The Greatest Sermon in History Part 10
Cross My Heart and Hope to Die
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 4, 2004

 

Main Passage: Matthew 5:33-37 (NLT)

 

Back in the mid-1600s there lived a man by the name of Fudge. Captain Fudge. He was a captain of a merchant ship, the Black Eagle. But what a great name… Captain Fudge. Probably a good friend of Captain Crunch. Captain Fudge is an actual historic figure. As the story goes, Fudge would travel out to sea and come back with incredible stories of valour. None of which were true. But he didn’t let that stop him. He became notorious for his lies, tall tales, and exaggerations about improbable adventures on the high seas. And the end result was people couldn’t trust him. In fact, he became a bit of a joke. Before long, whenever a member of his crew started telling their own tall tale, the rest of the crew would point at them and say, “You’re fudging.”

And ever since, Fudge’s name has been associated with lying. By the mid 1800s, if a group of kids were playing marbles and one of them tried to cheat, the others would tell them, “Hey, no fudging.” But even today we continue to fudge. You fudge your on your taxes. You fudge the truth. Candidates get elected based on their promises, but before long they start fudging. Working out a budget at work you might inflate the numbers to allow for a fudge factor.

And all of us do it. We’ve all fudged at one time or another. Some more than others, yes, but we all do it. In fact, it can be traced all the way back to Adam and Eve, when Adam fudged by saying it was Eve that sinned, trying to deflect the blame from himself. And the world has been feasting on fudge ever since.

Here’s a cover from Time Magazine a number of years ago (1992)… “Lying: Everybody’s Doin’ It (Honest)”. [PowerPoint]

Let’s play a game. I’m going to say a word, and you tell me what animal comes to mind.

Wise (Owl)
Proud (Peacock)
Quiet (Mouse)
Noble (Lion)
Thief (Raccoon)
Gentle (Lamb)
Peaceful (Dove)
Majestic (Eagle)
Scavenger (Vulture)
Long Memory (Elephant)
Motherly (Hen)
Fat (Pig)
Hungry (Hippo)
Sly/Crafty (Fox)
Stubborn (Mule)
Strong (Ox)
Slippery (Eel)
Loyal (Dog)
Selfish (Cat)

Those are all words that describe those animals. That’s what those animals have become known for. Now let me ask you this: What words do you want to be descriptive of you?

PARTICIPATION

I think the one word that I want to be associated with more than any other is “integrity”. I want to be known as a person of integrity. I want to be someone that others can trust and respect

Billy Graham defines integrity this way:

“We speak of integrity as a moral value. It means a person is the same on the inside as he claims to be on the outside. There's no discrepancy between what he says and what he does; between his walk and his talk. Integrity has to do with soundness, completeness, unity and consistency. It means everything about a person is moving in the same direction… Integrity permeates the fabric of a person, rather than just decorating the surface.”
~ Billy Graham

The word integrity literally means undivided, complete, one. It means there is no division in your character. What you see is what you get. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. People have always found loopholes to get around keeping their promises. They do it today, and they did it 2000 years ago.

In Jesus’ day, the people were quite accustomed to making vows. If they said something and wanted to emphasize that it was the truth or that they intended to fulfill their promise, they could swear to it, “so help me God.” If they made a vow in the name of God, there was no way they were going to break it. That was a binding vow for them.

However, they reasoned that if they swore by Heaven, or by the earth, by Jerusalem, or even by their own head, well, it wasn’t quite so serious. It wasn’t really a guarantee that they would keep their word. In fact, the Pharisees devoted a whole section in their writings called the Mishma to talking about what kinds of vows were binding and what kinds weren’t.

Sound silly? Hey, don’t laugh. We do the same thing today. What’s one of the first things you learn as a kid? If you make a promise but have your fingers crossed behind your back, it doesn’t count. But if you spit in your hand and shake on it, it’s a binding promise. If you were a Klingon, you would cut your hand to seal an oath.

So this is the kind of mentality that Jesus is addressing in the passage that Shera read for us earlier. Jesus says, “If you are a person of integrity, there should be no need to make a vow or swear an oath, regardless of whether it’s in the name of heaven or the earth or Jerusalem or even your own head. Your word should be as good as your word.”

No need to swear on a stack of Bibles. No need to swear on your mother’s grave. No need to say, “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” Your word should be as good as your word.

Now, there are exceptions. We live in a world where dishonesty is rampant. So in the court system it makes sense that you have to be sworn in. It’s a sad commentary on our society, but it’s understandable. And marriage vows? Well, they’re part of a ceremony in which you are solidifying a covenant relationship and vows are appropriate there. But in day to day life, in your workplace and in your home, with the people who know you, there should be no need to make a vow because you are a person of integrity. And people come to realize that if you say something, that’s the way it is. No fudging.

Integrity is important. But why? What’s it’s value?

 

Four Values of Integrity:

 

1. Integrity sets you apart

Many businesses today are turning to what they call, “Integrity Testing” during job interviews. They’re trying to rein in the amount of theft happening in the workplace. People skimming from the tills, taking office supplies home… This kind of theft costs businesses millions every year.

One study revealed that 91% of us lie regularly. One in five of us can’t make it through a single day without telling at least one lie. Why?

“Lying is a way of gaining power over other people through manipulating them in various ways. This is something that children learn… If we are mature, we have to unlearn any enjoyment of that power.”
~ Sissela Bok, The Day America Told the Truth p. 47

It’s no secret that there is a serious lack of integrity in our society. In fact, when you meet someone who is a person of integrity, you wonder what they’re hiding. Are they for real?

Integrity sets you apart from the rest. Like cream rises to the top, a person of integrity is set apart from all the deceit and dishonesty and deception around them. I think the most significant statement in the Bible about Job is found in the very first verse of the book that bears his name:

Job 1:1 (NLT)
There was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless, a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.

It was his integrity that made Satan take note of him, and it was his integrity that made God take note of him. It set him apart.

“It’s true that charisma can make a person stand out for a moment, but character sets a person apart for a lifetime.”
~ John Maxwell

 

2. Integrity creates trust.

Trust is the basis of any healthy relationship. If you want people to trust you, if you want them to take you seriously, if you want them to believe what you say, you need to be a person of integrity.

Tanner was a seven year old boy from Wellington, Florida who became known for his truth-telling. Let me tell you his story. Tanner played little league baseball, and on one occasion, he was playing in a pretty important game. He was playing first base, and a batter came to the plate and hit the ball right at him. There was a base-runner running from first to second, so Tanner reached out to tag him, and the umpire called the runner “Out!”

Tanner looked down at the ball in his glove, looked up at the umpire, then looked back at his glove. The umpire, noticing this, asked if there was a problem. Tanner replied, “I missed him.”
“What?”
“I missed him. I tried to tag him but I missed him.”
“Oh, well then… he’s safe!”

You can imagine how this endeared Tanner to the rest of the team. I mean, can you imagine a major league ball player pulling a stunt like that? Or and NBA player? Or an NHL player? Picture Tie Domi skating over to the referee, tapping him on the shoulder… “Excuse me, but I really slashed a guy back there. I know you were looking the other way and didn’t even see it, but I deserve a penalty.” Or, “That guy had a breakaway and a clear shot on net, but I tripped him. You really should give him a penalty shot.” How odd would that be?

Two weeks later. Tanner’s playing in another important game. This time he’s at shortstop. Same umpire, with a runner on second heading for third. The batter comes to the plate and hits the ball right to Tanner. Tanner fields the ball and reaches out to tag the runner. “Safe,” comes the call. Tanner hesitates for a second, then throws the ball back to the pitcher. The umpire notices that Tanner’s moping a bit, so he asks, “Tanner, what’s wrong.”

Tanner looked up with big eyes, “I got him that time!”
“What?”
“I said, I got him that time.”
“Really?”
“Yeah.”
“Well then, he’s Out!”

At that point, the manager from the other team comes running out of his dugout, probably does the typical kick-dirt-at-the-umpire thing, and proceeds to yell, “What do you think you’re doing? You can’t change your call like that. You called him safe, and He’s safe!” What are you doing calling him out?”

So the umpire began to explain, “I know this little boy, and Tanner tells the truth.” Then he went on to explain what had happened two weeks earlier. When he was finished, he added, “If Tanner says he’s out, then he’s out.”

Tanner had shown that he could be trusted. He had integrity. And as a result, his story appeared in the pages of Sports Illustrated.

If you say a building has structural integrity, it means the building has strength. It means you can walk across the floor without worrying about it collapsing. It means you can trust it.

If you are a person of integrity, people know they can trust you.

 

3. Integrity promotes peace of mind.

You don’t have to keep track of what lies you’ve told to who, you don’t have to worry about when your deep dark secret is going to be revealed, you don’t have to wonder when everything will come collapsing down around you. If you’re a person of integrity you can sleep easy because you know you’ve got nothing to hide.

In ancient Roman culture, statues were fired in hot ovens that often would crack them. If this were to happen, the sculptor would use wax to fill in the cracks. Every now and then, though, a statue would make it through the firing process without cracking and without needing wax or any other material to hide it. The statue was one substance. And at the bottom of those statues the sculptors would inscribe “sinceros”, meaning “without wax.” That’s where we get our words sincere and integrity. (Integrity actually comes from Old French, but originates from sinceros.)

For you and me, integrity means that we are of one substance. We are without wax. We are authentic, we are real, we are completely honest, we have nothing to hide. What you see is what you get.

Proverbs 10:9 (NLT)
People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.

 

4. Integrity pleases God.

Remember, the greatest commandment we have is to love God with everything we’ve got. And if we love Him, we’re going to want to please Him.

1 Chronicles 29:17 (NLT)
I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there.

Proverbs 11:20 (NLT)
The LORD hates people with twisted hearts, but he delights in those who have integrity.

 

Those are four of the values of integrity, but there are plenty others. Integrity is important for our reputations, our character development, the health of our relationships, our self–esteem… There are lots of benefits we reap when we’re people of the truth.

Okay, nothing surprising there. We all know that integrity is important. We all know that God values honesty and authenticity. So the question is, how do you become a person of integrity?

“There is no substitute for character. You can buy brains, but you cannot buy character.”
~ Robert A. Cook

You can’t buy integrity. But with God’s help you can develop it.

 

How Do I Develop Integrity?

 

A. Walk Your talk.

Want another cliché? Practice what you preach. Put your money where you mouth is. Put feet to your faith.

Titus 2:7 (NLT)
And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good deeds of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.

Our talk and our actions are intricately linked. You’ve got to take your own teaching seriously. If you say you believe in God, show it in the way you live. If you claim integrity is important, then show integrity in everything you do.

The poet Edgar Guest wrote,

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one would walk with me than merely tell me the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.

 

B. Keep your promises.

Do what you say you will do. In the words of Jesus, “Let your yes be yes and your no, no.”

Top Ten Casual Commitments: (from Lee Strobel)

10. The doctor will be with you shortly.
You know how it is… the nurse leads you into this room as cold as a meat-locker and make you strip down to your shorts. Then they tell you the doctor will be there soon and leave you there alone. If you’re anything like me, you wander around reading all the charts on the wall and checking out what kind of stuff is in the room. I have a friend who likes to take those surgical gloves, brace it under his nose, and stretch it over his head. Then he’ll inflate it through his nose and end up looking like a rooster. With my luck, that’d be about the time the doctor shows up.
9. We’ll do lunch soon.
You sincerely plan to, but you end up putting it off until you forget about it, but the other person doesn’t forget.
8. Just give me a call and I’ll be there for you.
7. I’ll pay you back tomorrow.
6. I’ll still love you in the morning.
5. I’ll just take one minute of your time.
Yeah, right.
4. You can count on me to do half the housework.
Guys…
3. Don’t worry, this message is going to be on the short side.
You’ll notice I didn’t say that this morning.
2. The check is in the mail.
1. I’ll pray for you.
You may have good intentions to do it, but you forget. One of the things I’ve learned is if somebody asks you to pray for them, do it right then. Even do it with them. That way you don’t run the risk of forgetting about it and breaking your promise.

“Integrity is about the small things. Little things make or break you. If you cross the line of your values—whether by an inch or by a mile—you’re still out of bounds. Honesty is a habit you ingrain by doing the right thing all the time, day after day, week after week, year after year.”
~ John Maxwell

 

C. Decide your Integrity is not for sale.

“Few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder.”
~ George Washington

Decide today that your integrity is not for sale. Don’t wait until it becomes an issue, settle it today. Establish in your own mind and heart that your integrity is priceless. You will not sell it for any amount of profit, pleasure, popularity, power or prestige.

VIDEO CLIP (THE UNTOUCHABLES)
(Law enforcement officers after Al Capone won’t accept bribes. Become known as the Untouchables.)

 

D. Remember you are being watched.

  • By others

    People are paying more attention to the way you live your life than you might think. Especially if you claim to be a Christian. People want to know if you really believe what you say you believe. Are you credible? Is your faith for real? Is it something that makes a difference? Is it something they should check out for themselves? Looking back a few weeks…

    Matthew 5:15-16 (NLT)
    “Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

    I would say the hardest hits the Christian Church has taken in recent years has been from people who claimed to be believers who lacked integrity. When so-called Christians are revealed as frauds, the damage can be irreparable. That’s true for Christians on national television as well as for you and me in everyday life. People are watching us. What are they seeing?

    “Our actions set an example for how our kids – our spouse – our coworkers – will view God.”
    ~ Bob Turnbull
     
  • By God

    Later on in this series on The Greatest Sermon in History when we get to Matthew 6 we’ll read how God sees what is done in secret. God is watching, even when others aren’t. David wrote…

    Psalm 101:2 (NLT)
    I will lead a life of integrity in my own home.

    Integrity is important, even in the secret of your own home. In fact, I would say the true measure of integrity is found in who you are when you’re 1000 miles away behind closed doors and nobody else is looking. But even then, God is looking.

    Psalm 139:1-2, 7-12 (NLT)
    O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.
    You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away…
    I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence!
    If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.
    If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.
    I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
    To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are both alike to you.

 

So how about you? Are you a person of integrity? Are you as good as your word? Or do you find you have to convince people you’re being honest? Do you have to back up what you say with some form of an oath? If you are a person of integrity, let me encourage you to keep it up. Keep your integrity intact. Be careful to never compromise it. If you’re here and you struggle in this whole area, let me encourage you develop integrity in your life, starting today. When you catch yourself fudging, check yourself. Stop exaggerating and deceiving. When you catch yourself in a lie, acknowledge it, apologize for it, and correct it. Avoid making promises you can’t keep. And do whatever you can to keep the promises you do make.

“I believe integrity can be restored to a society one person at a time. The choice belongs to each of us. Even in the world of mass media, we should never underestimate the power of one person. You can make a difference.”
~ Billy Graham


 

 

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