Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Integrity

At City Church our pastor has been marching through the fruit of the Spirit, and a couple weeks ago we crossed paths with goodness and faithfulness. After the sermon I couldn't help but email a summary of it, so pertinent and cutting to my heart it was. Below I've reproduced the relevant parts, along with a little more explanation at the end:

It was on the goodness and faithfulness fruit, and Pastor Fred spoke from Ps 15 and 1 Jn 1:5-2:2. Basically the idea was that good/faithfulness speak of our character, our integrity. And our integrity is inextricably bound in our view of the integrity God. Some quotables:

"The trouble with the human heart is not that it's dishonest, but that it believes that God is a liar" (1:10 - "if we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar...").

"The 1st temptation was not for the quality of the fruit, but that God is a liar. The moment that the veracity of God comes into question, hiding comes into play" (referring to the Garden, where the crux of Satan's temptation called God into question and bred humans' distrust in God that led us to hide from him).

"Some people say they're overwhelmed with worry, but they're not really--they're overwhelmed with the lie that God isn't in control" (but if in our hearts we believe in God's sovereignty and integrity, we too will find peace and be freed to be people of integrity.)


To be genuine is easy; to be genuinely good is not. It's not always hard for me to be real with people, but sometimes that reality isn't so pretty to look at. To be a person of integrity means somehow to be genuine, and genuinely good and faithful at the core. It means that both others and myself can look at me at all levels and find no deceit, but soundness of character through and through, one who truly loves God and man. But as hard as I try, for some reason I find this goal seemingly impossible, as if God tantalizes me in another garden with yet another fruit, this time a good one that he commands me to eat, yet one sufficiently out of my grasp as to frustrate me to no end. What shall I do?

Perhaps the heart of the problem lies not in my heart, but in my heart's view of God. At the core of my thought is the lie that somehow God is a liar. In my heart I tell myself that surely I cannot become a man of goodness and faithfulness, true in character and a man of integrity, because I think that when God says that he can bear that fruit in me, somehow he is a liar and will do no such thing. I claim not to sin—I claim to trust in God—yet inside I doubt him and thus make him out to be a liar, as if all his promises to be faithful to me were but deceit and falsehood. I forget—I ignore—that God makes me a promise not to let me lie spiritually stagnant, but continually to complete his good work in me so that I would bear his fruit, bit by bit, more and more, from now til the end. He demands my integrity because he is the Lord of integrity, faithful to his word and true to his promises to me and all his children.

Sometimes I feel as if I've hit a plateau or down-current in my spiritual life, as if I cannot push forward. I try all the things I used to do to reignite and grow me, yet for some reason they don't seem to work anymore, as if they were drugs that sat on the shelf too long and have lost their efficacy. Perhaps now God is showing me that at the core my fault lies in my incomplete belief in him. It's not that I don't believe in him, but that I fail to believe him fully, and he sees that as calling him a liar. In the end I hurt myself more than I hurt him, for by calling him a liar I tacitly forfeit the power he offers me. He claims not merely to be true, but "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), to be truth itself. Perhaps he has led me to this point in my spiritual life precisely to point out a flaw I've buried and hid all along: I need now more than ever to see and cherish more his character, his integrity, that he is true to his people and true even to me, to enlarge my heart and hone my character day by day.