Craig Groeschel - A Matter of Integrity
Would you mind standing today at all of our Life.Church locations in the honor of reading God's Word. I want to read to you today from Psalm chapter 15, when David asks some questions. And he asked this, he asked "Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your Holy mountain"? In other words, who can experience the goodness and the presence, and the peace of God. Who may dwell with you God. And then he answers, and he says, "The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart, whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and cast no slur on others".
Who may dwell in the presence of the Lord? He's talking about those who live and walk with integrity. He says those who may dwell, He says, "Those who lend money to the poor without interest who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken". Whoever walks uprightly in the fear of the Lord, whoever lives with integrity will not be shaken. I read an article about a person who lost a wallet with a large sum of cash in it, and a good Samaritan, found the wallet with all of the money and returned it to the person that lost it. And the author of this article was shocked and the person who got his money back was shocked and all the commentators were shocked.
Everybody comment, "I can't believe the guy returned so much money". And I thought to myself, isn't it tragic that we live in a world where people are more shocked by integrity than they are by the lack of integrity. Maybe it shouldn't be a shock because every day when you open up a news app, or when you read social media you find another leader, another celebrity, another politician, another whoever who often falls. And sometimes you even see it in a friend or a family member who claims one thing but lives another. And that's why the title of today's message is, A matter of Integrity. Would you pray with me today.
Father we ask, that by the power of your word and your indwelling spirit that you would lead us to walk and live in such a way that it honors you by the power of your spirit, help us walk in your truth and glorify you showing your love God in all that we do. We pray this in Jesus name and everybody said, Amen. Amen, amen.
Why don't you look at someone next to you and say, "Walk with integrity". Walk with integrity. And go ahead and be seated. You can type that in the chat, if you want today, walk with integrity, walk with integrity. Let's talk about this really important issue today. And to start I want to raise the question, what is integrity? And before we try to answer what integrity is let's first start with what integrity is not. And I will be really, really clear and help you know that, integrity is not perfection. Meaning if you do something wrong, you know someone can't just say, you lack integrity. You know, you're not perfect, you're, no good.
To live with integrity doesn't mean that you never make a mistake. If that were the case then only Jesus would be able to have integrity. What we're looking for in a life of integrity is what we might call an integrated life. In fact, the word integrity comes from the root Latin word integer which actually means whole. It means complete. It means one. What would it look like in our life? Well, too often in our lives, many of us we are compartmentalized in how we live and what God wants us to be is he wants us to be whole in how we live. For example, sometimes in life we might have a compartment where we say this is my professional life. This is what I do at work.
I have another compartment in my life. It's not my professional life, but it's my family life. And not only is there my family life but there's also my social life. And there's another compartment that I would say is my spiritual life. And then there's one place that no one is allowed to see well this is my private life. And so often we might have a professional life is separate from our spiritual life because we don't want to offend anyone in our professional life with our spiritual beliefs. But when we get into our family life we keep our private life separate because we don't want our family to know what we do in private. But when we go into our social life there's really different from what we do in our spiritual life, which is profoundly different than we do in our private life. And without even knowing it we live a very compartmentalized life.
That's not integrity. Integrity would be more holistic we're as followers of Jesus. We want Jesus to direct all of our lives. That we're not broken into little compartments where this is what I say in front of one group and this is what I do in front of another group. But instead we want to glorify Jesus in all that we do. Jesus directs our actions in our professional life. And Jesus leads our relationships in our social life. And Jesus is the core of our family life. We're not just a Christian family but we're a family centered around the teachings of Jesus Christ. Jesus drives our private life. It's not something that we're going to do when no one else sees. Instead of having a compartmentalized life we want to have an integrated life centered on the goodness the power, the glory, and the truth of Jesus.
So what is integrity? We might say it this way, integrity is when your behavior matches your beliefs. Is when what you show on the outside is a true reflection of what you believe on the inside and vice versa. In fact, Proverbs 10:9 tells us this. I love the promise of integrity that, "Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out". I don't know if you've ever done something wrong and you knew it and the great fear was, "Man, I hope they don't find out". You're not walking securely. You're wondering, and hoping and praying that I don't get caught. I have never one time ever, walked in integrity, done the right thing, going to beg God, "I hope they don't find out I did was right. I hope no one knows I did what was honoring to God". Because when we do the wrong thing is stressful.
What is integrity? It's when your private life is consistent with your public life, we could say it this way. It's who you are when no one is looking. It's different than reputation. Integrity is different than reputation. Reputation we could say is who others think you are. But integrity is who you really are. The integrity of the upright will guide them. What is the opposite of integrity? If our goal is an integrated life centered around Jesus the opposite in many ways, we could say is simply hypocrisy, is to be a hypocrite.
One of the great criticisms of those of us who are Christians is they're all just a bunch of hypocrites. Where does that word come from? Well, the Greek word translated as hypocrite is the word hypokrites. And if you've ever seen one of those Greek plays where they have these ridiculous looking masks, that's a hypokrites. What/ that it is there is a different person behind the mask but I'm showing you an exterior that is inconsistent with who I really am. And what's fascinating is when you read in Scripture you'll notice that Jesus was actually harder on hypocrites than he was on prostitutes or adulterers. Anytime you see him address a hypocrite he really came down on them, not just for living in the wrong way, but claiming what was right when they were actually living the wrong way.
In fact, you can see this in Matthew's gospel 23:25. He said, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees," And he says, "you hypocrites"! and watched what he said. "You clean the outside of the cup and dish," In other words, you're putting out an exterior show. You're acting one way for everybody else to see. "but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence". He said, "Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, then the outside also will be clean". What was Jesus saying? In many ways he was saying, it's not just what you show on the outside that really matters, it's what's on the inside, that matters. We want an integrated life. We want Jesus Christ, the Son of God the way the truth and the life, the living water the bread of life, the true vine. We want him to direct and guide and empower every area of our life. It's not compartmentalize, it's integrated around the truth, the glory, the love, the grace, the power, the direction of who Jesus is. It's not what's on the outside is directing us from the inside. I'll illustrate it this way.
There was a very well-known home builder that worked for a massive company. And this man built some of the finest homes year after year after year and had an incredible 40 year career building homes. As anybody who's done something for 40 years toward the end of his career, he was tired and ready to go be a papa and raise his grandkids and enjoy. So 35 years in, he said, five more years I'm retiring 36 years and four more years I'm retiring three more years I'm retiring two more years I'm retiring one more year I'm retiring six more months I'm retiring five more. And he telegraphed it to his whole company so they would know. At his one month mark before retirement, the owner of the company said to him, "Could you build one more home for us"? And the guy was partially hurt, partially offended. He said, "For four decades, I've been faithful to you. I told you a long time ago that my time is coming to an end. No, I won't do one more".
And the owner said, "We've been good friends for a long time and you've been one of the best, you know, I wouldn't ask you to do this if it didn't mean a lot to me, will you do one more home"? And the guy said, "Fine, I'll do one more". But his heart wasn't in it. And this guy who normally built the best of the best, he cut corners like he'd never cut it before. He got the job done fast. He used products that were not as good. He used cheaper sub contractors that didn't have the integrity. On the outside of the house nobody would have ever known, but he knew on the inside it was far from his best work. At the end of the project, the owner came up to him with a big smile on his face and said, "I want to tell you that we value your work more than you could ever imagine. And as gratitude for 40 years of service we wanted to give you this as your way out. Here are the keys to your new home".
And the builder recognized what all of us will recognize one day and that is this. You are building your own home. Every decision you make, how you live, what you say and what you do. You're building your own home. Whether you choose to be generous with people or selfish in your relationships. Whether you do what's right or you cut corners, whether you show honor and build others up or show dishonor and tear others down. Whether you extend grace or judge people harshly whether you tell the truth about what happened or tell the story in a way that it benefits you. You are building your own house, integrity. It matters. I'll talk to the parents for a moment and just help you understand. You are building your legacy. And what happens in your home matters more than you could ever imagine.
In years of working in the church you know what I discovered? The fastest way to raise rebellious kids is to claim one thing but to live something different in the home. The fastest way to turn your children against God and the things of God is to claim the things of God publicly and live far from the things of God in your private life. You're building your own home. Every day, every decision, every interaction you have with people we want to have not a compartmentalize life but an integrated life driven by the grace, the truth, the beauty, the power, and the love of Jesus. And so the question I want to ask you today is this, what's your integrity worth? What's your integrity worth? Because many of us, we have a price, right? There's a point at which we may compromise.
And so when I ask you, what is your integrity worth? Another way of saying is what would your actions say that your integrity is worth? For example, if you lie on a resume to get a job how much do you make a year? 30 grand, 50 grand, 150 grand, whatever it is. Well, that's what your integrity would be worth. You're selling out for a certain price. If you falsify an expense report or you embezzle something from your work, what is your integrity worth? Your integrity might be worth a ream of paper that you took home for private use. If you cheat on an exam to get a better grade or if you exaggerate on the story so someone may like you what is your integrity worth? Maybe is worth 29 bucks a month or whatever it is because you steal your neighbor's Wi-Fi valued at $29 a month. Or maybe it's like $14.99 a month because you're using your friend's login to watch Netflix all the time.
What's your integrity worth? Maybe it's like eight bucks because you'll lie about your kids' age to get a discount admission. Oh God, don't strike me down. Don't strike me down. Kids you're just 14, you're just 14. I know you look like you've been shaving for three years but you're just 14. Is this getting too real? What's your integrity worth?
There was a time that my integrity was worth a golf ball. A golf ball, not just any golf ball but a blue golf ball from putt putt. See, I went to high school in a place called Ardmore, Oklahoma. And Ardmore, didn't have a big time putt putt. And so when our high school tennis team traveled to the big city, to go to the state championships the night before the state championships, we all went to putt putt. And if you ever been to putt putt, you know that at the end of the 18th hole, when you put the ball in a hole, it goes into putt putt eternity. The ball just vanishes and who knows where it goes but it just is gone like forever never, never, never, never, and is gone, unless you have your friend put their foot over the hole and then you can putt it and your ball just stays there for you to pick up, put in your pocket and take back with you. Which is exactly what I did. And I came back to my hotel room thinking everything was fine.
I remember laying against my bed with my feet on this old cheap hotel wall that had these cinder bricks just tossing my little blue ball up against it until my coach walked in the room, casually walked up and caught my blue ball in midair. And he said, "Where'd you get this ball"? I said I got it from putt putt. And he looked at me and he said, "You're off the team. You're not playing in the championship tomorrow". And I fell apart. What do you mean? He said, "I'm not going to bring a thief on my team". And what he said felt dramatic, but it wasn't that dramatic. He said, "First you'll steal a golf ball, then one day it'll be a car stereo". That's back in the day when that people did steal those things, okay. I just, dated me but believe me, it happened. Alpine, whatever, you know, REO Speed Wagon.
And so, and then he said, "You'll steal a car". Which I don't know if I would have actually become a car thief, but he was right. I lacked integrity. And he said, you're off the team. You can't play the next day. And I begged and begged and begged and begged. What can I do? I'll do anything. He said, "Well, what you can do is you can go back to putt putt and tell everybody there that you used to be a thief but you don't want to be a thief and you're really, really sorry and asked for their forgiveness". So we went back to putt putt and I walked up to everyone that worked there and said I used to be a thief, but I'm not a thief anymore. I'm really, really sorry. I'm returning this ball. And so my coach drove me back to the hotel and he didn't say anything except for one thing. And what he said, I'll never forget. He said, "When you have integrity, nothing else matters. And when you don't have integrity, nothing else matters". And that's all he said. That stuck with me.
Years later, I started a tennis camp. In fact, I have some. I had a bunch of kids come to my camp and I played with Prince pro, not the exact racket, but very, very close. And I had all these kids that would come out and train with me. And they were not any good. Which might tell you I wasn't a great coach. But at the end of each session I would play a game with them to 10 points. And there's no way they're going to beat me. I would let it get really, really close because they had no chance whatsoever. And I'd let it get to about eight all. And then I'd finished the last two points off and I'd tell him, if you beat me, you get to keep my racket. There's no way these kids were going to beat me. They couldn't even get the ball on the court but I'd let it get really close. I'd miss them like, oh, okay, here we go. Oh my gosh, it's going to close to pop I put one away pop I put away and it'd be over.
I got to eight all and this kid hit the luckiest shot you've ever seen. Oh, for those you have played tennis. You'll know, this will happen two, three times in a match is the ball will hit the white part of the tape on the net and then it'll roll over. And so at eight all he did that and it rolled over and nothing but a thing. Next two shots. I'll just wax him politically and it'll be over. God is my witness. Not one time but two consecutive times, this guy who couldn't hit the side of the empire state building hit the tape and the ball rolled over. And all my little tennis camp full of kids went crazy. He gets your racket. He gets your racket. He gets your racket. You got to understand this was in the mid 80s. These rockets were probably 120 bucks back then. I had two and you need two to play competitive tennis because when a string goes down you got to have another one.
My third one was a garage sale wooden racket they shouldn't be allowed anybody to play with ever. And I couldn't afford to give my racket. What do you do when you're on your way to play college tennis and you gave your word. If you win, you get my racket. If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don't have integrity, nothing else really matters. Psalm 139, is where I want to invite you to spend a moment with me. A very, very powerful prayer. That's incredibly difficult to pray, and this is the prayer that I'm going to invite you to pray. And it goes like this. "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting". Search me God, and know my heart.
Is there any part of my life that's compartmentalize that isn't integrated around the truth and the goodness of Jesus, search my heart. The reason this is a very difficult prayer to pray is because scripture teaches us that our heart is deceitful above all things that is very, very difficult to even see truth, because our heart lies to us all the time. And I'm going to ask you, is there any area of your life that if you're open to the prompting of the Holy spirit might need some correction out of a compartmentalized life into an integrated one.
And there's three areas I would encourage you just to kind of examine, to see you might find an area. You might first of all, look where you are most defensive Where are you most defensive? Because what I found for me is where I'm most defensive often reveals where I'm most vulnerable. Where are you most defensive? No, that wouldn't be me I would never ever do that. Ask yourself what you don't want others to know? Where is it that you're hiding something when you're keeping a private life away from others.
A third area to look, is this, ask yourself what you criticize in others. Where do you criticize others? And I found that what you criticize the hardest is often a reflection of where you are the weakest. Search my heart God. See if there is any offensive way in me. I was preaching this very text years ago on the week that I had a big board meeting. I used to serve on the board of a nonprofit and on the board, it was some of the most impressive leaders I've ever served with. One of the gentlemen had invented DSL. One of them invented the credit card swipe. One of them was the author who sold more leadership books than anybody else in the world. One of them was the probably top consultant if not top three consultants to fortune 500 CEOs. I was like the token pastor, you know, I'm the spiritual guy. I'm going to keep you on track okay. Sort of Jesus, okay. And so that was me. I was the token pastor guy and they were all meeting in California, but because of my schedule, I couldn't.
And so I called in, well, this meeting went on and on and on, and I got tired of being on the call. So I thought, well, I'm going to just get a little workout in during this board meeting. And so I went out into my gym and I just would put the phone on mute while I was doing back that day. And then if they ask me a question I unmute it and act like I wasn't breathing heavily. And then I'd put it back on and do more back. Well, the problem is at some point I forgot to hit the mute button. And in the middle of my heaviest set of doing lat pull downs, I'd pull down clank clank. It was after the second clank I realized the call went dead silent. I looked down and I was unmuted. And so what did I do? I immediately called out, what was that noise? Are you all okay? True story. True story. I just went all in to my lie. I'm just like, are you okay?
I heard something. I was the only one mate in the room with them and they wrote something on the phone and I doubled down just so worried about you. Are you guys okay? Like, are you okay? I'm like I'm fine, what was that noise? I don't even know what it was. Pastor Craig keeps them on track. What do you do, when God shows you that what you do on the outside is very different than what you claim on the inside. I would encourage you to acknowledge any area. Search me God, just pray and listen. Acknowledge any area where your actions are inconsistent with what God's Word teaches. Maybe you exaggerate the story so that people will think better of you. Maybe you talk really bad about people to make you feel better. Maybe you gossip, but you make it sound spiritual. I'm just telling you so you can pray for her. Oh, she needs Jesus.
Let me tell you what she did. Maybe it's your taxes. You cut corners all the way around you can trying not to pay what you really owe. Maybe you claim the spiritual life and you've got this secret hidden sin now I would encourage you, just to acknowledge it before God search me, know my heart. Test me, see if there's any offensive. Is there any part of my life has compartmentalize and not integrated with the love and the grace of Jesus. And then just confess it to God and let him let him cleanse you. Let him forgive you as he does. If you confess your sins, he's faithful and just, he forgives all of your sins and cleanses you from all unrighteousness. Let him change you.
And that's what I did. I said, God, I just lied. And God prompted me to call every board member individually and tell them I'm so sorry, I lied will you forgive me? I called the first one, I said, I just want you to know I lied. He was like, yeah, we all kind of knew that. Every call went the same way. And I just told him, I'm so sorry. I was embarrassed and asked you to forgive me. And that was a really important call for me to make. And all of you may have some moments in your life in ministry like that because here's what I've found.
Talent can get you to the top but only integrity will keep you at the top. Because when you have integrity, nothing else matters. And if you don't have integrity, nothing else matters. So all the kids looked on. What's our coach going to do? Is he going to do what he said and give his racket? And I went through every thought in my mind and I remembered the lesson from my coach. And so I did the right thing, handed the kid my racket said, you better win with this thing and went on and played with only one racket until I could finally save up to get another one.
Approximately 30 years went by. And one week I preached a message. And afterwards I went out and was greeting people in the lobby area. And this guy came up to me and he was a wreck. He'd obviously been crying and he came up and he said, I just prayed that prayer. You invited me to pray. And you told me the whole story. His wife had left him and he was in bad shape. And he said, I committed my life to Jesus. I just want to tell you, thank you coach. Coach, he said, you don't remember me, do you? I said, you do look familiar. He said, yeah, I was there that day that, that other guy beat you, 10 to eight. He said, none of us thought you'd actually give him your racket. I remember you did that. He said, so when my life fell apart, I asked what preachers do I know, I knew you. He said, I figured if you told the truth then you'd probably tell the truth now.
I'm just glad he wasn't on that board call. Because if you have integrity, that's what matters. And if you don't have integrity, man, it really matters. What's difficult is there's going to come times when you try to have the courage to do the right thing but you know the right thing could be very, very challenging. What I try to tell myself as this, with God's help I'm going to do what's right and trust God with the results. I'm going to do what's right and trust God with the results, because I've discovered that your integrity is easier to keep than it is to recover. It's tragic. It's tragic when people are more shocked by integrity than they are by the lack of it.
And so in the very same way that God shocked the world while we were still sinning he sent Jesus while they were cursing at him. Jesus said, father, forgive them. In the very same way, may we, as integrated followers of Jesus continue to shock the world with love and with generosity and with grace and with integrity. May they look on and say, I may not even believe what they believe, but man they sure believe it the way they give, the way they love, the way they serve. Maybe that Jesus, that drives them is a Jesus. They could save me not compartmentalized but integrated Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus the Son of God, search my heart, God. See if there's any offensive way in me and lead me in the way of everlasting.
So Father, we pray today that you do surgery on us. And we recognize God that all of us probably have room for the Holy spirit to do some work me at the top of the list. So God search me, search us. God, wherever we're inconsistent wherever we are the hypocrite we ask for you to forgive us, God we thank you for your forgiveness. We ask that you would direct our steps and in a way that only comes by your power, help us to walk in the ways of the wise, to walk with steps of integrity to please you in all that we do.
Just all over of our churches and those of you who are watching online, who say yes, search my heart, God, just show me. I want to be open to what you say. Would you just lift up your hands right now to say:
Yes I'm open to what God would show me. I'm open to what God would show me. You can type that in the chat. I'm open, God show me, search my heart, search my heart. Just type in the chat. And we ask God that you show us and that you transform us and God that you would even forgive us wherever we've been wrong. Help us be centered around Jesus in all that we do empowered by your spirit and showing your love direct our steps we ask God.
As you keep praying today at all of our churches or those of you watching online, somebody may say, "Oh my gosh, I'm just a mess, I'm a mess, I'm a mess". I remember as a kid and in college, going to church and having the most compartmentalized life you've ever seen. Here's my friend live. Here's my party live. Here's my church life. And there was no Jesus in my life. There was a head knowledge, but no relationship.
What does God want for us? He would shock you with his love that he loves you so much. No matter what you've done no matter how far from him you feel, he loves you. And he became one of you. He was God in the flesh, Jesus, the sinless Son of God perfect in every way, the one who became sin for us on a cross and died in our place. And God raised him from the dead so that anybody, this includes you, it doesn't matter how bad your life has been. Anyone, anyone, anyone, anyone who calls on the name of Jesus, your sins would be forgiven. And you would be completely new. Today at all of churches, and those online who say, yes, I may be far from God. I may have done something I'm really ashamed of the moment you confess to him. God forgives your sins and you become new. The oldest gone and everything becomes new those today who say, yes I want that, I need forgiveness.
Today I leave my old life and I surrender to Jesus. The name that is above every name I give my life to Jesus. The Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the Alpha and the Omega. Jesus, today I leave my old life. I give my life to Jesus, that's your prayer. Would you lift your hands high right now and say, yes just lift them up right back over here. And others of you today at all of our churches, you say, yes, Jesus. I give you my life. Those of you online, just type in the chat right now. I'm giving my life to Jesus. Just type that in the chat, I'm giving my life to Jesus. And wherever you're watching today would you just pray aloud with those around you. Nobody prays alone. Just pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive my sins, save me Jesus, make me brand new. Fill me with your spirit, so I could follow you. You direct my life, all of my life so I can show your love and walk in your ways. In all that I do, my life is not my own. I give it all to you in Jesus name I pray.