David Jeremiah — A Life of Integrity
A facial cream ad claims it will make women look as good as Photoshop can but the woman's face in the ad is actually photoshopped. Educators rewrite history to fit modern secular objectives and scientists falsify data to advance their theories. The integrity of government is undermined by leaks and slander and fake news and media corruption, and opponents deliberately impugn each other's motives, distort their positions, and just tell outright lies to advance their agendas. Integrity is lacking in our culture and very little is being said about it. We complain about everything else. We call it by many names but we are suffering from a deficit of integrity in our culture. To have integrity is to have all parts of your life integrated, to have them interconnected and uncorrupted and working well together as a single unit.
A person of integrity has integrated his innermost being, a consistent standard from which all of his actions flow. Such a person, we say, has it all together. The rock of integrity is faithfulness. That's the biblical word for integrity, the word "faithfulness". Maybe you remember the commercial that was on television and still is in some places. Built on the visual of a gigantic rock that's supposed to demonstrate stability. They ask you to buy a piece of the rock and if you buy this kind of insurance you can be sure that when you need it, it will be there. But I want to tell you about a different kind of rock. "He," God, "is the Rock, His work is perfect; and all of his ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He". If you build your life upon that rock, the faithfulness and integrity of God will begin to flow into your life and the better that you know him, the more integrity you will have in your own life. Integrity's not just an important truth about God. It's also an important theme in the Bible. The word itself appears 21 times, the word "integrity".
So integrity is a thing of the Bible. It's not something that we made up or does it come from a motivational book. The Bible is about integrity because God is about integrity. And the record of integrity is so easy for us to follow. People of integrity are honest in their business. They give selflessly of their time and resources. They watch their speech, avoiding profanity and slander and gossip. They never reveal confidences or impugn the integrity or motives of other people. When they commit, they follow through. They treat others well, even those they do not know. They are willing to say, "I was wrong," taking responsibility for their own errors, even those they could have hidden or blamed on others. To paraphrase Will Rogers: "People of integrity live in such a way that they wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip".
Now, there you go. And now let's talk about the road to integrity. How do we implement this virtue in our lives? I'd like to suggest that we start with being honest with ourselves. Be honest with yourself. Before you begin your journey toward integrity you need to determine your starting point. In other words, what is your integrity quotient? How much integrity do you already have? As believers, we need to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves. Of all the lies that we tell, the ones we tell ourselves are the most deadly. Question your motives, stop justifying what you know to be wrong. Stop excusing yourself. David once asked God to help him with this and when we ask God to help us see ourselves as we are and get honest with ourselves, he always does it. At least, he always has for me. If you don't wanna know the truth about yourself, don't ask God to help you. He'll point it out and you will know the starting point for your integrity.
Second, don't just be honest with yourself. Tell the truth. I mean, that's so basic I almost am embarrassed to put it in the outline. Proverbs says: "The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them". Did you know that we reflect the character of God when we tell the truth because Titus 1:2 says that God cannot lie. God never lies and neither should we. When we speak the truth, we do not have to look back over our shoulder, we don't have to make up a story to cover the story that we told that wasn't true when we told it. We don't have to cover our tracks. Speaking the truth is at the core of integrity. And, believe it or not, speaking the truth is one of the character traits that Christian leaders need to work on. The favorite indoor sport of many pastors is the embellishment of church attendance. Embellishment means exaggeration. And we even coined a name for it that gives it a sense of spirituality. You know what they call that among pastors in our pastoral language? We call that speaking evangelistically. That's what we call it.
I heard about two pastors who were talking one day and one said to the other, they were talking about their church attendance and this is how the conversation unfolded. The one pastor said, "If I lie about my attendance and you know that I'm lying about my attendance and I know that you know that I'm lying about my attendance, isn't that like telling the truth"? I don't think so. No, I don't think so. On the other hand, there are some who speak the truth about their numbers. Someone asked a pastor about his attendance with this inquiry: "Pastor, what are you running this year in your church"? To which the pastor honestly replied, "We're running over 1000 but we're only catching about 600 of them," so there you go. That's the way you be honest. So be honest with yourself and tell the truth. Tell the truth. And then keep your word. If I have made a promise, I have no alternative but to keep it.
We are told in Deuteronomy 7: "The Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for 1000 generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments". Here's another definition of integrity that I remember from a study I did on the life of Joseph way back in the '80s. In that study there was a story about a guy named Routledge who was a PoW. He was in what they call the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam. Somehow through that, he came out of that whole experience with this definition of integrity. Here it is: "Integrity is keeping a commitment after the circumstances under which you made the commitment have changed". And I wish I could push that into all of the troubled marriages of today. Listen to that again: "Your commitment is only commitment when you keep that commitment after the circumstances under which the commitment was made have changed".
That's truly the highest level of integrity you can ever express. So be honest with yourself. Tell the truth. Keep your word and be who you are. Be who you are. Many years ago, I heard a Southern preacher give this word of wisdom about integrity. Here's what he said: "Be who you is, not what you ain't 'cause if you ain't what you is, then you is what you ain't". Let me say that again. "Be what you is, not what you ain't 'cause if you ain't what you is, you is what you ain't". To live with integrity, you have to conduct yourself in an authentic way. You don't posture. You don't change because of the circumstances Philippians 1:10 says to all of us: "Be sincere and without offense 'til the day of Christ".
Do you know what the word "sincere" means? Listen to this. It comes from a Latin word which means "without wax". Now, that's a strange thing. It originated in a marketplace. It originated in ancient Rome. If anyone wanted an authentic statue of fine quality, carved by someone who took pride in his workmanship, they would venture to the artisans' marketplace in the Quad in Rome and look for booths bearing a sign: "Sine cera," or "Without wax". You see, there were many merchants who would take broken figurines, broken pieces of pottery, and they would repair the crack with wax and paint over the wax and it would not be visible to the normal, visual eye. It would only become visible when the figurine was set in the sun and the wax would melt and then you would realize you had a defective product.
So the term became "sine cera, without wax," which meant this is a product of integrity. This is a real, no flaw, no cover-up, no shady deal opportunity for you to get what you think you're getting. So they would find these signs that had the words "sine cera" over them and we need to have those words over us. We need to be men and women of integrity so that there aren't hidden flaws and hidden agendas but we are authentic and genuine. I have to honestly tell you that of all the questions people ask about me to my family and my friends, this is at the top of the list. They tell me about this. "What is Dr. Jeremiah really like at home? What is he like with his children? What is he like with his wife? What is he like backstage before he walks out to speak"? And what they're asking is this: is he a man of integrity?
I don't know that there's any goal in my life that is higher than that one. That I become the same person whether I'm at home or here. In fact, if I'm a different person at home and that person isn't the right person I have no right to be here. My life ought to be what it is from the core. This, what I do on Sunday is just a part of my life but it isn't a different life with a different set of standards. It's the same life that demands from me the same level integrity that being a father and a husband has always demanded of me as well. I pray that the answers that people give to that question can be positive. I don't claim to be perfect and I know I have a lot of flaws, but I care deeply about being a man of integrity and I pray that you have that same concern for your own life. Be honest with yourself, tell the truth, keep your word, be who you are, avoid bad company. Really important.
You say, "Where's that in the Bible"? I'm glad you asked because I'm 1 Corinthians 15:33 says it this way: "Bad company corrupts good character". A word of advice to those of you who strive for integrity. Stay away from those who are not honest. If we surround ourselves with people who are dishonest and willing to cut corners to get ahead, we'll surely find ourselves following this pattern, first enduring their behavior, then accepting their behavior, then explaining their behavior, and finally adopting their behavior. if you want to build a reputation as a person of integrity, you need to keep people of integrity around you so you can help each other achieve the goal. Be found faithful. That's the next one. One of the great verses of integrity is 1 Corinthians 4:2. Do you know what that verse says? That verse says: "It is required of stewards that a man be found faithful".
The question in this verse is how does God determine whether someone is faithful? He's watching to see how we treat people, how we respond to pressure, and whether or not we have the tenacity to stay on track even when we don't think anybody is watching us. And so I wanna encourage you to be found with integrity. That's what this Scripture says. "It is required of a steward that he be found faithful". What that means is wherever you are, whatever you're doing, in any situation, be found faithful. Be who you are all the way through and at all times. And the next thing I wanna say to you is that if you have integrity you will be tested under fire. Be strong under fire.
Do you remember Daniel and his three buddies, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Do you remember how they were told that they had to bow down to a Babylonian idol and they wouldn't do it? And Nebuchadnezzar told them that if they didn't do it, they would be thrown into a fiery furnace. And those three boys gave their reply to Nebuchadnezzar in these words. They said, "Our God will deliver us from your fiery furnace, but even if he doesn't, we will not serve your gods or worship your golden image, period". And the three young men refused to compromise even in the face of death because, for them, their integrity was more important than their life. And you know the story. God saw their integrity and preserved them in a miraculous way through that fire. Here's my last thought. Be accountable to somebody. Be accountable to somebody.
The author of the book of Hebrews said, "Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, exhorting one another". Literally, the text says provoking one another. And in the New Testament we are taught that the Christian life is about one another. It's not lived in silence or in solitary. We need each other and we kind of grind against each other so that we stay focused and go in the right direction. We need people who will tell us the truth about ourselves. So there you have these thoughts about how we develop integrity in our lives. And it's convicting to all of us from the preacher right down to the person sitting in the last row. We all have areas that when we shine the light of integrity over our lives, we say, "Yeah, no, I need to work on that one".
And sometimes, we have godly wives or husbands who help us understand where those areas are. "Honey, you said this but then you did this and Johnny watched". God wants us to get better. And we need to have a desire to look at these things and look at our lives and measure our lives against the ruler of God's Word and say, "Here's where I can work on that. Here's where I can". And sometimes we hear stuff we never even thought about before and it awakens in us a new sense of desire to get to that place where we have this life that's beyond amazing. Jesus who lives within us, embodies us, and we are the hands of Jesus and we are the feet of Jesus and we are the words of Jesus and we are the love of Jesus to the people around us.
So I challenge you today, join your pastor in the quest for integrity. Let's do our best to be the people of God who are genuine, not fake, not posturing, not learning Christianese and living like Christ on Sunday and like everything else the rest of the week. God is looking for some real, genuine articles. And we can be that by his grace, amen?