Integrity Matters… really!

Integrity Defined

It always grieves me to learn about people I’m either connected to or admire who have a failure in the area of INTEGRITY. As a leader, I’m always reminded of how detrimental it can be for others when we blow our integrity. We can wound our family, hurt those we lead, further drive away those who are watching with skepticism, but most of all grieve The Lord.

The reality is, God is way more forgiving than people are. Although God moves on when we ask for His forgiveness, we can quickly spoil our leadership capital or our influence over others by not walking in Integrity.
It’s been on my heart lately, and I wanted to offer up a sermon I preached on this topic a couple years ago. It’s a bit long, and written as a sermon, but my heart is that we all consider walking right before God and others, keeping our Integrity in tact!

Thanks for reading. If you’d prefer, you can LISTEN HERE.

I want to give a shout out to Craig Groeschel at LifeChurch for the inspiration and some main ideas from this talk.

This morning, we are looking at the “Forgotten Virtue” of INTEGRITY. Can everyone say INTEGRITY?

As we get started this morning, I want to make sure that we are all on the same page when it comes to integrity, and what that word means. The dictionary defines Integrity as: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

Let’s put that into layman’s terms so that we can run with it together. Write this down if you’re taking notes: Integrity: “When your Behavior Matches your Beliefs.”

Here’s the reality, I think we all struggle with having integrity at all times. I’m a pastor, I preach on having Godly values, and being true to your word all the time, and not just on Sundays. And that’s not always easy, right? Let me tell you a story (as best as I remember it):

About a year and a half ago, I was driving home when a local store’s Paint truck pulled in front of me spilling 2 5-gallon buckets of taupe. Guess who drove right through it! Well, I couldn’t get all paint off of undercarriage or off tires and wheel well. I did my best, but then called the store and asked if they would do anything about this paint splatter. The manager told me to bring car in, offered to have car detailed if I wanted it. So we took it to a local detailer, and they started offering really expensive cleaning/detailing along with Rhino Lining around wheel wells, shampoo the insides, even air freshener. They knew this paint store was paying, so they offered the works! I know the paint manager was really hoping I wouldn’t take advantage, and it wasn’t my hope to hurt or punish him. So, I chose to have it just pressure washed with water only, esp undercarriage. He breathed a sigh of relief.

About a year later, that manager, Ronnie, came to LifePoint Church with his sister. I met him in lobby AFTER SERVICE, recognized his face, and said, “You look familiar.” He reminded me of the paint story. My eyes got really big and I immediately asked, “Was I cool with you that day?” Thankfully, he said yes! But, when he saw me on the platform, that was his first thought too. If I had been a jerk to him, and stingy, and took advantage of his company, then he would have left at the beginning of the service!
Now, Ronnie is a member of our church, plays on worship team, is the newest member of our Board, and teaches our Financial Peace University class. I was honored to go to Florida last year and marry him to his awesome bride, even got on TV to do it!

But I realized how my actions that day, in the market place, when I had a “right” to be upset and make demands, and didn’t HAVE TO care about his company or what it would have cost them, I wanted to be cool about it, wanted to be generous, wanted to be a Christian, and didn’t want to take advantage of him. Thankfully, that was one time I exercised integrity.
Now…let me give you 5,000 stories of times that I did NOT exercise integrity! (joke)

It’s tragic that we live in a world that is more shocked by integrity than they are by the lack of integrity, isn’t it?

Well, you can turn on the news almost every day and see the stories of the lack of integrity. It could be the athlete that everybody loved and respected and we thought, “Not only are you a great athlete, but you’re a great person!” And then, this person had a whole other life going on that none of us knew about.

Or, it could be the politician that said one thing and then lived totally different. Or, quite honestly, let’s just call it what it is, it could be the Christian leader, the pastor, the minister, or the evangelist, that said one thing and then had a whole double life going on. Unfortunately, that happens over and over again. And not just leaders who are visible, but it could be your close friend, someone that you thought you knew and you loved and they represented one thing, but then they lived totally different.

Remember: Integrity: “When your Behavior Matches your Beliefs.”

It’s an integrated lifestyle. Integrated integrity is when what you say lines up with what you do. It’s when your private life matches your public life. Someone said, “Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.” It’s different than your reputation. Your reputation is who other people think you are. Your integrity or lack of integrity is who you really are. It’s when your behaviors line up with your beliefs. In fact, Proverbs 11:3 says: The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity (double-mindedness, hypocrisy).

Cool story, at the end of Samuel’s life, you can read this in 1 Samuel 12, he gets real before everyone and says, “Hey, have I lived a life of integrity? If I’ve wronged any of you, tell me what I did wrong and I will make it right!” “Have I done anything that was not right, according to what I said I would do?’ The community looked on and said, “No, you’ve done the right thing, you are a person of integrity!” At the end of his life, they looked on and said, “You have been a faithful man of God.”

Really quick, I want to look at one of the Psalms that David wrote, and I want to unpack this Psalm as it pertains to how we have integrity, and then I want to close with a legit challenge to all of us as it pertains to integrity.

Look with me at Psalm 15, and we see that David asked the Lord: “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?” In other words, who can enjoy your continual presence? Who can walk with you and fellowship with you? And God basically answers and says, ‘The person who has integrity.’ Watch how it’s explained starting in verse 2:

Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?…He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous (integrity), who speaks the truth from his heart (integrity) and has no slander on his tongue (integrity), who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman (integrity), who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord (integrity, I love this part!), who keeps his oath even when it hurts (integrity), who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent (integrity). He who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15:1-5

For a few moments, I want to just show you just directly, four benefits of the life of integrity; there are many more, but these are my favorite four benefits of a life of integrity.

I. You can walk closely with God

David said, “Who can dwell in the sanctuary of God?” God responds, “He who has integrity!” You can enjoy the ongoing communion and fellowship with a Holy God.

Think of any close relationship you have! If you’re married, you have to have the integrity and honesty and openness to commit to one another completely. Otherwise, you may be roommates, but there isn’t true harmony, intimacy, richly dwelling together like you should. A lack of integrity in any relationship will ALWAYS affect intimacy and closeness. The same is true with dwelling with God. When you are authentic, honest, and walking in Christian integrity, you will be drawn closer to God and have intimacy with him. James 2 tells us “As we draw near to God, he will draw near to us!”

II. You’ll have a Built in Guide

Remember Prov. 11.3 – The Bible says that the integrity of the upright guides Him. You are not going to have to sit around going, “You know if I do this thing, it’s a little bit of a gray area, no one’s going to know, but I think it’s okay!” No, you’ll just say, “Look, it’s black, it’s white, and this is right, this is wrong. I will do what’s right.” Your integrity will guide you.
Listen, it’s always better to do the HARD RIGHT THING, than the EASY WRONG THING.

III. You’ll have Peace in your Heart

You will have a constant peace. When I put my head on my pillow at night, I don’t have to worry, “I wonder if someone finds out! What if I get caught?” You know how it goes! “What if my boss finds out I did this? I could lose my job!”  “What if I’m exposed for this thing that I’m doing?” “What if my husband finds out I’ve been flirting with this other guy at work?” What if my wife knows I’ve been looking at some things that I shouldn’t be looking at?” You don’t have that, you just have peace; there’s no fear of getting caught, getting found out, being discovered!

The flip side is I don’t know anyone who lays awake at night going, “Oh man, I hope no one finds out I did the right thing! If they know I did the right thing again, this is going to cost me! Oh, I hope they don’t find out I did what was right!” You have this constant peace when you do the right thing.

IV. You gain Trust, Respect, Honor, and Influence

When you live a life of integrity, you will gain trust, respect, honor and influence. If you want great children, be a parent of integrity. If you want to be a great leader of your family, be a husband and a man of integrity. If you want influence in the business community, be a person of your word. When you have integrity, people will follow you, they will honor you, they will listen to you, they will seek your wisdom and advice because you are a person of integrity.

Transition:

So, let me ask you this question. I want you to think about it and don’t just give a response in your own mind of what you want to believe, but look at what your life says. How would your actions answer this question? Here’s the question:

What’s your integrity worth?

What is it worth to you? What is your integrity worth? Not just, “Oh, yeah a lot! Oh yeah, everything!” No, what do your actions say that your integrity is worth? For example, let’s say that you lie on a resume to get a better job. Well then, your integrity is worth whatever that job paid. That’s what your integrity is worth. You just took your integrity and said, “I’m willing to trade that for some perceived benefit. That’s what my integrity is worth.” What’s it worth to you?

Many would say, “Well, it’s worth much less.” Because you might have embezzled something from your work, oh something small. Maybe a ream of paper to use on your home computer. Well then, that’s what your integrity is worth to you, whatever the ream of paper costs. That is what you’re saying by your actions your integrity is worth. Or maybe you falsified an expense report. You put something down that was a personal expense and you made it look like a business expense. That is what your integrity is worth.

Maybe you’re married and finances are tight, so when you buy an outfit you hide it for awhile. One lady said, “What I do is I buy an outfit and I hide it for two months and then I put it on and when my husband says, ‘Is that a new outfit?’ She says, No I’ve had it for months!” Some of you are going, “That’s what I do!” Others of you are going, “That’s a good idea!” No! It’s not a good idea! That’s what your integrity is worth!

Some of you might be in business and occasionally you over-bill, just a little bit, because you know the client can afford it. Or, you cut some corners along the way. Or maybe just with your friends you exaggerate a story just to be liked. Or perhaps you tell your spouse you love her and honor her and yet you look at impure images all of the time. Maybe you’re a student and you really want to get the good grades, it will help you get into medical school or law school. Or you just need to keep your GPA and so you cheat on an exam, or you cheat on a paper just to get by. That’s what your integrity is worth to you.

What is your integrity worth? Not just what you say, but what does your life say that it’s worth?

Conclusion:

Here’s the deal, there are so many opportunities and justifications to have a lack of integrity. But God desires his people to be full of integrity. Rather than being known as the “HYPOCRITES” that most people think Christians are anyway, what if we were truly people of the utmost integrity?

Imagine being THE EMPLOYEE that your boss can count on for having the most integrity? When everyone else skims off the top, or fudges their expense reports, or misuses company funds and steals excess goods, what if YOU STOOD ALONE as the person who did the right thing, who had integrity, and whose actions lined up with your beliefs?

Imagine being the leader in your brigade who shows honor to others, maintains purity in your heart, is loyal to those God has placed you around, and who never shows a hint of disingenuous living, or hypocrisy, but walks in true integrity.
Rather than being actors with our devotion to God, like the Religious leaders whom Jesus confronted, what if we lived a 24/7 life of FULL DEVOTION to Jesus?

Imagine being committed to authenticity, to righteous living, passionate for Godliness and Integrity, and saying, “MY INTEGRITY IS WORTH EVERYTHING TO ME!”

Even if we stand alone, always do the right thing, live with integrity, be true to the Gospel and the faith you profess.

Pray.

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