John 3:17-18 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Over and over again you will hear me say, we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. Its just that easy, and its just that easy to get it wrong, which generally begins with trying to add something to "by grace through faith in Christ". The something that one might be tempted to add, based on our text, is the simple - you've got to believe! The problem with those simple words, is that it takes the focus away from the grace of God, which takes a poor miserable sinner, and makes them a new creation - for by myself I cannot believe in my Lord Jesus Christ, or come to him, but the Holy Ghost calls me by the gospel, enlightens me with his gifts, sanctifies and keeps me in the one true faith - and that is grace, its what God does for me - every time I talk about how I have to believe, I'm beginning to talk about works - and we are saved by grace.
What I want to speak of now is the character of this saving faith. We often speak of faith as having 3 parts, and like a 3 legged stool it is stable and unshakable. Part of our faith is knowing stuff, who God is, who Jesus is, and what Jesus has done to free us from sin, death and the devil. We accept as true that Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, and that on the 3rd day he rose from the dead - the resurrection is something we celebrate not only at Easter, but every Sunday. No one has to prove to us that Jesus is risen, God said it, I believe it, that settles it. But there is a great deal more to faith than just knowing stuff, more even than accepting things as true.
I can know that people walk on ice. I can know that the pond has ice on it. Therefore I could walk on the pond - but I won't - unless I know that the ice is thick enough to support me. What does this mean? You can know that Jesus died for your sins, You can know that he is risen from the dead, and yet you can still not rely on Jesus as your Lord and Savior. And that is the question of loyalty.
My favorite example of loyalty has to do with 2 brothers, they may bicker and quarrel and tease one another - but let someone else begin to pick on one, the other one will rush to his defense, that's loyalty. Many people have a favorite team, and it doesn't matter how much they win or lose, its still their favorite team - its loyalty to stick with a team when it is loosing.
So what does this have to do with our text? Lets rephrase it: He who is loyal in him is not condemned; he who is not loyal is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. In other words, our text is simply talking about the 1st commandment. Those who are condemned are those who are not loyal, and they are not loyal because they have other gods. They may know everything there is to know about God, they may accept it as true, but in the time of trial they will not trust that Jesus died for their sins, and rose again, and gives to all who believe, life, peace, and salvation. Its funny, because in training soldiers get to know their rifle, believe in their rifle, trust in their rifle - but when they find themselves in battle, over and over again, you hear that they rely on their Lord and Savior.
It makes good sense. Because the more you know about God, the more you know that he is trustworthy. Consider, if we have a good friend, and they do something to disappoint us, usually we'll give them a second chance, perhaps a third chance - but if someone keeps on disappointing us, usually we begin to look for a new friend. Now consider that we sin much daily, and that daily God keeps on forgiving all our sins. We can turn from God, but God doesn't turn from us - but he continues to call us to repentance, and to offer us forgiveness by grace through faith in Christ.
The question of loyalty then, really isn't about how loyal we are, but its about how loyal God is - that is the steadfast love of God, it doesn't change - that is the mercy of God which is new every morning. It is the love of God which changes us, makes us a new creation, and gives us that faith which is loyal - because God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that we should not perish but have everlasting life. This is the good news of Jesus Christ.