Share This Episode
Family Life Today Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine Logo

Living a Life of Authenticity

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
March 13, 2022 10:00 pm

Living a Life of Authenticity

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1094 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

March 13, 2022 10:00 pm

It's much easier to be concerned with what's outward than what's inside of us. Bestselling author James Merritt examines how to live a life of authenticity.

Show Notes and Resources

Find resources from this podcast at

Find more content and resources on the FamilyLife's app!

Help others find Familylife.  Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Check out all the Familylife's on the FamilyLife Podcast Network

Truth for Life
Alistair Begg
The Truth Pulpit
Don Green
Truth for Life
Alistair Begg
The Truth Pulpit
Don Green
Truth for Life
Alistair Begg
The Truth Pulpit
Don Green

So we've been married 41 years and you want to know what my favorite thing is about you? What do you think I'm going to say? Uh, my body. You didn't think I'd say that? Well, I'll just say it used to be my body.

I don't think it's quite anymore. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. My favorite thing about you and has been for 41 years, I get teary even just saying this, is your words match your life.

Like what you say, what you preach, what you talk about. I live with you and I see your life. I see how you're living out your faith and what you talk about matches your life. That is my favorite thing. And I think I get so teary about it because I know that our sons would say the same thing, that you have always lived what you've preached, not perfectly by any means.

None of us have perfectly, but it matches and there's something really powerful and magnetic about that. Well, we can go home now. That's the greatest gift you could give me.

I think I could say the same thing about you. No question. And it's an important topic that we're going to talk about today. Character integrity really, really matters. And we've got a man in the studio that I know is a man of character and integrity as well. James Merritt is with us. Welcome to Family Life Today. Good to be with you guys.

Thank you so much. We've never met. I mean, I've heard so much about you in so many different areas.

Pastor, author, president of Southern Baptist Convention. How many years ago? Oh, that was like 2000 to 2002, back when 9-11 hit. It was right in that period of time. And obviously written many, many books. How many?

Oh, I don't know, 10 or 12. I don't keep up with that. But this latest one about character, character still counts, is obviously something that's passionate in your life. I mean, it's what Ann was just talking about. It is what defines a man, defines a woman, defines a person. So talk to us about why did you decide to write about character? Well, you know, as I begin, first of all, I've never had the privilege of meeting either one of you. And this is not flattery. My mentor was Adrian Rogers. And Dr. Rogers, I spent a day with him back when I was a young pastor.

And I learned more about how to pastor and preach in a day than I did in seven years at seminary. Dr. Rogers used to say, flattery is what you will say to a man's face, but you won't say behind his back. Praise is what you'll say to a man's face whether you say it behind his back or not. So this is not flattery at all. But I don't believe a wife could say anything greater about her husband than what you just said about your husband.

Or vice versa. And I'll just have to tell your audience, we've never met. But you, you know, you size up and you've been around the block like I have. And from the very time we just sat down and talked, I just, in my heart, I said, these two people love the Lord.

They're real. And so I'm honored to be on your program. All of that said, this book that I wrote, Character Still Counts, is really, it's fascinating to me for this reason.

I've been partnering with a Harvest House publishers for a long time, and I had submitted a couple of projects. And they didn't like either one of them. So it came back to me.

This was before the election. They came back to me and they said, we want to propose you do a book on character. Well, to be honest, I didn't want to do the book. And this is why, this is a little preacher inside secret. You're a pastor, so you know this. Most preachers books are sermons. And they do the sermon and somebody takes the sermons and make it into a book.

Well, I had never preached on any of this. So really, Dave, I was starting from scratch. Literally starting from scratch. And I tell people, except for my dissertation when I did my PhD at Southern Seminary, I don't think, I've never worked hard on anything in my life and I did this book because I literally was starting from scratch.

I mean, even building the outline of the book and everything. So what I did this time is flip the script where I did my research and then made sermons out of it. So it was kind of, you know, the other way around. But it was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done because I was speaking to a large church, mega church staff yesterday.

They're having a retreat in Atlanta. And I decided to do one of my character traits, which is faithfulness. That's what I was talking about. And I said, the pastor is one of my best buddies who is a great guy. He said, James, he said, you know, talk about whatever you want to talk about, but you might want to talk about maybe leadership or something like that. Well, I just didn't feel like I had to do that because I told the staff yesterday that there's all kinds of leadership material out there today. You know, and you've got, you know, John Maxwell's corner of the market and other people like that. So I was thinking about this yesterday.

It's very interesting. Jesus was, I think, by all accounts, the greatest leader who ever lived, obviously. OK, greatest everything that ever lived. But when you read the gospels and he never said a word about leadership, he modeled it.

Yeah. What he'd always talked about was character. And I just think that we're living in a day and age when more and more people think that character counts less and less.

And I think it's wrong. I think the number one thing we ought to look for in not just a pastor, but a president or a governor or the CEO of a company or anywhere. I think the most important thing we should look at is character. How would you define character? What do you mean by that?

Good question. Of course, I have a Christian worldview. OK, to me, the ultimate character from a human being is when you're modeling the life of Christ in every aspect. As a matter of fact, I'll go ahead and jump to the conclusion. My favorite chapter in the book is the last chapter, because what I do is point out how all these character traits Jesus displayed in his ministry, every single one.

He was he batted a thousand. Yeah, I mean, you list 12 different character traits. And in that last chapter, by the way, your shortest chapter, but so enlightening to say everything we just read about 12 different character traits, all of them are in Jesus. Yeah, right.

Yeah, exactly. And so, you know, you can define character in all kinds of ways. But again, being a Christian, I think it's really modeling the life of Christ. And I think it really is living out the spirit of God's righteousness in you.

I think that is character. So, you know, a person can have good character and not know the Lord. You can be a good person. But I think to have the kind of character that God wants every one of us to have, he has to produce that character in us and through us. And that's why I just believe you'll always fall short of what you could have been and should have been as a man, a woman, as a father, as a husband, whatever.

You'll always fall short if you don't have that personal relationship with Christ. And what's your story? Like, James, tell us, like, were you always a man of character?

Has that always been something that's important to you? Well, I was raised right. You know, my mom and dad, I grew up in a Christian home. My dad's an interesting character for your listeners that may remember all in the family.

I call my dad, he was a saved Archie Bunker. That was my dad. He did love the Lord, but he was just very opinionated and very blunt and that kind of thing and all. But my dad really started, he started drinking when he was about 13 and he drank, almost became an alcoholic until he was 28. And then somebody shared the gospel of my dad before I was born. So my dad became a believer. My dad became a believer for 55 years. I mean, he literally gave up alcohol the day he gave his life to Christ. And so from the day that he gave his life to Christ till he died at 83, never touched another drop of alcohol. So by the time I came along, I was raised in a home where, in fact, I used to sit with my dad in church every Sunday. And we went Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, you know, the whole nine yards. My dad read his Bible.

My mom read their Bible every day. And so, you know, my dad just taught me growing up that there are just certain things you do. You keep your word. You do what you say you will do.

You don't steal. You're honest and you treat other people right. But it wasn't a humanistic characteristic. It was more because this is what Christians do.

This is what godly people do. So, you know, when you say you've always been a person of character, I think that from the time I was born, I began to learn character. I think as you grow and mature in your faith, you realize how your character does need to grow and you never do ever reach the pinnacle of perfection, obviously. You know, when I wrote the book and I went through and I was going back through my edits, there were certain of those character traits that, boy, I just got convicted of.

And I said, you know, I'm not there yet, Lord. That's just not quite. I know I need to do work on that. The thing that troubles me again is that people today, it's more about results. It's more about image. It's more about the little sound bite and character kind of seems to fall by the wayside. Talk about the difference between character and integrity. And again, maybe the same thing, maybe or not. But when you hear the word character, I often think you tell me if I'm right or wrong. And I read what you wrote. It's very similar. But I think integrity is what you said earlier.

You know, even what Ann said, a man or a woman's life matches their words. There's not a that's integer, right? There's it's a whole number.

There's not a division there. Is that what character is? Yeah, I'll put it this way. And by the way, when I told them I'd write the book, I said one of the authorial things I wanted was I want the first chapter, the last chapter. I don't care what the order. The rest of the chapters are. But I want the first chapter to be integrity, because to your point, I believe integrity is the foundation. Character begins and ends with integrity. I taught my boys growing up, my three sons. If you don't have integrity, guys, you got nothing.

So the way I would put it, Dave, is this way. If you don't have integrity, no matter what else you have, you don't have real character. But character is more than just integrity. But the reason I started with that very chapter is because everything rises and falls on integrity. As a matter of fact, you'll find that you'll be hard pressed to find where if a person doesn't have integrity, he has a lot of those other traits.

Most of the time he won't. For example, if you're not a person of integrity, you won't be faithful. If you're not a person of integrity, you won't be honest. If you're not a person of integrity, you won't be humble. You won't be authentic. So it really is the bedrock.

It is the foundation, I think, of what character is all about. You know, many of our listeners know, maybe I've said it a couple times, that I was the Detroit Lions chaplain for 33 seasons, which means one playoff win. 33 seasons, one playoff win. But one of the first coaches I sat under was a guy named Frank Ganz.

He was our special teams coach in the 80s. And I'll never forget, he would stand up in front of the team many times and use his hands as an illustration. And he'd take one hand and say, what a man says, what a man does, and put them together. You know, like, this is what you say, this is what you do. It's got to match up. And he goes, if this doesn't match up, you can't play for me.

In other words, in the football realm, he's saying, if you say you're in gap A, you got to be in gap A. You can't say I'm going to be there and not show up. And it would always be, I'll never forget that visual. You preached on that. I remember you slapping your hands together like that.

Because I can remember Frank doing it, and now his son coaches in the league. But it was like such a good visual to say, is what I'm saying matching up, you know, to my life. If I say to my wife, I'm faithful, am I faithful in a hotel room when nobody's looking? If I say to my church or to a buddy of mine that I give you my word, there was a day, a handshake, sort of felt like I could trust that shake. I feel like we live in a culture now, it's like, if it's not written down in a contract, I'm not sure. So has integrity lost its foundation in our culture? One of the things my dad taught me is an old saying, your words, your bond. My dad taught me that. Dad used to say, son, a man's handshake is better than ink on paper.

If you need ink on paper to do what you say you'll do, you're not much of a man. I just totally agree with you. And we could get into the whole sports world again about this. You know, there's something about these guys, you know, you sign a contract, you want to renegotiate with somebody else, starts getting paid more.

Wait a minute, wait a minute. You agreed to pay for this. You said it was a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. OK, I kept my end of the bargain.

You keep yours. So even in those kind of things, we see, you know, integrity seemingly go by the wayside and we see it so much in everyday life. And when integrity goes down, trust in your fellow man goes down because trust is built on integrity.

Doing what you say you'll do. One of the things you'll appreciate and Zig Ziglar, if you've ever heard of Zig Ziglar, Zig is one of my very best friends. In fact, Zig used to call me, he called me the Bible answer man. He called me every Saturday with a Bible question. Every Saturday he always called me about nine o'clock. I mean, Zig's this stinking thinking guy.

That's right. Get rid of stinking thinking. I've never been around anybody. I love being around more than Zig Ziglar to this day.

Zig says something that triggers something in my mind and he put this in his book. So about 25 years ago, I started doing this. Teresa and I have been married 45 years. Every night before I go to bed, I will say to her, I've always been faithful to you. And I don't have to tell her that every day. I love telling her that anyway. I want to tell her that every day. I want her to know that I've, you know, I've always been, you know, faithful to her because it's such a foundation.

I was telling this staff retreat yesterday about marriage. We're talking about marriage. I used to believe the most important thing that she could give you and you could give her was love. And of course, love obviously holds together.

And I've changed my mind. I think the most important thing you must have from her and she must have from you is trust. Because it doesn't matter how much you love each other. If you don't trust each other, you're not going to have much of a marriage. And you've got to know that he's always faithful.

He's got to know, you know, you're always faithful. And so I just, I started doing that, like I say, about 25 years ago. And I've had some people make fun and laugh and all that stuff. But it is a joy for me. You know, I'll tell you something about character, Dave. You know this.

This is the sad thing. People don't realize that the joy that comes in life when you're a person of character. You don't have to worry about what you say if you always tell the truth. If you lie, you may have to worry because you may get caught. But if you always tell the truth, you don't have to worry. Every part of the character, all the character traits in that book, you can look at them and you say, golly, Pete, if I were to do all of that, I mean, I'd be straight laced and I can't have fun.

It's just the opposite. The people who have true godly character have more fun than anybody on the planet. Because you know you're never going to do the wrong thing. I told my boys growing up, I said, boys, if you never get in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person, you can't do the wrong thing. When you always know you're going to do your best to be the right person, doing the right thing in the right place, there's a joy and a peace of conscience and a good night's sleep that comes out every night you just can't put money on.

Yeah. And essentially, as I hear you say that, I think to be a man or woman of character, integrity as well, you have to pre-decide. You have to make decisions before moments.

In other words, what you just said, to be in the right place, the right people, right? You've got to pre-decide before you walk out of your house or even in your house. I'm not going to hang out. I'm not going to go, right? It's a pre-decision.

It doesn't happen in the moment. It's like I've decided before I leave, like you're going home tonight. You're going to say to your wife, I've been faithful.

You made a decision before you even left the house today to make sure that you're going to go home faithful tonight, right? A great example of that is, and again, something else I told my boys, we tend to complicate the simple. Jesus simplified the complicated. The Pharisees and the rabbis came up with 613 different commands that they drew out of the Old Testament. So Jesus comes along and says, boys, I can get it down to two.

By the words of God, with all your heart, soul, mind, strength, and loving memory as you love yourself. Really, if you want to boil it down to one, it's called love. So we complicate the simple.

Jesus simplified the complicated. The thing about living a godly life and being a person of character, if you will early on make two or three big decisions, the rest of the decisions just fall like dominos. Too many people are making decisions too late in life. They make them on the fly. You can't make great decisions on the fly.

You cannot do it. There are certain decisions you've got to make. So for example, early on, I decided, and thank God I did, I decided to follow the Billy Graham rule. So I don't counsel with a woman alone.

I don't meet with a woman alone. And I can do that because I'm a pastor and I understand. I cut slack with the business world.

I'm not judging anyone out there that your job may require some of those things. But for me, I've just done that. Teresa knows I'm just not going to put myself in any, whether it's accidental or whatever, I'm just not going to put myself in that situation.

That big decision has saved me so many times. So for example, I'm on TV. So I get made up every Sunday morning before I go out and preach. My makeup lady knows the door is open. If I'm in that green room alone, I've been going by, but that green room alone, it's like there's a force field. She cannot cross that threshold into that room until my sound guy comes in or who's mic'ing me up or my production guy or something.

Somebody has to be in that room with us. That's a big decision I made and it's paid off forever in my ministry. I'm guessing our listeners might remember the story, but it's so apropos to what you're saying is, what's it been now? 32, 33 years ago, Family Life called us, Ian and I, and asked us to consider being a speaker for the Weekend to Remember marriage getaways that we do. We actually went to as an engaged couple and this was 10 years later. Now we've been married 10 years and they have speakers that present the Weekend to Remember. So, I mean, when we get the call, first of all, we're like, they want us to consider?

Are you kidding me? This would be a phenomenal ministry, phenomenal weekend. We're like, oh, I can't imagine. So part of the interview process was fly down to the headquarters, which at that time was in Little Rock, and have a meeting with Dennis Rainey, the president and founder of Family Life. So we're on this plane flying down there a few weeks later and we are literally role playing. What's he going to ask? You know, what's he going to ask? So we're like, he might ask this and we'll answer this because we want this job so bad. It's like we don't want to mess up this interview. We get to the headquarters, we walk around the building, we get into Dennis's office, never met him before. I just know who he is.

He actually spoke at the marriage conference we went to 10 years before. And we are, I mean, we're nervous, like literally nervous. Like, I want to make sure I answer these questions right so we get this job and I'll never forget it. I mean, James, I'm looking right across the table.

It was just like this. He's at his desk. I'm sitting where you are. He looks across the table and he goes, just have one question. And we look at each other like, just one question?

Just have one question. And he looks straight at me and I'm staring at you because he would not take his eyes off my eyes. And he goes, are you clean? And I knew what clean meant.

Sexually, pornography, integrity, financial, you name it. Are you a man of character is what he was asking me. And I look right back at him and I say, yes. And he goes like this.

He turns and looks right at Anne. He goes, is he telling me the truth? And she goes, yes. He goes, OK, you're good.

You're in. We're like, I'll never forget. I go, what do you mean we're in? He goes, yeah, you're on the team. And I go, well, am I a good enough speaker? Because, you know, we sent him cassette tapes.

Remember those? I'm preaching, you know. He goes, hey, you're OK.

He goes, I'll never forget. I thought it was all about ability. You know, skill, standing on a stage and delivering the goods.

He looked at me and he goes, this is not about speaking. This is about character. I need people standing on that stage who are living the truth.

We are presenting about marriage. And if you're not clean, you can't be in this ministry. And I thought that's what this was all about. Character. And that's what you're just saying.

It's like, oh, my goodness. I mean, life is not about the outside. You know, I think in First Samuel 16, man looks at the external or looks at the outside outward appearance. God looks at the heart.

Characters about heart. Right. You know, you'll remember this. There was a tennis player named Andre Agassi. Oh, yeah. Andre Agassi did a series of commercials at Kodak, one of the camera companies. It's one of the most successful ad campaigns ever done.

And the slogan is still used today. Image is everything. Yeah. That is so anti-biblical. Right.

It's so ungodly. Image is nothing. In the eyes of God, God even said, you will have no graven image before me. Image is not everything. Character is everything.

It's what is inside that counts. But we are living in a culture and we're living in a day and an age and just, you know this, every person that ever runs for president, the number one thing they cultivate is that image. They want that perfect picture with the flag in the background. It's all about image. Are they making promises they know they can't keep?

Are they saying things they know are not true? A lot of people don't know they don't care. Or he's of this party or he's of this party so I'm voting for this. And character never enters into it and we pay the price.

There isn't a character element that's just indispensable to the leadership, whether it's in the church or whether it's, you know, whatever it is. And this is a very sensitive topic. I'm going to be very careful how I walk around it. But, you know, it is disheartening and I'm clean and I can look you in the eye and not blink and tell you I'm clean. But it is disheartening and discouraging because we all get tarred with the same brush when pastors do fall. And when you find out, you mean you did this on Saturday night and you got up and preached on Sunday morning?

I mean, how do you do that? I couldn't do that. David could fall. I could fall. Dave, you could fall. Being David, a man after God's heart, we all can fall. That's why, you know, let him who stands take heed lest he fall. That, I'm not saying that's why I guard myself, but to do that and then to do this on Sunday, it's mind boggling to me. And so I think that, you know, one of the things that has hurt the church, unfortunately, is the very place and people you would look for and just assume, oh, sure, they're clean. Sure, their words and their life go together.

Don't. It hurts always. So many Christians, myself included, know how to give the right answers, know how to talk a big game when it comes to living the Christian life. But sometimes our actual private life, when nobody else is looking, when only God can see, doesn't match what we talk about.

And that includes anybody who's a Christian, all the way up to pastors and spiritual leaders. Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart. Character is the heart. Character matters. James Merritt has written a book called Character Still Counts. It is time to restore our lasting values.

We need to stop protecting our reputation and start building a life of character. This book that James Merritt has written is available in our Family Life Resource Center. If you wanted to pick up a copy, you could go to to order your copy online, or you can give us a call at 1-800-358-6329.

That's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. Character counts, obviously, in our lives, but it also counts in the way that we pour into our children. Our guest coming up later this week is Jon Tyson, and he's written a book called The Intentional Father, a short practical book on how to help men raise their sons as men of character. This will be our gift to you if you log on to and make a donation of any amount. When you do, request Jon Tyson's The Intentional Father, and we'll send you that copy. Again, any amount that you donate at, or you can pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-800-358-6329.

That's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. Thanks in advance for your support, and we hope you enjoy the book. Coming up tomorrow, we are going to hear once again from James Merritt, who's going to talk about the value of loyalty in your marriage. It brings us a whole new level of love with our spouse. Dave and Ann Wilson will be talking with James Merritt tomorrow. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-22 18:26:33 / 2023-05-22 18:38:34 / 12

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime