Last week was Easter. It’s the most significant day, the Holiest of days, on the Christian calendar because we celebrate what Jesus did for us. He did what we could never do in our human effort. He broke the curse of sin and death over our lives. And for those who believe Jesus is the Son of God, that curse is broken. His sacrifice gave us spiritual freedom, a fresh start.
God’s children are human beings – made of flesh and blood – Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the Devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he deliver those who have lived all their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. NLT Hebrews 2:14-15
This week we start a new series that talks about how we take that spiritual freedom, that fresh start, into our day to day lives. It’s called: ‘Who You Are Matters.’ Here is why we must talk about this. Just because you find God and experience spiritual freedom, that doesn’t mean you have been transformed into the most mature person. It doesn’t mean you magically became a nice person and you are enjoyable to be around. It doesn’t mean you are most helpful person to your boss, your pastor, your parents. It doesn’t even mean you are a great leader of people. It doesn’t mean you are no longer a people pleaser. Finding God, experiencing spiritual freedom, simply means this; you found God and you experienced spiritual freedom.
To take that spiritual freedom and apply it to all the areas of your life is what it means to be a Christ follower. It’s a day to day decision to live in faith that God loves you and surrender control of your life. That means, I now obey what God lays out for me in scripture.
Scripture describes what a life looks like when we fully surrender to God.
When the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. TLB Galatians 5:22-23
Our goal in following Christ day to day is integrity. That means I am the same person no matter where I am. In every area of my life, people see the Holy Spirit in me; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Who you see at school is the same as the person you see at church. Who you see at work is the same as the person you see at home. That’s what it means to walk with integrity; I am the same everywhere.
Quick point here. That list of nine things, you can’t produce. Being a disciple of Christ doesn’t mean I try to create those nine things and then feel bad as I try and fail to be more loving. Read what it says again.
When the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce…
Who does the work? The Holy Spirit. What is our role? Surrendering control. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to meet Christians who are trying really-really hard to produce those nine things. I am frustrated for them because they are trying to do something only God can do. It’s exhausting. Think about this; only God can put God in you. You can’t fake it. Now, I didn’t say reading a book and learning how to be more loving is wrong, that’s a good thing. I recommend it. What I am saying is, only God can spiritually transform you and place love, joy, peace, etc. deep inside your soul so that it is your natural default setting. If you try to work on it with your effort, your natural default setting is still selfish. You need a spiritual transformation. Only God can do that.
The greatest spiritual thing you can do is day to day decision to live in faith that God loves you and surrender control of your life. That means, I now obey what God lays out for me in scripture.
Here is why integrity is important. Everywhere you go, you are there. Think about that. When you get married, you are there. When you live with your family, you are there. When you hang out with your friends, you are there. When you go to work, you are there. When you go to church, you are there. All this means, who you are matters.
If you find God and experience spiritual freedom, a fresh start, that is awesome. To then take the spiritual freedom, that fresh start, and take it into life, that’s the challenge. It’s a day to day decision to live in faith that God loves you and surrender control of your life. That means, I now obey what God lays out for me in scripture. Why? So that everywhere you are, people experience God; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And remember, you can’t produce it; you can’t fake it.
Who you are matters because everywhere you go, you are there.
Let’s talk about what happens. That means, when I surrender my life to God, I am a blessing to my spouse. I am a blessing to my family. I am refreshing to my friends. People at work look to me to get the job done and done well. The church I attend, I am a key person they can count on.
The opposite is true, too. You can attend a local church, not be with God much and stay in control. What happens? You don’t give time to God to place God inside you. So everywhere you go, what do people experience? Not God. Maybe your not a blessing to your spouse. Maybe your not a blessing to your family or refreshing to your friends. Maybe the people at work are glad when you have a sick day. Maybe the church you attend doesn’t even know when your attend or skip a weekend.
Integrity matters. Who you are matters because everywhere you go, you are there. When you are the same everywhere you are, full of God, you have integrity. That’s what it means to be a disciple of Christ. I met God, I now have spiritual freedom, a new start. I now want to take that freedom everywhere I go.
What we learned from the Titanic. The Titanic was supposed to be the unsinkable ship. Why? Because the hull of the ship was compartmentalized into 16 separate, water-tight, compartments. The theory was, should any of the compartments fill with water, the remaining compartments would keep the vessel afloat. If the hull sustained damage, the water would remain isolated in only a few compartments.
Unfortunately, when the Titanic hit the iceberg, at least 5 of the compartments were compromised. Because they were the first 5 near at the front of the ship, this caused the bow of the Titanic to sink first, increasing the rate at which water poured into the hull. Scientists have concluded that had there been no compartments at all, the water would have spread out, leaving the Titanic horizontal.
Like the Titanic, we cannot compartmentalize our lives. We can’t say, I have a work life, a school life, a sex life, a marriage life and keep them sperate. Who we are impacts all those areas. Sin in one area impacts all areas.
Integrity matters. Who you are matters because everywhere you go, you are there. When we start compartmentalizing our lives, we lose integrity.
People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall. NLT Proverbs 10:9
The last thing I want to talk about is why it’s hard for people to have integrity. To help me communicate this, I want you to see what is important to God. When God was looking for a King to lead the people of Israel, God sent a prophet Samuel to anoint the next King. Here is what happened.
16:1 Finally the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul, for I have rejected him as king of Israel. Now take a vial of olive oil and go to Bethlehem and find a man named Jesse, for I have selected one of his sons to be the new king.”
…5 And he performed the purification rite on Jesse and his sons, and invited them too. 6 When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the man the Lord has chosen!”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by a man’s face or height, for this is not the one. I don’t make decisions the way you do! Men judge by outward appearance, but I look at a man’s thoughts and intentions.” TLB 1 Samuel 16:1-7
What is important to people? Looks. Image. Everything that doesn’t matter.
What is important to God? The heart. Integrity. Thoughts and intentions. Everything that does matter.
Here is why it’s hard for people to have integrity. We live in our culture, church included sometimes, that rewards image. In sports, we want our kids to have the center position that scores all the goals and wins a championship. How many parents care about integrity of the child who learns how to practice hard, make their teammates better and learns how to lose well? What matters most long term? We live in our culture that rewards image.
When you scan social media, what do you see? The highlights of everyone’s life all to get followers and ‘likes.’ Some of it is real; some of it is fake. What do we feel when we see everyone’s highlights? Like you are falling behind. Like others are living better than you. Better vacations. More fun. More friends. Social media is a fake world that doesn’t show you the whole picture. We live in our culture that rewards image.
That’s is why people care too much about where they live and where others live. What they make and what others make. What they do and what others do. Who they know and who others know, etc. We live in our culture that rewards image.
When you live in a culture that rewards image, what happens? Because we are built to want to have people like us and respect us, we do whatever we need to, to be noticed and rewarded. How do we live? We yell and scream at the volunteer coach to get our kids a championship. We change our profile picture on social media page to show people how great we are or how grown up we are. We walk through life caring too much about where we live, what we make, what we do and who we know.
Then God steps in and says, integrity matters. Actually, we know integrity matters. We expect other people to have integrity. If they don’t have integrity, we complain. If they work for us and don’t have integrity, we fire them. But we make excuses for ourselves.
To have integrity means it’s a day to day decision to live in faith that God loves you and surrender control of your life. That means, I now obey what God lays out for me in scripture. Honestly, that’s hard when you are busy building an image for others to see.
To have integrity requires us to do heart work. It requires us to deal with sin. It requires us to deal with our will and control issues. Getting integrity seems so slow. Getting integrity doesn’t seem exciting. As you are getting integrity, people probably won’t notice and celebrate you for it.
When you live in a world that rewards image, it will always seem easy to ignore the things that do matter, like integrity.
Please hear me. Integrity matters. Who you are matters because everywhere you go, you are there. I leave you with a question. Are you the same everywhere you go?