25 Sep 2022

Importance of Integrity [2 Corinthians 1:12-2:4]


Integrity is vital to leadership. People will not follow people they cannot trust. So when the Corinthians accused Paul of being fickle and frivolous in his plans, Paul had to explain himself. His assured them that he wasn't disingenuous towards them, but that the change of plan was for their genuine good. His life and ministry had always been singular and sincere towards them, just as God is always faithful in the gospel. The importance of integrity is not just for church leaders. Every Christian is called to a life of integrity and truthfulness. So what does this life of integrity look like? And how can we live out such a life?



Sermon Transcript

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Once again, a very good morning to all of you and welcome to Gospel Light, our 2nd English worship service this Sunday morning. Glad you can join us in our series through the book of 2nd Corinthians.

This is our 2nd sermon, we began last week looking at this painful letter, heart-felt letter that Paul wrote, because the people in ancient Corinth, the church there was rejecting Paul, and they were following false teachers. And so, in his love for them, and his desire to preserve them to a sincere devotion to Christ, their Savior, he wrote this letter. And I hope this will be an instructive journey for us through this book.

It was about 20 over years ago that I made my first missions trip overseas to Philippines. It's a beautiful place, beautiful land, beautiful people, and I had the privilege to join some of our fellow youth members to preach in some of the mountain churches in the rural area there. And one of the most memorable experiences for me in that trip must be that they presented to me a Filipino local delicacy. And it is, of course, as you will know, by now the legendary balut.

This is a very special dish, I must say, when I was there, and basically the balut is a fertilized egg embryo, typically a duck egg. It's fertilized, and therefore the ... it's in the middle of its gestation or incubation or maturation. And you can choose different degrees of maturity to eat, the one I had may not look as mature as this yet, but close to it. And it was something I had to bear the cross in.

Uh, I was ... I knew early on as a Christian, you have to be all things to all men, so that by all means you may save some. So I struggled as I took a look at this thing that has been boiled, and you are to eat from the shell. But just as I was about to eat this balut, I ... I was reminded of a Chinese proverb, something just came to my mind. What do you think the proverb would be?

For those who are Chinese, I'll explain what it is for those who are not Chinese speakers. What proverb would come ... come to your mind as you stare at this balut? Well, the proverb I thought about was 鸡蛋里挑骨头 [jī dàn lǐ tiāo gǔ tou], which literally means finding bones in an egg.

Now, the Chinese say, "鸡蛋里挑骨头" [jī dàn lǐ tiāo gǔ tou], because typically for the Chinese, the egg are not fertilized, therefore you have no embryo, therefore there will be no bones. It describes someone who is fault-finding, he's nit picky, he wants to find problems with you, so he stares even though there are no bones, he tries to find a bone. That's what I thought of!

Now, of course, if this proverb is used in Philippines, you will find lots of bones in baluts, but this is what I thought of. And this is again what I thought of when I come to the book of 2nd Corinthians, because they were a people who were fault-finding, they were a people who were nit picky. They did not like Paul, they were beginning to follow the false teachers of their days.

And therefore in comparison, they despised the Apostle Paul, very strange! Because Paul was like their spiritual father, it was Paul whom God used to start that church in ancient ... ancient Corinth. But for some reasons, they began to follow the beguiling teachings of the false teachers, and they began to pick faults at Paul.

As you read the book of 2nd Corinthians, you realize they have many objections of him. They say that his appearance is lousy, his bodily presence is weak, he does not have a great stature or a physique to boast off, and they despised him for that. They also despised him for his lack of eloquence or lack of charisma.
They say that his speech is contemptible, he's not such a smooth guy, like the false teachers were.

They also began to critique him because he did not come with letters of commendation. He did not have great credentials, he did not have a long list of accolades that people would celebrate. They said that Paul did not do many miracles, like the false teachers claimed that they were able to do. They also criticized Paul for his many sufferings, they say, "How could a man of God go through so many sufferings! He must be a fake, he must not be genuine."

So I learned from my son, when you call someone a loser, you do this, L - loser. And I think if he lived in our day and age, the church, if we were like this, we'll look at Paul and say, "You are a loser, Paul! You are not the apostle that you claim yourself to be, the false teachers are more impressive than you are. They are smarter, they speak better, they look better, they do more miracles. They do not suffer like you do! In fact, we are gladly willing to pay them to be our pastor, you are such a loser!"

Maybe that's the attitude Paul had to face, and therefore this tears drenched letter that he had to write to them. Now today, we're going to see him being again criticized, and see him respond to this criticism. And the criticism that they laid to him in chapter 1:12, all the way to chapter 2:4, which he had to respond to, is that he is absolutely unreliable.

"He said that he will visit us, he said he will come to us, but he did not turn up, he's such a fickle man. He speaks things frivolously. He acts on his whim and fancy, he's not genuine, he's deceitful, he's dishonest, he's disingenuous." That will be the charge laid on Paul.

So in chapter 1:12, two to chapter 2:4, Paul lays down his explanation. He wants them not to believe that he was deceitful or dishonest, but that he had always acted and behaved towards them in sincerity, and in integrity.

Now, you may say that in a sense, this does not have anything to do with us, because Paul did not say he's going to visit Gospel Light here in Singapore. But I hope as we read his defense, his explanation, whilst we do not want to be embroiled in all the details there, would be able to step out after looking at this text and say, "Hey, here is a man who understood the importance of integrity!" And then we will look at how this can be applied to our lives.

So warning first, it's not an easy text to go through, because a lot of things may not seem so relevant to you, but we will end off with a good look at some of the applications that may be helpful for us, alright.

[1] A Defense of Integrity
So with that, let's start. We see first of all in this text, Paul, not willing to back down, not willing to say, "Alright, you can say whatever you want!" He first gave a defense of integrity.

The word, "defense" here, I would say would be the context of someone who is a lawyer, defending a case in a court of law. The reason why I will think so, it's because he invokes the words like "testimony", which is a witness, and in verse 23, "I call God to witness."

So it's like, it's a legal word, used in the Old Testament courts, very much like our subpoenas today, where you issue an order for witness to come and present their understanding or appreciation of the situation.

So Paul here says, "This is my defense, you accused me of being frivolous, fickle-minded, that I was deceitful, I was not genuine towards you when I said, "I wanted to come," I give my defense. He starts in verse 12, "For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in a world with simplicity and godly sincerity."

So Paul says, "I was not being deceitful when I said I wanted to come. I have always behaved when simplicity and godly sincerity, I was not double-minded. I was not frivolous, I was not fickle."
The word, "simplicity" means to be singularly minded. The word, "sincerity" means to be pure.

Now, these two words are very much similar words, they are overlaps. They ... they kind of reinforce the idea of Paul saying, "I behaved in integrity towards you, and this is the boast of the testimony of my conscience. This is what I ... I can proudly say so, because deep in my heart, in my conscience, this is my witness of my conscience, I had always behaved in this way — simplicity and sincerity towards you. And please don't get it wrong. It's not because I was anything special, not because of anything from me, not by earthly wisdom, but this is purely by the grace of God."

And he said, "And supremely so toward you." [2 for 1:12] "I was very, very careful to behave in integrity towards you." Now, this may kind of hint to us, that relationships between the Corinthians and the Apostle Paul were not the best. So he said, "I was very careful." It's like someone walking on eggshells. You know, when you have strained relationship, you kind of tiptoe around the person, you ... you dare not say some things, that you behave very carefully. It's a touchy situation.

So Paul says, "I understand, and so I was very careful, that I was behaving with integrity towards you. I did not come, but it was not because I was deceitful. So now I'm writing to you ..." "We are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand and I hope you will fully understand. [2 Cor 1:13]

"I'm writing to you something plain and simple. I'm not having any obscure or hidden messages. This is exactly what it is!"

"Just as you did partially understand us ..." [2 Cor 1:14] "You do understand us, you do know us, but I hope you'll really understand what we are saying here." "... So that on the day of our Lord Jesus, [when He comes and all things are laid out, everything will be perspicuous, everything will be clear] you will boast of us as we will boast of You." [2 Cor 1:14] "That you will rejoice in us, just as we have always rejoiced in You."

"Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you at first, so that you might have a second experience of grace." [2 Cor 1:15] "I really genuinely wanted to visit you, so that I can bless you again."

And he said, "This was my original plan." "I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia and I have you send me on my way to Judea." [2 Cor 1:16] "In fact, I wanted to make this trip where I can pass by you twice, on the way to Macedonia and on the way back."

"Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this?" [2 Cor 1:17] "Was I double-minded when I wanted to do this? Was I deceitful when I say, "I wanted to come?"' He asked a rhetorical question to which the answer is obviously — no. "Huh, I was not!"

"Do I make plans according to the flesh?" [2 Cor 1:17] "Do I make plans based on my own whim and fancy, was I wishy washy about this? Is it that I suka suka [to do according to one's wishes and not follow instructions in Malay] come, suka suka don't come? No, that was not my original intention at all."

So Paul here says, "In effect ..." if you're lost, he's saying, "... I had a change of plans, that's true, I did not come to you as I originally wanted to, but I was nonetheless truly genuine in my desire to visit you. I was singular and sincere in my desire, and that's the witness of my conscience."

So very simply, that's what he said in these verses from verse 12 to verse 17. And so, "It will be clear," he says, "... on the day of our Lord, you cannot see my heart, but it's plain what I've written. And one day, I hope you will see that, that is absolutely true on the day."

[2] The Demonstration of His Integrity
So, he first defends his integrity, then he explains why this integrity to him is such an important thing. We see secondly, the demonstration of his integrity.

His integrity is not just about himself, because his integrity shows something greater, show something about his God. His integrity is important because it reflects upon God in the Gospel.

Now, it may not be so clear, but as you look at the next verses, you would see why. He sees ... he says in verse 18, "As surely as God is faithful ..." You see, he's ... he's tying his own integrity with God, if I may say integrity. "As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been yes and no."

"We behaved in integrity towards you. Why? Because God is faithful. So this is my basis, this is my motivation, this is the reason, one of the reasons why we had to be sincere to you."

"For ..." he says, "God is faithful." How do you know that? "For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you..." [2 Cor 1:19] Who is this we? "... Silvanus, Timothy and I." [2 Cor 1:19] "We proclaimed Jesus, this Jesus we proclaimed was not yes and no, but in Him it is always yes." [2 Cor 1:19]

God is faithful because in Jesus Christ, God's faithfulness is clearly seen. How is Jesus Christ a proof of God's faithfulness? Verse 9 ... verse 20 says, "For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory." [2 Cor 1:20]

"We praise God for His glory, we praise God for His trust worthiness, for His faithfulness. Why? Because God sent His Son, the sending of His Son is a proof that God is faithful. Because all the promises from the day God said, "Surely, the seed of the woman will crush the serpent's head, all the way to the day Jesus was born, God's promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. God never let any of His promises fall to the ground. He's entirely reliable, He's entirely credible, He's entirely trustworthy. God is faithful, there is integrity to God."

So Paul says, "This is my God who I serve, therefore, my word to you has never been dishonest or deceitful." Now, not only does God show His faithfulness in sending His Son, verse 21, Paul says, "God shows His faithfulness in saving us, because it is God who established us ... establishes us with you in Christ ..." And now look at these words, "... anointed us, put a seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee."

God not only sent His Son into the world, but He has now worked in your heart — saves you! And he uses three interesting words, a religious word, a legal word, and a commercial word.

The religious word is the word, "anoint". They use anointing in religious settings, pouring oil upon the king or upon the priest. Then you have the word, "puts His seal". It's like a legal document sealed. And then you have, "putting a guarantee", a deposit. That's a commercial term.

But all these terms are Paul's description of someone who has been saved, someone in whom the Spirit dwells. God is faithful, not only did He send His Son, He has sent His Spirit into your hearts. He has saved you from sin, proving His faithfulness to His chosen, to His elect, to His people.

So, the sum of it all is this - God is faithful. How do you know that? He sent His Son as a fulfillment of His promises. How do you know that? He saves us and gives us His Spirit. I hope you'll see a Trinitarian allusion to these verses, you will see the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Paul is saying, "God, in His Trinitarian nature is entirely faithful."

And so, as surely as God is faithful, that's what we looked at earlier in this segment, "Our word to you has not been Yes and No." [2 Cor 2:18] This is the theological, God-centered moorings of Paul's motivation for integrity. We serve Him, we should represent him correctly, we should represent him well.

"So I put up a defense, you say that I was frivolous, I was deceitful." I say, "No, we were not, we were sincere and singular towards you, because that is the only right way to behave towards you, since we represent a faithful God."'

[3] The decisions of Integrity
But thirdly, well before that, let me say his integrity, a recap is important because it reflects God in the Gospel, therefore, this is the demonstration of His integrity. But thirdly, we see the last part, and that is the decisions in integrity of integrity.

Essentially, we learn that integrity is important, but it doesn't mean our plans will never change. We are not God! New elements and factors do come into life, and what we originally set out to do, does not always materialize the way we would wish it to be. But integrity doesn't mean that plans cannot change, integrity means that we were genuine in our desire for you and to serve you, and maybe along the way, we may have to adjust our plans.

I'm sure as a parent, you understand this. You ... you want the best for your kids, you tell them you would like to do this and do that with them and for them. But sometimes life takes a turn and you ... you assess the situation, and realize maybe a better plan would be to do something else.

For example, mommy wants to bring you to zoo, but huh, on this day that you're supposed to bring them to the zoo, it's raining, like today — cats and dogs. You would say, "Son, I would still want to do something for you but we have to change our plans." I hope your son doesn't say, "Aiyoh, you don't have integrity, aiyoh, yoh, you have no credibility."

I hope your son doesn't do that! Your ... your son understands, "Oh, mommy still loves me, she's ... she's behaving in integrity towards me because she always has my best interests, although my plans may have to change."

And in essence, that's what Paul says, because verse 23, he says, "I call God to witness against me — it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth."

He says, "I originally wanted to make that visit. I hope it would be a nice visit, I hope it will be a helpful visit, an encouraging visit. But I had to decide against that visit, now again, I was not deceitful. I was not disingenuous when I said I wanted to come. But now when I looked at the situation, when I see your state, I said, "I better don't come, because I want to spare you."'

What do you mean spare you? Look on, "Not that we lord it over your face, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith." [2 Cor 1:24]

Paul is saying, "This is what we are always aiming to do. We don't want to dominate or bully you in your faith. We trust that you will stand in your faith, but we are always working for your joy, we are always looking for your best results or your best outcomes for you."

"For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you for if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad, but the one whom I have pained?" [2 Cor 2:1-2]

"If I come as I originally planned, oh, this will be a very painful visit!" That's why, earlier on last week, in our introduction, I said, "After Paul wrote, 1st Corinthians, he also visited them and it was a painful visit because apparently there were those in the church who opposed him, rejected him that caused him to go back to Ephesus, and to write a tearful, painful letter."

So looking at that situation, Paul says, "I think I better don't come back to visit you, because it's going to be ugly, it's going to be painful, I will have to exercise discipline."

"And so I wrote as I did ..." [2 Cor 2:3] "Instead of visiting you, I wrote a letter, that tearful, painful letter, "... so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who which should, who should have made me rejoice, for I sure, felt sure of all of you that my joy will be the joy of you all."

"I would rather come at a better time. I rather, now looking at the situation, give you space and time to repent and to deal with the situation. And then, when they are ready, I'll come back."

"So I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart ..." [2 Cor 2:4] In Hokkien, we say kek sim, was really all tied up in knots. I mean, that's so painful, the church he pastored and serve for 18 months, now turns their back on him, betrayed him in a sense.

"Well, I therefore wrote to you not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you." [2 Cor 2:4]
What Paul is saying is, "My plans to come to you changed, that's true. But my love for you is unchanged." "My plan to bring you out to the zoo is changed, but my love for you son has never changed."

So this might all be a bit complicated, but let me try to summarize it in a comic strip form, if I can.

"Paul is fickle," the Corinthians say. "Huh, together with his weak bodily presence and his contemptible speech and the multitude of sufferings, and the fact that he did not come with credentials. He's not someone we can follow, is he!"

To which Paul writes back and say, "No! I am not fickle, I'm not deceitful, I'm not dishonest, I'm sincere towards you. I genuinely wanted to visit you, that was my plan all along. And all this while, I've behaved with simplicity and godly sincerity towards you. In fact, supremely towards you, Corinthians. I did not make my plans according to the flesh. It was not on any whim and fancy, I did not communicate it in a frivolous way. My conscience is absolutely clear and you will know on the Day of the Lord. Just as God is faithful, I behaved in integrity."

"But I didn't come, because I wanted to give you space and time to work on yourselves, to repent of your ways, and I call God to be my witness. My plans changed, but my love for you is unchanged."

That would have been the summary of what we've looked at thus far. So, the Corinthians accused him, and Paul could have given up. I mean a lesser man would have said, "Since you guys do not want my presence, then I'll leave you to the wolves, I'll leave you to the false teachers." But Paul loves them, patiently bears with them and writes this painful letter, to call them to devotion towards Christ in His Word again.

So again, this letter may not have a lot to do with us, in that it's not about Paul visiting Gospel Light here in 2022. But I think from this letter, we can understand how Paul looks at integrity — how he defends it, how it's important, how it reflects upon the God whom he serves. And I think there are lessons for us in integrity.

Paul could not lead and could not serve the Corinthians, if he was found to be a man without integrity. And every leader knows this, every leader knows that effective leadership is not just about how smart you communicate your ideas, but there must be a good level of trust, there must be credibility built up.

About a week ago, I read about how are DPM, our Prime Minister Designate, Mr. Lawrence Wong, spoke at a symposium called the "Honor International Symposium", 16th of September. This was covered in Straits Times, and this was the title in the article, "High level of trust in Singapore due to culture of honoring one's word and one another."

His reflection is that — this is a nation that is led capably, and this is a nation that can navigate through the twists and turns and the difficulties of life, because there is effective leadership. And he understands that a key component of effective leadership is that there must be a high level of trust. And for there to be a high level of trust, there must be a high commitment to honoring one's word.

Leadership requires trust, and trust requires integrity in honoring one's word. This is not just for the government, this is not just for business owners or CEOs, or teachers, or parents, this is true for the church. Leadership in the church requires a high level of credibility.

I think I see that, for example, when Paul said to Timothy, "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." [1 Tim 4:12]

"You've got to be an example. You've got to be someone they can trust. You cannot be double standards. You cannot be a hypocrite. Preach what is in the Bible, but live what is in the Bible. Now, not perfectly, no one can, but that is the high standard to which you have to call yourself to because leadership requires credibility, trust and that means that you have to be someone sincere in following God's Word."

A story is told of a man who was paying for his groceries at a cashier. He got the change, he counted it and realized that, "Hey, he has been given 50 cents more!" He struggled within himself, because on one hand, he knows deep within, it is the only right thing to return the 50 cents to the cashier. But he also said, "It's such a small sum and maybe God wants to give me a gift today."

So he took his bags and was ... was going to go away when the conscience kind of pricked him. He was pricked in the conscience and he turned around, and he went to the cashier and says, "Ma'am, I think you've calculated wrongly, I've got 50 cents more." The cashier looked at him smiled and said, "Sir, I did not calculate wrongly, the 50 cents was from me. You see, I wanted to visit a church, and I understand that you are a pastor, so I give you 50 cents to see what you will do with that 50 cents."

The pastor, and ... and ... and then she ended off by saying, "See you on Sunday!" The pastor took his groceries and went to his car, shut the door and he closed his eyes and he prayed, "O Lord, I almost sold Your Son for 50 cents!"

Integrity - crucial in leadership. And I think as spiritual leaders, this is one thing, faithfulness, sincerity — crucial.
I think that's why when Paul gave a list of requirements of an elder, he must be beyond reproach, he must be someone who is sober, respectable, someone who is not a lover of money, because all these things are about credibility. He must rule his household well, it's about integrity.

Now, you say, "But Jason, I'm not going to be a pastor, this has nothing to do with me!" Huh, granted, not all of us will be pastors, very few will be pastors, probably, I hope more, but not all. But you see, whilst we are all not called to be pastors, we are all actually, God has already said, "We are all witnesses, ambassadors, representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ."

And God calls His people to a high level of integrity in living. He says in the sermon on the Mount, this is a message not to pastors, but to disciples. This is a message to all who are part of the Kingdom of God. This is the standard! Now, please understand, Jesus did not list all these standards, to say, "These are the things you do to enter the kingdom."

No, no, no, you got the order wrong! He is saying that, "Those who truly belong to Me, those who belong to God, those who are born again, they will live such a life. They will commit themselves to living such a life and one of the characteristics of a kingdom dweller, someone who is a Christian, someone who's really born again, someone in whom God has effected a heart transplant, is someone who will endeavor for integrity."

The Kingdom of God will be made up of people whose communication is yes yes, no no. In other words, he lives in such a way that whatever he says is always true. He's not deceitful, he's not a liar. In other words, he doesn't need to tell people, "Eh, honestly, ah." You mean, last time, not honest lah! Or, "To be honest hah ..."

You know what, sometimes it's ... it's our 口头禅 [kǒu tóu chán, pet phrase in Chinese] ah! It's ... it's ... I don't know how to translate in English here, it's a manner of speech we are so used to, that we just say it. But Jesus says, "If you live in a way that is honest, you don't have to add, "I promise ah, I promise ah, I, I soon ba [in Hokkien], I soon ... You don't have to, because everything you say, you hold yourself to that level of accountability and integrity.

So, that's what He expects of His people, that's what the new heart would desire to do. We don't speak lies, we speak truth one to another. Now, this I think translates into daily life. For example, in your business dealings, some of you are sales people, some of you are business owners, how do you cut your deals? Are you honest in what you say? Are you genuine in what you express? Do you cut corners there?

Maybe not all of you are working, some of you are studying, and I want to apply to maybe your exams or your homework. Are you honest in your work? This is something I could never say with great moral authority, because for my entire school life, I was an expert at copying. I ... I must say I rarely if ever did homework, but I was always diligent to appear early in school in the morning and borrow my friend's homework, and I was really good at copying.

But all that was before I was a Christian, haha, huh, huh, but if you're a Christian today, then integrity in your work is important. And maybe it applies also, in a way we file our taxes and we pay our dues, or perhaps something more daily, something more ... this is once a year, but maybe something more daily would include how we send messages.

Have you ever had people ask you for prayer? Shared a problem and you say, "We will be praying for you." If you do text that, if you do say that, please do that. Because there is a way for us to respond to people's request by saying, "We will pray for you", but you will never do, you never meant it, you never wanted to.

This applies I think to keeping appointments, to making sure that we will be there, and not have a no show. Well, that's exactly what the Corinthians were blaming Paul about. I'm not saying plans cannot change but you must never make that commitment with a deceitful attitude anyway. You never wanted to go, but you say you will go. That's not fair, that's not right!

But let's drill this down a little bit more. Very few would actually dare to do no shows, maybe some will, but very few will dare to do no shows But maybe more subtle, but more common, more prevalent will be that of punctuality. "I'll meet you at 3." But you never meant to be there at 3, you wanted the friend to wait, you will cut ... you're quite alright for them to wait for you. So you say, "Let's meet at 3," but in your heart, you already timed it at 3:30.

You know how it is for wedding dinners, right? Wedding dinner starts at 7:00, "Aah, I'll go at 8:30." Now, if you really want to go at 8:30, or you can only go at 8:30, at least tell your host, that you'll be there at 8:30. But I think it's important — punctuality.

George Washington was a man who was known to be very fussy about, I wouldn't use the word fussy, but he was very strict, he was very principled, when it comes to punctuality. Whenever he had a ... there was a story when he was supposed to buy horse, a horse in those days, you don't buy cars, you buy horse, and the dealer for the horse came 15 minutes late, and he says, "Deal is off!"

When he invites guests to his house for a meal, for dinner, the dinner is at 4pm in those days. Our time, some 7, 8, the Telegu - 9, 10pm. But for them the dinner is at 4pm, and when the guests arrive late, many a times they would find him already halfway through his meal, or already finished with his meal. And he would say, "The cook in my house, do not ask when the guests arrive, but they ask, "Has the hour come?"' They cook on time.

He had a secretary and the secretary was late once. And the secretary said, "I was late because my watch is spoilt." To which George Washington said, "You either change your watch, or I'll change my secretary." He was strict about it! But the reason why he was strict about it, was because he believed punctuality or the lack of punctuality speaks about respect, or disrespect.

Why does it matter? Because it conveys something, it conveys regard. Perhaps I would say, I dare say, maybe the way we even attend worship services is a way we demonstrate our regard or respect to the Person we come for. Clearly not any one of us here, but our Lord Himself.

But punctuality speaks about respect, it speaks about humility. You like to be the last in, you want to be late because you think you are the big shot, people can wait for you. But that's not the attitude of a humble man, or humble lady. But punctuality also speaks a lot about credibility, isn't it?

Imagine your leader, late all the time, I'm not saying anyone can be perfect, traffic conditions, sometimes got to lau sai [diarrhea in Hokkien]. I don't know, you ugh, you have a lot of things and we understand, but habitual lateness is, I think detrimental to life that wants to be lived in integrity. It doesn't help you, help people trust you more.

Daily lives — that's what we're talking about. Worship, you know, worship is not Sunday morning only, worship is in our everyday life, and it includes things like this. So we have to be genuine, we have to be honest. and maybe some of you ask, "Hey, then what about white lies? Can we ... can we tell white lies?"

White Lies are seemingly inconsequential falsehoods, we say, because we care for the feelings of others. For example, your girlfriend comes to you and say, "Eh, do you think I'm fat?" Very hard answer sometimes to give. So how ... so some of us may think, "Oh, let's tell her, ugh, I think she's fat, but I cannot tell her she's fat, so I said, "No lah, you're very slim." That's a white lie!

Now, so can ... can Christians give white lies? Well, some of you shake your head, if you ... if you don't want to give white lies, you've got to be a smart person. Because on the spot, you've got to think of something that is not untrue, but still be able to comfort whoever you're saying, tempted to say the white lie to.

But the fact of the matter is, God never lies, isn't it? It is impossible for God to lie, Hebrews 6 tells us. That's why God is so trustworthy, He never lies! So as His representatives, I think that principle should guide the way we speak, I think even in the realm of white lies.

But interestingly, I also find some interesting quotes that may be helpful to you, "Those who think it is permissible to tell white lies soon grow color-blind". You soon get onto the slippery slope and say, "If I can compromise on this white lie, maybe a little bit gray also can, and maybe darker and darker until it's a clear lie." Or another person says, "White lies always introduce others of a darker complexion."

Integrity - governs the way we text, governs the way we speak, governs the way we provide finances, we pay our taxes, governs the way we turn up or do not turn up for events and appointments.

And let me say, "It governs the way we look at our marriage." Marriage is a covenant, it's a commitment. You gave your vow before God and before all as witnesses, that you will to hold to love and to cherish till death do you part. That's what marriage is about, and that's part of integrity.

Have you ever wondered why it is so devastating, for a pastor to fall into adultery? It is so devastating that you hardly can imagine a fallen pastor in adultery, to come back to ministry again. Let me clarify, I don't think the Bible says that when a man falls into adultery, he can never serve God again. I don't think the Bible says when a man falls into adultery, he can never be a pastor again. I don't think so, there's no absoluteness to that.

But I think it is also very true that when a man falls into adultery, what he has done is that he has demonstrated to everyone that he is not a man of his word. He did not honor his vow, he is unfaithful to his wife and unfaithful to God. And because of that, you would find it very hard to trust him. And as we've said, leadership ... effective leadership requires trust.

I grew up in a family where I'm surrounded often times with glass bottles and boxes. My ... my dad used to produce medicated ointments, and that's how we were brought up. So, I will see a lot of glasses at home, in his workspace, I'll see cartons with this label, "Fragile. Handle with care. Easily broken". And that's what trust is, it's easily broken, it takes a ... it takes an enormous effort, and enormous amount of time to build up that credibility, but it can all be gone in a split second.

Now again, this is not about perfection, but this does tell us about the importance of living a life of integrity, and it's not something we can take lightly. Real men aren't promise makers, it's easy to make promises, everyone can do that. Swindlers are experts at it, but real men are promise keepers, and that includes your marriage.

Many of you are parents and you want to point your kids to Jesus, you want to help them know the Lord Jesus Christ. You know one thing they look at your life, one thing they look at, is your life. Huh, not just the Gospel you gave, the Bible studies read with them, but to see if you are truly who you say you are — a follower of Jesus.

They will look ... look at the way you do your parking apps, the way you treat people, the way you honor your word or do not honor your word. They look at the way you treat your wife, or treat your husband. They watch! And if you want to lead them well, you've got to build up that trust. When they're young, they listen to everything you say, when they're older, they watch your life — more and more.

So, I hope you understand that as we look at integrity today, I'm not saying you do these things to earn salvation. No, not at all! We can't! We will never be able to! But if you really know God's love for you in Jesus Christ, you want to serve Him well and that includes a diligent, sober, vigilant life.

To be honest and true, to be sincere and genuine, in all that you do, that there will be a credibility built up, that they will then offer or they will be willing to give an ear to the Gospel, you have to preach. I think that's why we are called to be the salt that light, evangelism is best done when we are the salt and the light.

But let's finish this day with understanding, hey, Paul's emphasis on integrity is rooted in God's integrity. Again, let's close with this verse, "For all the promises of God find that Yes in Him." [2 Cor 1:20]

This is a wonderful passage, this is a wonderful verse, all the promises of God, nothing drops. He's absolutely spot on — 100% of God's promises will be fulfilled because of Jesus Christ. You can trust Him, you can depend on Him.

I started life as an atheist. I despised Christians, I think Christians are stupid, they need emotional crutches to get on with life. I say, "They are weak." I came to church wanting to prove Christians wrong, to show to my girlfriend then who is my wife now, Winnie, that all that she says she believes is a hoax, is a lie.

After several months, wanting to disprove the pastor and the preacher, I realized all it did was it disproved me because I realized that the Bible is true. God is the Creator of all things, I'm a sinner, and Jesus Christ, God's Son was sent to save men from their sins.

I wanted to be a Christian, I wanted to be saved. But I did not know how, or rather I wanted to be sure that God would accept someone like me. So all day for several weeks actually, I was looking for some sign from God. I looked into the clouds, and I hope the clouds would be shaped in such a way, "Believe Me". I really did! Something like, "Jason, you can now be saved!"

I ... I ... I was hoping for that, I looked in the clouds sometimes, never happened, they all look like that one. I sometimes, when I walk along the streets, I will look down and hope for some pieces of paper, that would have words that say, "You can now believe or you can now be saved." I was desperately looking for these signs.

You say, "You are stupid, right, this guy? Yah, I was. But that was how I wanted, much I wanted to be saved. There was nothing like that, no miracles, nothing really spectacular. I was waiting for those things. And after a while I decided enough is enough, I got fed up, huh, I, I realized that I was foolish to wait for something like this.

So, at night I took out the Bible, I read the Bible, I flipped it to John 3:16, the most famous verse probably in the Bible. It read, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."

I ... I ... it hit me for the first time, it hit me that this is God's Word. And I thought to myself, "God, you said this, right? If you said this, you will honor Your word, right? I take you at Your Word today. I ... I'm looking for signs but I think I do not need the signs, because you have already said so. You said, "Whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life." I take you at Your Word, I choose to believe in Your Son."'

That was a huge turning point in my life, because from that day on, it was a total 180 degrees change for me. I laughed at Christians, laughed at my friends. But huh, I had no qualms telling people that I'm now a Christian, I wanted to tell people about the Gospel, about Jesus. I reoriented my life, in a sense, I ... I realized what I was living for is not worth living for anymore, but I wanted to live for God.

If you ask my classmates, my friends, who would be the pastor in their class? The last person they would say is Jason. I think that's what ... what something one of my classmates said, "He will be the last guy!" But why, what happened? Huh, I realized - God can be trusted, all His promises can be something we stand on.

So today, if you are not a Christian, and you want to be saved, I say to you, "You don't have to wait for a miracle, for a sign. That miracle was already performed when Jesus died and rose again from the dead. And God's clarion call to all in this world is — repent from your sin, and believe in Jesus Christ and His promise of eternal life to those who believe will never fall."

Today, some of you are serving God, and you're going through hardship, and you're wondering to yourself, "Is it worth it at the end of the day?" Doesn't feel like it sometimes, because life's hard, ministry is difficult, the sickness is overbearing. But hold on, stand on the promises of God, because it will never fail, because of Jesus, we, today have a glorious hope for tomorrow. May you be encouraged in God's Word today.

Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

Father, we thank You this morning that we can have a glimpse into the heart of the apostle Paul and learn the importance of integrity.

Give us strength and wisdom, courage and grace every day, to be willing to make sacrifices in order for us to live that vigilant, sober, credible life. Not so that we may be admired by men, but so that, we can steward this trust of credibility, in order to earn a hearing from others, with regards to the Gospel.
I pray the Gospelighters will be a people of integrity, a people would honor their word, so that people would know the God of the Word.

Father, thank You so much that You're always faithful and truthful. Thank You today we can be a people who will stand on God's Word, even if the winds and the waves will beat upon our lives, even if we are surrounded by swirling falsehoods, philosophies of the world. Thank You that they who hang on to the Gospel, will never be disappointed.

So, I pray for a church will arise with great vigor and excitement and zeal, steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Bless Your people, help us worship You, thank You in Jesus' Name. Amen.


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