We all have different backgrounds…
Some of you reading have been followers of Christ for a very long time, others a fairly new in their walk…
Me, I have been a follower of Jesus for over 25 years (though I am only 30 years old).
The fact is this:
Navigating life’s challenges is tough whether or not you are a Christian.
I think each and every one of us would say that we do our best to avoid falling into sin in our lives…and we would all probably say that we fall short of that often.
The Apostle Paul—arguably the greatest Christ-follower to ever live—dealt with this issue:
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. (Rom. 7:14-18)
We all face this struggle. It was Malcolm Muggeridge who said,
The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable fact at the same time that it is the most intellectually resisted.
And so it goes.
The question is, how to avoid this trap of falling into sin?
Frankly, this is a question with multiple answers, and even multiple kinds of answers…
For example, theologically, we could say “by following Jesus.” That is a true, but incomplete, answer. It’s true—for certain—but lacks practical information.
Practically, we could say something like, “never go out to eat alone with a member of the opposite sex.” That’s a good thing to do as well—but if not theologically informed, it makes little sense. After all, the apes don’t practice such careful tendencies.
The point is that I want to share something with you that I have personally found helpful, and want to be very careful not to give the impression that I view this as the answer or even a significant piece of the whole answer.
Also, it is of the more practical variety than the theological, although I think it is backed by sound Bible thinking.
So here it is: Live in integrity.
Now on the face of it, the saying itself sounds weird, and that’s part of the point. It makes you think.
I am trading on a definition of integrity that informs the more colloquial understanding of the word. Here I am thinking of something like “structural integrity.”
When something is out of integrity, it is incomplete. It is a building unable to stand as intended.
In a sense, as sin-sickened human beings, we will be somewhat out of integrity until we receive a glorified body. But practically, we can do our best to live in integrity.
The concept of “identity” is very psychologically powerful. Yes—we see our identity as being in Christ. However, subconsciously, we attribute other things to our identity (whether we like it or not).
For a long time, I lived with the identity, “I am Steve, the fat guy.” I lived with the mentality that I was always going to be very overweight, and thus, I took actions that were consistent with that identity (continued bad eating habits, etc).
Once I stopped associating with that caricature of the person I truly am, things changed. For me, then, part of being “in” integrity means I am eating in a way that is consistent with my new identity—which, in this context, is “Steve, the guy who eats (1) to fuel his body well and (2) in a way that promotes mental clarify and focus.”
See the difference?
When I eat a Pizza, I am now out of integrity with myself…and that, friends, is a painful feeling.
When you live out of integrity with yourself as a follower of Jesus, you are in sin. I think this is what James was getting at in his letter:
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)
I find the analogy of structural integrity helpful for this—it makes it something to grasp tangibly. When I commit “x” sin, I place myself out of integrity with Jesus, which in turn places me out of integrity with myself.
Also, this way of thinking helps me to think more carefully about my relationships with others. For example, perhaps the sin I commit is something that directly places me out of integrity with not only myself and with Christ, but with my wife!
Suddenly, it becomes more than just a “pet sin” or something like that—instead, you are going against the fundamental integrity of your “structure,” and you can only strain that so much before it collapses.
I am so glad for the grace of Jesus, aren’t you?
Even when we are out of integrity, he loves us, provides rescue, and will provide ultimate redemption for those who follow him.
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