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Integrity: Knowing and Being Your True Self

Sermon by Pastor Dave Collins. You can view the sermon at the bottom of this page!

"There is so much beauty in the world you can’t love it all. And there is so much good to do in the world, you can’t do it all. And to try to, is sin.”

- St. Augustine

You can’t do everything. You can’t even love everything. So you have to choose. This leads us to a simple question, to start our time out today.

What do you want?

It’s a simple question. It’s not always so simple to answer it though. What do I want? Hmmm… give me some suggestions, and maybe that will help. What do I want…to eat? Pizza? No. Mexican. Yes, but I just had it, so no. Where do I want to go? The beach? Too cold. The movies. Too crowded. The theme parks. Too expensive.

What do you want?

I think we’re a lot better at saying what we don’t want than what we want. Don’t you?

It’s the same for what we value. Ask me what I value and I might be able to get out a few sentences, but ask me what I hate? What drives me nuts? Well, how much time have you got? But ask me what I value most in life? That won’t be as long a talk, or nearly as interesting to listen to.

What do you want? What do you value?

Today’s message is about integrity.

Integrity comes from the word Integer, which means one whole number. When we say that we are meant to have integrity as people, and in our relationships, it means that we are meant to be the same person, the same one, wherever we are, whoever we talk to.

To have integrity is to be able to answer the question: What do I want? What do I value? What is important to me?

Now, a lot of the time, our most honest answer to that question, what do I want? Is “A snack”. Or “a nap”.

“I want to go home.” “I don’t want to be hassled.” “I just want to do what’s expected of me so that I can get some time to relax.”

But. When we do that enough, we sometimes lose the ability to tell the difference between what we want, and what others want from us.

We change depending on who we’re around. I may not be able to say what I want, but I can kind of tell what you want, so I’ll just make that happen, and that’s good enough.

You may not be able to say what you value, but you can sure recite what your mom or your dad values, so let’s just leave it at that. But then you spend time with people who have different values, and all of a sudden, those sound just as good as mom and dad’s.

And then, instead of being ONE, we end up being multiple, divided.

We end up caring too much about what others think.

We spin the truth, exaggerate, or lie to make ourselves fit in with whoever we’re with.

We avoid confrontation. And just try to keep everyone happy.

We say yes when we prefer to say no.

We disappear into our roles, our jobs, our place in the family. And even if we end up living out those roles really well, it ends up feeling phony, like we’re invisible, like no one sees us. Our contributions to the world feel tainted by it.

Our relationships end up feeling pretty lonely. Because those people in our lives don’t really know us. Because we don’t really know ourselves.

Rather than answer that question, What do you want? We try to make the question go away. We numb ourselves to it. Either with our substance of choice, or by having the day never end by having the work never end. We look at one screen all day and then come home to look at another. We take on debt to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like, with the added “benefit” of creating a new emergency every month, called “Let’s see if we lose everything.” All so we don’t have to answer that question, “What do I want?”

Do you know who always knew what he wanted? Who was completely aware of what he valued?

Jesus (It’s always safe to go with Jesus)

Jesus navigated all those expectations that others had, and never let other people’s expectation distract him from who he was, what he valued, or what he knew God had called him to do.

There was the time that his family decided that he had gone nuts. Mark tells us about it.

Mark 3:20-21, 31-34

Then he went home; 20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”

Well, maybe his family weren’t the ones saying it, but “people” were saying it, and you know how bothered a family can get when “people” are talking. So whether they believed the chatter or not, they wanted it to stop.

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters[c] are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

I wonder if they could hear him say that in the moment or if they just read it years later? He said “What?”

Jesus got it though. He knew that sharing a name isn’t the same as sharing values. And for Jesus, values won.

There was also the time that the people he grew up with tried to throw him off a cliff. Luke tells us that story. Jesus came home to Nazareth and read the scripture in the synagogue on the Sabbath, and when he finished.

Luke 4:22-30

22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

What a nice young man. Nazareth really is the best town, isn’t it? And we really are the best people.

23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

Apparently the people of God hadn’t yet learned when they disagreed with the sermon to just shake the preachers hand and compliment their shoes. No they tried to throw Jesus off the cliff for what he said, but Jesus didn’t turn his sermon into a two or three part series, he just said “No” to this business, in his own quiet way, and did some Jesus magic, and walked right through the peeved off crowd.

It didn’t have to be an angry crowd either. One time a crowd liked him TOO much. John tells us

John 6:14-16

14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

He didn’t argue. He didn’t teach. He just left.

But sometimes he did take the time to teach and correct his friends when they got him wrong. Matthew tells us.

Matthew 16:21-23,

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

This was what Jesus discovered, I think, in all those times away, in all those times set apart. Sometimes what you want isn’t what you want, but what you must do.

None of the gospel writers tell us just how he discovered his purpose, but I have a feeling that he discovered his purpose in the same way that we are meant to discover ours. Through prayer and contemplation. Through Bible study. Jesus didn’t just go on one retreat and go with the first idea that sounded good. He didn’t just go with whatever for him the most pats on the back. Because look at how he responds to Peter.

22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Ouch. But when the salvation of the world is on the line, there’s no need to mince words.

Jesus knew what everyone ought to know: that everyone doesn’t get to be right. Especially about you. Jesus knew that to say anything less than a resounding NO to Peter, or to his neighbors, or even to his mother, would have meant saying No to what God had called him to.

Jesus said No in order to say Yes. He didn’t say no because he was being difficult or contradictory. He said no because he had a clear and abiding sense of who he was, what he was made to do, what he valued, what he wanted more than anything else.

That’s why you should say NO too.

I know you know who you should say no to. Especially if you’re someone who has trouble saying no. And since you’re not Jesus, and you can’t just walk through crowds, you might need to practice saying no. Let’s give it a try.

Let’s start with an easy one… Would you like an extended car warranty? The rest might be harder than that one for you, depending on who you’re talking to. But I read that the discomfort in those tough conversations only lasts about 8 seconds. You can be uncomfortable for 8 seconds right?

One way to make saying No a little easier, on you and the one you’re saying no to, is to make a little No sandwich.

Yes. No! Yes?

Before you say No, first, think about how you’re saying Yes to yourself.

The first "Yes" in an internal Yes. Yes to your values. Yes to what's important to you. Yes to what you hear God calling you to do. First clarify for yourself and then for the other where their request meets you.

Second, you give a positive No! . Your no comes from a deep sense of respect for yourself, the other, and the boundaries God has put on each of us and the calling God has given you.

Finally, you can offer a different Yes. A Yes? After refusing the request, you try to further the relationship by finding something that will count toward the emotional part of the others request and deepen the relationship.

But it’s not just about saying no. It’s about knowing why you’re doing it. It’s about what you’re saying yes to.

In order to live out your values, one of the people you’re going to have to say no to…is you.

You’re going to have to say no to your fear, and your laziness. You’re going to have to say no to that deep down part of you that wants to be God, that wants to be the ultimate judge of what’s right and wrong.

If you say no those parts of you in order to live up to other peoples expectations, you will end up fed up and burnt out. But if you say no to those parts of you so that you can say yes to Gods unique vision for your life, to your values and priorities, then you will know purpose and peace.

So, what’s your YES?

Not your parent’s yes, or your boss’s yes, or your kids’ yes. What’s your YES?

What is God’s calling for this one life that you get?

What is your Yes?

This church ought to be a place where you can discover that, if you don’t already know what it is, and live that out. This shouldn’t be a place where you just come and take someone else’s yes as your own, but where you, like the one we’re all here because of, can discover who you are, through prayer, and study, and just taking the responsibility for yourself, because God wants you to have it.

What’s your Yes? Because you know what? God has said yes to you. On the cross, Jesus says No once and for all to your sin, and to everything that wants to keep you tied down and stuck in other people’s expectations. And in the empty tomb, Jesus lives out God’s yes for you, once and for all.

So…what is your yes?


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