The Webster’s definition of integrity is undivided or unbroken state, completeness. Now the root word for integrity is integer and if you go back to your math days in school, you’ll remember an integer is a whole number as opposed to a fraction. Integrity is really a life that is whole, rather than a life that is fragmented. The opposite of integrity is a life where you act one way at church and another way at work or school, where you act one way with one group of friends and another way with another group of friends. Your life is fragmented. That is the opposite of integrity. Christ told the Christians at Sardis, you are not living complete lives. You have fragmented lives. You act like Christians when people are watching, but behind the scenes it is a different story. It is not real.
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of Him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” Revelation 3:1-3 (NIV)
Bill Hybels says integrity is who you are when no one is watching. It is really true. It is when your public image matches your private life. The other day I opened the car door for Chris and she said, “Where are the church people? I did not know any church people were around watching.” I said, “Thanks a lot, honey.” She said, “Well, I mean it just seems like you normally open the door when people are watching so I was just wondering.” I told her I open her door at least fifty percent of the time whether people are watching or not.
It is amazing for those of you who are parents, when your kids become teenagers their hypocrisy detector is so sensitive. You cannot get away with anything. You know, I may fool everyone in the church, but I cannot fool my kids. I remember, my kids started to drive when they were fifteen or sixteen and that was really tough. One time we were driving down a stretch of road in The Woodlands where the speed limit was 35, and my son, Ryan, was going about 42. I said, “Ryan, the speed limit is 35. You need to slow down and go 35.” And he said, “Well, you never do on this stretch. I see you every time going at least 45.” And, you know, there was nothing I could say. Your family can humble you with the truth. There is no doubt about it. Integrity is who you are when no one is watching.
Proverbs 28:6 says:
“It is better to be a poor person who has integrity than to be rich and double-dealing.”
The phrase double-dealing is the opposite of integrity. In other words, the opposite of having integrity is being a hypocrite. The word hypocrite is a classical Greek term from the Greek theatre. The hypocrite was the actor, and in classical Greek theatre the actor played many different roles which required them to wear many different masks. They would wear a mask for one part and then they would take that off and put another mask on for another part. So, it was not a negative term. Hypocrite was just an actor who played many different parts with many different masks. It technically still means the same today, but it is a negative term. You act one way at this place, another way at this place. You are not complete. You are not whole. You are a hypocrite. You are wearing masks, so others cannot really see what you are like. Nobody can really get into your heart to see the good, bad, or the ugly because if they knew everything about you, they might reject you. One of man’s greatest fears is the fear of rejection. Christ tells the church at Sardis to take off the masks and get real.
He says, wake up to the truth of how broken and desperate you are. You compare yourself to everyone else and say, you know, I am pretty good. He says, you are comparing yourself to the wrong people. Compare yourself to me. Wake up to the truth that you are broken and desperate. You see, they were broken and desperate, but they did not realize it. The only people that ever receive forgiveness are those who know they need forgiveness. If you think you are okay and you have got it all together and you are starting to believe your press clippings then you are really desperate. He says, wake up and see how desperate and broken you are. You are criticizing the culture. You are criticizing everybody else, but you are just as broken and desperate. You need me desperately.
Let the Holy Spirit of God shine a spotlight into our lives and show us where we are not being truthful. Truth always comes before grace, and truth sets you free, so instead of pointing the finger at everyone else, let’s look at our own lives and realize our own brokenness and desperateness and how much we need God to restore us.