“Serve God with integrity, and if you achieve no success, at least no sin will lie upon your conscience.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Wow, was on Twitter again this morning, and what do you know? Another tweet in the stream caught my attention, this time from Jud Wilhite, @JudWilhite, Senior Pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was just praying about the nature of integrity in service to God before turning on the computer to get email and yes to check out Twitter.
You may never have wondered about this topic before. Mostly I wish that I had never found myself wondering about it (because it really can become an obsession.) But I have spent a great deal of time over the years thinking on the subject of integrity in service to God. I have spent a great deal of time praying to God that He would show me what to do and how to serve Him in integrity. Sometimes it has seemed the only important question. After recognizing Jesus’ Great Salvation, THE question that must be asked.
It seems like the definition of integrity (in service to God) should be so clear.
“…to the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17 (NASB)
So there it is, if you or I know the right thing and do the right thing then we are not sinning, we are living in integrity. But what is the right thing? I mean I give my neighbor help when I see them in need. I talk to those who will listen about the Victory Christ has won for us who believe and live to make the invitation to join Him. The Scripture tells me to love God and my neighbor and my enemies. It tells me to serve my brothers and sisters and to work in making disciples of all nations and to love my wife as Christ loved the Church – I beseech Him daily to make me able. I pray I have integrity in all these –
– but has there ever been a time when you have disagreed with something the church you are a part of was doing. There was some program or strategy or perhaps a “policy” or a “doctrine” that just seemed to be headed in the wrong direction. Yet, out of your submission to the authorities over you in the church, (’cause that’s what we are supposed to do) you went along with the whatever it was that you disagreed with?
– you went along with it, even after expressing your sense of wrongness to the leaders.
Is this kind of behavior serving in integrity? The Scripture says,
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17 (NASB)
But it also says this,
“On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together’… ‘and Annas the high priest was there…’ (and) had placed them in the center… they began to inquire… (then sometime later) they.. summoned them.. and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.’ …Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:5…. – 20 (NASB)
It seems there is dilemma here. While it is absolutely clear that I am not to break the law by not paying taxes even if those taxes go to pay for things I do not believe in. ? It appears equally clear that there are some circumstances where it is OK to disobey those over me in the church in spite of what both Hebrews 13: 17 and Romans chapter 13 say about it. ? You notice there is a question mark after each of these definitive statements. Why?
In the first case (of taxes) there is an argument that when the “secular” government requires that you do something that violates “the commands of God” the Christian is actually obligated not to obey the governing authority.
“Christians should obey divinely instituted civil authorities except when the authorities hinder the proclamation of the Gospel or order Christians to break the divine law.” from “Church and State”, debates during the Peasants’ War 1524-25, Martin Luther as recorded in The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Luther’s Theology, Controversial Issues
In the second case (the Church) according to Luther and it seems Peter (Acts 4:19-20) this same principle applies to the Church as well. Luther catalyzed the Reformation by opposing those in authority over him in the Holy Roman Church. After Christ was raised on high Peter acted in defiance of the “church” leadership in actively forming a new “church.” The believers in this church were first called Christian in Antioch. So we are to be obedient as long as our obedience does not cause us to become disobedient to God’s Law, in Luther’s understanding and “what we have seen and heard” of God in Peter’s understanding? Right? What a slippery slope this is!
How do we know? I have seen some things in church that seemed so very wrong (to me). Over the years some of these have been no-brainers, like say copying sheet music to give out copies of a song to everyone in the choir when the church had only purchased enough copies for a smaller choir. Or, say, making duplicate music CDs to give copies to everyone in the band. Or I have heard that sometimes videos are made that use music from iTunes as background sound track without obtaining the proper rights. Harmless, right? Kind of like driving 60 miles per hour when the speed limit is 55. Right? Ever seen any of this? Since you met Jesus have you driven your car faster than the speed limit? Knowingly? Saying to yourself – “Well they ignore it up to 8 miles over”?
All of these things are obviously WRONG! When we do them we throw our integrity and our witness out the window. Simple! When we find we are doing such things WE MUST STOP! Simple! To keep on actively sinning sears the soul. (Even if you are saved??, doing things you know are disobedient, willfully, will produce, ultimately, the fruit of despair in your life.)
There is another type of wrongness that is not so simple to spot. It is here that I have my real problem. You may face it too.
We live in a world with many, many churches who “follow” Jesus and proclaim Him as Savior and Lord. Each of these different churches has a set of beliefs that distinguish it from the rest. Some of the beliefs are very different. Are they all correct? If you find yourself in a church that is proclaiming and instituting “programs” that are, in your understanding based upon false doctrines; after you have searched Scripture and sought counsel and still find yourself in disagreement, do you submit, or do you leave, or do you stand? What does integrity demand? How do we know? When is it ever right to stand against our leaders in the faith?
How do we know if we are hearing God when we sense that our church has left the path is missing the mark?
Do not believe for even a moment that we are not required to understand this. The Old Testament, especially all of the Prophets, reveal this issue in a stark light. Jesus’ death on the cross was, as far as men had a role to play, instigated by the religious elite, “the white washed tombs” of His day. The leaders of Jesus day were wrong about God and their religion was false. John the Baptist stood against them. Jesus died to pay for their (and our) sin.
Sometimes I feel we would not recognize the Savior if today He were in our midst. How are we any different than the religious of His time? I want to live in integrity. But can I prove that I am? We must understand this yet I do not presently have a definitive answer – so this posting is not presenting you a rhetorical question it is a plea for guidance and perhaps a challenge to you at the same time.
Let us help each other find and live in integrity as we together serve God!
Jeremiah said some things that sound so today. I want to leave you with these two.
“I’ve had it with all the prophets who get all their sermons second hand from each other. Yes I’ve had it with them, they make up stuff and then pretend it’s a real sermon.” Jeremiah 23:30-31 (The Message)
“I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, and would have turned them back from their evil way and from the evil of their deeds.” Jeremiah 23:21-22 (NASB)
Do you embrace the truth of this in our religion today?
There will be more later on this!
Hope you are thinking about the issue, laying awake at night seeking God for His answer. It will keep you looking at Him and will produce His fruit in your life.
I know I will be seeking Him and His integrity as I plead for His strength to submit to His will for the life He has given me to live.
Let me know about your thoughts on the matter of serving God with integrity! (email@example.com)
Thanks for the prod Pastor Wilhite!
Robert Curtis, activist, the ichthysgeneration, Santa Rosa, Beach Florida