Sermon series: Extraordinary Relationships
- The Need for Relationships — 1 Thess. 2
- Just the Three of Us — Colossians 3
- What Do People See in You? — 1 Peter 2
- Joseph: Stamped with Integrity — Genesis 41
In the summer of 1805, a number of Indian chiefs and warriors met in council at Buffalo Creek, New York to hear a presentation of the Christian message by a Mr. Cram from the Boston Missionary Society. After the sermon, a response was given by Red Jacket, one of the leading chiefs. Among other things, the chief said:
"Brother, you say that there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the Book?
"Brother, we are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said."
What if everyone waited to see what effect our religion had on us before they decided to accept it? How many people would accept our religion based on them observing the difference it has made in our lives?
The apostle Peter in his first letter said that people, like Chief Red Jacket, are watching our every move to see what kind of difference our faith makes in our lives. People who are not believers are living all around us, Peter says, "Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do evil, they may, by observing your good works, glorify God in a day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:12). The word see means "observe," not a passing glance but a concentrated effort. People are making mental notes on us. People are watching us whether we like it or not, especially if we claim to be a believer.
What do they watch? Like Chief Red Jacket, they watch to see if our behavior matches our belief, if our walk matches our talk, if our character matches our confession, if what we claim to believe on Sunday is put into practice on Monday. In a word, they watch to see if we have integrity.
The hallmark of the Christian life is integrity. Isn't that what Chief Red Jacket wanted to see in the white people: if they were good, honest, and not given to cheating?
I. The meaning of integrity
Integrity is a high standard of living based on a personal code of morality that doesn't succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority. Integrity is to personal character what health is to the body or 20/20 vision is to the eyes. Integrity comes from the word integer. A person of integrity is whole, their lives are put together. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. As Solomon wrote, "The one who lives with integrity lives securely" (Prov. 10:9). Their lives are open books. They say to a watching world, "Go ahead and look. My behavior will match my beliefs. My walk will match my talk. My character will match my confession. Who I am on Sunday will be the same on Monday and every other day of the week."
II. The model of integrity
Without a doubt, Jesus is the supreme model of integrity. His life evidenced his purity and excellent character, that his enemies could only declare, "When they came, they said to Him, "Teacher, we know You are truthful and defer to no one, for You don't show partiality (A) [a] but teach truthfully the way of God" (Mark 12:14). The New International Version translates it, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity." Even at the conclusion of his life here on earth as he stood before Pilate in the mockery of a trial, the ruler said, ""I find no grounds for charging this man" (Luke 23:4). There was no basis for guilt, no evidence of fault, found in Jesus. In other words, his behavior matched his belief, his walk matched his talk, his character matched his confession.
It is for these reasons that Peter instructed all believers: "For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps" (1 Peter 2:21). Peter gives us the example, the model of integrity that we should follow. If the world is watching us, then we should be watching Christ. We should follow his example. We should do as he has done.
Charles Sheldon delivered a series of messages in his Topeka, Kansas church about a community of believers that began to model the behavior, the character, and walk of Jesus. He took as his text 1 Peter 2:21. His sermons were compiled into a book, In His Steps, which became an instant bestseller. The story turns on the response of key church members to the challenge of their minister. He requests that they join him in a pledge that for one year they will make no major decision without first asking, "What would Jesus do?" Through this simple yet profound challenge, the life of Christ is manifested through individuals in this story in amazing ways.
The narrative deals with the presence and model of Christ influencing churches, homes, work settings, communities, and the nation. It realistically captures the excitement and joy but also sacrifice and pain that mark individual lives that follow in Jesus' steps.
The same challenge is presented today. Will we walk in Jesus' steps? Will we follow his model? Will we make a pledge that before any major decision to ask, "What would Jesus do?" Will we live a life of integrity?
III. The manifestations of integrity
But how is integrity practiced on a daily basis? Where do people watch us most closely? Peter answers that question. He identifies several arenas where integrity is put to the test with the watching world observing our reaction. He also provides some practical solutions to take in those arenas so that our integrity will stay in tact.
A. In tempting circumstances, stay away
"Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you" (1 Peter 2:11). To abstain means not to get involved with or to keep away from.
I once had a student in my youth group that went off to college. On his first break from school he came home and stopped by to see me. He told me how he had been invited to a fraternity party. "Rick, you wouldn't believe what was there. Free alcoholic beverages, drugs, willing girls, and more. I was astounded." "What did you do?" I asked. "I ran out of there as fast as I could. Did I do the right thing?" "Of course you did," I said.
In tempting situations, we are to flee. To run. Get away. That means avoiding situations were you easily fall to temptation. It may mean having the hotel desk clerk to disconnect the porn channels on the television in your room before you enter. It may mean never traveling with someone of the opposite sex on business. It may mean avoiding certain groups of people where you are easily swayed into destructive behavior.
B. In authoritative situations, show respect
"Submit to every human institution because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority, or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. . . . Honor everyone" (1 Peter 2:13-14, 17). Peter instructs us to respect the government and the ones who enforces the laws for the government. We are to submit, or to yield. He says that we are to yield to authority. Yielding to authority is a mark of a believer. Yielding, like coming to a Yield sign when driving a car, means letting the other guy have his way first. Submission or yielding is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of self-control. It is saying I don't have to have my way all the time.
It' like the guy who became a Christian and said, "Pastor, every part of me got saved except my right foot." "Your right foot? What do you mean?" "I mean that the hardest part of me to submit is my lead foot when I'm driving my car. But now it is submitted, too."
Integrity says I may not like the law, but I will obey it. Integrity says I may not like the person in the office, but I will honor the position. Integrity says I may not like direction the nation is going, but I will pray for God's intervention. Integrity says I will obey God first, even if it means that I suffer the penalty for doing the right thing.
C. In the work environment, stand for what is right
"Household slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel" (1 Peter 2:18). Slavery was prevalent in the Roman Empire. Some 60 million people were slaves. They were not considered persons, but rather property of their owners. While we don't have this form of slavery in our country today, this verse still is applicable. Allow me to change two words. "Employees, submit yourselves to your employers with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh."
As believers in Christ, our integrity goes to work with us. It manifests itself in the way we treat our boss, our clients, and fellow employees. It, also, manifests itself in the way we respond to the company's procedures and policies, to difficult and sometimes unjust assignments, and the work place, itself. It further manifests itself in our attitude and convictions and honesty we display at our place of work. Remember, those people are watching.
Integrity demands that we stand for what is the right and the upright thing to do at all times.
I read about a salesman who was on the brink of retirement and was involved in a potential sale that could possibly net him a hundred thousand dollar commission. Not a bad way to go out. The only problem was, in order to make the deal work, he would have to be somewhat deceptive when he presented the product to the customer. But upon consideration concerning his integrity he decided to tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. He told the customer the complete truth, and it cost him the sale. But he did what was right.
Two friends owned an extremely profitable business. They put it up for sale, and gave their word that, pending a few details they would sell to a particular buyer. They made this commitment on a Friday. However, over the weekend they received another offer that would have netted them an enormously higher profit. Unsure of what they should do, they spent the rest of the weekend praying with their wives. By Sunday night they all agreed that their word must be their bond. On Monday morning, they called the second buyer and turned down his better offer. They did what was right.
D. In suffering, seek God
"For it [brings] favor if, because of conscience toward God, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly" (1 Peter 2:19). The greatest test of integrity is how we respond to suffering. Nothing reveals one's character quicker than problems and pain. That's one of the reasons why God allows it. When we go through suffering it really reveals what we're like.
It has been said, "Christians are like tea bags, one doesn't know what they're like inside until they are in hot water."
As long as we live on this planet, we will experience suffering. We will have problems. We will have pain. The question is: how do we deal with it? People are watching to see just how we react to the misfortunes and sufferings of this world. Helen Keller was right, "Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." She also said that it was because of her blindness that she was able to see God.
During suffering seek God. 'Don't ask, "Why is this happening to me?" Instead, ask, "What are you trying to teach me?" Be conscious of God.
Here are the facts: Our integrity is put to the test every day, in virtually every situation. We are being watched closely to see how we will respond. The choice of our walk matching our talk, our behavior matching our beliefs, our character matching our confession is left to us. What will we do?