The core of Christianity is to love others well. Does that sound like most Christians you know? Maybe. Maybe not. But that’s the point. The reality is, going to church and experiencing God can be easier than going into life and sharing that love. Loving others isn’t automatic. Loving others well requires two things. First, that we have a meaningful connection with God. Secondly, it requires that we grow up into emotionally healthy people.
Stop and think about that. Do the Christians you know love others well? Do you love others well? What would others around you say? Maybe it’s easy to go to church and experience God’s love, maybe it’s hard to grow up into emotional healthy people who can absorb hurt and give back love.
It’s so important, scriptures says, no matter what you do, how amazing you are or how much you sacrificed for God, if we can’t love others well, your accomplishments have no value. Paul wrote,
1 If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever. NLT 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Think about that. Maybe the greatest achievement in life is when you love. Maybe our simple, ordinary, unnoticed acts of love are when we are at our greatest.
Today’s big point is about integrity. To love others well, who you are on the inside must be who you are on the outside. When you have that integrity, you are able to be real and you can love others well. When you have integrity, you have courage and strength. When you have integrity, people’s likes and dislikes don’t control you. And regardless of changes in life or pressures in life, your values don’t change.
Think about that. Being a person in school or in our culture and our values don’t change when pressure comes against us. It demands integrity.
Probably one of the most painful ways you can go through life is without integrity. It’s a divided life. The inside part of you is hurting but you appear as if everything is fine. You feel fake. You feel like you are living a lie. You have secrets and you hide them. You have hurts and you stuff them. You have insecurities and you cover them with pride. When changes or pressures from life hit, you break. The lack of integrity is painful to our souls because you feel divided.
People try to numb that pain in many ways. Substance abuse. Over work. Over achieving in areas like; work, school, sports, perfectionism, etc. Consumerism. Being lost in social media or games. Sometimes we can’t take away our pain and we experience depression. In relationships, we change who we are so people will like us. That means we are different people at school, home, church, work, etc. In our relationship with God, we can hide from Him. It’s hard to believe that God would like us because we don’t like ourselves. Do you see what the lack of integrity does? It damages us. It damages our relationships with others. It damages our relationship with God.
I want to read for you a story of three young men from Israel. The Babylonian empire destroyed Israel and forced these young men to serve the king Nebuchadnezzar. Before I read this, I want you to think about a few things. For these young men, there were in captivity. That means I appears as if their God failed them. They are in a foreign land. They were separated from their family. They are forced to serve Babylon.
King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then he sent messages to the princes, prefects, governors, advisers, counselors, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. 3 When all these officials had arrived and were standing before the image King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, 4 a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! 5 When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. 6 Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
7 So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 8 But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Long live the king! 10 You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the musical instruments. 11 That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They have defied Your Majesty by refusing to serve your gods or to worship the gold statue you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought before him. When they were brought in, 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance. If you bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments, all will be well. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. What god will be able to rescue you from my power then?” NLT Daniel 3:1-15
Before I finish this story, what would you do? You are in captivity. It appears if God failed to protect you. You are in a foreign land. You have been separated from their family. You are forced to serve Babylon. All you needed to do is bow down and no one would know.
Let’s read what happens.
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” NLT Daniel 3:16-18
Wow. That’s integrity. They faced incredible pressure and they didn’t change their values. Who they were on the inside was the same as who they were on the outside. How can we have that kind of integrity?
Integrity begins by understanding how unique you are. No one is like you. Your family, your church, your friends need you. Hear that. They need YOU. They don’t need you trying to be someone you are not. They need you. So you must never try to be like someone else. When we try to be like someone else, we fail to be ourselves and we can become fake.
Read Max Lucado’s book, ‘You Are Special’.
Integrity begins with understanding how unique you are. When you believe that you are unique, you never have try to be like someone else. That’s freedom. That gives courage. Integrity grows stronger when you realize God’s love and acceptance for you.
Let me explain by asking you a question. Do you believe God is 100% in love with you and pleased with you? Chances are you struggle to say… ‘yes.’ Why is that? I will tell you. We don’t like ourselves 100%. We live with us and we know where we are weak and messy. So when we come to God, we believe that us ‘plus’ something or ‘minus’ something would make us better. Because we believe that, we assume God believes that.
So, does God love you and is He pleased with you 100%? No, we believe God doesn’t like us 100%. We have work to do for God to like us. We need to add something to our lives or subtract something from our lives. When it comes to God and church and spiritual things we just feel stuck. We spend our time feeling guilty or unworthy and not really knowing what to do about it.
Can I tell you, if you believe that, you are believing a lie. God loves you 100% just the way you are, right now. The good parts, the bad parts and the ugly parts. Scripture says,
23 Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, 24 God did it for us…. 4 If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. 5 But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it – you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked – well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift. MSG Romans 3:23-24, 4:4-5
Imagine walking through your day, every day, believing the truth in scripture: God loves my 100% just the way I am. And, all I need to do is relax and allow Him to do it for me. Do you realize the freedom and courage you would have if you believed the Bible? When you understand God’s love and acceptance of you, you can relax. Maybe God’s salvation is more about your relaxing than doing.
Now that being said, if you are living in open sin, ‘yes’, end it. If you aren’t praying and enjoying a relationship with God, ‘ya’ start one. But know that God loves you and accepts you 100% now. For you to walk through life and not believe that means you don’t fully believe or understand scripture.
If you can fully accept the truth that God loves you and is pleased with you 100%, just the way you are, you can finally relax. Allow that to sink in: you can finally relax because you know God is pleased with you 100%. He did all the work, all we need to do is trust. Imagine how that would change your life. You don’t have to add or subtract anything for God to like you more. You don’t have to have secrets any more. You can allow your hurts to be healed. You don’t have to be prideful any more. All of this means, you can be yourself. Do you see the power of how God’s love can radically change your life if you allow Him to?
I have to ask you; who you are on the inside, is it the same as who you are on the outside? Do you have integrity? If you don’t, you probably don’t see you unique and special you are. And chances are, you need to believe what scripture says, God loves you 100% just the way you are now.