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The Crown of Virtues

 

 

Integrity will be at the top of the ladder if we list out virtues. Yet when we look for it, it is trampled underfoot. Where is integrity today? It needs a search warrant to find it. Corruption is rampant, lying is the norm, adultery is accepted, double game has become a game, honesty has become the casualty and truth lies in the street. Not just among non-Christians, among Christians and so much more among believers and servants of God. We have to search for godly people among the believer’s community. There are some who cry like Elijah, “I alone am left,” but God replies, “I have reserved seven thousand.”

Very few give due weight to integrity and tremble before God and His Word. Thousands of years ago, “truth was fallen in the streets” (Isa 59:14). Today it is no better. God is moving among us one more time.

There are meetings, conventions, trainings, outreaches, dedication of new Churches and talk of revival. But there is no revival in integrity. Truly it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for the Christian world.

Before we go into the study of integrity we must define it. What is integrity? It is honesty, holiness, faithfulness, straightforwardness, transparency, truthfulness and a whole lot. The dictionary says that integrity is strict adherence to a code of moral values. It is sincerity, honesty and purity. So, that brings us to the next question - what is our code of moral values?

Truly we are a blessed people because God has spelt out the moral code for us in the Bible so clearly which no other peoples enjoy: “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God  commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these

decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’” (Dt 4:5,6). How fortunate we are! We are not groping in darkness trying to find out which is right and which is wrong. The Highway of Holiness stretches right in front of us (Isa 35:8). We have to simply hold God’s hand and walk in it.

Another question bombards us. When we go through the Bible we keep our finger on our nose and wonder how anybody can live by this awesome moral code and we tend to throw our hands up. But God gives us the solution. First He gives us the command, “Be holy” (Lev 19:2). We faint at the command.

How can I, a mere mortal be holy? Then He says, “... as I am holy,” (1 Pet 1:15) which means He presents His Son as a model for practical holiness. How can He demand that I be holy like Him? As I sit down exasperated, here comes a word of encouragement: “I am the Lord who makes you holy” (Lev 20:7). I breathe a sigh of relief and jump up and start walking the Highway of Holiness with my Lord walking with me.

Where does this highway lead and where is the end of my journey? Is there a yardstick to measure? Oh yes! Our standard is God Himself. “Be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect” said Jesus (Mt 5:48). I am stunned. Me, becoming perfect like God? No way. I resign. But the biblical examples give me a  push. Do we have examples of people who lived with all these qualities? We are not bereft of biblical  examples.

The first example of course is the Son of God who became a human being, who was tempted like any  of us in every way and yet lived without sin (Mt 22:16). You may say, “He was God. How can we live like  Him?” Yet we have a tangible example in Paul who said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). How easy it becomes to lead a life of integrity when all we have to do is to copy someone! So let us imitate Christ just like Paul imitated Him.

 

Again you may wonder how you can imitate Jesus who was not married and who was on the streets  all the time. Don’t worry, you don’t have to become a sanyasi to practice integrity. We will see an old  Testament example of a rich married man.

If there is one man who can be singled out as the epitome of integrity, it is Job. God certified of Him: “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job  1:8). His integrity was tested to the core. His own wife mocked him saying, “Do you still hold fast to your  integrity? Curse God and die,” when, as she expected, his integrity did not pay dividends. But in all his  trials he would not let go of his integrity but testified, “God knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

David’s prayer makes us think. “Vindicate me Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered” (Psa 26:1). How could David say that when he was the cause for the royal scandal? Come to the next verse, “Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” This is why God called him a man after His heart (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). God looked at his heart and chose him (I Sam 16:7). He was honest and transparent before God. Integrity is not sinlessness; it is a desire for  holiness.

“This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.

If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:5-7). The Apostle John does not say, if we lead a sinless

life we will have fellowship with Him. No. We must be honest and open and standing in the light. Then we experience the cleansing. Don’t try to hide under cover of darkness. Speak the truth. Don’t act as if you don’t have sorrow, pain, fear or sin. If you are open, these can be dealt with and you can experience God’s healing touch. This is humility and integrity.

If you start pretending, you are inside one and outside another. Then you have a recipe for disaster.

You don’t talk straight. It is hypocrisy. It is a manifestation of lack of integrity. Such people cannot be trusted. They are “slippery.” You can’t hold them on anything. This is what Jesus condemned in the Pharisees (Mt 23). They were more concerned about their outward appearance (v5). They fell into the trap

of believing that “How things look is what matters.” Such people try to “look” spiritual than “be” spiritual. It is more important for them to “look” happy than to “experience” happiness. They “appear” to have a strong marriage but “behind the facade” their marriage is crumbling. They maintain a false image and call it abundant life whereas in truth it is a sham life. Such people lack integrity and they cannot be helped for what’s really going on in their life.

On that Judgement Day each of us must give account of ourselves for the way we lived our lives. We  must take responsibility for our own choices and decisions. Don’t treat eternal life lightly.

Practically, the best of us are dirty devils. But the grace of God makes us holy angels. David was not  wallowing in his sin. When confronted, he confessed his sin and said, “I will walk in my integrity” (Psa 26:11). The righteous may fall seven times (Pro 24:16). But his integrity picks him up, dusts him and pushes him to run his race. That’s how David shepherded his people with integrity of heart (Psa 78:72).

Zechariah was upright in the sight of the Lord and blameless, but he was punished for his lack of faith. We are holy but we have to be holier still. People will keep on blaming us but we need to keep on pushing  forward in our spiritual journey. Yet we need one who can judge us objectively because sugar-coating does not help, especially for a growing believer.

Now for a negative example. The Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the law wanted Jesus to show them a sign from heaven (Mt 12:38; 16:1); as if they would accept Him as the Messiah if He did. When Jesus rose again “an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.... The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men” (Mt 28:2-4). But when the news reached the chief priests, they met with the elders and devised a plan. They suppressed the news by bribing the soldiers heavily (Mt 28:11-15). It was absolute lack of integrity. Once first-hand news reached them that the man they tortured and killed had come back to life, they should have fallen on their knees and acknowledged Him as God!

Integrity demands that we treat sin seriously. Bishop R.C. Ryles writes about trivializing sin: We are  too apt to forget that temptation to sin will rarely present itself in its true colours. Never when we are  tempted will we hear sin say to us , “I am your deadly enemy... I want to ruin your life.” That’s not how it  works. Sin, instead, comes to us like Judas with a kiss... But we cannot alter its nature and character in the  sight of God.

If we have come into the kingdom of God, it is not because of our integrity but because of God’s  grace (Dt 9:5). Yet it is our responsibility to maintain a clear conscience. Like Job we must be able to say,  “Till I die, I will not deny my integrity. I will maintain my innocence and never let go of it; my conscience  will not reproach me as long as I live” (Job 27:6). When you are confronted with the question, “Do you  have integrity?” You cannot say, “I don’t know. I try my best.” No, you will know your heart is clean even  if others accuse you like Job’s friends. Job even challenged: “Let God weigh me in honest scales and He  will know that I am blameless” (Job 31:6). So we can lead a life of integrity and know it too.

The Apostle Peter admonishes us saying, “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in ALL

YOUR CONDUCT, because it is written, Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet 1:15). Whatever we do we must  maintain our personal integrity and ethics. We must strictly keep up the moral code we have learnt from  he  Bible, in all the areas of our life. Note the dictionary word ‘strict.’ If we are very strict with ourselves, God  will be very generous with His grace. Let us join the seven thousand. God’s revelation to our integrity comes in stages and we must take care to obey as much as He has revealed.

In the north-eastern State of Mizoram, along the highway to the capital Aizwal, are shops. These have  no shopkeepers. The owners display vegetables, fruits and flowers along with the rate list. Next to this is a  container for customers to drop money into. How’s that for integrity! Mizoram believes the seven thousand  still exist. Amen!

A little boy was taken to a fishing competition. The one who caught the biggest fish between 12 noon  and 12 midnight was the winner. Till 11.59 the biggest catch was 4.6 kg. Father and son were getting ready  to go. Suddenly there was a tug in their line and lo, the fish weighed 5 kg! The son started to jump up and  down. Dad looked at his wrist watch. The time the fish was caught was 12.01 am. “Release him into the  water,” said dad. Though the boy was disappointed he learnt a life lesson. That I call as integrity. Listen to  your conscience, listen to the Bible, listen to counsel and stop blaming others for your spiritual smash-ups.

You may suffer for your integrity as Paul says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life will be  persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). People did not laud Jesus for His sinless life. “Among the crowds there was  widespread whispering about Him. Some said, ‘He’s a good man.’ Others replied, ‘No, He deceives  people’” (Jn 7:12). The sinlessness of Jesus was not noticeable even to His brothers who watched Him at  close quarters. Even so, your good and blameless life will not be obvious to others. Though you try your  best to lead a perfect life you will be criticized and condemned. James and Jude, the brothers of Jesus  discovered the Messiahship of Jesus later. May be only then they thought of His sinless life. Remember, if  they did it to the green tree, how much more will they do to the dry wood!

“Why is it that some Christian ministers, having begun well end up in grievous crimes – embezzling  or misuse of ministry money, outright lies, murders, scandals and so on? Slowly there was a departure from  keeping a clean conscience. Slowly the voice of their own consciences were suppressed with well-  conceived ideas, reasoning, excuses and theological justification until their consciences were no longer  heard,” says Pastor Asish Raichur in his book Code of Honour. I think it applies to all of us, not just  ministers. Let us not fall into any of the traps.

Enough said. What shall we do now? At the beginning of this year shall we make a commitment to  lead a life of integrity? Let us take an oath. Let us write a pledge in the front page of our Bible and sign it:

 

“Lord, you are a God of Integrity.

You expect me to lead a life of integrity.

You are the God who helps me do that.

So I commit myself to obey Your word.

With Your help and grace, I will become a person of integrity.”

Not just this year; for the years to come, for your lifetime!

 

 


   Address for Correspondence & Contributions:

Lilian Stanley
13 Church Colony
Vellore 632006, India
Tel: +91 9843511943
Email: lilianstanley@gmail.com

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