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Integrity

June 19th, 2017

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than the one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool. (Proverbs 19:1 NKJV)

And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them… (Jeremiah 45:5 NKJV)

I have known many men and women to seek wealth, to seek great things for themselves, even if they have to lie and be dishonest to achieve them. “The end justifies the means” is the false credo of those who lack integrity. God warns us that any who seek to live this way will come to ruin.

It does not mean that we will not gain something worldly in the process, but the tragedy of such “gains” is that whatever we achieve dishonestly carries with it a personal spiritual and moral loss that is greater in the loss column. Scottish pastor George MacDonald (1824-1905) said, “In whatever a man does without God, he must fail miserably - or succeed even more miserably.”

We are certainly saved by grace and by grace alone, through our faith, but there is something gained when we stand in our integrity and we know that we have done the right thing and done it in the right way. Honesty and integrity do not mean rudeness, at least not necessarily. Some people imagine that they have the right to say all kinds of things to others, simply because these are their “honest” opinions. But the man of true integrity takes into account his own doubts, his own questions, and holds others in consideration.

Honest people are first honest with themselves. They are introspective in terms of their failures and freely admit these to God. They are also honest about the provision of God’s grace that comes through Christ. They honestly repent and honestly believe they are forgiven. They differentiate between convictions and opinions, between foundational truths - things that are immovable - and areas of life where honest men may have differences of opinion.

They do what Davy Crockett said to do, “First be sure you are right, then go ahead.” But they do it in a humility that leaves open the possibility of being mistaken on some minor points. At the end of the day they trust in God and work for His glory. They guard their hearts and their minds from damage and they respect the harm that sin and temptation can do to their soul.

Christ said, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 10:26). “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).

Daily Devotions

The Blessing of Surrender

June 1st, 2017

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD. (Psalm 1:1-2 NKJV)

Christ began His Sermon on the Mount in speaking of attitudes that bring blessings into our lives. The first is the admission of our poverty of spirit (Matt. 5:3), or our awareness of our weaknesses and our willing submission to the Lord. Albert Barnes expounded on this:

To be poor in spirit is to have a humble opinion of ourselves; to be sensible that we are sinners, and have no righteousness of our own; to be willing to be saved only by the rich grace and mercy of God; to be willing to be where God places us, to bear what he lays on us, to go where he bids us, and to die when he commands; to be willing to be in his hands, and to feel that we deserve no favour from him. It is opposed to pride, and vanity, and ambition.

The Psalms begin, however, with the proclamation of the reverse truth, that the one who pursues selfish plans is the one who suffers loss. The “counsel of the ungodly,” the “path of sinners,” and the “seat of the scornful” is the way of the unbelieving world. They pursue their own plans and seek their own goals. While sin is expressed in various degrees - not all men are as sinful in attitudes and actions as others - there is no doubt that great evil lies in each of us. Left to our own selfishness we will choose wrongly, ruining our lives and quite likely the lives of those around us.

The solution is to surrender to God our hearts, to delight in His rule and His redemption. The law of the Lord included both the sacrificial laws and the moral laws. The sacrificial laws prefigured Christ and we delight in them today through our faith in Christ. We see Him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We see Him as God’s solution for our sin and we delight in Him through faith.

We delight in the moral code through submission to Him, through worshiping Him in our hearts, through loving Him with our minds and wills, and letting Him fill us with Himself. We then, in the fullness of His Spirit, take His moral law and delight to obey it.

C.S. Lewis wrote these words in his classic Mere Christianity:

I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted him to do, and we should be obliged if he would leave us alone. But the question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what he intended us to be when he made us… Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on. You knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but he is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself.

A “decent little cottage” designed by selfishness or a great “palace” made by God? These are our options, and really there is no option, for selfish little cottages become dismal hovels if left unsurrendered to God.

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