“He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they cannot realize.” –Oscar Wilde
What of this thing called integrity? Is it a lost art and lost application of principle in our world today? Do personal and corporate ambitions get in the way of true honesty and moral character? All too often we hear about leaders and figure heads from all walks of life falling from grace because of moral or ethical failure. It’s always uncomfortable to hear or watch their lives fall apart right before our very eyes. Sometimes, dare I say, we look down upon them and think “that could never happen to me”. You’ve heard the phrase “pride comes before the fall”, and yet we fill ourselves, defensively, with that insulated pride and think either we’re impervious to ethical or moral failure or that we will never be caught. Either way, we walk on very thin ice if we believe either of those pretenses or excuses will protect us should temptation come our way.
How do we avoid failures of integrity and character?
Here are a few suggestions to better equip and protect ourselves from such trappings:
1. Equip and transform our minds with honorable things:
Philippians 4:8 says; “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Another power passage of scripture tells us – “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
The battle of this war that we wage against sin and temptation begins within our thought processes. Whatever we put into our minds we will eventually live out in our lifestyles and actions. So to avoid failures of integrity and character begins with thinking and meditating on things of a godly nature instead of a worldly perspective. What this means is that perhaps we become better stewards of our time and what we see, hear and read. These forms of media are everywhere in our lives. They aren’t inherently evil, in fact there are some very effective and healthy forms of these, but all too often we do not balance our intake of what we hear see and read.
When we realize that what we feed our minds and thought processes becomes who and whose we are, then we begin to see how vital it is to cut off or limit that which is harmful to the very fabric of our moral and ethical character as a human being. The mind is the battle ground to our senses…leave it undefended and ill trained and it will be a source of daily defeat in your character and responses to others.
2. Avoid the ‘Bad Apple’ Principle:
You know the old farm tale of the apples that were to be sorted in the apple bin? The boy was to discard the bad apples from those that were ripe and vibrant, but he got lazy and decided not to finish the job and left the apples for the day. When he returned to the task the next day, many of the healthy ripe apples had become rotten because they were not separated from the bad apples.
Ephesians 5:7,8 says, “Therefore, do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.” This passage of scripture doesn’t mean that we aren’t to be Christ’s ambassadors to the lost, but it does mean that our association with those still living in the darkness should be limited. If we are children of light we need other children of light to help keep our candles lit. Proverbs 27:17 says that “iron sharpens iron”, meaning that we as Christians ought to be in fellowship with one another to help each other along the way. When we are not a part of a fellowship of other believers we can often lose our way or find ourselves at a moral or ethical precipice because no one was there to prevent us or hold us back. Ignorance as Christ followers is not bliss, we need each other and we need to hold one another accountable. We have to avoid the bad apple principle by partaking in the fellowship of other believers who will help us become better equipped to engage and shine our lights into the world.
“Through simplicity we live with others in integrity. Solitude allows us to be genuinely present to people when we are with them. Through submission we live with others without manipulation, and through service we are a blessing to them.” –Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline, pg 201)
3. Engage in an Active and Protective Prayer Life:
Eleven leaders of conservative renewal movements, representing eight groups from within six Protestant denominations, pooled common concerns at a third annual meeting.
Conference convener Matthew J. Welde, of Presbyterians United for Biblical Concerns, noted an increase in renewalist groups, and Gordon-Conwell Seminary professor Richard Lovelace told the group that greater unity among evangelicals, across denominational lines, is possible. One concern of the group: prayerlessness. They cited recent studies showing that “the average pastor surveyed prays only three minutes each day.” (Christianity Today, April 6, 1979.)
This illustration may have been written a while ago and only about pastors, but the truth is everyone needs to engage in an active and protective prayer life! If we are to avoid the pitfalls of ethical and moral failures in our spiritual character as Christ followers, then we have include the discipline of prayer! Not only are we to engage in prayer, but we have to protect that time as well!
It is fair to say that most, if not all of us, engages in a lot of activities throughout our daily routines. Many times we can forget or neglect our daily devotion and prayer life with our Heavenly Father. God doesn’t want what’s left of our day, or to be included in just a portion of it. His fellowship with us can be most effective in our defeat and repelling of temptation and sin by daily communing with Him through an active prayer schedule. This doesn’t mean that we have to get on our knees every fifteen minutes or write up some sort of elegant schedule, but it does mean that we ought not to treat prayers with God as something reserved for times of great need or just before bed time. He can and will help us overcome obstacles and temptations that are before us. But before we even encounter these obstacles or temptations it is wise to have His counsel, his fellowship and these conversations with Him can empowers and equip us to stand firm and avoid the trappings of sin all together.
Let’s wrap it up:
It would be foolish to think that any of these three areas of equipping our spirit and body is easy. Spiritual disciple is very difficult! This should be seen as a daily, even minute by minute effort of engaged spiritual discipline in our lives. If we are to be protected and armed for this battle that is waged all around us, then we need to be armed with the right equipment. There might be other areas of our lives that we might need further weapons of spiritual warfare…but daily, the exercise in these three are paramount to standing firm when temptation comes our way.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” -Proverbs 4:23