Live Honorably In Every WaySeries: Fruit Of The Spirit
LIVE HONORABLY IN EVERY WAY
Sermon By Terry Siverd / June 25, 2023 / Cortland Church of Christ - - www.cortlandcoc.org
In his epistle to the Hebrews*, Paul closes his word of exhortation with a personal request (Heb.13:18) - -
Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.
The topic of our sermon this morning is INTEGRITY.
The OT records a remarkable statement made by an ancient upright man named Job who lived in the land of Uz.
In Job 31:5-6, in baring his soul to the Almighty God, Job asserts: If I have walked with falsehood, and my
foot has hastened after deceit, let HIM weigh me with accurate scales, and let God know my integrity.
Generally speaking, the word integrity is often defined by the words like honesty , trustworthy or upright.
While these are good synonyms they don't drill down deep enough to properly define integrity.
To fully grasp its meaning requires the referencing of other words like: completeness … unity … oneness … & soundness.
One can't adequately comprehend integrity without thinking of sincerity and incorruptibility (beyond reproach).
Integrity speaks of a pervasive purity (through and through / Prov.22:11) - - sterling like a precious coin without alloy.
Integrity is best understood as a state of holiness that is dressed in wholeness: wholly holy.
Because of its demand for singularity (an undivided being), this is the most challenging of all virtues.
The New Testament Scriptures warn of the danger of living a unstable and double-minded life (Js.1:8).
James sternly admonishes those living dual lives, saying: cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your heats (Js.4:8).
In stark contrast, Paul urges (Col.3:1-3/NIV) - - Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your
hearts on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the
things above, not on earthly things. For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Frank Dudley was born poor but put himself and his brother through college (their father died at a young age).
Dudley founded his own advertising agency in NYC and became very wealthy. While on a business trip in Boston he
called his brother Eddie to invite him and his wife, Agnes, to a restaurant for dinner. Agnes, declined, saying,
“No, thanks. Eddie has a business appointment tonight and I'm going to be busy, too.” Dudley called another friend
who told him that he was invited to a party at Eddie & Agnes tonight and speculated that he'd see him there.
Problem was Dudley wasn't invited. The next day Dudley called to ask Agnes why they had lied to him.
Agnes told him, “Eddie wanted to ask you, but I told him I'd rather not have the party. You'd have ruined everything.”
Dudley responded, “How can say such a thing?” “Because it's true, Frank. Why do you suppose we moved to Boston
except to get away by ourselves.” After added denials, Agnes told Frank, “You ought to get wise to yourself.”
Sometime later, at the office of Dr. Edwin, Frank confessed that he couldn't get this incident out of his mind.
He couldn't decide what to do, but he wasn't going to let Agnes drive a wedge between him and his brother.
He begged the doctor, “There must be a solution.” Dr. Edwin told him that Agnes' advice was worth considering.
“Like everybody else, you are not one person, but three: the man you think you are, the man other people think
you are - - and the man you really are. Generally, that last one is the man nobody knows.” Why not make his
acquaintance? It may change your life.” Frank was the poster boy for playing the game of “oneupmanship”. Heeding
the doctor's advice, Frank soon discovered that “the more he learned about himself, the easier it was to forgive others.”
Two weeks later, Frank made a return visit with Dr. Erwin. He was toting a birthday gift for Eddie's son. Previously he had planned to give Eddie Jr. a $200 camera, but instead he decided to give him a cherished scrapbook that he'd kept of his young brother's accomplishments. Attached to the scrapbook was a note written to Frank from Frank's second best friend.
It said, “You have a brilliant mind, but your brother, Eddie, has splendor of the heart, and that's a lot more important.”
In the silence, as the child read the letter, Agnes turned her back and went to the window.
“Who is your very best friend?” asked Eddie Jr. “The lady at the window,” said Dudley. “A good friend tells you the truth.”
Your mother did that for me when I needed it most, and I can never thank her enough for it.”
Agnes did something for the first time in her life - - she put her arms around Dudley and gave him a sister's kiss.
(From an essay titled, The Hardest Lesson, by Fulton Oursler, in “Keys To Happiness”, pg.22f, Reader's Digest 1955).
Hypocrisy wars against Integrity. We are guilty of hypocrisy (play actor) when we pretend to be what we are not.
Hypocrisy is the bane of Christianity. It works to unravel and undo all that Jesus came to establish.
This is why we read strong words of warning about being a hypocrite from the Biblical writers. cf. Mt.6:1ff & Mt.23.
From Proverbs we read:
Prov.10:9 / He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out.
Prov.12:22 / lying lips (lives) are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.
Prov.28:6 / better is the poor who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich.
Prov.21:3 / to do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.
God wants for us: steadfast in all our ways/Prov.4:25; purity of heart/Prov.22:11; integrity of the upright/Prov.11:3.
The apostle Peter cautions (1Pet.2:12) - - keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable.
In writing to Titus, Paul urges (Titus 3:7/NIV) - - in everything set them an example by doing what is good.
In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned,
so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Paul brings his metaphor of being clothed with Christ to a rousing crescendo, writing in Col.3:17 - -
WHATEVER YOU DO IN WORD OF DEED, DO ALL IN THE NAME OF THE LORD...
There is a suffocating smell that accompanies a two-faced life - - it is more than just a unpleasant whiff, it is a malodorous stench. It's not right to only behave like a Christian when we're in the company of fellow Christians.
It is not enough to argue “that's just the way I am!” or “what you see is what you get!”.
As with the story of Frank Dudley, what's needed is to “get wise to ourselves” and change our heart and conduct.
On the other hand, to live a morally/spiritually integrated life is to be suffused with the aroma of Christ.
In Paul's letter to the church at Philippi, he writes (Philp.4:8) - - whatever is true, whatever
is honorable, what is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute,
if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
Single acts of faltering (stumbling at being real through and through) do not qualify in condemning us as hypocrites.
We all behave in duplicitous ways from time to time. The problem comes when periodic failures become the pattern.
R.W. DeHann tells the story of a missionary who, shortly after arriving on the field, was speaking for the first time to
a group of villagers. He was trying to present the gospel to them. He began by describing Jesus, referring to Him as a
man who compassionate and kind, loving, caring, one who went about doing good works towards all men.
When he was speaking, he noticed that his lesson brought smiles of familiarity to the faces of his audience,
and some of them nodded their heads to one another in agreement. He was somewhat puzzled, and he interrupted
his message to ask: “Do you know who I am talking about?” One of the villagers quickly responded: “Yes, we do.
You're talking about a man who came to their remote village to minister to their physical needs, and his life was
so like Christ in caring for those people that they saw Jesus in him. He walked like Jesus walked.”
As genuine Christians, this ought to be our aim throughout our earthly sojourn: that others will be able to
discern clearly that we are holy (we are people who want to do the right thing, as taught in the sacred writings).
And furthermore, that we are wholly invested in following after our Lord Jesus Christ (we are “all-in” disciples).
* Numerous arguments point to Paul being the author of the epistle to the Hebrews.
The expression, pray for us, used in Heb.13:18 is also found in other Pauline letters (1Thess.5:25 & 2Thess.3:1-2).