Everyone enjoys holding and looking at a new baby. Eventually the conversation will turn to something like this: “Oh she has her mommy’s eyes,” or “He looks like his dad.” As children grow up it’s amazing not only how much they may look like their parents, but even more so how much children act like their parents! On more than one occasion I have watched my kids act just like me, and I’ve seen some of yours acting a lot like you.
When children act like their parents we often say, “He’s a chip off the ol’ block,” or my favorite “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
When we think about our IDENTITY as children of God we need to ask ourselves, how far has the apple fallen from the tree? Does the way I live my life show others that I am a child of God? This morning we are going to look at how INTEGRITY can bring renewal and strength to our daily lives.
•Ephesians. 3:16-19 (NIV)
 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is a good prayer for each of us today—we need strengthened in our inner being! How many of you think this is a prayer God would want to answer? Absolutely! How will God answer our prayer for inner strength? He will do a work within our hearts.
What are the keys to spiritual renewal? How can Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians be answered in our lives so that we are strengthened by His Spirit in our inner being?
More than just keys or principles to live by, we’re going to begin to look at five one word answers to five basic questions. These are five questions that when answered properly will rejuvenate our spirits through the power of God within us.
Like a round of Jeopardy here again are the five answers; IDENTITY, INTEGRITY, CAPACITY, TENACITY and DESTINY. We began last week to see how God will give us strength for daily living by looking at our identity.
Identity answers the question “Who am I?” Your identity is not determined by what you do or how other people see you. The answer to the question “who am I?” is found in knowing WHOSE I AM. God establishes your identity! When you remember who you are in Christ, your identity strengthens you in your inner being.
Knowing your identity leads to the second way our strength is renewed—the answer is INTEGRITY. Integrity answers the question “Whose am I?” or another way to put it “Who controls how I live my life?”
The Bible tells us plainly people have only one of two identities—or we could say one of two fathers: you are either a child of God or a child of the devil. While this may not be “politically correct” in our culture it remains biblically correct!
•1 John 3:8-10 (NIV)
 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.  No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.  This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
Your God given identity as a child of God establishes your integrity—whose are you? I am God’s, therefore the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and I will live my life to please God and not myself. You cannot live a holy life—a life of integrity—apart from your relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I live my life like Jesus because I am a child of God.
Answering the question of identity “who am I” makes it possible to answer the question of integrity. Whose am I? Who controls my life? Whose child am I? I know who I am by whose I am; therefore as a child of God my heavenly father controls my life.
For the Christian our identity and integrity are connected to each other . . . you can’t touch one without touching the other. Because we are children of God we should live like God’s kids—we should live in obedience to His word. When we fail to live like we should our identity is called into question.
Identity establishes your integrity, but integrity does not establish your identity. In other words, your integrity is an outgrowth or overflow of who you are on the inside. Integrity is first established in who you are and is then evident in how you live your life. You can’t try to have your behavior work its way inside to who you are.
•Philippians 2:5 (KJV)
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
Our behavior flows out of who we are within our hearts. Your identity establishes your integrity. God transforms us from the inside out. God gives us His identity—we are children of God, therefore, with a transformed identity integrity grows out of whose we are.
How often do we get this backwards? We see our identity through what we do. We try harder and harder to be the person we think we ought to be, but we keep coming up short. Our integrity falters and we waver back and forth unable to be who we want or ought to be.
Can we tell the truth on Sunday morning? Who struggles more with their integrity—Christian or non-Christian? We do—the children of God. Why?
We all know lots of good people they are decent people who seem to go through life with little or no problem. Why do they seem to have no problem with how they live their lives while we who call ourselves Christians struggle to live consistently like Jesus?
Those in the world—the non-Christian takes their identity from what they do; their identity comes from the outside in. As long as they do their best then they are a person of integrity and their identity is built upon that.
Unfortunately, their father the devil has deceived them into believing that their identity is found in what they do and not by who they really are within their heart. If the non-Christian began by answering the question of identity first, then maybe they would get concerned. Who am I apart from what I do? Without God there is no answer to the question of identity.
At the Republican national convention the crowd canted “Flip, flop! Flip, flop” at the mention of Kerry’s name. Perhaps it was their way of questioning his integrity. In the presidential debates Senator John Kerry talked about the most important lesson he learned from his mother. She told him “Integrity, integrity integrity.” Mr. Kerry said he has tried to live a life of integrity. Still many continue to question Kerry’s integrity; they point to his military record, his votes in the senate, and things he has said as being contradictory
Senator Kerry claims to be a religious man. He is a member of the Catholic Church. Yet despite his religious views he says he cannot force his beliefs upon others and so he has voted Pro-choice, or Pro-Abortion 100% of the time despite his Catholic faith saying abortion is wrong. How can anyone have such a discrepancy between what they say and do? Is this a breakdown of integrity?
Is Senator Kerry an example of a religious man whose identity is found through what he does instead of through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Is his integrity gained only from how he lives instead of flowing out of his identity in Christ as a Child of God? Does Kerry have a silent struggle between his integrity and his identity or is he like so many Americans basing his identity through what he does rather than through a personal relationship with Christ?
I don’t know the answer to the question of whether or not Kerry has a personal struggle between his identity and integrity, but I do know that many Christians do have such a struggle.
So why do we struggle as believers? We’re still trying to live from the outside and find our identity through what we do. We still focus on the external without looking first at our hearts. We try to please God in our own strength instead of letting His Spirit give us the power to live an overcoming life. IN OUR OWN STRENTH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE INTEGRITY. Integrity can only come from within—integrity is established solely upon who we are in Christ.
Our strength is drained when we forget we are children of God. The conflict between what we do and who we are robs us of strength—it steals away our peace. Let’s start with who we are in Christ allowing our identity to establish our integrity—this will renew our strength for daily living.
WHAT I DO SHOULD FLOW SEAMLESSLY OUT OF WHO I AM. We can never become something we are not within our hearts. Our identity as a child of God produces a lifestyle of integrity—God’s kids should live like Jesus!
When you look in the mirror does what you see line up with who you are? Does your integrity reflect your identity?
Jeremy Board couldn’t stand what he saw when he looked in the mirror. Jeremy worked his way up through the ranks of the US Navy. He climbed the ladder of success to the position of Admiral. Despite all his recognition for his work it wasn’t good enough for Jeremy. He kept trying to make himself look good, but one day the truth came out. Board had embellished his Navy record by adding some stripes and receiving some honor along the way he had not earned. So when Jeremy Board looked into the mirror he saw an Admiral’s uniformed filled with a liar—so he killed himself.
Andrew Entwessel of the US Army wrote, “Integrity is like virginity, once you lose it, it’s gone for good. No officer should ever be in a position where he or she fears the truth.”
Apart from God your integrity can be lost. Apart from God integrity is just a matter of what we do. God brings our integrity out of who we are . . . our identity changes the way we live our life.
A slip in your integrity does not change your identity. You may have blown it in the eyes of the world—your integrity may be questionable, but God works from the inside out. God still transforms the heart and makes us new.
• 1 John 1:9 (NIV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
God transforms our identity—He makes us His children. With a renewed identity we can establish our integrity through who we are in Christ. God makes all things new!
Peter shows us how our identity establishes our integrity. Notice how identity comes first and then our integrity or what we do flows from who we are.
• 1 Peter 2:9 (NLT)
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are a kingdom of priests, God’s holy nation, his very own possession. This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
God has chosen us; He has given us our identity as children of God. Our identity then establishes our integrity—we can show our world the goodness of God through how we live our lives from day to day.
Strength for daily living is found when we remember our identity establishes our integrity and not the other way around. We don’t have to live by a legalistic set of dos and don’ts; as children of God we will live like Jesus.
Strength for daily living is not found in trying to live a perfect life. You will wear yourself out trying to work your identity in from the outside by putting integrity first. Let God demonstrate your identity from the inside out—that’s where integrity and strength for daily living come from.
WHAT DOES INTEGRITY LOOK LIKE? When our identity flows from within we have integrity because we live just like Jesus. How will we know when our identity has established our integrity? When will people say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” of how we live from day to day because we are just like Jesus?
Here are five behaviors that show our identity has established our integrity—that our behavior is rooted in who we are in Christ.
1. BE LOVING.
• John 15:12-13 (MsgB)
 This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.  This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.
• Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"  Jesus replied: " ’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
• Matthew 5:43-44 (MsgB)
 "You’re familiar with the old written law, ’Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ’Hate your enemy.’  I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer.
2. BE FORGIVING.
• Luke 23:33-34 (NIV)
 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
• Matthew 6:12, 14-15 (NIV)
 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors . . .  For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
• Colossians 3:13 (NLT)
You must make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
3. BE TRUTHFUL.
• Ephesians 6:14 (NIV)
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. . .
• Colossians 3:9-10 (MsgB)
 Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire.  Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.
4. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY.
• Matthew 12:36 (NIV)
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
• Proverbs 4:24 (MsgB)
Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.
• Ephesians 5:3-4 (NIV)
 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
5. BE CAUTIOUS OF WHAT YOU SEE AND HEAR.
• Psalm 101:2-3 (NIV)
 I will be careful to lead a blameless life—when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with blameless heart.  I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me.
• 1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)
 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
• 1 John 2:16 (MsgB)
Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him.
Strength for daily living is found when we remember our integrity flows out of our identity and not the other way around.