What is Christian integrity supposed to look like? All too often we see men and women who claim to speak for God, who portray themselves as being above reproach, and who vehemently condemn the immoral actions of others fall into moral failure or have deep rooted patterns of sin revealed. Every time this happens, those who oppose Christ and His Church point to these leaders as yet another example of hypocrisy and deception. Maybe you have even experienced similar treatment, albeit on a smaller scale. Possibly, without ever thinking it, let alone saying it, co-workers or friends believed you thought yourself to be morally superior to others and then, through a moment of anger, jealousy, fatigue, or for some other reason you reacted sinfully, those around you judged you harshly or unfairly.
I regularly hear Christians say things like, “I’ve never told anyone I thought I was better than they were, but my friends and family think that is what I believe.” To a certain extent, we cannot control the opinions of others. However, it does lead me to ask the question, what does it look like, as a Christian, to live with integrity? The reason I ask the question that way is that, as Christians who understand the nature of sin and the extent of our depravity, we should be the first to humbly admit we are prone to sin and daily in need of forgiveness. From there, even as we pray, try, and hope to live in holiness, we should regularly remember that any success we have comes by the grace of God and is a work of the Holy Spirit.
When the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians about how he ministered to them and what he hoped they’d come to understand, he says, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” His testimony is that he did not attempt to convince them he was someone he was not. In fact, Paul refers to himself as the worst of sinners in 1 Timothy.
In Luke 20:45-47 Jesus warns His listeners to beware of the Pharisees because they pretend to be men they are not. They oppress people with burdens they, themselves, cannot bear. This is the opposite of Christian integrity. While we are certainly called to live holy lives as followers of Jesus, we do that under the freedom of grace. When we realize that our standing before God is based on the blood stained cross of Jesus and not on our own actions it releases us to pursue godliness with joy, while admitting we will not always succeed. This is why the Gospel remains good news for Christians. We grow in Christ the same way we come to Christ: by admitting we need Him.
Grace does not give us license to sin. If that were true it would be cheap. But, grace cost a great deal. It cost God His Son and Jesus His blood. We walk in integrity as followers of Jesus when we celebrate, embrace, and share that truth. We celebrate it by joyfully living holy lives. We embrace it by confessing our sin and turning from it. We share it when we do that publicly before others admitting we are not perfect, but proclaiming Christ was in our place.
This Sunday we’ll talk about the dangers of misunderstanding grace and the freedom found in life with Jesus. We will also commission and pray for our newest elder. It will be a great morning together. I hope you will make it a priority to be there. Invite a friend to come with you. Our Saviour is a great church and many people would be blessed to be part of such a loving church family.
For the sake of His name,