2021 – Living What You Believe

As we enter the first full week of the New Year 2021 my thoughts turn to behaviour and lifestyle.
As a leader I realize that I can’t lead what I don’t live. In other words, my actions can speak louder than my words and nullify what I am saying. As a leader I can’t ask my people to do what I am not willing to first do myself.
As believers we should take the start of a new year to examine what is it we believe as Christ-followers and then see if how we live lines up with what we say we hold to be the truth. Again, often the way we live, the way we speak, and the way we behave can speak louder than what we say we believe deep in our hearts. One contradicting the other. Our talk and our walk must line up. What we believe on the inside must effect and even transform how we live on the outside – in our family, at work, in the community, and even in the church fellowship itself.
This is a question of integrity. Living what we say that we believe. Leading in a way that shows what we truly believe.
We are flawed, weak and broken people being put back together by the grace of Jesus. That is all our God has to work with. Even the apostle Paul, after being transformed by the grace of Jesus, was still in awe that God would use “the worst of sinners to accomplish heavenly purposes” (1 Timothy 1:15).
So, how do we live (and lead) with integrity when we are broken vessels?

I have been a follower of Jesus and a leader in the Church and ministry now for45 years and have some thoughts that help me to navigate this journey with Jesus that we are all on. Life as a believer can be complex, complicated, and often challenging. As I walk with Jesus year after year I have become stronger in my faith. But, I have also become more aware of my personal weaknesses. I am humbled to be called a child of God, and amazed that the Lord would use me as an instrument to expand His Kingdom and even lead His Church. There is a tremendous obligation on each of our lives to live and relate in such a way as to impact those who do not know Jesus and to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with the lost, the least, and the last. Maybe you feel the same way. To fulfill this mandate we must be people of integrity.
Here are some reflections on growing to be more like Jesus and thus living with integrity in our hearts and lives. These ideas apply to every aspect of life and ministry.
1> Practice what you believe (leader: Practice what you preach)
We believe that there is no other way into Heaven other than by being born again and receiving the gift of eternal life which by biblical definition is to have a personal and intimate love relationship with the Lord and with His heavenly Father (see John 17:3).
We believe that the Lord has called each one of us, as believers and followers, to take this message out into our personal world – where we live and work and play. And then even to the whole world. We call this The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10) and commands us to work with him and complete this task.
Do we live what we believe?
In my experience most church leaders do very little to reach the lost outside of the formal church services and programs. It is not a way of life for them. The same is true for those who attend church services on a regular basis and are thus “active Christians.”
To lead and to live with integrity is to align our lifestyle with the things the Bible teaches and what Jesus expects from us as followers. Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). He expects us to fish – to seek the lost, the least, and the last – and not to rest until every people group in every nation (including where we live) have heard the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14). I once heard a preacher say, “If you are not fishing, you are not following. You are simply deceiving yourself that things are good between you and God.”
This will mean learning how to share our faith in a natural and organic way. We need to be praying for the lost, building deep and decent friendships with people who are far from God, and regularly having spiritual conversations with people in our lives. This alignment of words, actions, and beliefs is a powerful witness.
2> Intimacy with Jesus is foundational and a serious priority
Too many leaders and followers in the church have become religious hypocrites. They go through the motions, doing only what is required of them by their local assembly – the bare essentials. They know the right words. But they have forsaken their first love (Revelation 2:4). Leaders can teach about Jesus but spend little time at His feet. And, people can call themselves believers and also spend little to no time with Him and yet claim to follow Him. We can tell others to follow Jesus while we wander away from Him.
For Christians, modelling integrity means we hunger to be in the presence of our Saviour. We long to become more like Jesus and live in ways that grow our faith. Every believer should pause and do a heart check: Am I really following Jesus and becoming more like Him – enjoying time in His presence and experiencing His peace – or am I simply doing my thing and covering a non-biblical lifestyle with a thin outer coating of “Christian”?
If you are a church leader and on staff with a church or ministry you should also do a heart check: Have I become a church staff professional doing my job with no passion behind my ministry?
Everyone should ask themselves: Am I propelled into each day with a love for Jesus that guides and moves me?
When we love Jesus and it shows, people are drawn to Him. To live with integrity we need intimacy with the Lord on a daily basis.
3> Love the lost is essential
Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). The religious leaders in His day were upset that sinners liked Jesus and He seemed to like them. Church leaders and believers in Jesus (disciples of Jesus) who avoid nonbelievers and spend all of their time with church folks can’t fulfill Jesus’ call to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).
Living with integrity calls us to live like Jesus, and sometimes that will mean making new friends and spending less time at church or fellowshipping with other believers. Christians understandably tend to gather with others who believe the same way that they do. However, we can then become narrow in our focus and neglect those who do not yet know Jesus as Lord and Saviour. And, we can also end up with a “we” and “they” mentality. This is simply not healthy. We need to find a place where we can hang out with nonbelievers and frequent it often so as to stay in touch with the real world out there and build relationships with those who live without hope. A gym, the baseball diamond, a hockey rink, a weekly card game…
4> Passionate prayer unleashes power
Systems, programs, and tricks of the trade will never bring lost sheep home to the Good Shepherd. The best worship services with the finest music and the most articulate gospel presentation are powerless if the Spirit of God is not present and at work. Only when God moves will people surrender their hearts to Jesus.
This is true as well in the life of a believer. If we are not praying passionately for the lost then we will not influence or impact the lost. We can befriend them without prayer but we cannot see them come into the Kingdom if our prayer is weak and inconsistent. And, if we simply neglect praying for those we know who are lost. Working to influence and win the lost without praying for the lost from a heart for the lost sucks and seriously lacks integrity.
True power resides in the prayers of believers and the prayers of the corporate church when we weep for the lost and seek God’s face on behalf of those who are in spiritual darkness. We need to ask God for His heart for the lost. That prayer, when answered, will transform your life and witness and help you to live a life of integrity.
Prayer and the power of God are central to living lives that bear witness to the nonbeliever. And, as we live with a heart for the lost then we will obey Jesus and live with biblical integrity.
1> Practice what you believe (Leaders: Practice what you preach)
2> Intimacy with Jesus is foundational and a serious priority
3> Love for the lost is essential
4> Passionate prayer unleashes power
Continuing on…
5> Biblical conviction keeps our vision clear
One of the quickest ways for a believer to see their integrity wane is to begin compromising their biblical beliefs. When a disciple of Jesus no longer holds to the Scriptures as the absolute truth of God’s Kingdom vision dies.
Nonbelievers will often disagree with Biblical Christians, but most will maintain a level of respect if we hold our convictions with grace-filled confidence. When born again believers are quick to apologize for the Bible, sand off the sharp edges of our doctrine, and adjust the teaching of the Word of God to accommodate the ever-changing norms of our culture, our integrity goes out the window.
Jesus was clear that following Him would not be easy. If our goal is to fit in, get along and seem normal in this world, we are walking the wrong path. Integrity in the life of a believer means knowing, loving, and following the teachings of the Bible, even when it is awkward or downright painful.
6> Invite accountability and seek wise mentors
We all have blind spots. It is easy to deceive ourselves and get off track. When we have godly, strong, honest people in our lives who speak the truth (even when it hurts), we have a much greater chance of maintaining a life of integrity.
Every believer should have a mentor and every believer should be mentoring or discipling a younger believer. In other words, every Timothy needs a Paul and every Paul needs a Timothy. Since just after I was born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit I was blessed with a powerful man of God as my mentor. He lived in the state of New York and I lived in Central Canada but we stayed in touch. This was pre-internet and email but he wrote letters almost on a weekly basis (remember snail mail?). And, during each calendar year he spent two different two week periods of time in my city during which we spent time together daily. This went on for 30 years. When he died I felt like an orphan. I immediately went searching for another man of integrity and experience who might be willing to mentor me and speak into my life. I found him and he is still speaking into both my personal life and my ministry.
Throughout my ministry I have always mentored (discipled) younger believers and those with a similar call of God on their life as exists on my life. Some of these young men have even travelled overseas with me over the past 20 years.
In a world where integrity can seem old-fashioned and believers live life on the surface – often an inch deep and a mile wide – Christians are wise to look closely at their heart and lifestyle. Anything and everything we can do that leads to greater integrity will forward the work of the Gospel and bring honour to our Saviour.
We have been looking at how we, as believers, can determine if we are living with integrity in 2021.We have examined six elements of our life that need to be regularly examined and found to be front and center in daily life if we are going to live life in a manner that lines up with what we believe as Christians.
It would be good for you to examine your own lifestyle to see if your priorities are set within biblical parameters; to see if your focus is truly on the Kingdom. Remember, Jesus did say, “Seek first the Kingdom…” This is, of course, foundational to living life with integrity.
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