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About this series
How to be a Christian Without Being Religious
Is it possible to be a Christian without being religious? More than a list of activities, behaviors, and rules, this series will show you that the Christian life is, at its core, an ongoing relationship with the living God. You will discover how to live a life of faith; how to portray Christ's love and character in your everyday activities; how to know if you are growing spiritually; and how to develop a dynamic, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.More from this series
I want to tell you about one word that I believe can change your whole life. And that’s not an overstatement. I believe there is one word that, not if you intellectually understand it or even get emotionally caught up in it, but there is one word that, if you begin to put it into practice and it becomes a characteristic of who you are, it will change your whole life.
In order for you to get that word down deep in your heart I want to give a little free Hebrew wisdom out. We’re going to memorize a verse together.
It’s an axiomatic, wisdom principle, and first of all, it gives a positive axiom. “He who walks in integrity walks securely.” Then it gives the negative axiom, “But he who perverts his way will be found out.” It’s time tested. He who walks in integrity, honesty, being blameless, authentic, real, sincere. The word means what you say and how you live tell the same story. When you walk in integrity, you walk securely. And that word means, “safe; protected.”
By contrast, it says, “But he who perverts his way,” and the word “pervert” literally means, “to take a bend in the road, to get off the tracks, to know what you need to do, but not do it. To know what you shouldn’t do and go ahead and do it, to begin to present one thing but know inwardly it’s really different.” When you take a bend in the road, when you move off of a life of integrity, you will be found out. The problem is, we don’t get found out soon enough. And, so, we think we can get away with it. And then we live double lives.
So, are you ready, this side of the room? “He who walks in integrity walks securely.” You get to be the positive side. You get to be the negative side. But we’ll get to swap in a minute, okay? Okay? I’ll say it and then next round, you say it with me. Do not look at the notes. I know it’s on there. Cheating? No, no, no. Okay?
“He who walks in integrity walks securely.” One more time. “He who walks in integrity walks securely.” This is going to be a challenge, a very intellectual group over here. They have picked up very quickly. Okay. “But he who perverts his way will be found out.” Ready? “But he who perverts his way will be found out.” “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his way will be found out.” “He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his way will be found out.” You got it.
Now, everybody wants to change, right? I have never met someone who said, “I’ve got a pretty good marriage, I’d like it to get a little worse.” Or, “I’m a bad golfer, I want to be terrible.” Or, “I’m a pretty good parent and in another five years, I think I could mess up my kids!”
Everyone wants to change for the better. I think it’s in the DNA and believer or unbeliever. It’s in us, made after God’s image, to want to improve and grow and become better. There’s a multi-billion-dollar industry called The Self-Help Industry. And there are infomercials and you read this book, take this pill, use this machine for six minutes a day and you’ll have a body like whoever.
So, we all want to change. But what we do know is it wouldn’t be a multi, multi-billion-dollar industry if it really worked because people would change and get better. But since they don’t, they try this, then they try this, then they try that, then they try that.
And I want to suggest that the fundamental reason, whether it’s spiritual, or relational, or financial, or in your work – that real, lasting change doesn’t occur is because it’s like dealing with above the water line of an iceberg.
And you’re only dealing with the visible part. And I want to suggest that underneath the waterline, at the very foundation of the iceberg of change, is the issue of integrity. Is that until you really get honest with yourself, honest with God, and learn progressively to be honest with other people you’ll spend most of your energy trying to project that you’re better than you are; a lot of your energy, if you’re like me, lying to yourself; telling yourself things are better than they really are; and then spending even a moderate amount of time trying to con God.
Integrity is the prerequisite for lasting change. And in my time tonight I’d like to define integrity and then I’m going to try and sell you on something, okay? So, if you think I’m trying to persuade you and, “I think he’s trying to persuade me,” you’re absolutely right.
I’m going to try and give you three reasons why being a person of integrity is the greatest thing you’ll ever do for you, it’ll be the greatest thing you ever do for your relationship with God, and it’ll be the greatest thing you do in your relationships with other people.
Because what you all know is that when you walk in integrity you will walk securely, but if you take a bend in the road, if you pervert your way, you will be found out.
So, open the teaching notes if you have them and let’s define what integrity is, and then let’s jump in here together and let me give you three specific reasons why the greatest, smartest thing you’ll ever do in your life is to commit to being a person of integrity.
The Hebrew word for integrity means: complete moral innocence. Webster states, “It’s a state or quality of being complete, undivided, unbroken, moral soundness, honesty, or being upright.”
It’s being real, genuine, sincere, it comes from the root word, “to integrate,” or, “to bring things into wholeness, with no division.” And as I said before, in essence, it’s when what you say and who you really are tell the same story.
Now, this side of heaven no one gets it one to one. But integrity is, as a general rule, we’re not talking about perfection, we’re not talking about never messing up, we’re talking about on a consistent basis your life and your words, what you project, are telling the same story instead of, “This is what I say but this is how I live.” That’s what integrity is all about.
It’s about bringing your life into wholeness, about being exactly who you say. It’s when you say something I can look in your eyes and I know that’s coming from your heart.
It’s when you give your word, you keep it. It’s being a person of honesty, but more than honesty, a person that is authentic, a person that’s real. And I didn’t grow up as a Christian, like I told you, and I’ve got to tell you, us unbelievers, when I watched Christians, I didn’t expect them to be perfect. But when they said this and lived like this, I couldn’t put up with hypocrisy.
If they messed up, I don’t mind if someone messes up but they say, “Excuse me, I’m a Christian and that cuss word that just came out of my mouth when the hammer hit my thumb, that’s really not what God is looking for in my life. I’ve already asked God to forgive me and I’m sorry. That’s not a very good testimony.” I can live with that. And the guy has only been a Christian six weeks, what do you expect?
Now, let me give you three reasons then. Three reasons why you can’t afford to live a life apart from integrity. Reason number one is that relationships are impossible without integrity. They’re not hard, they’re impossible.
First, with God. Do you remember the story about the woman at the well? And Jesus stays behind and He has this conversation and He tells her the truth about Him and then they get into the spiritual conversation and she waxes eloquent about this mountain or that mountain and the Jews versus the Samaritans.
Do you remember what Jesus said when He talked about an authentic, true worshipper? And it’s interesting, I did a little study on the word, “The Father is seeking,” literally, “He is pursuing a certain kind of person.”
Those who worship Him in Spirit and in truth. See, you can’t have a relationship with God until you’re honest with Him. And a lot of us spend all kind of time trying to con God, “I’ll do this, if You do this. If You do this for me, I’ll never do this anymore.” And we play all these games. That’s not what God’s looking for.
What God is looking for is authenticity. He’s looking for honesty. He’s looking for people who will be straight up and be really honest, even when they’re angry, even when they’re hurt with Him.
Psalm 15, I put it in your notes, classic passage. There are only about five verses but it opens with a question and ends with a promise. And verse 1 of Psalm 15 says, “O Lord, who may come into Your holy dwelling,” or, “Your sanctuary? Who may abide in Your tent, Your holy tent?”
And then it begins to answer the question, “He who walks righteously, who lives with integrity, who speaks truth in his heart, who doesn’t slander his neighbor, who doesn’t put out his money at interest. He’s the kind of person that swears to his own hurt, gives his word, and doesn’t change.”
And then the ending verse of chapter 15 says, “The person who does these things will never be shaken.” God is looking for, first and foremost, people that will be honest.
I came to Christ at about, let’s see, eighteen. I was at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp, I had never heard the Bible taught in my life. I went to a social church that didn’t believe in the Bible and they read a few Bible stories, but I came to Christ and then I met a bricklayer who was trained by the Navigators – it’s a para-church ministry like Campus Crusade or InterVarsity – and Tuesday mornings he would come and he taught me how to have a quiet time, then he taught me how to memorize a couple verses, and then pretty soon, a year or so later, I’m seeking to lead some other fellows to Christ and I got involved in a campus ministry.
But I was also, I went to school on a basketball scholarship. And so there was a little different culture and environment on the basketball team than there was at the Thursday night Bible study. And I’m brand new in Christ, and I spent the first eighteen years of my life learning how to relate to girls, and guys in the locker room in one way, and now I have this new Spirit living in me.
And, so, I lived like a lot of people. On Thursday night I went to Bible study, I prayed, I tried to look and act right, and I was sincere. And on Friday night I hit every bar in Wheeling.
And I’ve got to tell you, it brought dissonance to my soul. And then I would tell God after my Friday night, “I never want to do that… I’ll never do that, God, please, please, please, I’m so sorry.” I felt really guilty, in fact, at one point I thought, Maybe I’m not really a Christian.
And as one dear brother said, he said, “Now, when you used to go out and sin before, did you feel really bad?” I said, “No, I didn’t feel bad. I actually had a lot of fun.” I knew it was wrong but, boy, now when I do what I know is wrong, something deep inside me says, That’s the Holy Spirit. You’re grieving the Holy Spirit.
And I spent the next year, year and a half, one foot walking with God and one foot walking in the world. And my testimony is the most miserable people on the planet are people that are living a double life of hypocrisy.
I couldn’t enjoy sin anymore because the Spirit that sealed me, that adopted me, that placed me in the body of Christ, you know what? 1 Timothy is pretty clear; 2 Timothy is pretty clear: I may deny Him but He won’t deny me. He might withhold blessing, He’ll bring consequences, but when He knocked on the door of my heart, I said, “Come in,” and He came in and He came in to stay.
And I was miserable. Man, I struggled. Finally, I decided, “Forget it. You know what? This Christian life,” I had one, little poster, I took it off the wall, I took my Bible, I stuck it in my drawer, wrapped up my little poster, and I said, “You know what? If I can’t live a better Christian life than this, I’m out. I quit.” And I remember just thinking, Okay, that’s it. I’m sorry, God, but sorry. That’s it.
But the conviction didn’t leave. It was like I wanted to get out of the army and God said, “No, wait a second. You made a commitment, you can renege on yours. I made a commitment. I live in you and I live in you forever.”
And, literally, my lordship decision, you want to know how spiritual I was? My lordship decision with God was, “Well,” and take this reverently, “can’t lick Him, I guess you join Him.”
I wasn’t going to live a miserable life and I just realized, and I got down on my knees and I remember telling Him, this one besetting sin, I was struggling so much, “Oh God, oh God, oh God, please help me!” That was, like, the ninety-fourth time over the same issue I was asking for help.
And the still, small voice of the Spirit said, “Chip, would you be honest? You don’t want help. You like this sin, don’t you?” “Yeah.” “Well, why don’t you just get honest and tell Me that you really like the sin, you know it’s wrong, and ask Me to change your mind and your heart so you can see it from My perspective?” “Okay.”
And I began to see that the reason God prohibited certain things was that He loved me so much He didn’t want the destruction that they would bring in my life. And I want you to know that there is a barrier between you and your relationship with God when you’re not honest, when you know what’s right to do and you don’t do it, when you know this is true but you’re living this way.
And you can excuse it and say other Christians do it and you can come up with all kinds of rationale, I’m actually an expert at this if you want some help in how to go into denial and rationalize sinful behavior. You’re looking at a guy who, I’m masterful at it, I can give you a few clues on it. But I want to tell you, it absolutely will destroy your life.
“He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his way will be found out.” Relationships aren’t hard, they’re impossible. The first prerequisite with God is that you’re honest and are you ready for this? Because some of your body language tells me you’re struggling with a few things. I’m not the only person who has lived a bit of a double life.
Jot down, if it’s not in your notes, Psalm 145:18. It’s an amazing passage. “The Lord is near to those who call upon Him, to those who call upon Him in truth.” What I want you know, whatever you’re involved in, whatever struggle, whatever sin, whatever lustful thought, whatever unforgiving spirit, whatever issue in work, whatever has come out of your mouth and said negative things about other people – the millisecond you get absolutely honest, absolutely honest and own it and bring it to God, the Lord is near to those who call upon Him.
And you don’t have to feel bad, and do penance for six, or eight, or ten days, or six, or seven, or eight hours. The moment you come, the blood of Christ is open, available, and keeps on cleansing. If you confess your sin He will do what? He will forgive you of your sin and then cleanse you of all unrighteousness.
The second thing is, is not only does it break a relationship with God, you can’t have a good relationship with yourself. Psalm 51, remember David is praying? He has sinned with Bathsheba. Here’s a guy that really knows God, He loves God, but what’s he do?
A good man at a bad moment. A great man at the wrong place, at the wrong time. He ends up committing adultery and then later murder. And then Psalm 51, literally, we get the memoirs. We get to overhear his prayers as he’s coming back and getting back in fellowship with God. And he owns his sin, “God, against You and You only have I sinned,” remember that?
And then he looks at the historical roots, he said, “Out of my mother’s womb this problem of doing what I know is wrong, this didn’t just happen with Bathsheba. This has been in the heart of me and all mankind.”
And then in verse 5 or 6, he says something very interesting, “O God, what You desire is truth” – where? “in the innermost parts.”
I have an observation, is that dishonesty is the father of self-hatred – an unwillingness to see my sin and turn from it. I will learn to fabricate, deny, rationalize, and inwardly hate myself, because you know what I learned? We all hate phonies, don’t we? We all hate hypocrites. Even if the person who is the hypocrite is the person in the mirror.
And there are some people that live with a lack of peace in their heart and a self-image that is so negative because they adhere to – mentally and verbally – “I believe this,” and yet their lifestyles are going this direction. And it produces this incredible internal turmoil.
A young man came to me just a few years ago. Very, very close friend. Came from a tremendous home; godly, young man; involved in ministry; leading worship; teaching the Bible; just led a portion of one of his sports teams to Christ – three or four or five guys.
And this guy is the – every mom, every dad would say, “I would want this kid to be my son.” He is a picture of “a young person” in their early twenties really walking with God.
And then he started to struggle, and his countenance kind of changed. He was always filled with such confidence then you could kind of see it happening and I wondered, “You know, what’s going on with this kid?”
To make a very long story short, he was studying one day and a quick blurb came across his computer screen, and invited him, via the Internet, to just come to a little site. Just soft porn, no danger, nothing big.
And that led him on a journey. Led him on a journey deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and deeper, into the Internet, into ever increasing hardcore pornography.
And now, you got a young man getting up and playing a guitar and talking about Jesus on Sunday, and an addiction forming, where he told me he would come home and look around and try and figure out when the times when his parents wouldn’t be around so he could get on it. And he said it was the only thing he could think about all day, and then the shame and the guilt were overwhelming.
And all of a sudden, this kid is getting major, psychological problems. Why? He knows what’s right and true, he’s living in a way that is not just producing intellectual dissonance, and emotional dissonance, but spiritual dissonance. This pulling apart of your soul.
And I want to tell you that we’ve done research, and I’ve read research, on some of our, “Christian campuses.” As many as thirty and forty-five percent of the young men are regular Internet users on porn sites.
And do you understand what it does to try and sit down at the table and, “Have family devotions,” and have this secret, hidden in the back?” And you know what? It can be the porn over here, or it can be an addiction to soap operas over here, or romance novels over here. It can be vicariously always looking at something or someone. But when you know what is right to do, and your life is moving a different direction, you don’t like yourself.
And when you don’t like yourself, you know what you do? You do what I do. You eat. And you’re thinking, “Well, you must like yourself pretty good.” No, I have a very high metabolism.
And some of us eat, and then did you notice why, when you get in the car you have to turn on the radio really quickly? When you come in the house, you turn on the TV. There always has to be noise.
Why is it that in America food, food, you get depressed, what do you do? Go to a movie. You don’t feel good? Go out to eat. Well, if it gets really bad, take a vacation you can’t afford. You can charge it.
Why? Because if, for a half hour, or less than half a day, you sit quietly with no noise, and you cease striving, and you be still, what starts to bubble up? What bubbles up? The conversations that are this direction, and the truth that’s this direction; the dissonance in a relationship; the unforgiveness that’s unaddressed; the little, lustful thought that goes by and we keep pressing it down.
“He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his way, will be found out.”
Do you see how one, little word can change your life? The basis of your relationship with God? Integrity, honesty. The basis of a healthy relationship with yourself? You don’t have to be perfect but you’ve got to be real and authentic. You’ve got to look in the mirror and say, “You know something? I don’t have it together but I’m making progress and I’m accepted in the beloved in Christ.”
The third relationship that’s impossible is with others. What’s the command? After we’re told who we are in Christ in the first three chapters, “But speaking the truth in love” – what? “we are to grow up into all aspects who is the head, even Christ. By that which every joint supplies, according to proper working of each individual part,” right?
How can you love other people unless there is trust? And how can there be trust if what you purport to be and what they purport to be isn’t true?
The commodity of relationships, and relationships that give you and give me the greatest thing on the earth, there are people that have all the money, and all the homes, and all the stuff, and what are they looking for? Someone to love them unconditionally!
That’s what I long for, that’s what you long for, but if I’m not honest, then I don’t have any real relationship.
And so we got a whole generation of people that we look on the front of magazines and TVs and we think, If I wear this and I have this kind of a watch, and I have this kind of a suit, and I drive this kind of a car, and I can live in this kind of neighborhood…
And we image project, image project saying what? “Like me, will you? My hair is this color now, I’m in style now, hey, I toned up at the gym. Like me, will you? I get good grades, I have letters behind my name, so many people report to me, have you heard about my 401k, everyone else went in the tube but I made a lot of money. And, by the way, did you see my new car and…?”
Why? What’s behind it? What’s behind it? What’s behind this incessant wanting to impress other people? We so desperately are insecure, we want people’s approval and yet, let me ask you, just between us people here, I don’t know, are you drawn to people that appear to have it all together, that are in the latest everything, look just right, seem to be very spiritual, and just like they don’t have a problem in the world?
Those people intimidate me if I thought it was true. I’m just old enough now to know, “Ah, pretty good faker.” You know who I’m drawn to? I’m drawn to people that I feel like they’re honest and real with their struggles, they’re making progress, now since I know they have a struggle, I’m thinking, Now here’s someone I can identify with!
Aren’t you drawn to people that are real and authentic, not that have it all together, not that just look a certain way? And aren’t the deepest, best relationships you’ve ever experienced in your life, are not necessarily with the prettiest, or the most famous, or the wealthiest, or the most popular, but the person that’s real, and open, and honest?
And, by the way, it’s okay to be pretty, and popular, and if God gives you wealth, use it and be a good steward. But we have a culture that says those things make you a someone. And the truth of the matter is what you know and what I know is they don’t.
So, what do we want? I want, I’m made for relationships, you’re made for relationships. I want a deep, intimate relationship with my Creator through the person of Christ, how? Walk in integrity. I want to look in the mirror and say, “You know something, Ingram? You got a long way to go but I like the progress. I like what I see. Yeah, you’re struggling here but you’re owning it, and you’re making progress, and you’re dealing with that. And you’ll always be in a struggle but putting things behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, press on, Chip, toward the goal, toward the high road calling in Christ Jesus.”
And to know that as far as I know there’s nothing between me and God. As far as I know, as Paul would say, my conscience is void of offense both before God and men.
You know what? You can put your head on the pillow and say, “Do I have it together? No way. Am I all the person that I really want to be? No way. But am I the person I used to be? No way.”
And you have a self-evaluation that’s honest, and real, and authentic. And that kind of a person, what happens? You get relationships with people that are real, powerful, and deep, and intimate. And because you’re real then there’s trust. And because there’s trust, there’s love. And when there is love then you share more and more vulnerably about who you really are. And the more you share who you really are, the more real love you get touched by.
Because, see, I can put up this little image and get you to think I’m this and that, and if you love this or that, what I know is behind that this is who I really am. I spent years trying to get good in sports and, well, gosh, they’ll…
And those strokes felt like love but what is was, they were just rewarding my performance. And then I figured out how to get good in school. There are a few techniques, you don’t have to be that smart to get As if you can figure out what they’re going to ask on the test.
And I was one of those people, I could figure out what they’d ask on the test and so I could get As and, “Ooh, aren’t you this?” And you know what? I kept feeling empty inside. Because what fills you up is authentic, deep, loving relationships with other human beings, and when you look in their eye and when they look in yours, what you realize is, “I’m getting the real thing.”
And what you know is they don’t have it together, you don’t have it together, but you have been covered by the blood of Christ, and you are both forgiven, and you are both on a journey. And you need their help and they need your help. But apart from integrity, relationships are impossible.
The second reason this one, little word will change your life and I want to persuade you to be a man or a woman of integrity is that peace is impossible without integrity.
Colossians 3:15, great little passage says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts remembering that as members of one body you are called to live in harmony, and never forget to be thankful for what God has done for you”
“Let the peace of Christ rule,” that little word, rule means: “act as an arbitrator.” The best word picture I can give is, “Let the peace of Christ,” you know what I mean by the peace of Christ? I don’t want to just throw this jazz around.
You know that sense of the Spirit of God confirming with your spirit that everything is okay? And then when you do something that you know is wrong and you just feel, whoo, peace is gone. There is dissonance. There is something wrong inside. You tracking with me?
This word, “act as an arbitrator” is, literally, like the Holy Spirit is an umpire and the pitches of life are coming across the plate and He calls ball, strike, foul. And as I’m up to the plate of life there are times where, you know what? I’m not supposed to swing at this one, and I swing at it and, “Ah! Strike!”
And He acts as an arbitrator so that when there are times when I take a bend in the road, even one small that’s mentally, or in a relationship, or something that comes out of my mouth.
Have you ever been in a situation? Something comes out of your mouth and you realize instantly you’ve offended and hurt someone and then, as a believer, you just kind of felt the peace go, whoo.
Can I ask you? And this is, I’m not down on you, God’s not down on you. Are you avoiding issues in your life with ESPN, and food, and an occasional drink, and maybe some prescription drugs, and maybe a busy, busy, busy lifestyle? And maybe with noise, and TV, and stereo, and hobbies, and softball?
And are you numbing the Spirit’s work in your heart, and missing the intimacy that He longs for you, because you just won’t get quiet enough to realize you don’t have peace?
And then say, Lord, I know You love me, You died for me, You care for me. Would You be the umpire? Would You show me where we’re out of sync? And His desire is not to pound you. His desire is for you to bring that issue to Him, and you say you’re sorry, and mean it from your heart, He says He understands and Jesus paid for it, and a Father and son or a Father and a daughter, your heavenly Father, you get reconnected. And guess what, whoo, peace.
There are a lot of people who really don’t have weight problems, they have lack of peace problems. There are a lot of people that don’t have workaholic problems, they have peace problems.
There are a lot of people that are addicted to adrenaline and busyness and you know what it’s about? It’s about this issue. You see, “He who walks in integrity walks securely,” safely, “but he who perverts his way will be found out.”
The number one reason why I want to persuade you to do whatever it takes to be a man, a woman, or a student of integrity is relationships are impossible without integrity. You can’t have a relationship with God, yourself, or others.
Second, peace is impossible without integrity.
And third, impact is impossible without integrity. Impact.
God put you here for a purpose. He wants to use you, He wants to cause your life to rub up against other people’s lives and you’d have a great impact. Impact is impossible without integrity.
The verse in your notes, I think it’s Proverbs 25:26, is that right? It says, “Like a trampled spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” It’s a word picture.
Like a trampled spring or a polluted well. What do they have in common? A spring and a well both have water, right? And the parallel is if they get trampled or polluted it’s the same as a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
Now, the Near Eastern culture helps you understand this one. Because what would happen is they would have camels and sheep and, if you lived in a place you would bring your camels and sheep to a spring and very delicately you would take your turn and you would water your animals.
But if you weren’t from that place and you didn’t care about anyone else, you would drive your herds into the spring, let them drink right out of the spring, and the animals would, I don’t want to get graphic here, but they would defecate and urinate in the spring as they were drinking and then you would move them on and so now you got mud and now you…
Water is life. It’s life! You have water – life. No water? Death.
Like a trampled spring or sometimes a well would be polluted. And what would happen in that day is armies would come through and how do you wipe out people? They would come through, take a town, pollute the water system, and then move on.
Listen carefully, that which was designed to give life – water – from a spring or a well, something occurred in the spring, in the well, so that when people came to find life, instead they received death. So is a righteous man or a righteous woman or a righteous student who gives way before the wicked.
This is a cliché, I’m just about to say, so pencil in hand, you don’t have to write it down because you’ve heard it. But it happens to be one that’s true. You are the greatest Christian, at least one or two people will ever know.
Me? Yeah, you. They’re your neighbor, your friend, your coworker, your fellow student, and when they see you and they know you are a “Christian,” they may outwardly reject you, I’ve learned, they may say things about you, but when they’re going through their divorce; when they get their cancer report, and the biopsy comes back positive; when their mate leaves them; and when their child is taken to the juvenile detention center, they will make a path to your door and say, “You do the praying stuff, don’t you? And the Jesus guy who does the miracles? And I see you go to church…”
And what I want you to know is that if your words say one thing, and they see your lifestyle not matching up, you become like a trampled spring or a polluted well and they came to find life, and instead they see hypocrisy. And you’re saying, “That’s pretty strong.” You bet it’s strong. It is one of the most motivating little passages, in all of Scripture, for living a life of integrity.
You have the potential to bring life, or you have potential to spiritually sabotage other people seeking life.
I grew up in a church where I watched it happen. By the time I was sixteen, I left the church. By the time I was seventeen, I didn’t know if God existed. And nearly before I was eighteen, I decided, “If God existed and He’s like the people in this church, I don’t want to get to know Him anyway.”
It should have been a source of life. And my challenge is, do you need to be perfect? No. My challenge is, “He who walks in integrity walks securely.” Ask God, in the next minute or two, as we close, ask God, “Is there any part of my life that, as this guy has been talking, and as he’s shared these verses,” has the Holy Spirit pinpointed and you’ve said, “You know something? I’m not living the way I know I need to live. My words and my actions don’t tell the same story.
“I say I believe this but my priorities are out of whack. I say I love people but I’ve got bitterness in my heart, or I’ve got an unforgiving Spirit, or I’ve got an issue with someone at work, or I say I love God with all my heart and He says, ‘If you love me, keep my commandments,’ and I can’t remember the last time I even read His commandments, let alone kept them. I say I care about people and I often say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll pray for you. I’ll pray for you.’”
And your prayer life basically is the three and a half minutes on the freeway to work and for some of us, you’ve got to call just a royal time-out and say, God, I’m done with that kind of life. I’ll never be perfect but I need to press on toward the upward calling. I need to be a man of God, I need to be a woman of God, I need to be a student who authentically lives it out, and I’m going to own whatever You show me, I’m going to bring it to the cross tonight and ask for forgiveness and then I’m going to ask for the grace and the power tonight, so that I live a life of integrity.
At the very bottom of your notes there is a summary of this message. It says, “Honesty breeds at-homeness with God.” I like that. When you’re honest it breeds at-homeness with God. And then notice the parallel, “Dishonesty destines us to disgrace.”