Sun, Oct 28, 2007

A MAN OF INTEGRITY? GENESIS 20:1-10

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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A MAN OF INTEGRITY?
GENESIS 20:1-10

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 20 as we look at the issue of integrity. For many today they feel that integrity really is not that important, as long as something good comes out of the situation.  We will let anything go as long as we get what we want. It is the idea of the end justifying the means mentality. But folks, it does matter.

            Joseph Stalin turned a backwater, third-world Russia into a force of great strength militarily and rising power economically. He made Russia a great nation. He got the economy rolling, the military growing – but at what cost?  Twenty million Russians were sent to gulags or shot in the back.

            Or how about the most efficient leader in European history – Adolf Hitler: “He may hate Jews, and he may have all kinds of quirks, but as long as he can build a Third Reich, he’s our man,” Germany declared. But again, at what cost?  The millions of lives that were murdered, that were slaughtered.

            And several years back we saw with former President Bill Clinton another lack of integrity.  When he was accused of having a sexual relationship with an intern, Monica Lewinsky, he responded back, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman!” Well, then we found out that he not only cheated on his wife, but he lied to the people he was representing, and to the world. You see, he did have sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky!

            Now, as soon as that was made known, there was an outcry to have him removed from office. But there was also a bigger outcry from the people of America to keep him in office. They said, “It’s the economy stupid!” In other words, we don’t care about the President of the United States being a moral man, a man of integrity, that is not important to us. What is important to us is that we have money to buy things and that makes us happy.  In other words, we were willing to make a sacrifice to have money in our pocketbooks for morality!  What is being said is that the end justifies the means.

But at what cost?  Many don’t realize this, but there was a backlash to what he did and said. You see, in our Middle Schools, the Junior High’s the kids felt that oral sex was not sex, just like the President said.  They were watching what the leader was saying and they were doing what he was doing!  You see, there is always a cost when we are immoral, when there is a lack of integrity!

The word, “integrity” can be defined as follows: “The quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity.” And I guess the opposite of that would be, “The quality or state of being of sound immoral principle; depravity, untruthfulness, and insincerity.”  Now that seems horrible, and it is but folks, if we don’t have integrity it is because we are manifesting these other characteristics in our lives.

Now before we get to our text this morning, let me show you how the end does not justify the means or how an immoral act is not negated by a moral act.  We are told:

Several years ago, in Long Beach, California, a fellow went into a fried chicken place and bought a couple of chicken dinners for himself and his date late one afternoon. The young woman at the counter inadvertently gave him the proceeds from the day - a whole bag of money (much of it cash) instead of fried chicken. After driving to their picnic site, the two of them sat down to open the meal and enjoy some chicken together. They discovered a whole lot more than chicken - over $800! But he was unusual. He quickly put the money back in the bag. They got back into the car and drove all the way back. Mr. Clean got out, walked in, and became an instant hero. By then the manager was frantic. The guy with the bag of money looked the manager in the eye and said, “I want you to know I came by to get a couple of chicken dinners and wound up with all this money. Here.” Well, the manager was thrilled to death. He said, “Oh, great, let me call the newspaper. I’m gonna have your picture put in the local newspaper. You’re the most honest man I’ve heard of.” To which they guy quickly responded, “Oh no, no, don’t do that!” Then he leaned closer and whispered, “You see, the woman I’m with is not my wife . . .she’s uh, somebody else’s wife.”

       - Charles Swindoll, Growing Deep in the Christian Life, pp. 159-60

            You see what I mean; the end does not justify the means!  With that said, let’s begin reading in Genesis chapter 20, starting in verse 1 and let’s see what the Lord has for us as we look at this issue of integrity in our lives.

GENESIS 20:1-10

            Here we see Abraham have an encounter with Abimelech and to protect himself, he tells the king that Sarah is his sister. Yes, that was partially true, she was his half-sister, but as I said on Thursday, a half-truth is still a half-lie!  Now Abimelech had no idea what was going on here and he took Sarah into his house but did not have sexual relations with her at this point, nor did he ever!

            Well, at night the Lord spoke to Abimelech in a dream and said, Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man's wife. Genesis 20:3.  Not something you want to hear from God, “You are a dead man!”  And Abimelech speaks to the Lord and tells Him that he did not know this and God acknowledges the integrity of this man over what Abraham did.  In fact, Abimelech rebukes Abraham for his lack of morals, his lies. An unbeliever rebuking a believer, that is never a good thing. In fact, the only good that can come from that is that Abraham listens and obeys, he repents of his sin before the Lord, he sees what the Lord is showing him.

            Why is there such a lack of integrity in our society, in our country?  Because many have moved away from the Lord and thus, they create their own reality, what they want to believe, and they then do as they please instead of what the Lord has told them in His Word. Listen carefully to where we are:

What are you willing to do for $10,000,000? Two-thirds of Americans polled would agree to at least one, some to several of the following:

Would abandon their entire family (25%)
Would abandon their church (25%)
Would become prostitutes for a week or more (23%)
Would give up their American citizenships (16%)
Would leave their spouses (16%)
Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free (10%)
Would kill a stranger (7%)
Would put their children up for adoption (3%)

                            James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Day America Told the Truth, 1991.

            That is not a pretty picture. Can you imagine, abandoning your family for money, leave your church, become a prostitute, give up your citizenship, leave your spouse, put up your children for adoption not just your teenagers, and-so-on!  How sad. Now, in saying that, I would like to spend the rest of our time this morning looking at integrity in the Bible, what God has to say. This may not be an exhaustive list, but these seven points we will be looking at are important. They will show us how we are to walk with the Lord; they should help us to grow!

1.  INTEGRITY MAKES POSSIBLE GOD’S PROMISES

            We are told in I Kings 9:4-9, Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and will hiss, and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the Lord has brought all this calamity on them.’

            Here is a conditional promise to Solomon and his descendants that if he and his descendants walk in integrity of heart, if their heart is loyal to the Lord, like David’s was, not perfect, then God will keep them on the throne in Israel!

            It is as Jude tells us, But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Jude 20-21.  In other words, keep yourself in the spot where the blessings are flowing out or keep yourself in the Lord. Be where He has called you to be and you will be blessed.  If you don’t, then you will miss out on the blessing and suffer the consequence of your deceit, your treachery.  But, as we have seen, integrity makes it possible for God’s blessings to come into your life, and of course, I am speaking of the conditional promises of God, not the unconditional ones!

2.  INTEGRITY TO PERSEVERE TILL THE END

            In Job 2:3 we are told, Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.’ Notice what the Lord is saying of Job in this verse.  That even in the midst of trouble, of difficult times, Job’s integrity stood strong, it shinned brightly. He did not compromise his faith because of the situation he was in. He did not let the situation dictate his actions, but he trusted in the Lord and persevered!

            Then, in Job 2:9 we are told, Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!’  Mrs. Job did not have the gift of encouragement here. I’m surprised Job didn’t throw holy water on her and cry out, “Come out Satan!”  But notice what she is saying here.  “Look, you have lived a good life, your integrity has stood strong, and look at where it has gotten you!  NOWHERE! Thus, why don’t you just curse God and die!” 

            Now Job could have been mad, he could have responded in an ungodly manner, but notice what we are told in Job 2:10, how he did respond to his wife after what she told him.But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.  Again, he was not going to let the situation cause him to act ungodly, to lose his integrity!

            And by the time we get to Job chapter 27, listen to what we are told, Moreover Job continued his discourse, and said: ‘As God lives, who has taken away my justice, And the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, As long as my breath is in me, And the breath of God in my nostrils, My lips will not speak wickedness, Nor my tongue utter deceit. Far be it from me That I should say you are right; Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live.’  Job 27:1-6.

            Again, no matter what people say to him, no matter what people do to him, no matter what happens, his integrity was not going to depart from him until he died!  Thus, we need integrity to persevere in our lives to the end as Job did!

3.  INTEGRITY PROTECTS US FROM SIN

            In Genesis 20:6 the Lord said to Abimelech, Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.  Integrity does protect us from sin and the devastating affects of sin in our life. Yes, as Christians our sins are forgiven but that does not mean we will not suffer the consequences of our actions. Paul put it like this in regards to our sins and what God has done with them. In Hebrews 10:17 we are told,

“ . . . ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’

            And folks, make no mistake about it, our sin will find us out.  We are told in Numbers 32:23, But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.  And in II Samuel 12:12 the Lord told David, For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.  Why does God do that?  Because He does not want us to be comfortable in sin and thus, He will expose our sin so we can confess it and turn away from it!

            It is as Solomon said in Proverbs 10:9, He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will become known.  You don’t have to worry if you walk in integrity but if you don’t, be careful, not only will God expose your sin, but there are the consequences of sin in our life that can be very destructive.  Think about the affects of adultery, stealing, lying, cheating and-so-on. There are many consequences attached to these sins and they do affect many people, besides sinning against God and giving the enemies of God a chance to mock God because of our actions! Thus, don’t go down that path.

            As professional golfer Ray Floyd was getting ready to tap in a routine 9-inch putt, he saw the ball move ever so slightly. According to the rulebook, if the ball moves in this way the golfer must take a penalty stroke. Yet consider the situation. Floyd was among the leaders in a tournament offering a top prize of $108,000. To acknowledge that the ball had moved could mean he would lose his chance for big money.

Writer David Holahan describes as follows what others might have done: “The athlete ducks his head and flails wildly with his hands, as if being attacked by a killer bee; next, he steps back from the ball, rubbing his eye for a phantom speck of dust, all the while scanning his playing partners and the gallery for any sign that the ball’s movement has been detected by others. If the coast is clear, he taps the ball in for his par.”

Ray Floyd, however, didn’t do that. He assessed himself a penalty stroke and wound up with a bogey on the hole.

- Source unknown

            Folks, God wants us to walk in integrity because it will protect us from sin.  May we learn and obey the Lord because we can’t justify sin, we are to repent of it though!

4.  INTEGRITY PROFITS OUR CHILDREN

            All of these are important lessons and especially this one. As we walk in integrity it will profit our children.  In Proverbs 20:7 we are told, The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.  The Living Bible puts this verse like this,It is a wonderful heritage to have an honest father.  In other words, it is a blessing to your children as they watch you live out your faith, as they watch you walk in integrity.  You see, what kind of example are you setting for your children if you lie, cheat, steal, have a foul mouth and-so-on.  It is a horrible example you are setting for them.  And don’t think that they are not watching you, they are watching you very closely, how you respond to situations, what you say.  Here is the thing, are you a blessing to them or are you leading them astray by your actions, bringing a curse upon them?

            In his book Lessons from a Father to His Sons, Senator John Ashcroft writes:

Until 1997 Michael Jordan, indisputably the leading player in the NBA for over a decade, was never the highest paid player. When asked why he did not do what so many other players do - hold out on their contracts until they get more money - Michael replied, "I have always honored my word. I went for security. I had six-year contracts, and I always honored them. People said I was underpaid, but when I signed on the dotted line, I gave my word."

Three years later, after several highly visible players reneged on their contracts, a reporter asked Michael once again about being underpaid, and he explained that if his kids saw their dad breaking a promise, how could he continue training them to keep their word? By not asking for a contract renegotiation, Michael Jordan spoke volumes to his children. He told them, "You stand by your word, even when that might go against you." His silence became a roar.

- John Ashcroft, Lessons from a Father to His Sons

            Folks, every day you can teach your children lessons of faith that are found in the things they have gone through during the day or that you have gone through.  But even more importantly you are teaching them lessons of faith as you live out your life, day in and day out, how you respond to situations. You must walk in integrity, not that you are perfect, because none of us are and let your children know that when you do blow it. But the pattern of your life should be one of walking in integrity and as you do your children will see that your faith is real and they will be blessed, they will take away a positive heritage from you!

In his recent book Integrity, Ted Engstrom told his story:

For Coach Cleveland Stroud and the Bulldogs of Rockdale County High School (Conyers, Georgia), it was their championship season: 21 wins and 5 losses on the way to the Georgia boys’ basketball tournament last March, then a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the state finals. But now the new glass trophy case outside the high school gymnasium is bare. Earlier this month the Georgia High School Association deprived Rockdale County of the championship after school officials said that a player who was scholastically ineligible had played 45 seconds in the first of the school’s five postseason games. “We didn’t know he was ineligible at the time; we didn’t know it until a few weeks ago,” Mr. Stroud said. “Some people have said we should have just kept quiet about it, that it was just 45 seconds and the player wasn’t an impact player. But you’ve got to do what’s honest and right and what the rules say. I told my team that people forget the scores of basketball games; they don’t ever forget what you’re made of.”

- Source unknown

            And so, integrity does profit our children, they are blessed as we walk in integrity, it will truly impact their lives as we leave them this godly heritage!

5.  INTEGRITY PROMOTES STABILITY

            The Bible teaches that a life lived in integrity will promote stability in our lives. In James 1:5-8 we are told, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  The Amplified Bible puts verse 8 like this, “[For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides].

            Here’s the thing. If you walk in integrity, you will not be double-minded but you will be solid.  But, as your integrity waxes and wanes, you will become unstable, double-minded, not sure what you are doing.

            Jesus said in Matthew 5:33-37, 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.

In other words, if you say you are going to do something, then do it. Don’t speak falsely but let your actions match your words. You see, if you lack integrity here, you are doubting what is true and you will be emotionally unstable. But if you trust in the Lord, if you obey Him and do what you say you are going to do, you will be stable!

During his time as a rancher, Theodore Roosevelt and one of his cowpunchers lassoed a maverick steer, lit a fire, and prepared the branding irons. The part of the range they were on was claimed by Gregor Lang, one of Roosevelt's neighbors. According to the cattleman's rule, the steer therefore belonged to Lang. As his cowboy applied the brand, Roosevelt said, "Wait, it should be Lang's brand."

"That's all right, boss," said the cowboy.
"But you're putting on my brand," Roosevelt said.
"That's right," said the man.

"Drop that iron," Roosevelt demanded, "and get back to the ranch and get out. I don't need you anymore. A man who will steal for me will steal from me."

- Today in the WordMarch 28, 1993

            How true that is! You see, if you are not trustworthy towards others, you will not be trustworthy at all – you are double-minded, only doing those things that will satisfy your own interests instead of doing what is right!  Thus, integrity does promote stability in our lives!

6.  INTEGRITY PROVIDES GUIDANCE AND DIRECTION

            Solomon tells us in Proverbs 11:3, The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them. Or as The Living Bible puts it, A good man is guided by his honesty; the evil man is destroyed by his dishonesty.  You see, someone who lacks integrity will do whatever it takes to protect themselves and their interests, even if it is wrong.  And Solomon says if you do you are being guided towards destruction and not life!  But, if you are following after the Lord, walking in integrity, you will go where He leads you and you will be blessed!

            In Psalm 32:8-9 we are told, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you. You see, God wants to guide us but we need to be looking at Him so we can see where He wants us to walk. What does that mean?  It means we need to be in His Word and in fellowship with Him so that as we are, the Holy Spirit can speak to our hearts and guide us.

            We see this played out in the New Testament for us as we read in Acts 13:1-3, Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

            Also, in Isaiah 58:11 we are told, The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.  But what does this have to do with integrity and God guiding those who are walking accordingly?  Look at the preceding verses there in Isaiah as we are told, Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ ‘If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday.’  Isaiah 58:9-10. In other words, walk in integrity and as you do, God will guide you. If you don’t, then you will not be looking to Him in the first place!

            And Jesus said of the Holy Spirit in John 16:13, However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. Thus, as we read God’s Word, as we spend time in fellowship with Him, as we are open to the Spirit’s guiding, he will lead us as we submit to Him!  Thus, integrity provides guidance and direction for our lives!

7.  INTEGRITY PICTURES THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

            Living a life of integrity truly is a picture of the Christian life, how we are to live out our faith.  Paul gives us some insight into this as he tells us in Titus 2:6-10, Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.  In other words, we are to walk in integrity because it is a picture of what the Christian life is to be about!

            Author Larry Burkett writes:

[An] antique dealer [named] Roy bought what he thought might be Jefferson's desk, which disappeared during the Civil War. But concluding it was simply a good reproduction, he included it in his auction. On auction day, a woman came in, loved the desk, and promised to pick it up and pay next day.

Before the auction, bidder Tom examined the desk. "Did you get a good price for that desk you have a hold on, Roy?"

"Just what I had in it—at least I will tomorrow."

"I'll give you twice what you paid right now!"

"You're crazy, Tom. That's not an original, just a good copy."

"No, Roy. Only the insides of the drawers have been replaced. The chestnut is 18thcentury; the craftsmanship is definitely original."

When the woman arrived next morning, Roy explained what he'd learned. "Then you won't sell it?" the woman asked dejectedly.

"Yes, I will," Roy replied. "I gave my word."

But after weighing the responsibility of owning a Jefferson desk, she told Roy she'd settle for a good reproduction. Roy sold the desk to a museum. He presented the woman with a beautiful reproduction—plus a check for $100,000. He realized his integrity was worth more than a short-term profit.

- Larry Burkett, The Christian Businessman 01/2/99

            As Christians what makes us different?  Yes, we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, all our sins have been forgiven, God lives in us but if that reality is not manifested in our lives, in our actions, the things that we do and the things that we say, it is meaningless. People will see us as no different from them.  Thus, integrity is a picture of the Christian life, how we are to live out our faith!

            Someone once said that integrity matters most when no one is looking and that statement is partially true. You see, many miss the point that God is always looking. He is looking when you fill out your tax returns. He is looking when we take that test at school or write those term papers.  He is looking when we receive back too much change at the store. He is looking when we flirt with a co-worker. He is looking when we go out on that date. He is always looking. Yes, this might seem like a minute point, this might seem minor and who really cares if no one knows? God knows and God cares!

            Thus, walk in integrity because it makes possible the promises of God.  Walk in integrity and persevere till the end.  Walk in integrity because it will protect you from sin. Walk in integrity because it will profit your children.  Walk in integrity because it will promote stability in your life. Walk in integrity because it will provide guidance and direction. And walk in integrity because it is a picture of what the Christian life is all about; it is how we are to walk.  For Abraham, his integrity was lost in his lies and yet, this unbeliever named Abimelech walked in integrity. May we learn the lesson. Folks, integrity matters and may we be an example to others of how to walk!

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