Summary: This is the first in a 3 part series that ivestigates what faith looks like when it has integrity. This first sermon explores the ideas of integrating Belief and Behavior.
The Integration of Belief and Behavior
The roots of the series that I want to begin today are found in what Quint Bryan shared with us last week. As he talked about coaching models of ministry and living, it began to stir in me the foundations of the teachings that I want to share with you today. I loved what Quint shared about Peter’s life transforming vision. His journey to meet Cornelius began a sequence of events where Peter’s faith would fundamentally transform his way of life. To understand what happened to Peter in Acts chapter 10, I want us to go back in his life almost 3 years. Sitting on a hillside with his disciples gathered close around him and a multitude looking on Jesus begins to teach Peter and the others about Faith Integrity. It’s going to take them a while to "get it" but that’s ok because it seems that it takes us a while to "get it" too.
Look at this passage in Matthew’s gospel with me.
Jesus is talking about Faith Integrity - which is really the integration of belief and behavior. I believe that if there is a fundamental failing in the church today it starts right here. Our failure to reach our culture for Christ, our failure to accomplish the great commission, our failure to fundamentally impact our world all begins with this concept. You can never rise above the level or your integrity.
Jesus gathers his would be disciples around Him and says - "you are the salt of the earth" - you are the substance of flavor and preservation for the world around you. It’s important to put these words into the proper context - they follow right on the heels of Jesus greatest teaching about our behavior in the world - Blessed are the poor in Spirit,
If we are going to begin to live with Faith Integrity we have to
1) Break down the Sacred Secular Barrier - "but if the salt has become tasteless" Somehow we have allowed our lives to be lived in two separate realms. We live in the Sacred and the Secular. The Sacred life involves Church, Sunday School, Youth Group, and Bible Study. In these places we say the right things, do the right things, and we know that the answer to every question is Jesus. The Secular life includes entertainment, athletics, work, and even (leading to our greatest failure) our families and marriages. Somehow we have come to believe that as long as we go to church on Sunday that whatever we do on Monday is ok. It was just a few months ago that I was in Catawissa working in the pharmacy one Saturday. The Tech mentioned that the town would be full of police officers that afternoon. Why? The Annual Lawn Party is tonight she said. Every drunk in the county will be here. Now the last part is what made my heart drop to my toes - this was the local churches lawn party. Can you imagine? The local kegger was a church party! I guess this Church figured if Jesus could turn jars of water into wine - they could turn kegs of beer into a profit. Ringing in my ears come the words "if the salt has become tasteless" Friends if our faith does not govern our behavior at work, with our families, with our friends - then our faith is worthless. It’s good for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. James says something similar in his epistle "faith if it has no works is dead, being by itself" Faith integrity builds a unified life - one that is fully lived in faith. Where our behavior outside of church looks just like our behavior inside the church. One where worship is a lifestyle not an event. Paul said "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God"
2) It means Living as a Light - "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Jesus describes a lifestyle that is so conspicuously Christian that others are drawn to Him. Too often we have reduced our conspicuous Christianity to wearing a cross necklace or putting a bumper sticker on our car. Friend if that is the extent of your Christian light - no wonder the world is lost in darkness (I’ve seen the way you drive :)). The light that Jesus is talking about is the light of hands that are found meeting needs, ears found listening to the lonely, feet that are found carrying the Word to the world, and hearts beating in time with God. Unless our faith is walked out in our actions then all the crosses, bumper stickers, seminars, and church services in all the world won’t make a difference in building the Kingdom of God. The truth is that in letting our lights shine we have been far more interested in building our own little kingdoms than in building the kingdom of God. John’s first epistle says this "But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." Faith Integrity means that our lives are lived to point people to the God we serve.