Andy Stanley - End Game
Now, here are a few thoughts or a few questions to kind of get our head in the game today as we wrap up our series. It is possible, and this is kind of strange to even think about, but it is possible to stay out of trouble and do nothing for someone who is having trouble. It's possible to be financially responsible and selfish. It's possible to be self-controlled and judgmental. It's even possible to be careful personally and uncaring. It's possible to be blameless and unsympathetic. It's possible to keep your hands clean without offering anyone else a hand. In summary, it's possible to be good without doing any good. It's possible to be a good person without doing good for another person. At least the first century Pharisees around the temple and in Judea thought so.
And then Jesus came along and changed the end game as it came, as it related to generosity and specifically as it related to integrity. Jesus came along and he turned everything upside down because as we say all the time, Jesus was the king who came to reverse the order of things. Over and over he would say, especially in the Sermon on the Mount, "You have heard it said, but I say, you have heard it said, but I say, you have heard it say, but I say, you are really not a good person if you are unwilling to do good for another person".
So today we're wrapping up our series, Your Integrity, Our World, Your Integrity, Our World. And if you've been with us throughout this series, we have a working definition for the term integrity. We said that integrity is, essentially, doing what you ought to do even if it costs you. Doing what you ought to even if it costs you. And as we all know, we don't always do what we ought to do, but we certainly expect others to do what we think they ought to do. Again, our actions may not be consistent, but our reactions are very consistent. Which in fact point to, as we've said throughout the series, our reactions point to an ought to that we hold others accountable to. An ought to that we didn't create because we hold them accountable to it. And an ought to that for some reason we can't seem to shake.
And then we've said this, that when you don't do what you ought to, it always costs somebody around you. That a lack of personal integrity always impacts, negatively impacts, some other persons. That the consequences or the tension that's created when you have a breach of integrity, the consequences are always passed along to somebody else, that the consequences are transferred, so to speak. And thus our title, Your Integrity, Our World. My integrity, our world. My integrity impacts our world and your integrity impacts our world as well. Then we had an anchor verse from Proverbs. I've encouraged you to memorize Proverbs 11:3. "The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness or the bentness of the treacherous will ultimately destroy them". That people of integrity are guided by their integrity.
And that's where we've kind of left off in the series. But as we wrap this up, I wanna take this one step further because for Jesus' followers in particular, there is much more to this. And here's why I say that. Toward the end of Jesus' earthly ministry, he was confronted by his adversaries. And in this particular conversation we're gonna look at today, they actually make a startling observation about Jesus, an accurate observation about Jesus. Now, they're not trying to compliment him. In their case, they're actually trying to set him up, but this is what real-world integrity looks like. This is how real-world integrity behaves. And for those of us who claim to be Jesus followers, or who are seeking to be Jesus followers, this is how we should behave, this is how we should respond, this is how we should live our lives as well.
A little context, Jesus has just taught a series of parables and the Pharisees, the Sadducees, teachers of the law, are listening and they realize that they are the punchline of just about every single one of these parables. And so they decide they are done with him. He has to go and it's time to arrest him and just get him out of the city, but they have a problem, and here's the problem. The text says, "But they were afraid of the crowd because the people", the crowd, "held Jesus", or considered Jesus, "a prophet". So they knew the only way to separate Jesus from the crowd was to get him to say something that would cause the crowd to abandon him. Once they isolate him from the crowd, then they can arrest him. So three groups get together, they come up with three series of questions and then they decide they're gonna take turns trying to trap Jesus with his own words, cause him to stumble and get the crowd to turn on Jesus. So they draw straws or cast lots, whatever they did. And the Pharisees are up first.
And instead of the Pharisees themselves going in to talk to Jesus, because he knows who they are, and they're well-known in the community, they get their minions, they get some underlings to go in and try to trap Jesus with a question. And it's this group of people who actually make this extraordinary statement about Jesus. This is their observation of Jesus. Here's what they say. They say, "Teacher, we know," 'cause we've been watching and listening. "We know that you are a man of integrity". That literally you are a man who loves the truth. You are a man who loves what is true and you don't depart from the truth. In fact, it was his uncompromising love and commitment to truth that exposed their love for the approval of other people. This was the group of people that would do bad in order to look good. This was the group of people that would deceive you so that you would think or consider them trustworthy.
They continue. "Teacher," they said, "we know that you're a man of integrity, that you teach the way," I love this phrase. "You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth". The way of God, the path of God, the road of God, specifically, this is the will of God. And the implication of the statement which is so powerful is that the way of God is actually the way of integrity. That the will of God, we can say it this way, that the will of God for us is the way of integrity. Now, there's a lot packed into this and I don't wanna lose track of where we're going with the conversation with Jesus, but I do wanna stop it and make this point. That for those of you, for those of us who are interested in God's personal will for our lives. Personal will, "Where do I go to school? Should I call him? Should I take that job"? Personal will.
For those of you who are interested in God's personal will, this is important. God's personal will for you will be most apparent, most obvious, most easily discerned, when you are living in accordance with God's general will for your life. And God's general will for our lives is the way or the path of integrity, which means that to the best of our ability we do what we ought to do and we trust God with consequences, as we talked about last time. We do what we know we ought to do, what we sense that God wants us to do. And generally speaking, as it relates to treating people and being honest and being people of integrity. And then instead of trying to manipulate outcomes, we trust God with the outcomes. And my experience is, and perhaps your experience as well is this, that to the degree that we are living that kind of life in general, it is much easier to discern God's specific personal will for our lives.
Anyway, the conversation continues, "Teacher," they said, "We know that you are a man of integrity, that you teach the way, the path, the road of God in accordance with the truth". And Jesus, this is the setup, and Jesus, because the way of God is what guides you, because integrity guides you, you aren't... This is so powerful, you aren't swayed by other people. Now they're setting him up but this is an amazing statement. We've watched you. Clearly, you are not easily swayed by other people. And again, there's application for all of us. That to the degree that we are attuned to an ought to that is connected to the divine, to the degree that we're attuned to ought to rather than what people think of us. When we're more attuned to what God wants us to do, we automatically become less sensitive to and less easily swayed by what other people want us to do. That when integrity guides us, we're not easily swayed by what others think of us. When integrity guides us, we're free. We're free not just from what others think.
This is where this whole story's going. We are actually free to do for others regardless of what others think. We're not just free from what others think. We're actually more free to do for others regardless of what they think. If I'm overly concerned... put it this way, if I'm overly concerned about what you think of me, I may not do what's best for the thee, right? Isn't that true? If I'm so concerned about what you think about me and your perspective on me, and you do something that you need to be confronted on, but I'm overly concerned about what you think of me. I may not speak up, I may not step up. I may not tell you what you need to hear that's best for you because I'm so concerned about me. I'm consumed with me. And Jesus was free of this.
So this is why they were constantly just, they were amazed at how honest he was and how transparent he would be with the teachers of the law and the elders and the Pharisees. And later on, even with the priest and the high priest. It's like, "Don't you realize who these people are? Don't you realize that you're talking to"? Jesus is like, "Of course I do, but you see, my integrity guides me and my integrity is anchored in the divine and so I am free. Not that I don't care what other people think, but I'm free from being swayed by what other people think, which means I'm free to do for other people". So back to the conversation. "Teacher," they said, "We know that you're a man of integrity, that you teach the way of God, the path of God, in accordance with what's true. And obviously you are not swayed by others because you pay no attention to," not what other people say. "You pay no attention to who they are".
Again, he just wasn't easily manipulated or swayed by powerful people because he did not live as if their favor determined his destiny. This is what we talked about for the last two parts of this series with Daniel. Daniel realized that outcomes are ultimately in the hands of God. And when we finally get our hearts and our minds around that we will be less easily swayed by people, and we will be less easily swayed by powerful people because we won't give into the myth or the lie that powerful people determine our destiny, they don't. And again, this is the benefit of integrity anchored to the divine, that we do what we ought to do, and we trust God with the outcomes. And this kind of leads us to the thing that was so irritating to the Pharisees and teachers of the law and what really set Jesus apart from them when it came to personal righteousness because the moral of this story isn't that the law doesn't matter or that being good doesn't matter.
The moral of the story is the why behind the what, and this is what set Jesus apart from the Pharisees. Again, his integrity was so anchored to the divine and he was so confident that God controlled outcomes that he wasn't swayed by their influence. They were concerned, this group, and if you've read the Gospels you know this, they were so consumed with position and power. They were concerned by how many followers they had, how many likes they got, and Jesus is completely free. And they just could not get past this. They couldn't get by the fact that clearly Jesus wasn't simply good for goodness' sake. In fact, Jesus wasn't even good for his sake. He wasn't even maintaining his integrity for his personal reputation. That as you move through the Gospels, especially as you get to the end, it becomes so apparent that for Jesus, his integrity was a means to an end that wasn't him. That the Pharisees and I think all of us are tempted to fall into this trap, they were basically good for goodness' sake. They were good for God's blessing sake. They were good for keeping the covenant and maintaining the blessings of the covenants sake.
And honestly, and I've told you this before, I can so relate to this because this is sort of the version of Christianity that I was raised on. I was raised on the version, "Andy, you do all the right things and you'll be blessable. You do all the right things and you'll be blessable. Handle your money the right way, your morality the right way. You just be a really, really good person and then you are in the blessable zone. God can do more for you than he can do for other people because you are in the blessable zone. You are staying within the guardrails. You're doing all the right things. And ultimately, Andy, life will go better for you". And I wasn't wrong about that part, but I was so judgmental and I was not a very compassionate person. And the dirty little secret was I was kind of jealous of sinners because I would watch them and think, I would really like to do that, but then I won't be blessable, and I know that God would eventually punish me.
And I wish... this is the awful part, don't tell anyone I shared this with you. And I would think, I wish he would go ahead and punish them because it looks like they're getting away with it! If you've ever had those thoughts, welcome to the world of the Pharisees. I'm gonna be a good person, but I'm being good for goodness' sake. Now, if you wanna just be a Christian, that's fine. You can be good for goodness' sake, but not for Jesus followers, not for Jesus followers. And again, Jesus makes this very clear as this conversation continues. So here's what happened. Jesus, since you are not easily swayed by this... So this is all a setup. Remember, they're just testing him. What they've said about him is absolutely true, but it's all a setup. "Since you are not easily swayed by others," wink, wink, here we go, "Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not"? To which Jesus could have said, "Oh, I thought you guys were just complimenting me". Oh, there's a hook, there's a catch, there's a trap. So Jesus smiles because this is so elementary. So he says, "Look..." And he basically calls them out on their hypocrisy, I won't go into the whole thing.
There's a little coin trick, you may be familiar with it, and sends them scurrying back to their handlers. Meanwhile, the Sadducees are on the edge of the crowd. They see what happens, they hear this conversation and they decide, okay, it's our turn. And as you may know, Sadducees of course, did not believe in a resurrection. Sadducees believe that God created mankind and womankind for his pleasure and then when people die, it's over, that's just the end so they didn't believe in a resurrection, and this divided them from the Pharisees. So they knew Jesus believed in a resurrection. One time he even said, "I am the resurrection and the life". So they send this group in, the Sadducees in, to give Jesus, basically, a riddle, a sort of a hypothetical story, to demonstrate in their minds the absurdity of the idea of a resurrection. And then when they finish, Jesus kind of scolds them. And he ends his little lecture to them with this statement, which was such a dig.
I think, honestly, the crowd just went wild. He said, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures". All they did was study the Scripture. You are in error, you don't know the Scriptures. Again, the crowd goes wild. And then the third group comes along. The Pharisees decide to send one of their lawyers in. The text says, "Hearing that Jesus silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together and they thought, 'Okay, one more shot.' One of them, an expert in the law, a lawyer, tested him". And it's important to remember that this was a test. This was not a sincere question even though on the surface, it seemed like a very sincere question. He tested him with this question. "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law"?
Now, everybody in the audience knew the answer to this question. They learned this in Sunday school. This was just basic, Judaism 101, first century Judaism 101. Everybody knew the answer to this question. And finally, Jesus may have thought, "Oh good, now at least we have something important to talk about". And so Jesus recites the standard answer. And they probably all said it along with him or maybe mouthed it along with him. "Love the Lord your God. Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and this is the greatest commandment". Now, first century Judaism, when they thought about this and when they quoted this, here's what they thought. They thought, keep the law, keep the law. The way you love God is by obeying his law. He gave us a law to obey. We obey the law, that shows that we love God. So be good and stay out of trouble. This was a lot about being good just for goodness' sake, for blessing's sake, in their context, it was about being blessable within the covenant that God had given Israel.
Now, before the lawyer then can ask his second question which was probably the zinger question, Jesus holds up his hand to stop him and says, "And," we're not done yet. "And the second is like it". The second in sequence, but not second in importance. In fact, these two commands are equal and they are inseparable. Now, the lawyer may have said, "Wait, wait, I just asked for one 'cause I've got a script I'm following here and you're getting me off my script, I just wanted one" To which Jesus would've said, "Of course you just want one. You wanna know what to do because this is all about you. You wanna justify yourself and you wanna isolate yourself. You wanna keep your hands clean". Jesus says, "And the second one is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your neighbor as yourself". To which perhaps he responded, I know I respond sometimes. I think I would just rather just love God and stay out of trouble. Just, you know, me and God, we got a thing going on. I read my Bible and I'm a good person. I'm just gonna stay out of trouble. Just good for goodness' sake.
It's easier to be good than available. And you can be good and unavailable. But here was the point Jesus was making. Here is the point Jesus made throughout his ministry. This is the point he calls us to as his followers. Ought to isn't just about you. It's about the folks around you. Ought to isn't just about me. It's about the folks around me. Again, it's my integrity, but it's my integrity for my world. It's your integrity, but it's your integrity for your world? The religious leaders who were confronting and trying to trap Jesus, they were technically blameless, but they were practically worthless. In fact, in one other passage, Jesus says, "You hypocrites, you load people up". Here's what he said. "You load people up with all your rules. In fact, you made up rules to keep people from breaking the rules".
It was like the fence around the Torah. It's like, here's the Torah. And then we put some more rules around it, just so you won't break the Torah. He says, "You load people up with the burden of all your rules and you don't lift a finger to help them. And yet you feel like you stand justified before God". It's possible to be good without doing any good. The integrity of the upright will guide them. But the integrity of the upright that our savior has called us to will guide us beyond them, will guide us to them, will guide us to the people around us, which again brings us back to... And if you've been attending here for a while or listening for a while, if you feel like, "Hey, it seems like you always go back to the same place," I do, because it brings us back to where we always seem to end up. To where you will always end up if you decide to follow Jesus.
It brings us back to where the apostle Paul ended up once he became a Jesus follower. Because once upon a time, Paul, who said he was the greatest Pharisee who ever lived, self-esteem was not an issue for Paul. By his own words, he was like, "I'm the Hebrew of Hebrews". According to the law, I am blameless, I am faultless. And then when he began following Jesus, there was a transition, there was a turn, there was a heart change and there was a behavior change. And here's what he said. He said, "Christians, Jesus followers serve one another humbly in love".
And then here's the kicker. Here's the offensive part for first century Judeans. "For the entire law, all of Torah, is fulfilled in keeping this one command, love your neighbor as yourself". To which the lawyer, if he had read this, the lawyer that confronted Jesus and some of the people who'd heard Jesus teach, they say, "Wait, wait, wait, wait, Paul, you left out a part. You're supposed to say, 'No, the one commandment is, love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself". You left out the first part to which Paul would say, "No, I didn't". Because this is how you know you love the Lord, your God with all your heart, soul and mind. It's not second in sequence. It is not second and importance. This is how you know if you are loving God. It is not enough to keep the law. It is not enough to keep the commandments. It is not enough to simply be a good person or to be blameless in your own sight.
Paul would say, and he said it over and over. "You're not actually actively loving God if you are not leveraging your integrity beyond you". In fact, he said this, some of us had this red at our wedding, or at least the part that came before this, he would go as far as to say this, "If you're not good for somebody, if your goodness just ends with you, if you're not good for somebody, you are a sounding clanging gong, you are a clanging cymbal. You're basically a nuisance. You're just noise". If you grew up in church, you may remember this little piece of narrative of Jesus as well. And the English Bible, sometimes the heading is, The Rich Young Ruler, and he was young and he was rich. And we're not sure what kind of ruler he was, but basically he was a really good rich boy, is what he was. He's a really, really good rich boy. And he comes to Jesus and kind of interrupts everybody. And he says, Jesus, "What must I do"? And there's the keyword. "What must I do in order to gain and maintain God's favor". The English texts says, what must I do to gain eternal life?
When we hear eternal life, we think die and go to heaven. That's not what they thought. He wanted to know how can I be sure that I have God's favor? "Tell me what I can do to gain and maintain God's favor". And if you remember this piece of narrative, Jesus smiles, and goes along with the kid and Jesus rattles off of a bunch of Torah. He rattles off some of the most commonly known laws and the boys listening, and he responds to Jesus. He said, "Okay, gotcha". He said, "All these..." All these things you've just mentioned, all these laws, "All of these I've kept since I was a boy". I am a good boy, I am a good person. So are we done here? And Jesus says, "Well, you still lack one thing". So he turns to his servant, Rufus, "Rufus, write this down. I'm about to get the one thing. And once I get this one thing, I'll go do the one thing. And then I'll have God's favor according to this rabbi. Anyway. So get your pen out". Jesus smiles and says, "Here's the one thing you lack. I want you to sell everything you have. And I want you to give it to the poor".
Now it's important when you read this conversation to understand Jesus is not talking to you, okay? Jesus was not talking to Lazarus or his sisters because they did not sell everything and give it to the poor, they supported Jesus financially. Jesus is making a specific point to a specific person, but the point, or the principle, applies to all of us. "I want you to sell everything you have. And I want you to give everything you have to the poor". This was his sort of hyperbolic way of saying, "You are good, but your goodness is all about you. You are good, all about you. You are good for nobody. You are good for nothing".
And I want you to understand just how ungood you are within the context of God's value system and the kingdom of God. So to demonstrate it for you, I'm going to lead you. This is what Jesus was doing. So brilliant. I'm going to lead you to your selfishness. I'm gonna lead you, I'm gonna confront you with the heart that's driving your behavior. That makes you good on the outside just like the Pharisees, but filthy on the inside, because it's all about you. So I want you to sell everything you have, and I want you to give it to the poor. Of course this kid's like, "Wait, sell my stuff. Hey, sell my stuff and give it to the poor? Why are we talking about the poor? I mean, I wanna know how I can know where I stand with God and now we're talking about the poor. I think you changed the subject, besides that, Jesus, if I sell everything I have and give it to the poor, I won't lack one thing, I will lack everything". To which Jesus, I think, would pause and smile and think, "Now we're getting somewhere. Oh, and there's one other thing I want you to do. I want you to come and I want you to follow me".
And the text says that this young boy went away very sad, but not as sad as he was on the day that he discovered or heard who Jesus was. Not as sad as he was on the day when he realized he traded his temporary wealth for an opportunity to be one of Jesus' original first century followers. He was good, but he was good for nothing. And Jesus led him to that tension and left him there. And he walked away sad.
I think all of us have that point. I think the teaching of Jesus, if we take it seriously, you see following through the gospels, brings us to that point. That point of conflict where we realized, "Oh-oh, my selfishness is being confronted by Jesus' invitation to be generous. That my self-centeredness that I mask with my goodness, I'm a good parent, I'm a good father, I pay my taxes, I drive the speed limit, all the good things I do. I'm a fine upstanding citizen". And then you follow Jesus through the gospels. And he leads us to that point of tension where he confronts us, as I know he has confronted me so many times, and one major, major time so many years ago when I realized I'm good for my sake, I'm good for goodness' sake, It's all about me. I am blameless, I am faultless. But when it comes to my benefit or my help in terms of what's going on in the world, I'm pretty much worthless, because somehow my Christianity is all about me.
And then, again, if you attend one of our churches or you've been following us for a while, you know what happens at the end. At the end, Jesus gathers his apostles for that final Passover, and he takes it up a notch. He says a new command I'm giving you. A new command I'm giving you. You heard me talk about what's the greatest commandment. I was just telling everybody what they already knew, then I added the neighbor part. So now I'm gonna take that, and I'm gonna combine those two ideas and I'm gonna add another element. And this is what I want you to remember, a new command I give you. A new command to replace all the other commands.
The apostle Paul would come around later, as we've talked about, and call it the law of Christ. And the law of Christ was to give, to serve and to love others, and each other, as he gave, served and loved us. That Jesus was not satisfied with being good for goodness sake, or good for his sake. Jesus came to be good for your sake and for my sake, and for the sake of the world, for the sake of those who, well, in my case, maybe your case, for the sake of those who just aren't all that good. This was his end game. His end game wasn't simply to keep the law of God. His end game wasn't to simply keep the law of God. His end game was to demonstrate the love of God and to demonstrate it in such a way that we would embrace that way of living. That that would become our end game as well. So full circle, it's possible. It's possible to be good without doing any good, but that is not a good idea.
So if you're a Jesus follower, if you're a Jesus follower, let it be said of us what was said of our savior, that we would be known for our integrity, that we would be known for our love of what's true. That we would walk in the way of God. And that we, as a consequence of that, would not be easily swayed by others. But instead we, like Jesus, will be free to love others, because at the end of the day, when you follow Jesus, your integrity will guide you, but it will guide you beyond you. Your integrity will guide you to the you, besides you, to the yous who are nothing like you, to yous that may not even like you. And if we get this right, if we get this right, it won't be how well we behave that gets people's attention, it will be how well we love, because our integrity will guide us to beyond us into the lives of the people around us. And then just as happened in the first century that could perhaps happen in the 21st century, then our integrity will most certainly shape our world.