Jack Graham - A Matter of Integrity
Most Americans, you know, really don't believe in the Ten Commandments these days, much less practice them. Upwards to 75 percent of our fellow citizens in this great country no longer believe that truth that there is authoritative truth in our lives, that there's no clear cut right and wrong, that we live now by situational preferences. You have a truth, I have a truth. There's no black and white, it's just many shades of gray. And therefore, we are never to say "This is right and this is wrong". And it's a problem. It's a terrifying problem in America because it's time now that the word of God be declared, that the commandments of God be taught, starting with our own families. Because remember, God is not mocked. He will not be mocked!
And just as there are laws that govern the universe: gravity, physics, and so on, there are moral laws that govern humanity. And we will either obey those laws or be broken on those laws. You really don't break the Ten Commandments. You are broken on the commandments of God if you choose to disobey them. Deuteronomy 5:29: "Oh, that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and keep my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever"! God says, "Dads, this is our legacy to live, that we are to pass the faith, including the commandments of God to our sons and our daughters, from generation to generation, to generations yet unborn". Talk about the ultimate winning streak as we give our faith forward generation to generation. But unfortunately our children today are not being led by the laws of God. Even in many churches where worship is superficial and the Word of God is not clearly taught, the Gospel is not openly given. Soft talks about whatever subject. There's no clear call to follow the ways and the will of God.
So what's happening? Our children are listening to lies and believing them. A new breed of atheists attacking the faith, attacking our families. Or on a much more common level, a celebrity driven culture that denies God and the Word of God, anti-God and anti-Christ system. And therefore, the lies of Satan who slithered into humanity in the Garden of Eden and raised a question: "Has God really said"? Same old lie! And a war is being raged against the family, and all the weapons of hell are being aimed at your family and mine, and the chief weapon is deception and the battle is for truth! Satan is a liar; Jesus said he is a liar from the beginning and "the father of lies". He is the source of all lies! He is a thief, Jesus said, "who comes to steal, kill and destroy"! And he's killing and thieving and cheating and lying and destroying our nation! Our nation, America, is now divided by lies the enemy tells!
Again, most Americans do not believe in moral absolutes, and this includes many Christians and kids that are growing up in church who are not being taught the moral, ethical demands of a holy God! No wonder this generation has lost its direction! The foundation is cracking and quaking. And the Scriptures says, Psalms 11:3, "If the foundations be destroyed, what will the righteous do"? If you destroy the foundation, it all comes tumbling down! PowerPoint, the ministry mission outreach of our church to the world is seen in over eighty countries, and I would say to those of you who are watching this PowerPoint presentation from Prestonwood church in Dallas, Texas, America, we would ask that you pray for America because our country is in trouble. Like the western world, most of the western world, our country is turning their backs upon God, and we need a spiritual awakening.
Morality, those subjects regarding right and wrong, are now subject to political debate and decision: What is marriage-what is not marriage, and all the rest! There is no longer in the culture an objective standard for truth! When our forefathers established this nation, it was built upon the rock, rib, revelation of God's Word and God's commandments! But now man's opinion prevails. You have a version of truth and I have a version of truth, and if you dare to disagree, if you dare to say the Bible says, or the commandments say, you're viewed as intolerant or insensitive or a bigot or narrow-minded! And even in the church, if you dare to proclaim the inerrant, infallible word of God, there are some who will say you are pharisaical or you are legalistic or you're too pious or even worse. If really want to gets you, just say you are a fringe, fanatical, fundamentalist! If these truths are not proclaimed, if the Ten Commandments are not taught, starting with dads in our own families, the future of our homes and of this great nation will be an epic fail.
Commandments 8 and 9 are simple and clear. You don't need a Hebrew lexicon; you don't need a seminary degree. Simple, straight up! "Do not steal". "Do not lie". Teach yourself, train yourself and your family to love the truth and to live the truth. As we obey God's commandments we need to ask ourselves this question: Am I a trustworthy person? Am I a dad who keeps his promises? Am I someone who can be trusted? Is my character and my reputation reputable, credible? If you go to get a loan, if you go to a bank or a lending institution they're going to check your credit. They're going to do a thorough review of whether or not you are honest, if you are trustworthy, if you pay your bills, if you pay back your loans. And your credit report is essential, a good credit report is essential if you're going to get that loan. Well, I promise you, people are all around us, starting with own children, are checking out our credibility. Whether we are who we say we are.
The word integrity, it's a matter of integrity, integer is in that word. Integrated is in that word. Integrity means that we are the same person on the inside and on the outside. It's akin to the word character: that our character is consistent, and that we are faithful in what we profess both privately and publicly. Someone has said character is what you are in the dark. Character is who you are when no one is watching. But, of course, someone is always watching, starting with God Almighty, and including those little eyes, our children and our grandchildren. They're looking up and wondering, "Are you, mom, a person of integrity? Can I trust you"?
Now Jesus is the truth. He said, John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life". God is the One true God, as compared to all the false gods and all the false religions. There is a one true God! And God says, "I can never lie". It is impossible for God to lie. If we are the people of God, we're to be people of truth. If we want to follow Christ, it means that we want to be like Him. Now, let me be clear, that we know that none of us keeps these commandments perfectly. Romans 3:23, "We've all sinned and come short of the glory of God". It's the commandments of God that drive us to the grace of God! It is our broken lives on the commandments, when we disobey God, that drive us to Jesus, into the arms of Jesus. But the fact is that in Christ we are made brand new. We are to be different.
2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ he's a new creation". Therefore while we do not keep these commandments perfectly, we should keep them progressively, growing and developing in our lives, and teach them to our children. Do not lie. Always live and speak truthfully, straight up. Do not steal. Now you could be thinking, "Well, you know what, I'm pretty good on this one. I've got these two commandments pretty much down. I really don't steal that much. I don't tell a lot of lies... a few white lies". With God a lie is a lie, whether it's white or black or Technicolor. A lie is a lie. But you know you're thinking, "At least I haven't murdered anybody. I'm not an adulterer. And so God really doesn't care if I lie a little bit". Oh, really? Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us what God thinks about lying and stealing. "There are six things that the Lord hates".
Now that has my attention. If God hates something, I want to know about it. So, "these six things he hates", and then as though He had forgotten one, "Oh, there's seven which are an abomination". An abomination? This has got to be something really depraved, debauched. Well, "haughty eyes", that's pride, arrogance, "a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans", that is fraud, "feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers". Of the seven things that God hates, four of them have to do with deception and dishonesty! It's a big deal to God! Satan stole the innocence from mankind with a lie and he's still telling them today. But Jesus said, John 8:32 "You shall know the truth (John 14:6 and "I am the truth") and the truth shall set you free".
Truth sets us free to live fully and completely. A lie is wrong! Stealing is wrong! because it not only hurts those around us, but it hurts our own lives. We are broken by our own sin. You know, there's more than one way to tell a lie or to steal something. I just started making a list. Obviously you can steal something by force or by stealth. Or you can steal something when you borrow and do not return what you borrow. Some of you need to bring back those hymnbooks you took from the church years ago. You just borrowed them for the last twenty years. When you have debts that you do not pay. The Scripture says we're to "Owe no man anything except to love". So when the bill comes due we're to pay it. And to do otherwise, not to pay our debts, breaks this commandment.
What about lying on our expense accounts? Or padding a resume? Or exaggerating about ourselves on social media, twitter and Facebook? Make ourselves look better than we really are if we tell it big enough. Or how about this: Fooling around at work on the computer? Hours and hours spent on Facebook or playing games on the computer. That's stealing from your company. That's stealing from those who employ you. On the other side, if you are an employer and you do not pay a fair wage to the people who are working and doing a good job for you, write that down as theft. Slander and gossip! When you gossip, when you slander someone, when you pass along an untruth or a half truth, or part of the truth or a rumor. I heard about a woman in a church. She was known to be a gossip. She went to the hospital and on the prayer list it said "Mrs. So-and-so went to the hospital for the removal of a rumor". Supposed to have said tumor! The removal of a rumor! And if you've got a rumor caught in your throat somewhere, you need to get it out!
Rumors and lies and slanders, insinuations have destroyed so many lives! And often we pass this stuff along. Either we say it or we allow somebody to use our ears as garbage cans. "I don't know. People just tell me stuff". "They said". I always want to know who "they" are. And usually if you come to me and say, "Well, they said", I'm going to ask you who "they" is. Cause we want to nip rumors in the bud. We want to stop lies from being spread about people. 1 Peter 1:8, "Love covers a multitude of sin". And sometimes we even categories our gossip as a prayer request. "Oh, we need to pray for so-and-so because boom, boom, boom, boom, boom". You don't have to tell everything you know. You don't have to listen to everything or anything somebody brings you.
Now I know that sometimes it's hard to always tell the truth. Like when your wife buys a new dress and says to you, "Does this make me look fat"? You are now on the horns of an ethical dilemma. And you have to make a wise decision as to how you're going to respond kindly. Or you go to somebody's house and they've prepared a meal and served it and really it tasted like dog meat, and they ask you, "How'd you like that"? Lie or tell the truth.
When we were in our first church in Oklahoma, our second church actually; our first fulltime church, Hobart, Oklahoma, there was a very kind lady, but couldn't cook. And she brought us a cake and we tried to eat the cake, but it was inedible. It could not be eaten. So we took the cake and we wrapped it up and we put it in the garbage can. And, of course, the next Sunday Mrs. So-and-so... I have to be careful because people watch in Hobart and in Oklahoma. But she walked up to me and said, "How did you like my cake"?
Now we pastors have to learn how to finesse such situations to tell the truth and not lie, but at the same time, you know, we do like to keep our jobs, right? Well, she said, "How'd you like the cake"? And I said, I'm just 24 years old but I'm growing in wisdom and stature right there. I said, "That cake didn't last long around our house"! And she was so happy about that! The only problem is she kept bringing cakes! Look, I know it's difficult sometimes to tell the truth. Sometimes it's easier to tell a lie than to tell the truth. But as we taught our children through the years, through the commandments of God, it's never right to do wrong. Never right to do wrong. Never wrong to do right. It is always right to do right. And sometimes you, really all the time you need to think before you speak.
T-H-I-N-K. Think before you speak. Ask yourself:
'T' - Is it true. Is what I'm hearing, is it true?
'H' - Is it helpful? Our purpose is to build people up, not tear them down; to be a positive influence, not a negative one.
'I' Is it inspiring? Is it uplifting? Encouraging?
'N' Is it necessary? Not everything we hear or say or think is necessary. It's not necessary to repeat everything we hear or to say everything we think.
'K'- Is it kind? Is it kind?
So there are many ways that we can break this commandment, and not only in substance but in spirit. When I am silent in the face of false accusations. Someone says something about a friend of yours or a church member, and you don't know whether it's right or wrong, but you don't defend your friend. You're just silent. You don't stand up. You don't raise your hand and say, "Well, I know that person and that person would have never said this. Let's don't talk about that". You know, this is the way a Christian responds because we are people of truth and honesty and we want to give and not take away through lies. There's no excuse.
So if someone blasphemes God are you going to stand up and stand out as a follower of Jesus, or are you just going to slink away and let the name-calling of our dear God go on? Will you stand up for truth? Will you stand up for what is right? Not to do it is to deny Jesus. It is a deception! We're to be people who are faithful! Faithful to God, faithful to our churches, faithful to our friends, faithful to our family, faithful to our co-workers. It's a matter of integrity! Of us being who we say we are!
We all know that little lies lead to big lies. All of these commandments are interrelated; they're connected and when you start lying and cheating in just a little way, ultimately you're caught in a web of deceit that will destroy your life and those around you. Typically it just starts with something so small and seemingly insignificant that becomes a monster in our lives. Every day our integrity is being tested, checked out. Let's be faithful. Let me be clear, as Jesus said, Matthew 5:37, "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no". Speak the truth in love.