Around 6 on the evening of August 1, 2007, a bridge that spanned the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis was packed with traffic backed up by a construction project. Suddenly it collapsed. 111 vehicles including a school bus plunged downwards with steel and concrete. 13 people died and 145 were injured. Engineers knew the bridge was weakened by structural deficiencies. That was why the construction was ongoing, but nobody knew at the time that a design failure in connecting plates was an incident just waiting to happen. Those plates had been made too thin. They were gradually cracking with time’s passing. Finally one of them tore along a line of rivets. Tragically, the added weight of the construction equipment and materials in place to repair the bridge most likely contributed to the tragedy of the collapse.
Is your life in danger of collapse? Integrity is a quality of character that is of inestimable value. It means being the same person privately that we appear to be publicly. Honesty is part of integrity but it goes deeper. Integrity is about more than our words – it is a basic attitude about life, a commitment to authenticity, a refusal to pretend, cover up, excuse, or create an image. In part it flows from self-awareness, from being content to be no more or less than we are, even while committing ourselves to growth and development.
Don’t confuse integrity with perfection! A person who tries to appear flawless is surely going to lack integrity. We are human which means we certainly have places in our lives that are ‘under construction,’ flaws and sins. To live with integrity does not necessarily mean that we put all the ‘dirty laundry’ of our lives on display for all the world to see. It does mean that we are committed to transparency before God and people who are close to us.
John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, points out one of the key parts of integrity. It is ‘confession.’ He says “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if you do sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who pleases God completely. He is the sacrifice for our sins. He takes away not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” (1 John 1:8-2:2, NLT)
“Sin” is one of those words that many no longer understand or accept. When the Bible talks about sin, it is not just speaking to single acts – cursing, lying, stealing, hating. Sinfulness is the natural state of humanity apart from the intervening grace of God. Naturally, regardless of good intentions, we cannot be the person God made us to be. “No, Jerry, that is not true. We are noble creatures and our failures are the result of lack of education or opportunity, or poor parenting, or a lack of self-esteem.”
Yes, I know that is what we are taught but it is flatly contradicted by God’s truth. Education, opportunity, good parenting, and good emotional health are amazing resources but even with all those advantages – people fail to the do right things. It is hard to admit so we rationalize, excuse, blame, and/or cover up our failures, those cracks in our character. Paul, speaking of his life apart from Christ’s grace says “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?” (Romans 7:24, NLT) His answer? Jesus Christ!
The Gospel of Christ invites us to look at ourselves without excuse and to get honest to God! When we confess our sinfulness, “Oh, God, be merciful to me,” He responds graciously and faithfully with two amazing gifts. He wipes away the guilt and He makes us clean, inside out. Confession is an interesting word. Most basically the Biblical word means to say the same thing. Instead of saying, ‘Yes, I know I have a temper that is out of control but that’s because my Dad was temperish, too,” we agree with God that our temper makes us ungodly. We stop making excuses, ask His forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness of those we have wounded, and then we allow the Holy Spirit to start changing us inside out. The result of that admission – integrity.
Christians cannot live in the false comfort of excuses – “Oh, well everybody does …,” or “That’s just me…” or “I was born this way.” Our calling is to become holy, dedicated to God’s purposes for life. This is possible only when Christ is Savior and Lord, when sin is being overcome, when we are living with integrity. The Word is clear about the importance of choosing our master. Christ came to set us free from the broken natural state of humanity so that we overcome sin. “So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to its lustful desires. Do not let any part of your body become a tool of wickedness, to be used for sinning. Instead, give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God.” (Romans 6:11-13, NLT)
Are you holding onto some secret sin?
Do you refuse to respond to the Spirit’s invitation to get it right?
Do you hate someone and resist confessing it to God?
Do you hang onto resentment, refusing to forgive with Christ’s help?
Guilt need not keep you captive. Shame need not keep you in the shadows. Regret need not be your destiny. God’s invitation to us that we come to Him confidently to find forgiveness and to get cleaned up. The Word says, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7, KJV)
Make integrity your desire. Get honest with God and yourself. The result is a life that is strong and blessed.
Here is a word from the Word.
“Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. …
Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.
He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.” (Psalm 112:1-8, NIV)
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with scoffers.
But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants;
day and night they think about his law.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail.
Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3, NLT)
(a beautiful new song about our Hope)
There’s a fire in Your eyes
That burns through all my pride
There’s an altar in Your hands
For the laying down of my plans
Here I am now
And all of me bows
Simply and only
There’s a whisper in Your voice
That cuts through all the noise
There’s a song inside Your heart
That tears every lie apart
Here I am now
And all of me bows
Simply and only
You’ve reduced me down
To this one thing right now
And all of me cries out
For simply Jesus
Mark Tillman | Sarah Tillman © 2020 Mark and Sarah Tillman Music (Admin. by Watershed Music Group)
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