Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
It's in great demand, but in short supply. It's easy to spot, but hard to find. That rare something is integrity. People of integrity are honest and forthright and have the reputations to prove it.
To improve your integrity score in the race of life, stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, in our culture, character seems to be in short supply these days. You know Dave, perhaps people have heard me quote the words of D.L.
Moody who said that character is what a man is in the dark. And I remember preaching in a country that had been under communism where I was told by pastors that many people compromise their character during very difficult times. And of course, we have to understand that you and I have not had those kinds of challenges, but at the same time, character, integrity, as you put it, is so desperately needed. I've written a book entitled Who Are You to Judge? Learning to Distinguish Between Truths Have Truths and Lies. What's very important is this is one of the last days that we are making this resource available for you. It has to do with issues of character.
It has to do with issues of appearance, neo-paganism, miracles. We're living in a day of confusion. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Remember, this is one of the last days we're making this resource available to you. Who are you to judge? The topic today is judging character.
Judging character, the subtitle would be, How Do You Recognize Integrity? Would you bow with me one more time as we pray? Now, Father, as your word penetrates the deep closets of our soul, we ask, O Lord God, that we might give you the key to those closets. For some, this message is going to be difficult because it has implications far beyond their present daily existence. And therefore, Father, who are we that we should presume that the human heart can be changed?
We know it cannot, except by divine power. Therefore, Father, work in my heart and in the hearts of all who listen in ways that could not have been predicted. We pray in Jesus' name.
Amen. Many years ago, I had the privilege of meeting a man by the name of Richard Dorch. Some of you will remember that he was an associate of Jim Bakker's back in the mid-'80s during that great scandal that we've all heard about.
Richard Dorch was a pastor for many years, a man of integrity, a man who was highly respected, but he lost his integrity when he tried to get some hush money for Jessica Hahn, a woman with whom Bakker had had a relationship. After spending some time in prison, Dorch wrote a book entitled Integrity, What It Is, How I Lost It, and I believe that the subtitle was And the Long Way Back. Integrity.
Integrity can sometimes be better described, maybe even then defined. The Bible uses the word many times. For example, it says that Job was a man of integrity. In fact, that's what God said about Job. God is speaking to Satan and says, Has thou considered my servant Job that he has not lost his integrity, though thou hast incited me against him to destroy him without a cause?
Wow, what a statement. Job maintained his integrity. I noticed that in the New International Version, Jesus is spoken of as having integrity.
Remember when they came to him and they said, We know that you are a man of truth. The NIV says, We know that you're a man of integrity. The problem is that integrity or character is in short supply. According to one survey, 70 percent of all college students cheat, which means they lack integrity.
If they cheat, that also means that they lie. So I'm always wondering how you can believe the polls, but nevertheless, the simple fact is that integrity is in short supply. Integrity is the kind of thing that everybody wants others to have or affirms that others should have. We want our corporations to have it. We wish Enron had had it. We want our schools to have it. We want our churches to have it.
We want our politicians to have it. They are to be men and women of integrity. Little girl said to her dad, she said, Dad, do all fairy tales begin with once upon a time?
He said, No. He said, There are many fairy tales that begin with, If elected, I promise. But we'd like to think that our politicians have integrity. This happens to be the tenth in a series of messages entitled, Who Are You to Judge? A Study in Biblical Discernment.
We've talked about judging doctrine, judging miracles, judging false teachers, judging entertainment, judging conduct and other such topics. And today we get to judging character, a message on integrity. What is integrity? Steven Carter in his book on integrity says it is discerning right from wrong. It is acting on the basis of that discernment. This is an excellent way to characterize it. Acting on that discernment.
And then he says third, it means announcing or making it public that you're committed to this particular course of action. I like that, integrity. It comes from the same word as integer.
I think going back to my math days, that referred to whole numbers. Someone who is a man or woman of integrity, they are people who are whole. They are not duplicitous.
Did I just make up that word or is there one like that? They are not. They don't speak with a forked tongue. They are whole. They are righteous. They are honest.
When you do business with them, you can depend upon them. But what standard should we use? Some of you young women wondering whether or not you should marry this guy. At the end of the message, I may have some advice depending on who the guy is and whether or not he has integrity.
What standard shall we use? And by the way, there is some of you who have real challenges in life. Those of us who work in an institution like Moody Church where everyone has integrity. Integrity is no big issue.
We don't face those big issues. We just are committed totally to truthfulness and integrity. But if you're in a business like some of our prayer partners, my prayer partners who met last yesterday morning to pray for me. One was sharing about, you know, he's in an environment and a leadership position where he wants to be honest and is committed to integrity when all around there's dishonesty and pressure to cut the quarters and to compromise. That's difficult. We have to pray for our business people.
But what is the standard? Take your Bibles and turn to the 15th chapter, the 15th chapter of the Psalms, Psalm 15. And you'll notice this wonderful description of integrity. I thought I had already found it in my Bibles, but I hadn't, which means that you have more time to find it as well. Psalm 15. Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill? Who can be a guest of God? Who can come before God with a clear conscience? Who is the one who can stand in God's presence and God is going to receive him?
Ultimately, only Christ is received and we're received because of Christ. But if we want to have a clear conscience, if we want to be people of integrity, the description now begins. Some commentators have seen 10 different descriptions here.
I have limited them to five and grouped them together. And I think it will be faithful to the text if we look at these five. First of all, you'll notice it says, he whose walk is blameless and does what is righteous. Number one, he speaks truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue. He is a truth speaker. And could I add that he's a truth speaker even when truth costs. He speaks truth even when it diminishes him, even when it doesn't make him look good. Shall I say he speaks truth, and this gets difficult now, even when the truth shames him.
This past week I was speaking to the president of a Bible college in another state other than Illinois. And he was telling me about a faculty member who was having an affair on the internet with another woman. And when they confronted the faculty member, he denied it adamantly until they gave him incontrovertible evidence. We can understand that, but a person of integrity speaks the truth even when it shames him.
A person of integrity speaks the truth even when it harms him. I read this past week that years ago in Chicago there was a baseball manager who refused to accept a run from his own team because his player had missed third base. No one else saw it. The ump didn't see it.
The players were livid. Nobody saw it, coach. Doesn't matter. It's a matter of integrity.
How many players would be willing to speak up and to say the coach made a wrong play here? I am guilty. Integrity. In fact, he speaks the truth and now we really get down to the brass tacks. He speaks the truth even when it indicts him. There are some of you who are listening to this message. If the truth were known, you are covering things up that would put you in jail.
And the problem is that when you come to worship God and you want to sing as we sang this morning with joy and with gratitude, there is that nagging conscience that tells you, yeah, but. Remember that man I told you about two years ago who filled out an employment form for workers comp and lied on the form. He said that the accident happened on his job when it happened when he was hunting.
And now he's getting workman's comp for the rest of his life. And the person who is preaching in the church said, don't you know that this is wrong? You have to get this cleaned up. And he says, well, you think I'm that stupid? You think I'm going to go to jail?
Listen to me very carefully. There are some things worse than jail. And one of them is to be out of fellowship with a holy and a living God.
There's some things worse than jail. How do we discern a person of integrity? Number one, he speaks the truth.
Number two, he honors friendships. Could I say, by the way, I should have commented on the point of speaking the truth that I remember a story about some people who are arguing about a point of grammar. And they said, now, you know, when a hen is sitting on the straw, is she sitting or is she setting? And they couldn't figure it out. So they thought, well, you know, we're going to ask the farmer. Now, farmers usually aren't good at grammar. Well, let me stroke that from the tape, OK?
They become very good at grammar within time. Let me change that. But they said to this farmer, they said, what is it correct to say? The hen is sitting or the hen is setting? He said, I don't care about that. He said, when I see a hen, I want to ask this question. Is she laying or is she lying?
That's what I want to know. That's why the Bible says in Psalm 120 verse 2, oh, Lord, keep me from lying lips, listen to this, and a deceitful tongue. There are some of you who listen to stories without discretion and you share information without discretion. And that's a prayer all of us should pray.
Could I make it any more strongly than this? We are never more like the devil than when we lie. First of all, he speaks truth. Secondly, he honors friendships.
You'll notice that the text says, he does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow men. Have you ever wondered how you can find out who your real friends are? You want to really find out nothing works as well as doing one big public mistake. Then you'll find out who your real friends are. It's amazing how your real friends aren't there if they're to be associated with you when things go bad.
Here's a person who honors his friendships. Now let me tell you a story that's happened a thousand times. It's happening today. It'll happen tomorrow.
It'll happen next week because I've seen this throughout my whole life. A pastor friend of mine in an entirely different part of the country dismissed a staff member because of some serious breaches of integrity. Now that staff member knew that his pastor would never explain this to the whole congregation. He'd never go through the details because the pastor didn't want to hurt the man and his wife and his family, but wanted to deal with it through counseling and accountability in a quiet way, but he had to say that you are dismissed.
You know what that did? That freed the dismissed staff member to say whatever he liked about the pastor, to make up whatever story he wanted to make up as to why he was dismissed. And you see, it may not all be lies. It may even be partially true, but what he does is he takes a part of the truth, makes up the whole truth, makes himself look good, does as much damage as he possibly can as he leaves the church.
Why? To justify himself and to show, you know, who's right and who's wrong. And the one thing he will not do is tell the whole truth unless he's a person of integrity. Notice what the scripture says now. He does his neighbor no wrong, casts no slur on his fellow man.
Wow. He's willing to not use friends as a matter of convenience and not break friendships just to make himself look good. Let me give you a third characteristic. He keeps his commitments. He keeps his commitments. Notice it says he despises a vile man, but honors those who fear the Lord. Notice who keeps his oath even when it hurts.
Remember how the King James put it essentially the same way. He swears to his own hurt, but he changes not. That is integrity. Now, when we think of swearing, making an oath, we immediately think of marriage, of course, and we're reminded of the fact that at the altar there, the agreement is not I'm going to be with you as long as you meet all of my needs or I'm going to be with you as long as until I find someone else who's more conducive to my personality. An oath is an oath.
An oath is an oath. And then there are promises. Now, some promises are conditional.
The condition is implied. If I say I'm going to have breakfast with you and something happens, you understand that that's not breaking a promise. But there are some promises that we make that are solemn promises that are not just words. We intend that person to understand that he can depend upon us and then we break those promises anyway when it becomes convenient.
Let me ask you a question today. Can you trust people to keep a secret? Well, it depends what the secret is. If somebody comes to you and confesses some sin, that should not be hard for you to keep. We as members of the pastoral staff and I'm sure the elders as well, we have many secrets in our heart that people have confessed. And I speak for all of us when I say we do not have a hard time keeping those secret. But you know what sometimes happens is there are people who tell secrets or they're sworn to secrecy, but if telling the secret makes them look good or if telling the secret exempts them from criticism, forget it. In most instances, the secret is told.
You know this business of self-protection, this business of saying that there's a part of my life that everyone has to see me through the correct set of glasses because it's very important. It's very important you see that I look right and therefore we're willing to blow off our commitments simply because it hurts. A man of integrity swears to his own hurts. He may regret that he made the promise, but he keeps it because a promise is a promise is a promise is a promise is a promise.
This can be broken by the way in many ways. And of course we as human beings always want to justify what we do. We justify why it is that we break a promise. But there's the word of God. Blessed is he who swears to his own hurt and does not change. I've written a book entitled Who Are You to Judge? Learning to distinguish between truths, half-truths and lies. We believe very deeply that this resource will be of help to you as you navigate our very confusing culture.
And when I speak about the confusing culture, I also mean the confusion that oftentimes exists in churches. This is one of the last days we're making this resource available to you. That's why I want to emphasize right now. Hope that you have a pen or pencil handy. You can go to RTWOffer.com. That's RTWOffer.com or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Because this is the second last day, the second last opportunity for you to receive this book, I'm going to give you that contact info once again. RTWOffer.com. That's RTWOffer.com and of course RTWOffers, all one word. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the book Who Are You to Judge? Learning to distinguish between truths, half-truths and lies. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. All Christians want to understand the Scriptures correctly. That's certainly the case with Tim, who listens to Running to Win in Carthage, Indiana.
Here's his question. Dr. Lutzer, my question is about the qualifications of a preacher according to 1 Timothy. The apostle Paul speaks of a man being a husband of one wife. In your interpretation of this, is he speaking of polygamy or of divorce? My wife's uncle is a Southern Baptist minister and he believes this pertains to someone who's been married and divorced. Do you believe a man can be a minister if he has been married, divorced and remarried before he came to know Jesus as his Savior? Well, my friend, first of all, let me thank you for asking this question. It shows the interest that you have, as well as others, on what is the biblical requirement to be a pastor.
A couple of comments. The text that you cited in Timothy literally means that the man should be a quote, one wife man. Obviously that means he should not be a polygamist. And obviously it means that it should be a man who is wholly devoted to his wife, a man of proven character. Now, if you ask the question, is it possible for a man who's been divorced and remarried to meet this requirement?
I think under certain conditions, yes, he can. Because I think when Paul lists the various qualifications that are needed, he does so understanding that these are present qualifications. For example, it says that he should be someone who is self-controlled and respectable and able to teach. Clearly, these requirements would not have been requirements that he would have had prior to his conversion or in his past.
You follow me here? So if they are present day requirements, I think probably a divorced man can, within time, regain the kind of credibility of being a man who is of proven character. Now I want to emphasize that this doesn't mean that someone who's going through a divorce or someone who's had a divorce recently meets these qualifications. Because when you talk about proven character, we're talking about a long period of obedience in the right direction. So I don't want to specify the length of time, but people need to be convinced that they have before them a man who loves his wife, who's proven that he loves his wife. He has lived with her consistently and faithfully for many, many years.
If he meets those qualifications, yes, I think he can serve. Some wise counsel from Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. A person of integrity runs life's race without lying and without ever stretching the truth. If you find a person like this, you've found a rare jewel. Character is vital, and next time you'll hear more about the characteristics of a man or woman of integrity. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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