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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
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.”