time they graduate from high school. The problem that exists is that some people try to flatter God, but they are not really loyal to God.

What we speak of here is mirrored in today’s text. God delivered the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt through the blood of the Passover lambs and the parting of the Red Sea waters. He cared for them in their wilderness journey and promised them a place in the land of Canaan. These people are described in our text as being a people of flattery rather than loyalty. Let us look at the difference between flattery and loyalty in relationship to God the Creator and Redeemer of us all.

First, flattery is a matter of the lips while loyalty is a matter of the heart. The Lord says concerning the people of Israel: “They would flatter Me with their mouths, lying to Me with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to Me.”

Don’t we dislike it when people say things to benefit themselves but don’t carry through with the promises they have made? This also angers the Lord. This is why the Lord was condemning the people of Israel in our text. They would express their love and commitment to God when trials came, but as soon as God would deliver them they forgot about Him. Many people treat God this way today. Recall 9/11. As our nation was under attack, people came back to church and prayed. Yet, as time passed and danger was no longer imminent, the church pews were again empty and God was forgotten.

If you don’t think that upsets God, listen to these words of Jesus: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about your hypocrisy; as it is written: ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me’” (Mark 7:6). Later God through Peter warns those who honor Christ with their lips but not their hearts: “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them” (II Peter 2:21).

The Lord clearly calls for the loyalty of man’s heart and not the mere flattery of his lips. We read in Deuteronomy 10:12-13: “The Lord your God asks of you… 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, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees.”

God can see through us and knows whenever our spiritual activity is merely a matter of the lips but not the heart. God is not deceived. He will not be mocked. Thus David says to Solomon as he is about to become the king of Israel: “Acknowledge the God of your fathers, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (I Chronicles 28:9).

Lit is well for us to pray daily: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:11).

A second distinction between flattery and loyalty to God is that flattery abuses God’s grace while loyalty lives by God’s grace.

In our text we see the Israelites coming to God when trials come, but as God graciously delivers them from those trials the people forget about God and go on living as they please. Later they are referred to as an unreliable and faulty bow. A good bow keeps its elasticity and is always useful to the archer.

What about us? Do we come to God when our lives are in the midst of struggles, repenting of our sins and asking God for help, but when His grace pardons us and we are delivered we go on with life, we give little consideration to God until some new problems arise?

God is to be our Rock and Redeemer not only when it is convenient for us, but at all times. Jesus is the Rock because He is steadfast and immovable. He will not crumble beneath the situations of life, but He is the stronghold in Whom we can find safety and strength.

People of flattery will come to God only in times of trial or to gain something for ourselves, but people of loyalty will spend time building their lives on Christ through worship and Bible study even when things are going well. Loyal people do this because they know and believe Jesus, the God of love, has loved them when they were unlovable. They believe He paid the debt of sin while they were still His enemies. When loyal people repent, they look to change their lives and faithfully build on Christ, the solid Rock. They endeavor with the help of the Holy Spirit to be a useful bow in the hands of the Master and accomplish God’s purposes for their lives.

Third, flattery serves God out of fear while loyal people serve God out of love. As we noted earlier, people seek to flatter God when they are afraid, while loyal people are moved to serve God because of God’s love for them. Paul writes: “Christ’s love compels us…. He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him Who died for them and was raised again”            (II Corinthians 5:14-15).

Martin Luther wrote of this Psalm: “Those who seek to flatter God worship Him in slavish fear. As long as they are being punished, they seek Him; but when the punishment stops, they forget. For they do not call on God out of a love of righteousness, but from fear of bodily punishment. This is what many people do even today. In good times they forget God; in bad times they seek Him in order to be delivered. But all this follows upon the preceding. For those who only savor the flesh certainly seek God only because of the evils of the flesh. Hence they love their own things more than God…. If they would have what they want, they would not care about God…. They do not know how to serve God freely out of their own accord, but for the sake of earthly gain. They have no love for spiritual things…. Hence whoever worships God in this way necessarily lies to Him, and his heart is not right with God, but it is curved in on himself.”

Finally, the difference between flattery and loyalty to God is seen in the fact that flattery to God leads to eternal destruction while loyalty to God leads to everlasting life.

Our text tells us that the Israelites repeatedly forgot about God until troubles came. They would turn to God and “He was merciful to them, forgave them of their iniquities and did not destroy them.”

Yet, what man forgets or does not want to see is that God has His limits. The latter part of our text tells us that God tested them and they rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep His statutes…. When God heard them, He was very angry; He rejected Israel completely.”

Here we see the justice of God implemented. God is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. Yet, mingled with His love is His faithfulness and justice. God does not want anyone to perish, and yet when people play games with God by trying to flatter Him, He will not put up with it. In the end the Lord will rightly separate the sheep from the goats, the believers from the unbelievers, those who are loyal to Him from those who seek to flatter Him. God will patiently deal with those who are spiritual weak and seek to be strengthened, but He will act with justice upon those who live a life of hypocrisy. Martin Luther noted that those who flatter Christ with their mouth but are not committed to Him with their hearts will know this truth found in Psalm 49:18-19: “Though while he lived he counted himself blessed – and men praised him when he prospered – he will join the generation of his fathers who will never see the light of life.”

This is why as we see people confirm their faith today; we all need to consider how we are walking with God. Are we a people who seek to flatter God or are we loyal to Him? Do we use God to satisfy our own interests, or do we build on Christ in worship and Bible study, and live for Him? We all face the temptation of flattering the Lord for self-gain rather than loving the Lord with all of our heart and soul and mind.

Today can be a day of celebration, but the real celebration takes place as we live our lives daily for the Lord until life’s end. Remember Jesus’ words: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Now that is loyalty to God not flattery. Amen.



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