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Re-Thinking Your Integrity

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(2/24) Do Your remember the long running TV game show called, To Tell the Truth? - The show featured a panel of four celebrities attempting to correctly identify a described contestant who had an unusual occupation or experience. This central character was accompanied by two impostors who pretended to be the central character. The celebrity panelists questioned the three contestants; the impostors were allowed to lie but the central character was sworn "to tell the truth". After questioning, the panel attempted to identify which of the three challengers was telling the truth and was thus the central character. The key line was, "Will the real _________ please stand up?"

We live in a world in which it is difficult to believe people. We have come to expect Politicians, Salespeople, Advertisers, Lawyers, the news media, and even Preachers, to be dishonest, to make false promises, to cheat, to exaggerate, make excuses and betray trusts. Even the Era of time we live in, is called the Post Modern Era, and is characterized by the belief that there is no such thing as absolute truth; that is, that all truth is relative to the individual.

Yet, we all long for truth. We have truth in advertising laws. Our courts make us swear to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and to tell a lie in court is to commit perjury and be subject to penalties. To claim a writing as our own or to not give credit to the real author is to plagiarize. Do you remember the famous line form the movie, A Few Good Men? Tom Cruise says "I want the truth." and Jack Nicholson says, "You Can't handle the truth!" We want the truth. But I am afraid that if we suddenly knew the whole truth about everything, we really wouldn't be able to handle it.

I. Our Purpose - Let's remind ourselves again, that our Lord Jesus gave this sermon to show people that in order to be part of his kingdom, their lives had to be different. They must remember, that God has a plan and a purpose for their lives. He wants to save you and change your life so that your life will in turn cause others to want to know the Savior. You are the only salt and light in a dark, and decaying world (vv. 13-16). Do you remember what Peter said? "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). To do this, it is absolutely essential that your life be different than the world that you live in; and that is the point of this great sermon given by our Lord Jesus. You can not be like the religious hypocrites who measure their spirituality by a checklist of do's and don'ts and have come up with their own formula of what is holy and what is not. Jesus said that unless your righteousness exceeds theirs, you have no chance at the Kingdom of God (v. 20). You need to see God's word as He meant it to be, and not as we have bent it to be. Amen? Amen!

So far we have looked at Re-thinking Your Anger, Your Morality, Your Marriage, and today, Re-Thinking Your Integrity. One definition of integrity is, "The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness." Listen, the world is looking for people of integrity, honesty, real, trustworthy, & truthful. They want to see in us what they know in their hearts they would see in Jesus. If they don't see that in us, they won't want to know our Jesus. Christians need to be like Jesus. That is God's goal, His plan for each of us (Rom. 8:28-29). But we have a problem.

II. Our Predicament- Our Predicament is Three-Fold.

We are born liars. The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. (Ps. 58:3) Because we all all born with a sin nature we are all born with a mechanism to protect ourselves or to achieve our desires by telling lies. I believe we have a heard a lie about George Washington. I don't think he ever said that He could not tell a lie. That, in itself, would be a lie. Young Children will tell you that someone else broke the toy, ate the cookies, or made the mess, while the chocolate is still on their face.

We live a world of liars. Our world is no different today than it was in Jeremiah's. "Oh, that my head were waters, And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people. Oh, that I had in the wilderness A lodging place for travelers; That I might leave my people, And go from them! For they are all adulterers, An assembly of treacherous men. "And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies. They are not valiant for the truth on the earth For they proceed from evil to evil, And they do not know Me," says the Lord "Everyone take heed to his neighbor, And do not trust any brother; For every brother will utterly supplant, And every neighbor will walk with slanderers. Everyone will deceive his neighbor And will not speak the truth; They have taught their tongue to speak lies; They weary themselves to commit iniquity." (Jer. 9:1-5). In our society we say things like, "I don't know who to believe.

The Controlling Influence in the World is the Father of Lies. Jesus, our Lord said, "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it." (John 8:44) Paul said, " you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Eph. 2:2-3). Ours is a world of deceit and deception and will be so until Jesus returns, because it is made up of natural born liars, and governed by the father of lies. We seldom know if we are getting the truth.

But God's people, His children, the citizens of His kingdom are to be different. We are to become like our Savior and Lord.

III. The Person of God. We know that our God is Holy, sinless. and though He is all powerful, there are things He can not do. One of the things that God can not do is Lie. Hebrews 6:18, Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29 all tell us that God will not and can not lie. In contrast to that the Bible tells us that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). What we know is that:

  • God the Father is Truth (Deut. 32:4)
  • God the Son is Truth (John 14:6)
  • God the Holy Spirit is Truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13)
  • God's Word (the Bible) is Truth (John 17:17)

And His desire and command is that we learn the truth (John 8:32) and that we live and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We are not to be like the world or like the people that we used to be, we are to put away lying and speak the truth to our neighbors for are members one of another. (Eph. 4:25)

Listen, God hates lies. He abhors lies. Listen to Solomon in Proverbs 6:16-19, "These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren."

In fact, we know that un-repentent liars will have their place in Hell. Listen to Rev. 21:8, "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

IV. The Problem in Jesus Day (Matt. 5:33-37). The religious leaders took the Bible and came up with a religious system of loop-holes. "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." The scripture that we read from earlier, Matthew 23, shows us that this was a big issue. To make promises, pledges, and affirmations that they knew they wouldn't or couldn't keep and justify their dishonesty by a system of rules they had made up was unconscionable. And Christ-Followers are not to be like that. What they did is like what we did as children. We would affirm something but have our fingers crossed and then say, it didn't count. Or we would say, "we didn't shake on it". Remember that?

V. The Principle comes from (Lev. 19:12). "And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord." The sinful rational was that if we swear by anything other than God's name we don't have to keep our word. But let's listen to a few more texts and then make some comments.

Numbers 30:2; "If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

Deut. 23:21-23: ""When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you. But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you. That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth.

Eccl. 5:4: "When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed— Neither our Lord Jesus in this passage nor the Bible prohibits us from swearing or taking oaths. What He is prohibiting is intentional deception, lies, and the sin of not keeping your promises by justifying a technicality.

What ever you swear to, make a vow concerning, or promise to anyone, you are to do. It's that simple, there are no rules for breaking your word. Even if it hurts or costs you more than you anticipated. (Psalm 15:4)

VI. The Practice of Swearing, Making Vows, Taking Oaths. -

What is an Oath. Heb. 6:16 gives us a good definition of an oath. "For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute." An oath is appealing to God, or something sacred, or something greater than yourself to give credibility to what is said or to support the truthfulness of the statement, promise or pledge." Any oath is calling on God to witness the truthfulness of what is said and to avenge if we don't keep our word. We expect oaths to be taken when deciding people's fate in a court, or installing people in public office, or in service to one's country or community when it may cause personal harm or death as in the police or military. We expect two people to make vows for life when they marry. We expect to make pledges when we join a church or organization. And we expect people to honor their vows.

Oaths in the Bible. It would take to much time to look at them but Abraham took an oath with the King of Sodom, and another with Abimelech. Jacob took and oath with Laban. David and Jonathon took an oath with each other.

Even God swore an oath to Abraham (Gen. 22:16; Heb. 6:13-ff), not because He needed to verify His words, but to impress upon us the special urgency or importance of His promise. Listen to Heb. 6, "For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you." And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.

Even our Lord Jesus often said, Verily, Verily, or Truly, Truly, or Amen, Amen, I say unto you..." to stress the importance and truthfulness of His word. We sometimes do the same thing today. Sometimes I will tell a story and unconsciously say, "Now this is the truth." Not that I don't always tell the truth, but that I want to emphasize that if this seems unbelievable, or out of the ordinary, I am not making it up, it is true, or it is important.

God provided for us to make oaths in His name as an accommodation to man's sinful nature which is prone to dishonesty and deceit and cause us to distrust each other, and in sincere and important situations an oath is permissible to give greater motivation to telling the truth and keeping one's promises.

VII. The Prohibition. - When our Lord says, "Do Not Swear at All," He was not prohibiting all oaths or vows, but the frivolous swearing in order to impress, convince, manipulate, persuade, or deceive others. Because if you call on anything to give credence to your words, you are calling on God who made everything. Every oath is an oath to God, regardless of what you swear by, and as we already saw, He is determined that we keep our word, even if it costs us (Psalm 15:4). Think of some the heart ache that could have been avoided if certain people had thought before they swore an oath.

Jepthah - Judges 11:50-51 - I believe his daughter was the first Nun

Saul - 1 Sam. 14:24

Herod - Matt. 14:7

even Peter - Matt. 26:69-74

William Barclay in his commentary on Matthew said this, "Here is a great eternal truth. Life cannot be divided into compartments in some of which God is involved and in others of which He is not involved; there can not be one kind of language in the church and and another kind of language in the shipyard, factory or office; there cannot be one kind of conduct in the church and another kind of conduct in the business world. The fact is, God does not need to be invited into certain certain departments of life and kept out of others. He is everywhere, all through life and in every activity of life. He hears not only words spoken in His name, He hears all words and there cannot be any such thing as a form of words which evades bringing God into any transaction. We will regard all promises sacred if we remember that all promises are made in the presence of God."

VIII. The Performance of Your Promises -But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. A couple of lessons here.

Think before you speak - James 1:19 a, "my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; Every unkept promise will be an indictment against us before God. So, take a moment and think.

Choose your words carefully and honestly. You don't have to embellish your speech to impress. usually a simple Yes or No is all that is necessary.

Your purpose as Salt and Light will depend on your integrity. People appreciate honesty and love integrity. Is your word-Your Bond? Whether you shake hands, sign papers, make a promise or give your word, can people trust what you say because it is true? or are you like the boy who cried "Wolf?" and people don't know when to believe you.

Whenever you give your word-Think of the Cross. Listen to the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "The commandment for complete truthfulness is really only another name for the totality of discipleship. Only those who follow Jesus and cleave to Him are living in complete truthfulness. Such people have nothing to hide from their Lord. Their life is revealed before Him, Jesus has recognized them and led them into the way of truth.... Only those who are in a state of truthfulness through the confession of their sin to Jesus are not ashamed to tell the truth wherever it must be told....It is only because we follow Jesus that we can be genuinely truthful, for then He reveals our sin to us upon the cross. The cross is God's truth about us and therefore, it is the only power that can make us truthful. When we know the cross, we are no longer afraid of the truth. We need no more oaths to confirm the truth of our utterances, for we live in the perfect truth of God. (The Cost of Discipleship. pp. 154-155)

Think about your wedding vows? Do you cherish your spouse or are you just doing the marriage. How are you doing with that?

Did you dedicate your children to God? What did you promise to do? How are you doing with that?

  • What promises have you made to your wife or husband since then?
  • What promises have you made to your children or grandchildren?
  • What promises have you made to God about knowing Him, loving Him, serving Him, talking to Him?
  • Have you promised to pray for someone? How are you doing with that?
  • Have you promised to return or repay something?
  • Have you promised to visit someone who is lonely or ill?
  • Did you make a foolish wager or bet and lost? What are you doing about that?
  • Do you need to repent and recommit to God and the people you promised yourself to?

The Father of lies, the evil one, would like nothing better than for you to be like him and not be a person of integrity, and a liar. But your Father in heaven is honored when you keep your word, no matter what. Psalm 15:1-4, "Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart, He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

People are asking, "Will The Real Follower of Jesus Christ please stand up?"

Jesus wants you to be just like Him and He is the truth. What He promises He performs, and even when it cost Him His life, He did not change. Do you know this God? Let's pray.

Benediction - Romans 15:5-6, Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If this has spoken to your heart, write to me and tell me, or ask me whatever you want about knowing God or having a relationship with Him.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman