“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” C.S. Lewis
This subject has been weighing heavy on my heart the past month or so. Before I begin, I have to make a disclaimer: I am not even close to perfect and continue trying to identify places in my life where I can demonstrate a greater level of consistency and integrity. There is a lie that continues to be whispered to me that causes me to feel unqualified to even write about this at the risk of being a hypocrite, but you know what? God has qualified me, and He has qualified you to demonstrate consistent character and to pursue a life of integrity! This is not a sermon about being saved by works, it is a message of hope for us to be able to reap the benefits of heaven. I forget who quoted this, but I love it… “We are not to live towards freedom, but rather to realize that we have already been given this gift, and to live from it.” We need to live from a place of freedom instead of working so hard to achieve it. This only brings frustration and, ironically, restriction and captivity. We have already been liberated and freed (Galations 5:1)! If we can work to eradicate inconsistency in our lives, we open up more room for God to use our lives in influential ways. While we are still here on Earth, even though we are “broken vessels” (2 Cor 4:7), we will continue to be used by God to demonstrate His power because that’s the way He designed it, what can you and I do to seal some of the cracks in our vessels to hold more of Him? Here are five practical steps that I am seeking to practice in my life, maybe they will be helpful for you as well:
1. Identify aspects of your behavior that require change.
In Psalms 134:23-24, David is on his knees crying out, “Search me God” and says, “Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” David is willingly asking God to show him areas of his life that need polishing. Do we do this enough? God knows us intimately, therefore we shouldn’t be afraid of being transparent with Him. He desires for us to be whole and healed! You have to decide what you must change in your behavior to align your life more closely to what you believe. Be brutally honest with God and with yourself. 2 Corinthians 7:1 says, “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit…” Why wouldn’t we want that?
2. Face the obstacles that cause you to make excuses or justify your lack of change.
Kick this nasty habit. It has become second nature for us to lie to ourselves in order to justify actions that bring destruction into our lives! You were created for more than that. It may be confusing to think that consistency comes about because of change, as these concepts seem to be in opposition to each other, but it is true. There are obstacles in our way that can be destroyed with faith as small as a seed (Matthew 17:20). Removing obstacles and justifications is a way of saying, “God, I trust you… I have have faith that you can guide me to escape the temptation that I face and help me to choose holiness in this moment.” Holiness is a byproduct of integrity and consistent character.
3. Instead of focusing on the character of others, focus more on your change.
The first step to all of this is abiding by the greatest instruction that Jesus gives: “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.‘ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39). Did you catch that, “equally important.” Jesus is saying that we have got to learn to love His people if we ever want to experience the fullness and peace that God has for us! Here is a challenging example: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). We are all guilty of this- we make fun of those who are different, share videos on social media of people hurting or humiliating themselves, we laugh at the cashier at the grocery store who tries to make light conversation because of how “awkward” they are. Guys, it is a hard sell to say that we love God while we fail to love His kids. Would you ever tell a friend who is a parent that you really love them, but that you despise their child?
4. Take your thoughts captive!
The fourth key to unlocking consistent character is, I think, the most crucial! Straight out of 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ…” Honestly, this is one of my favorite and least favorite scriptures. It can be exhausting, initially, to practice paying attention to every single thought that comes into our minds. But, it is much like learning a language… it takes a lot of time and effort at first, and then it becomes internalized and habitual! We need to work to be conscious every day of the decisions we make, however big or small, and how close they bring us to being the person we really want to become. And hopefully, we want to become like Jesus- because that’s what we are instructed to do (1 Cor 11:1). Capturing our thoughts and taking responsibility over what we do with them is the key that will get you out of any tempting situation that arises.
5. Be Persistent
Don’t give up trying. This circles back to my intro. It would be easy for me to stop trying to pursue righteousness, holiness, integrity, consistency because I screw up sometimes. It is possible that I might think, “Well, I have already __(insert negative behavior)__, so I might as well just keep doing it… this is just who I am.” Be really careful to allow your mind to believe this statement for even one minute. This doesn’t just apply to “big sins/negative behaviors”- it can be laziness, worry, anger, fear, distraction… whatever it is, it is not worth getting off the road of integrity. God wants to use your persistence to teach others!
Challenge Questions to journal about:
1. Ask God to “search you” and show you areas of your life that you want to allow life and change to come into. What comes up? Write them down.
2. List all of your excuses for giving into temptation or preventing change and then cross them out! (i.e. No one will ever find out).
3. How can you fight the urge this week to mock or tease someone who is different from you? Challenge yourself to pray for your “enemy” today.
4. Pick an environment and specific amount of time to pay attention to all of your thoughts (i.e. in the car for 30 minutes). Describe that experience; what did you notice?
5. Find someone to hold you accountable or to encourage you when you feel like giving in to negative behavior, or giving up. List a few people who might fill this role in your life.
Proverbs 2:20-21 – So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it …