Character Qualities of a Champion-Integrity
Video clip: Good Intentions from Highway Video (available on sermonspice.com)
- shows two ways a young man can choose to respond in different situations
- Ever been faced with some of the same situations as this guy? How have you chosen to live your life when faced with decisions about right and wrong?
- This question is really relevant to 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?
I am bringing these up to call our attention to another character quality that Paul highlights in Philippians 2.
- In case you were not here last week we are taking a look at five Godly character qualities that Paul urges us to work on in our lives. Recall that the by making this effort to improve our character, we bring joy to God and let Him know how much we appreciate what He has done for us through Jesus and in sending us His Holy Spirit.
Today we are going to take a look at integrity. 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 let's take a look at this. What is integrity really?Is has something to do with determining right from wrong.
Two sides of Integrity
There are actually a few different ways people try to define what is right and wrong.
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?Is it really OK to steal from anyone? What if the government adopts that policy...Oh, wait, maybe they arleady do. Is it right?
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!"
There can even be situations where a person feels they are promoting the welfare of the people around them that are wrong.
What if the referee of a football game always cheated in favor of the home team-most of the people at the game would leave happy, right?
What about slavery? Amazing Grace Clip
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? That might be closer, but unfortunatley we run into some problems here, too.
You might say it's wrong to ever hurt anyone. What about immunizing children, then? We also know that conflict between people is sometimes a necessary means to growth.
Also, sometimes our actions are selfishly motivated. We do things because we want something for ourselves. Maybe we want people to see us as a good person-we do them so that they will notice us. Might not be a true reflection of who you are, though. Maybe to do things just so you won't get into trouble. "I'd better run my business right, otherwise I'll run into trouble with the law." That might not seem such a bad things-they are donig right, but it creates a very self-motivated culture, and we know that selfishness is not right....
SO, saying that right is determined soley be obedience to a set of rules is not right 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. It involves knowing what God's standard is. What are those rules? But it is also motivated by the state of our heart.
Living with integrity to God involves doing the right things with a heart that loves serving God above all else.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.
So...there are two sides to living with Godly integrity. Understanding God's standard, and having the right heart. Paul refers to this is v. 13...to WILL and to ACT
What's the standard?
So what is that standard? It is really the Bible that reveals God's character and His expectations for how we should live our lives. God makes clear for us what He considers right and wrong. The Bible has withstood the test of time as God's objective standard, and there is application in here to all aspects of life. 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. One that we've made use of here is called the "Life Journal" and we can help you get you hands on one of those
- I also encourage you to see what you can do to get involved in a Smal 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.
- In addition, learning about the right choices is a big goal in our Children's Ministries. Wendy-leader-has put together a tranformation model for Spiritual Growth and had a goal for all our kids that by the 5th grade that they know what is good...see the choices around them...and choose good.
- All this is to say we value knowing how God wants us to live here at True North. You are going to hear about it...and I want to encourage you to take advantage of whatever opportunities come you way to continue learning God's ways. As I said before, there is always more to learn, and deeper levels to which we can open our hearts to knowing God.
So that's the first part. The second part of integrity is addressing our motivation fo our actions.
Do it for God
This is often the more difficult part. Why do you do that things you do? We don't always thinks about it because sometimes to motivations are buried deep within it.
The real test for why do the things do you is to look at what you do when noone is watching. Do you still do the right things when the people you care about aren't around?
What kinds of things do you do when your wife or kids or parents aren't around?
Do you call up your friends and throw a party-when you know you are not supposed to?
Do you eat all the junk food you can get your hands on?
Or are there even other...darker...things that come to mind?
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.
There are also some more sublte ways in which we need to question our motivations. 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.
Examples....taxes, office supplies, paying for items overlooked, pool in hotel...people think we are crazy, people get mad....
Are you motivated by anger, jealousy? Do you leave relationships...businesses...churches...only for those reasons or because God tells you to move on?
Around here 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?
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. Knowing that even though people get away with it & it creates problems for us, God will be pleased and that is all that really matters in the long run. God will ensure justice is done in the end.
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. Make a difference in this world by committing to being a person of Godly integrity..learning to loveGod's ways, fulfilling duty to God...