"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Integrity part 1: God behind our closed doors

I look forward to being a father one day. In all honesty, I shouldn’t. I know what kind of child I was. I am the reason patience is also called “long-suffering”. I have put my parents through a lot! Many of you have an idea of the different uses of a spatula—flipping pancakes, lifting fresh cookies from a hot tray. When I was a child, I had a very different understanding of the spatula. The spatula was a tool of discipline…one which paid me a visit quite often!

I bear no ill will towards my parents for my many spankings, in fact, I am grateful. They always came from a place of love; wanting to see me learn to walk in right behavior. They were always partnered with a “this is what you did wrong, this is how we can make it right, and here is the game plan to keep from making this mistake again.”

Part of growing up is learning through discipline, maturing, and putting childish behaviors behind us.

This is true in our Spiritual maturity as well. But sadly, as a pastor friend put it, there are many white-haired spiritual babies; grown men and women who have never grown in spiritual maturity; never learned to walk with the Lord in integrity.

I’d like to look at two men: Saul and David, and what their lives can teach us about integrity. Both men were anointed by God. Both were given the responsibility of ruling the nation of Israel. Yet, only one was called a man after God’s own heart.

1 Samuel 24 reveals an incident that was significant to both Saul and David’s lives. At the time, Saul held the thrown of Israel, but because of his disobedience, he’d already been told that God had found a man after his own heart who would rule the thrown. David was that man; he had already been anointed as the next king.

Saul wanted to see David dead. David hid with his soldiers in the wilderness of En-gedi, and Saul came with 3000 men to hunt him down. It just so happened by divine providence that Saul stepped into the very cave David and his men were hiding in to “relieve” himself. David literally caught Saul with his pants down—he was completely helpless! David’s men encouraged him, “now is your chance!” David snuck up behind the king, and snipped off a piece of his robe…and that’s when his conscience got the best of him.

I love this—David was so in tune with God, his conscience troubled him for damaging the clothing of the man who came to murder him in cold blood! Saul on the other hand, had closed God off so much that not only did he want to kill David—he dragged 3000 other men into sin with him.

There couldn’t be a greater contrast between David and Saul here. What sets them apart? The most simple, basic answer is that one recognized the presence of God while the other didn’t.

David listened to his conscience—Saul had shut his off.

Huddled in a room, there we sat— a group of friends confessing our trials; opening up behind a closed door in our chaotic college dorm. Many of us admitted the deep struggle it was to keep our minds and eyes pure behind the closed doors of our dorm rooms. “I don’t have a roommate…there’s no one to see what I do! How can I remain pure?” After a pause, one of my best friends thoughtfully spoke. “I’ve been thinking…what if we really…I mean really…believed that God is always with us—that he is there behind those closed doors. That he sees what we do. How would that change the way we live?

That question stuck with me and has formed the way I understand integrity. Integrity is recognizing that God is always with us, and living as such.

If we are honest, there are many times that we perhaps don’t want God to be with us. In those moments, it is only because we hold a skewed view of God. It is easy to slip into seeing God as a cosmic referee—he’s just waiting to blow the whistle when we mess up! You can’t do this, you can’t do that—can’t, can’t, can’t! In our skewed perception, God looks like a major killjoy. But how could the author and creator of joy kill it? No! God wants to bring us true joy, and let us experience it to the fullest! He’s like the father of a toddler who reaches down to grab the dog food, worm, or pine cone from his child’s hand before the tot’s pudgy fingers plop it in his mouth. “No! You don’t want to eat that! I have something better—much, much better for you.” False joys leave a bad taste in our mouth. Our greatest joy is found in walking with God.

David writes in Psalm 16 about the joy found living one’s life in companionship with God. Here are a couple verses…

… 8 I know the LORD is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

... 11 You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.

As we continue this blog series on integrity, we will look at those moments when the “I will not be shaken” becomes the stumbling and falling down that we all do. Both Saul and David had some significant slip ups. Both were confronted by godly men for their sin. What can we learn from their mistakes, and the way they responded?

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