Sermon Synopsis for March 29, 2017
Integrity is a rare commodity in today’s society. Statistics and surveys regularly reveal that good moral character seems to be out of fashion in American culture. Sadly, studies also show that there isn’t much distinction between Christians and non-Christians in this matter. In his book entitled “Disciplines of a Godly Man,” Kent Hughes says, “There is little statistical difference between the ethical practices of the religious and the nonreligious…The general conduct of Christians varies only slightly from non-Christians.” Hughes goes on to share research which supports his claims. In it, he unveils the way in which professing believers are just as likely as non-believers to falsify their tax returns, commit plagiarism, make bribes for permits, illegally copy software, steal time at work, selectively obey laws, and tell people what they want to hear.
How can we grow into people of greater integrity? Can Christians reverse these sad trends? I believe so. By carefully hearing and obeying God’s Word, we can develop godly character which will stand in stark contrast to the darkness about us. I believe James’ words in James 5:12 show us. The author knew his readers had need of the virtue. We do too. By studying his words, we see four actions one can take to grow in this way.
BE SPIRITUAL WITH YOUR CONDUCT.
Duplicity grows in hearts that aren’t spiritually grounded in Christ. Feelings of fear, promptings of pride, desires for deceit, and longings of lust thrive when we live only according to our fleshly natures (Galatians 5:16-23). This was the problem with James’ readers. Their own mouths condemned them. Their irreverent oaths concerning “heaven” were evidence that they weren’t spiritually right. A pagan perspective was the ground-zero problem with their lack of integrity. If you want to grow into a person of sound, strong moral character, pursue a spiritual relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
BE STRAIGHTFORWARD IN YOUR CONVERSATION.
There is an old maxim which says, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” The first half of the saying highlights the need for consistency between thoughts and words. The second half emphasizes the need for consistency between words and actions. The colloquial axiom has meaning that is similar to James’ teaching in 5:12. If Christians want to be people of integrity who make a difference in a lost world, they need to be straightforward in their conversations. They should say what they mean, and they should mean what they say.
BE SERIOUS ABOUT YOUR COMMITMENTS.
Some shy away from such commitments because they wonder what will happen if they are unable to keep their word. They rationalize that they don’t want to make a commitment they can’t keep. Realize this — our imperfection should never be an excuse to keep us from the pursuit of perfection (Matthew 5:48 and 1 Peter 1:16). We will all fail from time to time (James 3:2) and none of us will experience perfection until the resurrection (1 John 3:1-2). However, we should still make serious commitments regarding our conduct and character.
Let us be done with fickle and feeble faith which won’t make any promises or pledges concerning the things of God. The world has maxims that say things like “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again!” Why is it so hard for some of us to muster a little grace-oriented, Spirit-empowered commitment to persevere? Be like Joshua who made a pledge, saying, “As for me and my family, we will worship Yahweh” (Joshua 24:15)! Be like Paul. He promised, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
BE SOBER ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE.
How can believers glibly glide through life, committing and celebrating the deeds of unregenerate humanity? In light of eternity, they should shed the sins which stain. Jesus Himself said, “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36). In ways beyond our current level of comprehension, Jesus will judge us in regard to our integrity. We should be careful to keep our proverbial lamps trimmed and our spiritual fires burning (Luke 12:35). We should be alert, because we “don’t know either the day or the hour” of our Lord’s return. The fact that He could return at any moment may seem like far-off fiction, but it is Scriptural truth, and it should motivate us to pure, holy living.
Get the full manuscript of the sermon for March 26, 2017 here