Matthew 22:15 IHCC 8/5/01
Cleveland Stroud had coached the Blue Collar Bulldogs for 18 years before his basketball team made it to the state championship. Stroud recalls that "it was the perfect night" when they won. "A night you dream of." He was carried around the gym on the shoulders of his triumphant players and their proud parents. The local paper put his picture on the front page. But the excitement was short-lived.
Two months after the championship, during a routine grade check, Stroud discovered that one player was academically ineligible. The player had only played 45 seconds during the regional qualifying tournament. Stroud says, "I thought it was all ruined. I went through a phase where I was really depressed." He struggled with what to do next. Yet, his commitment to integrity led him to the right decision. "Winning is the most important thing for any coach," he says. "But your principles have to be higher than your goals." He reported the error to the league and the Bulldogs forfeited their trophy. When the team lamented their loss in the locker room, he told them, "You’ve got to do what is honest, what is right, and what the rules say. People forget the scores of basketball games, but they don’t ever forget what you are made of."
In Touch Magazine, January 1999, page 16
I wish all our coaches were as mindful of the lessons we are teaching our students in today’s world. I wish all parents, teachers, politicians, and ministers were aware of the problems we reap when we don’t stand for integrity. When we sweep our sin under the rug and pretend that it never happened. It happens all too often that we are swayed to believe the world’s view of things. Our integrity is not bullet-proof in the world today.
We find that our Savior Jesus Christ had unwavering integrity. He was beyond any gray living. Let’s look at what the people of Jesus said about his life.
Read with me in Matthew 22:15-16.
I want us to focus on that one reply
“Teacher we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You are not swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.
Christians, are we living a life that would cause someone to say that you are not swayed…that you are unquestionably a person of the utmost integrity. These are the enemies of Jesus saying these statements. How many of our friends, much less our enemies would say we have integrity? Why would they say this about a man that they despised? What does integrity mean in the life of a Christian? It means that you are willing to stand in the minority when you are fighting for righteousness. It means that you are not going to give into the worldly desires of the flesh. It also means that you are a forgiving person...that you are not a gossip or greedy, or overly critical of everyone who doesn’t do it your way. Integrity means living a consistant life according the truth of God!
Two preachers who didn’t get along very well met on the street. One of them said, "I heard you speak the other night and recognized that sermon -- you preached it 14 years ago." Somewhat chagrined, the other shot back, "I heard you speak just 3 weeks ago, and I can’t remember a word you said!"
Our lives should be like good sermons, conveying a message that leaves a lasting impression -- one that motivates others to godly living. When we’ve finished our course, what will folks recall about us?
Will they say you were a person of integrity that lived in the truth of God, and that you can’t be swayed?
Let’s examine our integrity today and find out if we need to start repairing portions of our lives.
I. If you need to examine your integrity then start with the heart.
ISA 29:13 The Lord says:
"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men.
When we are truly worshiping God we are living the kind of life that he has laid out for us. Our hearts are clean and they are filled with the truth of God, the love of God, and the knowledge of God. Our religion will not just be for the favor of men, or for recognition, but to please our Lord. Many people are living lives that are good on the outside, but are filthy on the inside and that is not true integrity. We have people who are coming to Christ with the idea that if; “I can just straighten up my outside, or do more good deeds, or know all the verses to all the hymns without looking in the book, or if I could just give the most money then that will prove my integrity”. No! The only way to prove your integrity is if your heart belongs to God.
We can’t clean up the outside unless we have already renovated the inside.
What were to happen if you leaving for vacation and you went to flip of the breakers that ran the hot water heater so that you could save money not heating water that you didn’t need and instead you mistakenly flip the breaker for the refrigerator. You leave for two weeks and when you return you go the refrigerator doors and open them to find everything spoiled and rotting. The smell rises up into your face and it becomes a moving experience straight to the bathroom. So you decide to fix the problem. You clean the outside of the refrigerator with 409 and polish it up real nice. Since the outside is clean then the inside is clean right. No! So you figure that your refrigerator needs to feel good about itself and "get happy" so you throw it a party. You invite over all the other appliances and they all have a great time. The toaster is burning up the dance floor, everybody is laughing at the range, because the refrigerator from next door is giving him the cold shoulder. And everybody loves the blender because he is mixing so well with the rest of the crowd. You figure that should do it, right. No!
(Illustration provided by Gene Appel)
Why, because we can’t start cleaning the outside with the hopes that the inside will suddenly become clean. It has to begin on the inside and work it’s way out! We can try to control the outside, but unless your life and heart are turned over to Christ then you are putting on a show for the approval of men and your integrity is not only shallow, it is false.
II Cor. 3:2,3
You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
Integrity starts in the heart, a heart that is fully controlled by God. Once you have examined your heart then you need to examine your actions.
II. If you need to examine your integrity then live truthfully.
Scientists now say that a series of slits, not a giant gash, sank the Titanic. The opulent, 900-foot cruise ship sank in 1912 on its first voyage, from England to New York. Fifteen hundred people died in the worst maritime disaster of the time.
The most widely held theory was that the ship hit an iceberg, which opened a huge gash in the side of the liner. But an international team of divers and scientists recently used sound waves to probe the wreckage, buried in the mud under two-and-a-half miles of water. Their discovery? The damage was surprisingly small. Instead of the huge gash, they found six relatively narrow slits across the six watertight holds.
Small damage, invisible to most, can sink not only a great ship but a great reputation.
USA Today, April 9, 1997.
Invisible secrets, things that we do we do in the dark, that no one else can see…if we are not truthful with ourselves and with God about those issues in our lives then our integrity will be destroyed. According to the people who were viewing Jesus they knew that he was teaching and living according to the truth of God. He was not living a lie. Jesus cared more about what His Father wanted than what other people expected.
There are two thoughts in this portion of Scripture.
#1 Live by the truth of God’s word.
HEB 4:12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
God’s word is the truth by which we live and it is also the judgement used against us. Our integrity is directly linked to God’s word. And when we don’t live by it, our integrity is being judged. It is in question by God.
My daughter Loren play’s a game where she goes behind the curtain in the family room and starts at one end of it and travels down to the other end. While she is hidden behind the curtain she says “Where’s Loren?”, and we reply “We don’t know. Where is Loren?”. She then comes out from behind the curtain and we all look surprised, but we could see her moving along the curtain the entire time. She doesn’t know that. She assumes that since she can’t see us, we can’t see her. We can do the same thing with God at times. We break away from God’s word because we are alone and no one is around, no one knows me here we are not living out integrity. Nothing we do is in the secret God sees it all! Our integrity is based on how we live out Scripture in our lives. And when the word of God is living and active in our lives then our integrity will be intact.
#2 We should only live to please God.
We aren’t swayed by men and we shouldn’t care what they think about us!
MT 6:16 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
You see if we are living a life of integrity it should not be based on what others think you are doing or not doing. I have to be honest here and ask you to hold me accountable. I struggle with part in a big way. I want people to know that I am working for Christ. I hate it when people jokingly say preachers don’t work. I will get real defensive if you bring that issue up. I log my hours down in my daytimer so that I can refute that type of thinking. But according to God what others say or think about my time in working for Christ is not important. My integrity is not based on what you people think about me. It is based on what God knows about me. True integrity is not found in those who boast about there their pray time, or their tithe, or how many years they have been in Sunday School without missing. You shouldn’t care whether or not you get recognition.
A person with integrity will do all that anyway, because their heart is prepared by God through the word of His truth.
Tonight if you want true integrity, start living for God. Lay bare you heart for God to mold, and live according to his standards for your life at all times not matter who notices or doesn’t notice.