Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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Integrity

Mark 12:28-44


Today we're going to talk about the concept of integrity. Most of us when we think of integrity we mostly think of someone who is true to their word - and that's a part of it, but that's more accurately honesty than integrity.

To illustrate the principal of integrity I want you to come visit my back yard. We have a fence that we and the neighbors built together back in 1991. The fence has changed colors and the slats are further apart than when it was built due to the shrinkage of the wood - but for the most part it looks to be in good shape.

Towards the bottom of some slats on the south fence some moss started growing. I didn't pay much attention - there is a lot of moss in that area, and it can be kind of pretty. My wife was cleaning up some of the moss the other day and when she went to scrape off the moss from the fence she discovered that there was more moss than wood remaining. If she had even gently pushed on the fence it would have crumbled away leaving a gaping hole.

The moss had apparently put its tendrils deep into the wood and disintegrated it from the inside out. What looked solid on the surface was in fact a façade. That's what integrity means - or in this case, the lack of integrity. Integrity, then, is being the same underneath as you are on the surface. It is honesty, yes - the fence was dishonest about its structural integrity - but it also sincerity, and reliability.

Today we're going to see integrity defined by Jesus in the form of several people - and it will hopefully give us an idea of how we can have integrity when it comes to our dealings with God, with one another, and in our giving to the Lord.

Jesus has just gotten finished arguing with the Pharisees and Sadducees over: the authority of Jesus, the authority of government, and the authority of the Scriptures and their proper interpretation.

Specifically the Sadducees, who didn't recognize the supernatural, were misinterpreting ideas about marriage. Jesus said to them: "you are badly mistaken." Given that - let's look at the reaction Jesus gets to these answers from another teacher of the law.

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

Matthew tells us that the scene was kind of like a school yard fight - where each group took turns jabbing Jesus, trying to find His weakness - jabs, not with fists but with theological arguments and tricks. As each group took turns, the others watched - fighting not only their common enemy Jesus of Nazareth, but also trying to gain supremacy over one another. Matthew also tells us that this man was a Pharisee and that the Pharisees got together after the Sadducees failed in their attempt and sent this guy out.

But notice the difference - this man is not trying to fight Jesus, he is trying to learn from Him. And Jesus will respect anyone who comes to Him with honest questions. He was not prejudiced against the Pharisees or anyone - He was interested in whether they wanted a relationship - and this is the start of it.

29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Now its interesting because Jesus does not answer from the Ten Commandments, but rather from what is called the Shema - found in: Mark 12:29, Deut 6:4-9; 11:13-21; and Num 15:37-41. It was the creed of the Jewish faith and was recited each day in the morning and evening. Number one - you must know who God is - that He is the LORD and not the pantheon of other gods worshipped by the world.

The Pharisees were probably wanting Jesus to give His opinion as to the relative importance of the hundreds of rules and regulations that they had added to the Law and the balance between ritual, ethical, moral, and ceremonial laws - but Jesus sidestepped that debate and went to the heart of the matter - your relationship with God and how that relationship affects your relationship with others. This comes from Leviticus 19:18.

So knowing God, giving all of yourself to Him, then allowing His Spirit to empower you with agapao or self-giving love to others. That's it. Love God and love people. It's actually very simple, but because we are human and have this thing called the flesh to deal with - it isn't as easy in practice as in theory.

Well so - look at the teacher's response:

32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

This guy acknowledged that these two principals were more important than the entire ceremonial and sacrificial system - something the Jews had been unable to agree upon for 2,000 years!

We as people love our rituals to this day. We go to church and think that gets us close to God. We refrain from punching someone or chewing them out and think that God should look with favor on us. Or we give money to the church and think that will please God - but its not the sacrifices or the rituals, it's the heart given to love the Lord that matters.

Have a relationship with Him and let that relationship flow out to other people and change your life so you will begin to act like Him naturally.

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Understanding the truth and embracing it are two different things. The man was "not far" from the kingdom, but not in it. You can understand the things of God but unless you give your heart and life to Him it won't matter in the end. Being integral means that the surface behavior flows naturally from an inside that has been transformed by the Lord renewing of the spirit.

So next, Jesus poses some questions of His own - trying to get them to understand what God was trying to do with sending the Messiah:

35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, "How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:

"'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." '

37 David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"

The large crowd listened to him with delight.

Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 where David says that His descendant will also be his ruler. The Jews knew the Messiah would be a descendant of David, but they thought he would be a human ruler who would sit on David's throne and rule the world and remove the Jews from domination by others. They didn't understand that He would be more than just human, but would be God AND man.

But David did understand - that the Messiah would be both his heir and his Lord - human, and divine. And really Jesus is here lifting the veil about His true identity. What we don't see, is that anyone really got it - at least here.

We too must deal with who Jesus really is - just a good man or the God man. Who is He to you?

So now Jesus levels some pretty strong words at the men who had just tried to "bring Him down."

38 As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."

Integrity - fancy dress on the outside, respect and honor, and show of piety - but inside corruption and filth, greed and malice, and no relationship with God that transforms the character and so to fulfill the Law.

What Jesus describes is when leaders appear to be so holy and a godly example in public, but their actions in private are anything but godly. The teachers of the law in Jesus' day were prime examples of this, but it happens even today in the church.

Unfortunately I've known some men like this, who are almost worshiped when they teach and seem so spiritual - yet in the inner circle are just as fleshly as the rest of us. Yet because of their positions of power the flesh does a lot more damage. Let me say this: no matter how important a person may be - even Billy Graham - if they say or do anything that is outside the character of Jesus Christ then that part of them is fleshly, not spiritual. Being a leader is not an excuse for evil - ever. And, in fact, leaders are actually held more accountable.

Jesus said:
Luke 8:17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

And in Proverbs:
Proverbs 20:27 The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being.

You can't keep secrets from God and He will not let secrets be kept forever - so our prayer should be that of the Psalmist:

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

At the end, Jesus says those leaders who act hypocritical will be punished "most severely." It means to have a more harsh sentence, or feel greater pain - basically, leaders, who are supposed to bring people to God and help them grow will be held responsible for their words and actions and for how they operated in that charge.
And so James writes:

James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly

Now James goes on to say "we all stumble in many ways" and I'm glad he said that otherwise I wouldn't be able to teach. It's not that teachers should be without fault - but what's important is that all of them is open to the Lord's work and if they use their position as a cover to isolate them from accountability and keep the Spirit from accessing their "inmost being."

As we've seen over and over, Jesus now illustrates the concept with a real life example as he leaves the Court of the Gentiles and comes up into the Court of the Women:

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

In this area of the temple there were thirteen boxes - seven for them to deposit temple taxes and six for them to put in freewill offerings. A lot of money would have been coming in to the temple during Passover and you can just the lines of people emptying big bags of coins and making all kinds of noise as the coins clattered into the box.

And then, almost unnoticed, here comes this woman - and 'clink clink' in go her little coins - called a lepton, they were the smallest coin in circulation in Palestine. Two Lepta were worth one-sixty-fourth of a Denarius - the equivalent of a days wage.

43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on."

We don't know how Jesus knew she was a widow - perhaps because of her dress or maybe she discussed the offering with a priest - or maybe the Spirit gave Him that knowledge - but it's interesting that as a poor person she was only required to put in one of the coins - yet she put in both - all her remaining resources.

It reminds me of the widow in 1Kings 17. Elijah met this widow in the gates of the city of Zarephath and asked her for water and some bread. She said she was just preparing a fire to bake her last loaf of bread with the last of her flour and then her and her son were going to starve to death.

Elijah promised her that her flour and oil would not run out until the famine ended - but first she needed to bake him a cake of flour. She could have said "no way - I've got to conserve every bit I have for me and my son - I don't have anything to give to you." But instead she gave to the man of God, and the God of the man supplied her needs.

This woman at the temple had integrity - her outward expression revealed an inward relationship so strong that she would put herself in peril in order to show love to her God.

Your giving or service to God

Obvious or hidden

Meaningless or heart-felt

Frivolous or substantial

A tip or a sacrifice

Not measured by what you give but what you have left

Faithful or self-sufficient

Integrity

Starts on the inside with a relationship

Ends on the outside with true love for others reflected true love for God

Integrity means you trust in the Lord so much that he becomes what makes you integral - able to stand and able to serve no matter what's thrown at you

Integrity means an honest appeal to God for understanding, then an accepting of who He is and not trying to make God in our image.

Integrity means holding yourself accountable on the inside as well as the outside for submitting yourself to God and allowing Him access to change who you are into who He is.

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