Proverbs 4:23-27 “Integrity of Faith” #Sermon #sermonizingSunday

I have a friend, Jonathan, who is honestly the perfect living example of this passage. I have never once heard a bad word out of his mouth about another person. Jonathan is a minister in Dallas, and I met him in seminary. It wasn’t until after a year or so that I started to realize he simple does not have a negative bone in his body.

 

He’s always positive. Not in that obnoxiously perky way, but he’s always got a good word about someone. He’s the one who really challenged me to always look for the good in someone else, whether he meant to or not.

 

Jonathan keeps his heart with vigilance because he knows that from his heart and from his love of our Creator, springs forth life. And that’s key really, isn’t it? We have to keep our integrity about us even when the world seems to be going horribly, when that one particular person really ticks us off and makes us mad, when something happens that we feel is incredibly unjust.

 

We have to have integrity, we have to keep our heart, our thoughts, our mouths, in line with what God teaches us and with what the scriptures say. Only from that will life spring.

 

Integrity is an interesting word. It’s one I’ve used a lot, and I picked that up from my mom, but I think some people just don’t understand exactly what it means. According to my Google definition, it means “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, moral uprightness. The state of being whole and undivided.”

 

Honesty. Honor. Good Character. Virtue. Fairness. Sincerity. Trustworthiness. Truthfulness. Ethics. Righteousness.

 

What a beautiful word! It’s so much more than just honesty and morality. It’s all about how someone else relates to us. Just like Jonathan. I trust him, deeply, because I know he’s never going to say a bad word about me. That he’s going to pray for me and uplift me, that he’s going to take whatever information I give him and just let that sit between him and his faith.

 

This is very much his reality. It’s how he leads himself, how he conducts himself, how he represents his faith to everyone around him. I have no idea how or why Jonathan ended up this way, but I do know that it makes him that much of a better Christian than me.

 

What would it mean to have honesty in our faith? Some people say they hesitate to say Merry Christmas these days because they’re worried they’re going to offend someone, or to even say that they’re praying for someone else. But if you don’t, are you being honest to yourself and God? Is it about offending someone or is it about being true to yourself?

 

That’s a struggle. It’s hard to wage that war within yourself. Because part of our faith tells us not to harm someone else. It tells us we don’t want to be off-putting in how we present our faith to others. It’s not simply one or the other, it’s a mixture of the two and a very thin line we have to walk.

 

The second verse of this passage says, “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.” This is something we all struggle with. Even Jonathan, I’m sure, struggles with this. He’s just has a boat load more integrity than the average person. He’s the ideal we need to aim for.

 

Crooked speech can come in many forms. It can come bluntly or passively. It can come through the grapevine or directly. These are things we say about another person, usually with our emotions in front of our logic. What I mean by that, is it’s things we don’t think about before we speak.

 

We don’t think about what God would want us to say or do in that situation. We think about how we’re feeling, how we normally act and interact with others. Or rather we don’t think and we just let everything go without concern for what God may want us to do or say.

 

That’s where integrity comes into play. That’s where we need to learn to have some and to gain some. Tell the truth, always. Even if it’s going to paint ourselves in a bad light. Even if it might hurt someone else—I want to add a warning that if it’s really going to hurt someone it may not be the truth. Focus on God, focus on what our Creator would want for us and for that other person.

 

The point of integrity, and particular Christian integrity, is to point our lives toward God, to always keep God straight ahead in our sights. We’re not supposed to deviate from God, not supposed to change direction.

 

But I can tell you flat out that since the Scripture is telling us not to deviate, people were deviating. They weren’t listening, they weren’t keeping God straight in their sights and they weren’t looking directly forward at our Creator. Even people in the Bible failed.

 

However, they got back on their feet. They had the scriptures to look toward to keep them on the narrow path toward God, to get them back on track. They had the accountability of the church, of their fellow followers of faith. This isn’t a path where once you get on you can easily stay on.

 

It’s hard to follow through. It’s hard to have integrity of faith. It’s hard to be honest, and not talk back about someone, to be truthful and trustworthy in every aspect of life. We have to keep reminding ourselves of what God wants us to do, of what it means to have integrity in our lives, of how we are supposed to hold ourselves before everyone we meet and everyone we know. This isn’t a when I’m at church I’m one persona and when I’m home another and with friends even yet a third person. We have to strive to be the same person no matter where we find ourselves. We have to strive to be a person with integrity of our faith, where we keep our heart with vigilance, where we put away crooked speech and devious talk, where we look directly forward at God and turn away from evil.

 

That’s how we have integrity of faith. That’s how we show ourselves to be trustworthy, honorable, and righteous. Righteous in our faith and in our lives, which is something we can only accomplish with God. Keep the faith. Keep God right in front of you. Do not stray from the Scriptures, from the teachings, or from your faith. Be the one who can change lives through your own integrity and how you live only for God.

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