CultureWatch

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The Pressing Need for Integrity

Aug 24, 2008

On a regular basis media reports highlight some politician, celebrity, community leader, sports star or high-flyer falling from grace. Whether through drugs, sex, dishonesty, abuse of power or corruption, there seems to be a constant stream of cases of well known figures being brought low by some sort of scandal or intrigue.

The sad thing is Christians are not immune from such situations, and they too are prone to such downfalls. This is doubly scandalous. Followers of Jesus are meant to represent their Lord, and such major stumbles bring disrepute on Christ.

Indeed, in the past week or so, two high-flying Christian leaders have fallen from grace: Todd Bentley in the US, and Mike Guglielmucci in Australia. Both cases have received a lot of media attention.

However, these moral and spiritual collapses need not occur. While we do not achieve perfection when becoming Christians, we do receive the residential power of the Holy Spirit to help us become transformed into the image of Christ. So we are not left alone in the process of sanctification and spiritual growth, but are endowed with God-given power.

Key to this is the issue of integrity. The dictionary definition of the term speaks of soundness, or the state of being complete or undivided.

The Christian walking in integrity is not two different persons: one in the public eye, and another in private. There is no divisions between what the believer does Sunday morning and what he does the rest of the week. That is because he has a singleness of heart and focus.

Other words for integrity include personal purity, dedication, and holiness. The believer who has integrity is someone who is holy, or set apart for God’s use. He is dedicated to his God, and he recognises that his inner life must reflect that of his Lord.

And like all aspects of Christian living, the way it works is by putting God first, and by living in his presence. When we see God for who he really is, we cannot remain the same. Isaiah had a life-changing encounter with God as described in Isaiah 6. Confronted with the presence of a holy God, he could only say, “Woe is me, I am ruined. I am a man of unclean lips.”

The only way we can really know ourselves is to first know God. Consider the response Jesus gave to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” He replied by citing two Old Testament passages: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31; also, Matt. 22:37-40; Luke 10:27).

The first part of his response comes from Deut. 6:5. It is part of what is known as the Shema, a passage which all good Jews recite as a daily prayer. The word “shema” is the Hebrew term for “hear”, which is the first word of the famous passage (Deut. 6:4-9). The first two verses of the Shema read as follows:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” The idea is, because the Lord is one God, we should love the Lord as a unified being. The various words like heart and mind simply mean that we should love God with the totality of our being, with our whole person.

There should be no part of us that does not love God. There should be no division in our person. Every part of us should be united in our love and devotion to God. Jesus said this is the great commandment. We are to be totally sold out to God, and love and follow him completely, thoroughly and fully.

That takes us back to the term integrity. There is no part of us that should not come under the Lordship of Christ. We should not be divided in our loyalties to God. We should not be double-minded or duplicitous. We are to be all or nothing for God. No half-hearted measures are allowed.

That realisation should impact on everything we do: the way we do our taxes, the way we spend our time at work, the things we do when no one is looking, the words we speak, the thoughts we think, and the actions we perform.

A much more accessible definition of integrity is this: what do you do when no one is looking? Let me illustrate. Some years ago there was a major blackout I believe in New Zealand. I do not recall all the details, but a major city was without power for quite some time: maybe even more than a week. It is in such situations that we find out what people are really made of. Evidently crime rates skyrocketed all over the place. When people thought they could get away with things under the cover of darkness, they went for it big time.

You see, the veneer of civilisation is very thin indeed. Just as soon as law and order is weakened, our true natures come to the surface. And most people who normally act as decent citizens show their true colours when the opportunity arises.

Of course it should not be that way for believers. Whether in the full light of day, or the darkness of night, we should be consistent and one in our thoughts and actions. We should not be divided but whole. We should be people of integrity.

And again, that integrity will really only become a part of who we are as we spend time with the one true God, who is holy, pure, majestic and righteous. As we spend time with such a God, his character rubs off on us, and we become more and more like him.

The world desperately needs to see people of integrity, people of character, people who are of one mind and spirit. With God’s help we can be that kind of person.

There are already too many casualties in the church. Too many believers have fallen from grace. Enough is enough. We must press on to be people of integrity, who love our Lord with every fibre of our being. That is the great commandment, and that is what we are called to do.

[1072 words]

12 Responses to The Pressing Need for Integrity

  • I hear your pain at the actions of one pentecostal pastor. However, we must remember that the God the Christ presented to us is bigger than our failings.
    Michael Boswell

  • Sadly, we are warned in the Scriptures that false leadership and prophets will increase in the last days. It is now up to each individual Christian to discern for themselves what is Godly and what is not. No longer can we blindly trust our leadership to lead us right all the time. They are sinners just like us. We must study God’s Word diligently so that we will not be tainted when false teaching arises.

    We must also teach our own children sound doctrine (and our spiritual children too). No longer can we risk devolving that responsibility to others. Likewise, demonstrating integrity in our daily living is a living testimony to both those within and outside the Body of Christ.

    The tragedy is that too many leaders are falling into sin and/or error. The good news is that more and more regular Joes are exercising spiritual discernment, surely a divine gift from God, to judge what is right and wrong, and are standing firm in what they believe despite opposition from others. In my own community, I am seeing this across denominational boundaries.

    Glenda Morgan, WA

  • Where does Romans 7 fit within this?

    We all sin and fall short of the glory of God.

    I think the most appropriate response to these events is to look at ourselves again without our rosy tinted glasses and let this remind us that we all fail, we all have sinned. Then look back to God and see a fresh how amazing is His grace given our falleness.. I think this is fresh potential to see again how incredible is all that God has done for us. I think it’s that appreciation of His grace and love that is going to be transformative in terms of building that integrity you speak about.

    Rebecca New

  • Rebecca,

    Romans 7 fits nowhere into this!

    In that passage Paul is speaking in the voice of an unregenerate Jew who has not yet found Christ. It is an oft-misunderstood chapter.

    If you carefully re-read it again in the wider context of chs 6-8 you should be able to see clearly where his argument is going.

    Paul knows nothing of a terminal battle in the human breast where the “flesh” is proven to be at least as powerful a force as the “new man”, as the redemptive work of the Holy Spirit.

    We are to be holy, as He is holy. There is no sin we cannot overcome, although we will never get there in this life. But to suggest (I’m not sure you were) that Romans 7 explains and somehow exonerated the Todds and Mikes of this world is simply wrong.

    Christians have in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, access to the same power which raised Jesus from the dead, to overcome sin, such that there would be no condemnation, and no sin that we cannot be freed from.

    That is NOT the Paul speaking in ch 7, where he’s voicing the hopelessness of someone who cannot escape, until Christ appears to them.

    I hope that’s clear 🙂

    Alister Cameron // Blogologist

  • Alister, with respect I must disagree. What you say does not accord with my own Christian walk. Was King David unregenerate when he committed first adultery, lying and then murder? George Werwer of Operation Mobilisation has something to say on this with his book, “A wretch like me.” http://www.georgeverwer.com/ip.php?tp=wretch

    As I believe Dr Tom Constable is saying in his commentary on Romans, although there are specific and spectacular sins that need to be confessed, I am certain that there are numberless locked closets deep within the recesses of my own soul, related to craftiness and pride, which have yet to be opened and surrendered to the Holy Spirit. http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/romans.pdf ((scroll down to chapter 7)

    I believe that one of the tactics of the enemy, like the hunting lion, is to cut us out and isolate us. He would make us feel that it is only us who are either being tempted or only us who fall. (Psalm 73). Certainly if we persist in sin, we are tempting God and there may well come a point where the ability to feel guilt and the ability to repent, are no longer possible. All grace has been used up. Chapters 4 and 10 of Hebrews make for very sober reading.

    We certainly need to expose sin but when we expose it in others, as the thief hanging on one side of the cross of Jesus, did to the one hanging on the other side, we need to humbly recognise that there is only one person in all of history who was innocent and that was Jesus Christ.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks guys

    Yes it is always a tricky issue. On the one hand, we are all sinners and are all capable of great sin. On the other hand, we have the ability, with God’s help, to be real overcomers. But we live between the ages: the old age of sin and death is still upon us, but the new age of freedom in Christ has broken in, but will not be fully realised until he comes again. So we will always live with this tension, and there will be struggles between the old and the new.

    As to Romans 7, it is indeed a difficultly chapter to interpret, especially the identity of the “I” in 7: 13-25. The truth is, scholars are pretty evenly divided on this one, with good arguments to be found on both sides. Those who believe Paul is talking about himself as a believer here include Calvin, Luther, Barrett, Morris and Packer. Those who argue for a pre-Christian experience include Bultmann, Ridderbos, Hoekema and Fee.

    So it is not fully clear cut as to how we should run with this passage. Personal experience should not determine the issue, but nonetheless, those who more readly fit into a victorious life type of camp (such as Fee) will side with the pre-Christian view, while others who seem to struggle more may side with the Christian view.

    But whatever view one holds to, Paul comes to our rescue in Romans 8 with the good news of what we have and are in Christ.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • As usual Bill, I hang around you and get the “fuller” picture.

    Thanks for that. Morris and Packer… man, I’ve got some work to do to dismiss then, now don’t I?!?!

    *wink*

    Alister Cameron // Blogologist

  • Thanks Alister
    Hey, you still have Fee on your side!
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Galations 6 has something to say on this too.
    About a year ago here in the NE suburbs of Adelaide we had the prvilege of sitting under the ministry of RT Kendell, who repaced Martin Lloyd-Jones in Westminster Chapel. One of his clear messages was the importance of accountability to others, such as an Eldership group, particularly when in a position of church leadership.
    Surely men praying and sharing their hearts together before the Lord, cannot easily hide gross deviation from Biblical standards.
    Stephen White

  • Thanks for the article Bill,

    For too long I (and perhaps others) have tolerated a 2-faced Christianity which separates the public and the private. God used your words to bring me to repentance and align me to his Holy will. I emailed the address of your blog to other young adults in my church and God has used it to touch many other lives.

    Nathan Clarke

  • Thanks Nathan

    Your kind words are greatly appreciated and encourage me to continue. That is the real aim of this website: to make a difference for Christ and his Kingdom. It is great to know that in a small way I can contribute toward that end.

    Blessings,
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I’d say the critical aspect that’s missing is accountability. Openness and transparency and accountability, as Stephen White referred to, are important keys to integrity in the Christian life, even more so in Christian leadership.
    Garth Penglase

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