Character Qualities of A Champion-Integrity II
Want to explore character quality of integrity today.
Deal with integrity everyday. Faced with all kind of choices in life-whether or not to respect other people and their property. Whether to respect ourselves. These are integrity issues.
Integrity is an issue in 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." How often have we cut corners, told little "white" lies, or done things in secret in order to benefit ourselves?
Integrity is important to God
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.
So what is integrity? Is has something to do with choosing right from wrong...Thre are actually a few different ways of doing that...
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...wha do you think about Robin Hood? You know....steal from the rich a give to the poor? Good or Bad? Why do we think he's a good guy? Ever OK to steal? What if I wanted to steal from you to help the less fortunate. Would that be OK. What if you were wealthy & worked hard for your money. Would you think it was OK for someone to steal from you?
What about slavery? Amazing Grace Clip
It's really difficult to define right and wrong if you are only looking at the results of your actions. The problem with this 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, right and wrong cannot be defined 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?
- It's always wrong to steal. Always wrong to lie. Always wrong to kill or hurt another person.
- Does that really work? What about taking a child to the doctor? Is it wrong to immunize them then? Are doctors wrong when they perform surgery...or dentists when they drill into our teeth? Is it bad to ever engage in any kind of conflict with anyone because it might make them feel bad?
- Are all soldiers bad people? Is it every OK to engage in war? Are police bad?
- What if someone was going to hurt you...is it OK to defend yourself?
You can see that just listing good and bad actions doesn't really work either. There are too many complicted situations and exceptions.
Also, sometimes our actions are selfishly motivated. We do things because we want something for ourselves. Maybe we do the "right" things because we want people to like us...or because we are trying to deceive people for some reason. Even doing right just to avoid negative consequences doesn't seem right either...are you trying to avoid getting caught....or getting into trouble. That kinid of attitude is robs you of the joy of life, and it really is still selfishly motivated.
So...defining right and wrong my our actions...by rules of behavior...doesn't really work either.
What's your motivation?
Really what you see coming out of this is that our motives are important. Why do we do the things we do. Some Christian philosophers have described this as doing our duty to God. This involved BOTH understanding what God wants us to do and the state of our heart. Do we WANT to do those things. Living with integrity to God involves knowing what God would want you to do, and then choosing to please God. 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.
I think this is what Paul was getting at when he talking about God working in us to WILL and to ACT..v. 13...to WILL and to ACT
What's the standard?
So in order to develop integrity, the first thing we need to aks ourselves is what would God wants us to do? How do we determine that? Remember it's more than jsut a list of rules...it really takes understanding God's character. What motivates Him? IWhat fits best with His plans for the world?
We find this out be studying God's Word...the Bible is what God has given us to understand Him. InIn here we learn that God's primary motivation is love. How do we apply that to our lives. We also learn that there are standards of right and wrong that He gives. These are related to loving one another as far as respecting one anothers' lives and property.We need to submit ourselves to those standards and we need to ask how to apply them to all kinds of situations. 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. We have access to various Bible reading plans to help guide you and get you started.
- 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, too, to actively engage the children around you in learning God's character and expectations. I love what our Children's Ministry team at True North has done-they've stated a goal that all kid's how are part of our church would know by the 5th grade-when they are starting to gain some more independence-what God says is good...to see the choices around them...and to be commited to choosing good. So talk with children about God...encourage them to read the Bible..instill involvement and excitement about Sunday School and other church events. the earlier anyone can learn these things, the better their chances at doing well in serving God.
Do it for God
Now the second part of gaining integrity is often more difficult. It's avout our motivations..why do we make the choices we do? Do we do things to gain things for ourselves...or do we set out to please God first? Do we even think about it in every situation? Often times we don't-we're not even aware sometimes we're making a choice, so it helps to stop and think about these things for a moment.
Often times the real test for why we do the things we do is to look at what we do when noone is watching. Do you still do the right things when the people you care about aren't around?
- What do you do differently when your parents aren't around?
- What about when the boss isn't looking?
- Are there hidden motivations you have...things you try to hide from others...these are areas we need to check our integrity in.
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 we look at motivations, there are some even more subtle motivations we need to consider.
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. This is waht Gail just sang about...the "slow fade" is the giving into those influences...believing they are right when they say something contrary to what God wants is OK...
Let's look at a few examples...
- Look at your friendships and close relationships...are you compromising your integrity to fit in...or feel good about those relationships. How would God want you to act in those situations? Are you motivated to please Him?
- Taxes: I've been told that some 85% of Christians cheat on their taxes. Why? Looking to gain something for ourselves? Do we justify it because we are unhappy with the government? What does God say abotu submission to authority? What does God say about trusting Him in every situation? Are we motivated to please Him?
- Have you ever left a store and discovered you had managed to walk out without paying for something. What do you do? Keep it? Take it back...might be a pain. People will think you are crazy...But what would God want? Are we motivated to please Him?
- Hotel pool: relatives want to come over and use it with you. Do you repsect the rules of the hotel? Or do you give into the pressures of your relatives. they will get mad if you say "no"...But, again, what does God say about respecting others property? How are you showing loving for the hotel owners if you disrespect their rules? What would God think? and Are you motivated to please Him?
You can really begin to see how this issue of integrity extends into all kinds of situations.
- Do you make choices motivated by 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: while preparing this message, I realized that I need to be aware of integrity as I prepare to speak for God...I have to admit that there have been times when I find myself motivated more by concern about what other people are thinking..whether I am saying things well...or using enough media...or preparing fast enough for others...than I am in just pleasing God. It really affects you when you are doing things with the proper motivation...I love to preach when I am doing it with integrity...otherwise it becomes a burden.
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. 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 in 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. Let God change your motivation for everything you do...so that you will WANT to do what He wants...choose to live a life of integrity.