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James Merritt - Integrity, Under the Microscope

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    James Merritt - Integrity, Under the Microscope
TOPICS: Integrity

As you get older, whether you're going to work, or you're going to school, or you're going out on a date, or you're about to get married, there's one thing you're gonna do before you walk out of your house. We all did it this morning, I did it before I walked out, what do we do? We look in the mirror, right? I mean, we wanna make sure everything's in place and everything looks nice, and we always do that. Why we got into a habit, that before we go anywhere, we have this habit of looking at ourselves in the mirror? It's not just because we're egotistical, or well, for some of you, but it's not because some of us are humble like I am, but here's the point, it's not because of ego, or we think we're good, or we think we're good-looking, and we're so vain, anything like that, the reason why we just instinctively look in the mirror is simply because the mirror never lies, never lies.

It shows you what you look like when you have makeup on and what you look like when you don't, it shows you what you look like when you're cleanshaven and when you're not, it shows you when every hair is in place, it shows you when your hair is all over the place, and it shows you when you don't have any hair to put in place, it doesn't lie. There's nothing fake, there's nothing hidden about your mirror image. Today we're starting a series and I wanna go ahead and tell you I hope you'll make every effort not to miss any part of this series. Because I don't know, in fact, I will tell you, I've never worked harder on any series than this one.

Matter of fact, it's so important that my publishers asked that I do a book on this topic, because what we're talking about in this series is not what we see physically when we look in a mirror, what I wanna deal with is what do you see when you look in a mirror morally, what do you see spiritually, what do you see ethically? 'Cause we're gonna be talking about the most important thing that's true about everyone of us in this room, it's the most important thing that's true about everybody on this planet, it's the most important thing that's true about us as a church, it's the most important thing that's true about us as followers of Christ, it is the most important thing you will instill in your children and your grandchildren. We're gonna be talking about character. That's the ball game, that is the bottom line.

So the question I'm asking is, what do you see when you look in the mirror? I don't mean what you see on the outside, I'm asking you, what do you see on the inside? If there was such a thing as a mirror that would reflect what you look like, not out here, but in here, what would you see, and high importantly, what should you see? Let me tell you why this is so important. Never in my lifetime, have we lived more in a day where people are more concerned about their reputation than they are their character. We don't seem to think a lot about character, we put everything own reputation. The problem is, they don't always match up.

So your reputation is what people think you are when they look at you through a window. Your character is what you know you are when you look in a mirror. Your reputation is what people think you are on the outside, your character is what God knows you are on the inside. It's been said that people are like trees, and your reputation is like the shadow of the tree. Let me put it this way, the shadow of the tree is your reputation, the fruit of the tree is your personality, but the root of the tree is your character. Abraham Lincoln said, "Character is like a tree and reputation is like its shadow". The shadow is what we think of it, but the tree is the real thing.

So here's the question I want you to start asking and I want you to start asking every single week as we go through this series on character. The question is, if your reputation met your character on the street, would they recognize each other? If your reputation met your character on the street, would they recognize each other? Now, I'm begging the question, you say, "Okay, well, what is good character? I mean, what does it mean to have the kinda character that I know that God wants me to have"? What would be the character traits that would be true of you? If your character was not just what you wanted to be, but what God wanted you to be, what would your character be, what character traits would you have if you were not just good, but you were godly, if you really had the character that God puts you on this earth to have? And I wanna submit to you, the very first trait we're gonna start with is not coincidental, I didn't pull this out of a hat.

As I began to study character, like I've never studied anything in the last year of my life, it hit me, one thing kept coming to the top, one thing kept saying to me, "This is the bottom line, this is what makes the engine of character go". Because if you truly want to have the character that you ought to have, if you wanna be the kinda person people really ought to know, it all begins with integrity. If you were building a house called character today, the foundation would be integrity. There's something I heard a long time ago that I've seen it proven true over and over in my own life, everything rises and falls on leadership. That's true, everything rises and falls on leadership. But I've learned something else, leadership rises and falls on integrity. That's where it all begins, that's where it all starts.

In fact, I'll tell you how important integrity is, integrity is so important that if you don't have integrity, you will rarely have, or display any of the other characteristics at all. As matter of fact, it's worse than that, if you don't have integrity, you probably won't have hardly any of the other character traits at all. Integrity is more important than fame, more important than fortune, more important than position, more important than possessions, more important than popularity. Let me tell you why this is such a big deal, what you accomplish will make your name known, but your integrity will determine whether your name is worth knowing. There's a lot of famous people, if I were to name them, you wouldn't know them, but deep down, you'd automatically say, "Yeah, I know who they are, but based on their character, their name really isn't worth knowing".

So today, we're going to study a man that I believe, as I've studied the Bible, is the absolute epitome of integrity. If you gut this man, he would bleed integrity. As a matter of fact, it's because of his integrity we even know his name, it is because of his integrity, he has a book in the Bible. His name was Daniel. Now, when I mention Daniel, those of you who know anything about the Bible, if we were to do a little test here and I said, "Okay, what's the first thing that comes to your mind"? I say, Daniel, what would you probably say? Lion's den, right, everybody knows about Daniel and the lion's den. But here's what people miss, the most important part of the story that we're gonna read this morning is not about Daniel in the lion's den, we're gonna read about it, the most important part's not the lion's den, the most important part of the story is not that he was thrown in the lion's den, the most important part of the story is, why was he thrown into the lion's den, what caused him to get there, what in the world did this man do that would cause him to be thrown into the lion's den?

So we're today in a book called Daniel, it's in the Old Testament, easy to find, Daniel Chapter Six. It's about halfway through the Old Testament, so just go to Genesis, go about 20 books, and you'll come to the book of Daniel. Now, I want you to see today why integrity is a big deal, I want you to see why you would never do anything greater for your children and your grandchildren than teach them the value and the virtue of integrity. I wanna show you why we oughta make integrity the DNA of everyday life. Now, I'm hoping you're saying right now, I'm kinda like a football coach trying to get you guys fired up, right, on the first of the year, and I hope you're saying, "Yeah, man, I wanna be a man of integrity, I wanna be a woman of integrity, I wanna be a person of integrity".

Well, if that's you, and oh, by the way, the only life worth living is a life of integrity. And if that's you, then let's learn something from Daniel today about what it takes. Number one, it means you're gonna live a life of integrity, you're gonna live a life of integrity. Now, let's start with what got Daniel thrown into the lion's den to begin with. We're in Daniel 6:1. "It pleased areas to appoint 120 satraps," these are kinda like assistants, "to rule throughout the kingdom with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss".

Now here's what's going on, you're in the Babylonian Empire, the King is a pagan by the name of Darius. He's a brand new king, he's kinda the new kid on the block, he's just getting started, but evidently, he's already found out he's got some guys embezzling money, they're cooking the books, and he's got some guys taking money off the top, they're not being faithful employees. The Empire is so vast, he knows he can't handle the problem by himself, he's gotta surround himself with the right kinds of people. So he's got to make sure that he's got accountability, and honesty, and responsibility. So he's trying to find the very best people that he can because if you're a leader, if you own a business, if you run a company, if you are coach of a team, you'll know this, you are no better than the people you surround yourself with.

I'll tell you right now, as good a pastor as I try to be, I'll never be a better pastor than the staff that I have around me. My staff will never be better staff than the people that they have around them. Any wise leader knows if I wanna be the best leader I can be, it all starts with surrounding myself with the best people. So the King's got some big decisions to make, "I've gotta get people around me that I can trust". Now, I'm sure it took him a while to decide, who, 120 people were going to be, who are gonna fill 120 positions? But there was one decision, it was easy, there was one decision he just knew, "Oh man, this is automatic". There was one choice that was obvious, watch this. "Now Daniel, so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the King planned to set him over the whole kingdom".

Let me tell you about Daniel. At this time in his life, Daniel is 85 years old. It's time for Daniel to kinda, "Hey, ride off into the sunset, go to the condo down at the beach, sip bar's juice, take it easy". No, he's been called back into public service. He's been serving the Lord in Babylon for over 70 years, this is now the third king he has served under. This king does not know him, this king's never met him, most likely did not know even what Daniel looked like. You say, "Wait a minute, if he'd never met Daniel, didn't know what he looked like, how in the world would he choose Daniel, why was that such an obvious choice"? It's because everybody knew about Daniel. He may not have known Daniel, but everybody knew about Daniel, he was a household name. Because when you read the first five chapters of Daniel, his reputation preceded him.

So for seven decades, 70 years, Daniel had proven himself to be a man of absolute, uncompromising, complete, impeccable integrity. So the King says, "Bring this guy Daniel to me. I don't even need to ask about him, I don't need to see his resume, his reputation goes before him, I know exactly what he's like. He's the guy I want in charge over everybody else, he's the guy that I won't second in command". And that really shouldn't surprise us, 'cause I've seen it happen so many times in my own life. Integrity is the cream that always rises to the top, always, integrity trumps ability every time, every single time, integrity trumps ability.

Listen, you wanna teach your kids a great lesson about how to go far in life? Lemme let me help you, there is no limit to how far anybody can go in life, if one thing is true about them, if people know about you, I can always trust you to do the right thing, there's no limit to how far you can go. If people say, "I know she'll do the right thing, I know he will make the right call, I know he'll walk the right path, I know he'll say the right word, I know she'll do the right thing," there is no limit to how far you can go. And there was one thing everybody knew about Daniel, he's gonna do the right thing. Doesn't matter what it costs, doesn't matter what price he has to pay, he's going to do the right thing.

So understand, Daniel was not promoted because of his typical seniority, it wasn't because he was the oldest, it wasn't because he'd been around the longest, he was promoted because of his moral superiority, his character was a cut above everybody else. Then you say, "Boy, that's great," well, yes and no. Because what you're about to see is is integrity is what got him in such deep trouble. Because, we keep reading. "At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find ground for charges against Daniel and his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so, they could find no corruption in him because he was trustworthy, and neither corrupt nor negligent".

Now, here's what's going on, there was this good old-boy network, they had been skimming off the top, and they knew these days were over, as long as Daniel was at the top. Now, don't read anything into this, it's just because it's out there and make it kinda modern, they said, "If he comes, he's gonna drain the swamp, and we're a big part of the swamp. And we don't want the swamp drained, we gotta do something to get rid of this guy". And by the way, it was even worse, they also knew that Daniel was a foreigner, he was an immigrant, he was an outsider, he was a Jew, and they could not stand the thought of somebody not like them being over them.

So here's what they do, they launch this full-scale investigation into his life, they throw everything at it, they put a tail on him, they hire private investigators, they bug his telephone, they analyze his tax records, they examine his bank statements, they interview people who went to high school with him, interview people who went to college with him, they do this exhaustive investigation, and at the end of the day, what did they find? Nothing, nada, zero, zip. They bring in the FBI, they bring in the CIA, they bring in the IRS, they give them carte blanche, they say turn over every rock, look under every bed, open every door and every closet, and at the end of the day, they can't lay a glove on him and they can't believe it. Don't take this the wrong way.

By the way, if you work for the government, let's be honest, they're sitting here thinking, "Wait a minute, you've worked for the government 70 years and you've not done one thing crooked"? Really? You've never used your power to leverage, to get a little kickback here, you've never leveraged your influence to make a stop deal over here, you've never leveraged your influence to make sure you got everyone this land deal over here? You mean we can't find anything wrong, we can't find anything to cut you down to our size? But after putting Daniel under the microscope, all they found was that for 70 years, Daniel had been honest, Daniel had been hardworking, and Daniel had been holy.

So how does this investigation end? Watch this, "Finally these men said, 'Well, we'll never find any basis for charges against this man, Daniel,'" now this is such a great testimony, "'unless it has something to do with the law of his God.'" Can I tell you something, that is one of the greatest testimonies about anybody you'll ever read in the Bible. Here's what they said, "If we try to get this guy on some moral charge, we're gonna strike out. If we try to get this guy on some ethical charge, we're gonna strike out. So here's what we will do, let's make him disobey God, that's how we will nail Daniel, let's put him in position where he has to disobey God". Because you see, when you live a life of integrity, here's what you'll find, your life will become surrounded with a force field of righteousness, and a force field of goodness that is so strong, it can withstand any investigation, it can withstand any accusations.

Now, hopefully about this time in the message, you're going, "Man, I am wired up, I am fired up, where do I get to the integrity buffet? I'm ready to eat". Not so fast, my friend, because if you're gonna live a life of integrity, and this has never been truer than it is in the 21st century, it's never been truer in our country than it is today, if you're going to live a life of integrity, you're going to have to count the cost of integrity. You say, "What do you mean the cost"? You're free to exercise integrity, but you never exercise integrity for free. You're free to exercise integrity, but integrity is never free to exercise. 'Cause take the story of Daniel, I mean, after all, this wasn't his first rodeo when it came to his integrity, but it would prove to be potentially the most costly of his times to be a man of integrity.

So here's what happens, "So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the King. They said, 'May King Darius live forever,'" they're buttering him up, "'may he live forever. The royal administrators, the prefects, the satraps, the advisors, and the governors, have all agreed,'" parenthesis, "'except Daniel,'" he doesn't even know what they're doing, "'that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next 30 days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lion's den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing, so that it cannot be altered in accordance with the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be repealed.'"

Now, give these guys credit, it is a brilliant idea 'cause what they know, you know what they've just done, they have just checkmated Daniel, they have just put Daniel in a corner he can't get out of. They said, "Okay, buddy, we tried to find an immoral charge, that didn't work, we tried to find an ethical charge, that didn't work, so here's what we're gonna do, Daniel, we're gonna make your faith illegal". Because there's one thing Daniel never did hide, he prayed every day, three times a day to the only God that there is, he prayed to God that the Babylonians ridiculed, that the Babylonians made fun of, that the Babylonians joked about, that the Babylonians were vulgar about, that the Babylonians totally rejected. He didn't care, every day, threw open his windows for everybody to see, and three times a day, he would pray to this God and they knew if we pass this law, we are guaranteed that Daniel will get a 24-karat gold-plated reservation to the lion's den.

You say, "Wait a minute, stop, wait a minute. How could they be so sure that their plan would work? I mean, how did they really know what Daniel would do"? Well, it was really easy, they knew Daniel, because for 70 years, when it came to Daniel's report card on integrity, all he ever got was As, when it came to Daniel and he had to take the test of integrity, he always made 100. They knew he won't fold, he won't bend, he won't bow, he won't compromise, he will die before he'll do that 'cause they understood how Daniel made every decision in his life. Doctor Theodore Hesburgh, the former president of Notre Dame, he said something that when I read it, I thought it was one of the greatest things I've ever read in my life. He said, "My basic principle is you don't make decisions because they're easy, you don't make them because they're cheap, you don't make them because they're popular, you make them because they're right".

Now, I said something in the 9:15 service written in my notes and I started out to say it and I thought, "No, I'm not gonna discriminate," I'll go ahead and say it here, okay? You paid equal money to get in so I'm gonna say it to you. I am not being political when I say this, it just has political repercussions, I just gotta say this. It is immoral, and it is insane that we're passing a $20 trillion debt to our children, and our grandchildren, that they'll never ever pay off. It's just immoral, it's insane. And you know why, because we got politicians up there, they won't make the right and the hard call, they make the easy call, they make the cheap call, and then make the popular call so our debt keeps going up, and up, and up.

If you don't think integrity is important, I just told you why just for our children, and just for our grandchildren, this is really, really a big, big deal. And though the King thought Daniel had been involved in the decision, these men had lied, Daniel didn't know anything. So we read this, "Now, when Daniel learned that the decree had been published," he didn't even know about it, now, I don't know he knew about it, read it on Twitter, heard it through the grapevine, got a text, read it in the paper, I don't know, but he says, "Wow, they just passed a law I can't pray anymore for 30 days". And the rubber just hit the road in Daniel's faith. It's really sad if you think about it, here's a guy that, for 70 years, did it right, lived a lifetime of honesty, decency, godly integrity, served faithfully, loyally, under every king he had ever served, had always done what was best for others, always put his country first, always put his neighbor first, always put his friends first, always put the king first, and now what is he getting for it?

A gold watch, a statue in his honor, severance package, lifelong pension, stock options? No, he's getting an all-expense-paid free trip to the lion's den. He's about to lose everything, his security, his position, his income, his influence, his friends, his own life. I wanna say it again, you are free to exercise integrity, but it is not free to exercise integrity. But this is the most important part of this message, I want you to hear this, integrity is not so you can always get what you want to have or go where you want to land, but to be who you ought to be. You gotta make up your mind. If it's more important that you get what you wanna have, or it's more important that you go where you wanna land, you will never be a person of integrity. You gotta make up your mind. There's something more important than any of that, it's who I ought to be.

And so Daniel was going to do whatever he did next, his eye is gonna be wide open, he knows full well the cost he may incur, and he came through just like they knew he would. "He went home to his upstairs room, where the windows open towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God," now, would you read the rest of these words with me? "Just as he had done before". Nothing changed. For 70 years, nobody had ordered Daniel to pray, and Daniel said, "By thunder, nobody's gonna order me not to pray. That's not gonna happen, that is not going to work". Now, this is this part of the message where I have to ask an honest question, and I want you to know that before I'm asking you this question, I'm asking me this question. And I bet you know what that question is 'cause it's not gonna be comfortable for any of us? You know what it is, don't you, you know what it is, don't you, yeah. You ready, everybody buckled up? What would you have done?

So they pass a law today, "We ever see you praying openly in public you go to jail the rest of your life". What are you gonna do? "We see you go to church ever again on a Sunday, we're gonna throw you in jail the rest your life," what are you gonna do? "We ever see you open a Bible in public, we're gonna throw you in jail," what are you gonna do? "You ever recite Scripture openly, you ever bring truth to the market square of ideas, we're gonna throw you in jail". What are we gonna do, what would you have done? I mean, look, Daniel had options, right, he could have played it safe. For example, he could say, "Okay, I just won't pray for 30 days," or he could say, "I know what I'll do, I'll just close my windows, pray in secret," or he could have said, "You know what, I've been doing this 70 years, I deserve a vacation, I'm going to Daytona Beach for a month," or he could have said, "You know what, I'll wait till nighttime, close my windows, turn out all the lights, blow out all the candles, I'll lay in my bed, pray silently".

You say, "Well, why didn't he do that"? Because integrity never goes on vacation, integrity never takes a break, integrity never calls timeout, integrity never takes a pass, integrity doesn't go with the flow, integrity doesn't follow the crowd, integrity stands its ground. Integrity says, "Even if it kills me, I'm gonna do what's right. Even if I don't get reelected, I'm gonna do what's right, even if the New York Times doesn't like it, I'm gonna do what's right, even if the Today Show has something bad to say about it, I'm gonna do what's right, I'm going to do the right thing. I'm not going to listen to polls, I'm gonna live for principle". But the problem is, see, integrity may leave you all alone, because it certainly did Daniel.

"Then they said to the King, 'Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah,'" outsider, immigrant, "'pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.'" 'Cause here's the real deal, when you decide and I pray you will, and I pray I always will, when you're told to stand down and instead you stand up, you will stand out, and you may stand alone, and you may become a target. 'Cause I'll tell you something I'm learning more every every day, you've heard it all of your life, but it's never been truer than it is today, talk is cheap. Integrity doesn't talk the talk integrity walks the walk. It never veers off course, it never takes a shortcut, it never cuts corners, it stands tall, it stands tough, it stands true to what is right.

Now, hopefully you're saying, "Man, I'm fired up. Where do I sign up, I wanna be a man of integrity". Okay, I got it, I hope you feel that way, but if you decide to live a life of integrity, and you decide to count the cost of integrity, you will pay the price of integrity. There's a price to be paid. Now, these traders turn tattletale, they run to the King, and they box Daniel in a corner.

Look what happens. "Then they said to the King, 'Daniel who is one of the exiles of Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or the decree you put in writing. He still plays three times a day.' When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed. He was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, 'Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no degree or edict that the king issues can be changed.' So the King gave the order and they brought Daniel, they threw him into the lion's den. And the King said to Daniel," I love this part, "'May your God whom you serve continually rescue you.'" I love that, "May your God who," by the way, Daniel, I don't believe in him, "may your God, and I don't even get why you're doing this to begin with, may your God whom you serve rescue you".

Pretty high price to pay for a lifetime of integrity, pretty high. Not gonna be quick like a lethal injection or beheading, or firing squad, and I don't think I have to tell you this, I think you probably know it, but in case you don't, let me give you a newsflash, if you ever are given a way to die, there's a lot better ways than the lion's den. In case you don't know that, just just kinda an alert. I found this out kinda firsthand.

I was in Africa on a mission trip, and after the missions was over, our group, we got to go down, that's what I never ever thought I'd get to do, we went out into the bush and we went on a safari. And I'll never forget, we saw these lions, there were lions as close, from here to Teresa from me, and I'm sitting in his jeep, and there's these lions. In fact, we got to see a lion hunt at the end of the day. And I don't know if this or not, but there's nothing more paralyzing the roar of a lion. They were telling me, I didn't know this, you can hear a lion's roar up to five miles away. If you've ever heard a lion's roar, it kinda sound like a giant base speaker, and it vibrates through your whole body and they roar because they know they'll paralyze their prey with fear. They don't call the lion the king of the jungle for nothing.

Listen, a hungry lion, you ready for this, a hungry lion can eat 30% of his body weight in one sitting. No big deal to me, I've done that at the varsity a lot of times, but a lion can eat 30% of its body weight in one sitting. That would be like an average person eating 200 quarter-pound hamburgers for lunch. And by the way, sorry Tarzan, you're no match for a lion. An average lion possesses the strength of 14 men. Not a pretty way to die. So you gotta kinda feel for Daniel. I mean, you would think after 70 years of faithfulness and godliness, that an 85-year-old man wouldn't be going out this way. But that's the price you pay for integrity. Because here's what you need to teach your kids, you never outgrow integrity, you never get too old for integrity, you never earned the right to drop integrity. And Daniel pays the ultimate price for being thrown into the lion's den to face this horrific death.

Now, let me just stop right here, I know what some of you are thinking right now, you're thinking, "But wait a minute, he lived, he didn't die, he was delivered from the lion's den". You're right, and you're saying, "Wait a minute, so why are you stopping the story now"? 'Cause I want you to imagine that the story stop right here. You say, "why do you want me to imagine that"? because I wanna tell you the truth. Not everybody that gets thrown into the lion's den comes out alive, not everybody makes it, not everybody has what the world would call they-lived-happily-ever-after kind of ending. And I'll say that to you, because the only way you'll ever maintain your integrity all of your life is when you make the same decision that Daniel made.

That means before you get out of bed, that means before you walk out your door, that means before you go to college, or you go to school, or you go to work, you make up your mind, if this is the last day I'm gonna live, no matter what I face today, I'm gonna do the right thing, I'm gonna say the right word, I'm gonna take the right action. It doesn't matter what it cost me because you need to realize, if you're a follower of Jesus, every day, you're not just leaving your house, God is sending you out of your house to live such a life that you'll either draw people to Jesus who does not know him, or draw people closer to Jesus who do know him, because if you don't, you're gonna live the kinda life that will drive people away from Christ.

So you've gotta make up your mind every day, I've gotta make up my mind every day. My integrity is more important than my safety, it's more important to me than my security, it's more important to me than my job, it's more important to me than my prosperity, it's more important to me than my position, it's more important to me than my popularity because at the end of the day, when you get home, and you get ready for bed, and you start to lay your head on your pillow, you should always be able to answer one question, 100% in the affirmative, and the question I'll be able to answer is not, did not do things right, the question you better be able to answer is, did I do the right thing, in every situation today, did I do the right thing?

By the way, 600 years later, after this happened, there was a story that was eerily similar to this one, and I'd never noticed it before, but I want you to think it through. Look what happens in verse 17. "A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the King sealed it with his own signet ring, and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel's situation might not be changed". I never seen this before. Think about this, he's thrown into a cave, a stone is rolled across the entrance, soldiers are placed around the cave to make sure he doesn't escape, and the cave is sealed. Sound familiar? Yeah, because 600 years later, there was another man, just like Daniel, except he didn't face a lion's den, he faced a cross, he wasn't thrown into a lion's den, he was crucified on a tree.

Daniel didn't know whether he would live or die, this man knew he was going to die. Daniel was delivered from death, this man was delivered through death. Daniel didn't die, he came out alive, this man died, but he came back alive. And his name was Jesus. And you know what they had in common? They both faced what they faced, because their integrity would not allow them to do anything else, they both faced what they faced because of their integrity. But there's one big difference, here's the difference, Daniel was declared guilty because he had broken man's law, Jesus was declared guilty because we had broken God's law. Daniel was guilty of breaking man's law, Jesus was guilty of breaking no law.

But because Jesus lived the life and because Jesus counted the cost, and because Jesus paid the price of integrity, guess what, I'm a forgiven man, I have eternal life, my sins have been washed away, my slate has been wiped clean, the skeletons in my closet are all gone because Jesus was a man of integrity. There's a cost to consider, there is a price to pay, but here's what I've learned, I'm gonna leave you with this, 'cause I don't wanna paint a negative picture, but I don't wanna lie. When you decide, "Okay, I'm gonna take this bait, I wanna pass this test, I'm gonna walk out of here and I'm gonna be a person of integrity," then you better count the cost because you will pay a price.

But here's what I've learned, the benefits always outweigh the cost, the blessing always outweighs the curse because here's why, listen, when you're a person of integrity, you never have to fear accusation, you never have to fear investigation. People can come up to you and say, "We're gonna put a tail on you, we're gonna go through your closets, we're gonna look under every wall, we're gonna look under your bed, we're gonna look everywhere," and you can look at them and say, "Knock yourself out. And let's see how that works out for you 'cause I know how it's gonna work out for me, because I have lived a life of integrity". So parents, you teach your kids and grandparents you teach your grandchildren, you live a life of integrity because when that time comes, and it comes from all of us at some time or another, you're gonna be put under the microscope, you don't have to worry because all anybody will see is the light of integrity shining in your heart, and the fire of integrity burning in your soul. That is what following Jesus is all about.
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