Character Qualities of a Champion-Integrity II
Thoughts from a Shallow Christian PowerPoint
- Seems our friend, the "Shallow Christian" is lacking a bit in his understanding of true integrity. Today I want to explore this character quality with you. What is integrity? How do you develop it?
- Integrity is something we deal with every day in multiple situations. We often have a choice about how we are going to behave or respond to the world around us. Are we going to respect other and their property? Are we going to respect ourselves...the way we speak...and dress...and present ourselves to the world. These are just some of the integrity question we deal with all the time-whether we are aware of them or not. How often have we cut corners, told little "white" lies, or done things in secret in order to benefit ourselves?
- Integrity is really relevant to the economic situation we face today
- There are all kinds of reasons being offered for why we are in an economic crisis. Combine that with the politics of a Presidential election and there has been a lot of finger pointing going on. In the midst of all that, I found this recent article in World magazine interesting.
- Belz, Joel, Umble Pie in World Magazine, October 18-25, 2008,p. 4
- Perhaps we all need to remember what kids have sometimes said about pointing fingers: "When you point at me, there are 3 fingers pointing back at you."
Living with integrity matters to God...Paul highlights this character qualitiy in Philippians 2.
Let's take a look at what Paul had to say about this.
Read v. 12-13 NCV-My dear friends, you have always obeyed God when I was with you. It is even more important that you obey now while I am away from you. Keep on working to complete your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him. The Everyday Bible : New Century Version. Nashville, TN. : Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005, S. Php 2:12-13
Paul is pointing out the importance of obedience to God. He's addressing the issue of integrity when he talks about being obedience in his absence. And it's important to remember in all this that God helps us WANT to do what it right...that's often a big part of the battle.
What is integrity really? There are a few issues things to consider. It has something to do with determining right from wrong. There are actually a few different ways people try to define what is right and wrong.
The Happiness Doctrine
Some people define right and wrong by the consequences or results of our actions. Do the things we do promote general welfare..Or do theyproduce "good" results. Basically, do our actions make people happy?
Let's consider this option for a moment...what do you think about Robin Hood? You know....steal from the rich a give to the poor? Good or Bad? Why do we see him as good? So it's OK to steal from certain people for good reasons? What if I wanted to steal from you to help some people in need-is that OK? What if you were a wealthy person who worked hard to earn your money. Would you think it was OK for someone to steal from you? Robin Hood surrounds you in the woods, and you say, "I was hoping you'd find me. Take what you want...it's OK cause it helps the poor people." What if our government took that approach...take from the wealthy and give to the poor...OH wait..they already do. Is that good or bad? Depends on who you ask.
You can see that when we just look at the consequences, it's not always clear what's right and what's wrong. Take a look at another example:
What about slavery? Amazing Grace Clip
The problem with this "happiness doctrine" is that "happiness" is something everyone can define differently. A person could could be quite happy discrediting their co-workers or even eliminating the competition in order to get what they want. "Whatever it takes to be happy!"
So, it really doesn't work to define right and wrong by the results of our actions.
Rule of Law!
Other people, then define right and wrong by looking at our actions themselves. Are you doing the right things? Are you obeying a moral standard? Are you being obedient to God's Law?
- Stealing...is always wrong. Killing...is always wrong. Lying/cheating...always wrong.
- But are there times where it might be good to cause someone pain? What about having your kids immunized? Or putting someone through other medical tests.Is it wrong to ever have a conflict with someone because it might cause them stress and anguish?
- Are all soldiers bad people then? What about police officers? What if someone is going to hurt you-is it wrong, then, to defend yourself?
- You can see that it's still difficult to determine right from wrong simply by looking at rules of behavior. Our interactions with one another are not always that simple.
Also, sometimes our actions are selfishly motivated. We do things because we want something for ourselves. Someone can do all the "right things", but for the wrong reasons. Maybe they are doing it just to make people think better of them. Maybe they are trying to decieve others. It may also be that they follow certain rulse of behavior simply to avoid punishment....that is still selfishly motivated and takes the joy out of life. God wants us to enjoy the life He's given us, not walk around afraid that someone -or God himself-is going to punish you.
So there are still some problems with defining right and wrong simply by rules of behavior.
What's your motivation?
One final way of defining right and wrong is to ask-what's your motivation? Why do we do the things we do? Some Christian philosophers have described this as doing our duty to God. This does involves knowing God's standards...how does God want us to live. But it is involves the state of our hearts.
Living with integrity to God involves choosing our behaviors because we know God would be pleased...and we want to please God more than anything else. That is when our actions will truly bear the good fruit God wants us to have in our lives. It brings glory and honor to Him and has a postive impact on everyone around us.
Paul refers to this is v. 13...to WILL and to ACT
What's the standard?
So how wo we know what God would want us to do? What are his standards? Jesus said that all of God's laws came from the principles of loving God with all you heart, mind and strenght...and loving your neighbor as yourself. How does that apply to every day stituations?
The Bible reveals God's character. We gain an understanding of who He is...what He values...and what He expects from us by studying His Word.
There is always something more for us to understand...we need to be reminded of what it says...and there is always a deeper level that God can speak to us as we continue to open our lives to Him and His expectations.
We want to actively engage in learning and reminding ourselves about what it means to live obediently to God. As God works in our lives, He gives us that desire to do what's right.
- For this reason I encourage you to to make reading and studying and meditating on God's Word a daily habit.
- I also encourage you to see what you can do to get involved in a Small group-groups of people meeting throughout the week. A vital part of those groups is studying and talking about what the Bible has to say for us.
- It's important to teach your kids to do the same-the earlier a person can learn these things, the better off they will be...At True North our Children's Minstry team has stated as a goal that by the time kids are in the 5th grade, they will know what God sees as good...see the choices around them...and choose good. So talk about God with your kids ...encourage Bible reading at home...get them involved in and excited about Sunday School.
I want to have us stop and reflect for a moment on the importance of knowing God and maintaining a firm commitment to His standards...
Do it for God
So that's the first part part of developing Godly integrity. The second part is addressing our motivations. Why do you do that things you do? Maybe you know what God would want...but do you choose to please God? Or do you choose to gain something for yourself first? Do we even think about it beofre we act? that is often the hard part...to even stop and think before we act.
The real test for why do the things do you is to look at what you do when noone is watching. Do you still do the right things when the people you care about aren't around? Or do you become a different person?
- What happens when your parents aren't around keeping an eye on you?
- What do you do when the boss isn't watching?
- Do we try to get away with things, or do we honestly try to please God?
We do all have a sinful nature. This is a fact. We all struggle with different kinds of tempations. Developing integrity in our lives means that we don't ignore these things.
Yes, God has forgiven us, but He wants us to overcome them...get rid of them.
This is why Paul says to continue working our your salvation in fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to acct according to His good purpose. It takes ongoing focus and effort...and God's help to overcome our sinful motivations.
When you stop to think about it...you begin to realize that there are a lot of situations where we need to check our motivations...and it's not always easy. In v. 15 Paul refers to a crooked and depraved generation. This culture has influence on us that we might not always be aware of. Gail's song talked about the "slow fade"...it's these subtle ways we allow the culture to influence us that causes us to drift away from a life of integrity.
- taxes-told that some 85% of Christians cheat on taxes. Why? Trying to gain something for selves? Think they need to oppose a corrupt govt. What about trust in God, though, and obedience to authorities?
- paying for items overlooked: walk out of a store with an unpaid item. What do you do? Respect for property and livlihood of store owner? Show love for neighbor? People will call you crazy..but still important to do right for God
- pool in hotel: relatives want to use pool in hotel? Respect rules/authority? Integrity to God..or keep people from gettin angry?
There are some even less obvious choices in which we should check our motivations:
Do you make choices based upon anger, jealousy? Do you leave relationships...businesses...churches...only for those reasons or because God tells you to move on?
In ministry we need to constantly check our motivations for what we do as a church-motivated by efficiency, how we look, other personal expectations? Or are we motivated by God's desires for our church...love for Him and one another?
Preaching-am I motivated by perceived expectations of others/fear of upsetting someone...or love for God?
You can see that motivation affects so many of our decisions...God wants us to be motivated by our devotion to Him in all situations.
We need to learn to do what's right & trust God no matter what. Knowing that even though people get away with it & it creates problems for us, God will be pleased and that is all that really matters in the long run. God will ensure justice is done in the end.
We need to ask ourselves what God would think in every situation. God has placed the Holy Spirit in us...what are we dragging the HS through? What are we saking the HS to accept? Ultimately, the only motivation that really matters is what God would have us do.
Living with integrity is challenging but it is important to God. It's not always easy. We have strong desires. We live in a culture that does not agree we should live for God. People close to us get angry, and we will have to put ourselves out sometimes to do the right thing.
No matter what, though, there is one thing that always happens when commit ourselves to living with integrirty. ONe things that matters in our daily decision to fulfill our duty to God.
Despite what any one around you says or does when you step out in faith to do the right thing...God notices and is pleased. He will look upon our efforts to please Him and say "Well done, good and faithful servant. And we can trust that God will bless our efforts to live lives pleasing to Him and allow our works of integrity to make a difference for Him. As Paul says, we will shine like stars in heaven. People will notice and praise God (verse 15)
So let God's light shine through you. Make a difference in this world by committing to being a person of Godly integrity..learning to loveGod's ways, fulfilling duty to God...Letting Him change your motivations for everything you do.
Choose today a life o