Greatest Sermon in History Part 10
Cross My Heart and Hope to Die
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
April 4, 2004
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,
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.
Long Memory (Elephant)
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?
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
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
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?
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.
“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
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.”
“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!”
“I said, I got him that time.”
“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
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
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.
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.
4. You can count on me to do half the housework.
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
“Few men have the virtue to withstand the
~ 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
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
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
I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your
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
“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
~ Billy Graham