3 Keys to Integrity



2 Samuel 21:1-14

If you have your Bibles, you may open them and turn to 2 Corinthians 1 and hold your place at verse 12.
The title of today's message is Three Keys to Integrity.
I want to, in my introduction, say that it is not my normal practice to read so much text and preach so much text in one sermon.
However, as I said when we began 2 Corinthians just a few weeks ago, it is often hard in this book particularly to find where Paul makes the natural breaks, because he maintains consistency of thought and he sometimes maintains his arguments through several different verses and even more than one paragraph.
And so where it might be easy to break down a book like Romans or Galatians into more reasonable chunks, there are going to be times in 2
Corinthians where to get the full thrust of what he's saying, we're going to need to look at a little bit more of what he's saying.
But I do have a desire and a potential plan that even though I'm going to look today at chapter 1 verses 12 through chapter 2 verse 4, next week there is a section in the middle that I am thinking of considering again.
So this may end up becoming a two -part. And you guys who have been here for a while, you know I often do that.
I'll look at the overview and then go back and hit some of the particulars a little bit more deeply.
So just consider that as a possibility of what may be happening as the Lord leads in the preparation of the messages.
So we're going to begin today by standing. We'll read 2 Corinthians 1 beginning at verse 12 and we're going to read through the chapter break because the chapter break is not inspired.
We'll read through the chapter break into chapter 2 and read to verse 4.
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God and supremely so toward you.
For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and acknowledged and I hope you will fully acknowledge just as you did partially acknowledge us that on the day of our
Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you. Because I was sure of this,
I wanted to come to you first so that you might have a second experience of grace. I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea.
Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say yes, yes, and no, no at the same time?
Assuredly, as God is faithful, our word to you has not been yes and no. For the
Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not yes and no, but in Him it is always yes.
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.
And it is God who established us with you in Christ and has anointed us and who has also put
His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. But I called
God to witness against me. It was to spare you that I refrained from coming to you again at Corinth.
Not that we lorded over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.
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? And I wrote as I did so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice.
For I felt sure of all of you that my joy would be the joy of you all.
For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
Father, I thank you for your word. Now as I seek to give an understanding of it,
I pray as I always do, Lord, week in and week out, I pray that you would keep me from error.
For Lord God, I know the propensity of my own heart. I know the failures of my own heart and mind.
I know the tendencies of my own self -interest and I pray,
Lord, that you would put those things away, that you would bring me low and raise
Christ high. And I pray, Lord, that your word would take center stage today and Lord God, that the man of God simply would vanish into the background and the word of God by the spirit of God would go forth and teach.
And Lord God, that we would be instructed in the truth, particularly today,
Lord, in regard to the subject of integrity. Lord, as we see
Paul defending his own integrity of ministry and often, Lord, when our integrity is called into question.
Father, may we stand firm on the word of God, trust in you and be faithful to you.
And Lord God, as we see also in the midst of this, a reminder of the gospel that all the promises of God find their yes and amen in Christ.
May we be reminded that the very gospel is the center of all that we do and the reason for all that we do.
And Lord, if there are those here today who have not believed the gospel, that they might hear today a call to repentance and faith and that they might yield to that by the power of the spirit of God.
In Jesus name. Amen. What do you think of when you hear the word integrity?
The dictionary definition of the word integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles or to be morally upright.
Integrity, in general, is a positive term. If you say that a man is a man of integrity, you are giving that man a compliment.
You are saying this is a man who is honest. This is a man who can be trusted.
This is a man who is fair. This is a man who is kind. The word integrity actually comes from the word that means to be intact.
We get the word integrate from the same root, the same idea.
The word integrate is actually the same as integrity in its foundation.
What do we call something when it falls apart? We say it disintegrates.
Disintegrate means to fall apart. So integrity is to be held together. It should be the desire of all of God's people that we would be described with such character.
That we be described as people of integrity. One of the virtues of the believer should be integrity.
And one of the fastest ways to destroy a ministry is when someone's integrity has been called into question.
I want to share a story. And this story happened 15 years or so ago.
So it happened here, but it's an old story. And some of you are familiar with the church's history.
I've talked about how early in the ministry here as I began to preach the doctrines of grace.
There was some pushback against those doctrines. And there were folks who were very unhappy with the things that were being preached.
And I understand when you first hear words like election and Calvinism and those words.
They can be a little hard to take. But there arose within the church a group who was so disencouraged by what
I was saying and preaching. That they wanted me to leave. And they began to make things very difficult.
And one of the things that I remember very, very specifically.
This was back when we had a general board. We don't have a general board anymore. We have elders. We're a biblically functioning church trying to seek to function the way
God intended. But back when we had a general board, the general board sort of ran everything.
And as the pastor, I had to go to general board meetings. And I had to sit through the meetings and answer questions.
And one of the men who was there who was very unhappy with my preaching. Began to lay out his desires for what he would have me do.
He said, I want you every month to provide a report of what you're reading. What you're studying.
How many hours you spend in the office. How many hours you go to visit people. How many hours you're in the car.
And I want a report of all the people you visited and all the things that you've done. And I said, nope.
What do you mean, no? I said, my sermons are the testimony of my study.
And you would know if I didn't study by the quality of my messages. My relationships with the people in the church is testimony to my willingness to go to them.
Love them and fellowship with them. And if I didn't have those relationships, you would have every reason to call that into question. And if there is a person here who is sick and has not been visited.
You give me their name and I will remedy that as soon as I can. I said, but your desire right now is not to see those things take place.
Because those things are being done. Your desire is to call my integrity into question.
And I'm not going to allow you to do that. Now I'm only telling that story because that's what's happening to Paul in this text.
Paul's integrity is being called into question. Because there is a group within the
Corinthian church that want to see the church turn away from Paul's teachings.
They want to see the church turn away from what Paul has brought them. Because they want to be elevated to a position of authority.
And Paul's going to even talk about these people later. He's going to call them super apostles. We don't know if that's a label that they gave themselves.
Or a label that Paul simply applies to them in a derisive manner. But either way, what's happening here is
Paul is being accused of being a vacillator. A man who says one thing and does something else.
A man who cannot be trusted. By the way, if you want to look with me, look at verse 17.
This is the key passage to everything we just read. And it may read slightly differently in different translations.
And I know some of you come with different translations. But the ESV is what I use for preaching. And so this is from the
ESV. He asks this question. Was I vacillating? Meaning, was
I back and forth? Was I untruthful when
I wanted to do this? And what he's saying when I wanted to come to you. Because I said I wanted to come. I said
I was coming. Was I vacillating? Do I make my plans according to the flesh?
Ready to say yes, yes, and no, no. And when we get there, we're going to go through the text in a moment. And I'll explain that little double use of the positive and double use of the negative there.
But he says, do I make my plans according to the flesh? Ready to say yes, yes, and no, no.
At the same time. You see, that's what Paul is being accused of. Paul is being accused of a man whose yes doesn't mean yes.
And his no does not mean no. What was the thing that Jesus said?
We shouldn't have to take oaths. Why should we not have to take oaths? Because for the Christian, our yes is to be yes.
And our no is to be no. We're not a man who says yes today and no tomorrow. We're not a man who changes our mind on a whim.
But we are a man who is a man of our word. There used to be a time in this world where a man was expected to uphold his word.
Now, if you go anywhere and do anything, you've got to sign 16 times. What does your signature mean if your word means nothing?
Jesus said a Christian, a believer, a follower of Christ should be one whose yes means yes.
And his no means no. My children, whom I love, will sometimes ask me to promise.
You got kids ask you to do that? Daddy, can we go to the store? Sure. Do you promise?
No. Why not?
Because I don't have to promise. If I said yes, it's yes. If I said no, it's no.
If I said maybe, it means I've got to ask your mom. But the reality is, our word is supposed to be our word.
Again, integrity. And Paul's integrity is being called into question. He's being called a vacillator.
And throughout 2 Corinthians, Paul is going to be defending his apostolic ministry against those who oppose him.
And this section in particular, verse 12 of chapter 1 down to verse 4 of chapter 2, is
Paul dealing with a particular accusation that he is untrustworthy because of his travel plans.
Because he made a change in his plans as to how he was going to go to Corinth.
So Paul is going to provide three defenses of his own integrity.
We'll see how this breaks down in a moment, but that's what this is. It's three defenses of Paul's integrity.
First, he's going to defend his integrity by saying he has a clear conscience. Second, he's going to defend his integrity by saying he had a sincere desire.
And thirdly, he's going to defend his integrity by saying he had a benevolent motivation.
And in the end, he's going to say, calling his integrity into question misses the most important part of all.
And that is we are to look and think about each other with love and grace. Not with an attitude that is always intended to tear one another apart.
So let's look first about his clear conscience. This comes to us in verses 12 to 14.
Paul says, beginning again in verse 12, he says, For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not earthly wisdom, but by the grace of God and supremely so toward you.
Now we'll stop right there for a moment. When Paul uses the word boast in the ESV, that can be somewhat confusing because normally we think of boasting as bad.
Normally we think of boasting as something that we shouldn't do. People who are braggadocious or boastful are typically people we don't like to hear from or be around.
But in this particular sense, there are other ways to interpret this word. The King James Version translates it rejoicing.
The New American Standard Version says proud confidence. And what
Paul is saying is we have every reason to be confident in how we behaved toward you.
See, he's being accused of having done wrong. He says, I have every confidence in the world to say
I haven't done wrong. Because why? Because my conscience is clear.
My conscience is clear. He said, I behave toward you in simplicity.
And the word for simplicity there is hagios, which is holiness. He says, I behave toward you in holiness and sincerity.
I have not been led by earthly wisdom as some have accused me of, but I have behaved toward you with integrity.
And because of that, I can stand before you with a clear conscience. You come with me, come what may.
You can accuse me of whatever you want. But just know this, my conscience is clear.
Now, I have to say something about the use of the conscience. Because the word conscience, as most of us know, refers to that inner part of us, that self -knowledge.
And that's what the word conscience means. The word science means knowledge. Conscience means with knowledge.
And ultimately what it means is to understand self. It's to have self -awareness. It's to understand who we are and understand things like right from wrong.
In fact, the Bible tells us that the conscience is a good thing. In Romans 2, in verse 15, it says that even people who don't have the law, they do things the law requires, and their conscience bears witness that they're doing right or that they're doing wrong.
The conscience actually has a purpose. And the conscience does something. The conscience either bears witness that we are doing something right or we're doing something wrong.
And over and over, Paul appeals to the conscience. Acts 23, he says,
Beloved, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up until this day. Acts 24, 16,
I always take pains to have a clear conscience towards God and man. Romans 9, 1, he says,
I'm speaking the truth in Christ. I'm not lying. My conscience bears me witness. Romans 13, 5,
Therefore, one must be in subjection, not only for God's wrath, but also for the sake of conscience.
Paul appeals to the conscience over and over and over again. But there's a problem.
And the problem is this. Our conscience can be deceived.
And if you want to make a note, Jeremiah 17, 9 says, The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.
Who can know it? So the conscience is not a perfect arbiter of right from wrong.
And here's how we know. I've stood face to face with people who were living in absolute unbridled sin.
I mean, bad sin. All sins bad, but bad, bad.
And they've looked me in the face and said, My conscience is clear. And my answer was, It really shouldn't be.
You ever been there, Mike? Somebody says, Hey, I'm living it up. I'm living in sin, living in absolute adulterous, fornicating, whatever.
My conscience is clear. It really shouldn't be. See, what happens, and this is
Romans 1. Romans 1 tells us that we suppress the truth in unrighteousness. It says we know what the truth is, but we suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
And the more we do that, the more we become jaded to sin, and the more we become ones who are willing to call right wrong and wrong right.
That's what happens at the end of Romans 1. It says they are those who not only do evil things, but they call evil good.
In that the worst of things from the Old Testament, Isaiah says, Woe unto those who call evil good and good evil.
Why? Because not only do we have the word of God that tells us what's right and wrong, but that's a violation of our conscience.
We know right from wrong, and yet we love the wrong, and so we replace it, and we suppress it.
So if you come to me and you're in sin, and you say my conscience is clear, I'll say it should not be.
But that doesn't mean the conscience doesn't have any use. That just means the conscience can be seared.
The heart can be seared. The conscience can be suppressed. But when our consciences are formed and molded by the word of God, then our consciences become a better tool when we're dealing with questions of integrity.
Do you hear what I just said? When our heart... Oh, you say, well, what verse do you have? How about this one,
Psalm 119, verse 11. Thy word have I hid in my heart, so that I will not do what?
So I will not sin against you. Right? So what do we do? We mold our conscience to the word of God.
We mold our understanding to the word of God. That way, if someone calls us into question, if someone calls our integrity into question, we can say
I know that my conscience is clear, and that can have some merit because my conscience has been molded by God's word.
If there's anybody whose conscience was molded by God's word, it was the Apostle Paul. So when the
Apostle Paul looks at the Corinthians, and he says, hey, my conscience is clear, he's not saying
I'm wrong, but my conscience feels okay about it. He's saying I've considered this, and my conscience bears witness with me that I'm not wrong.
That I have done you no wrong. You see? So Paul appeals first to the fact that his conscience is clear.
And he says this, verse 13, he says, For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand, and I hope you fully understand, just as you did partially understand us, that on the day of our
Lord Jesus, you will boast of us as we will boast of you.
Again, he uses that word boast. And essentially what he is saying is he is saying that we feel confident that we have done right.
And our hope is that you'll understand that. And you'll actually rejoice because of us. And some of you already do.
And that's the interesting thing about 2 Corinthians as you read through. Some people, some of the Corinthians have recognized that Paul is right.
It's not as everybody in Corinth is opposed to Paul. It's just this group. And so in this section here, he even says,
He says, I hope you, he says, For we are not writing to you anything other than what you read and understand, and I hope that you will fully understand, just as you did partially understand.
See, there are some who do, but not all. And his hope is that they will all understand that he has not done them wrong.
That they will all understand that his integrity is intact. So we begin first with his appeal to his clear conscience.
Now his second defense is a sincere desire.
So first he makes a defense to his clear conscience. Now he makes a defense based upon a sincere desire.
Look with me again at verse 15. He says, Because I was sure of this,
I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace.
By the way, let me just stop right there. This has nothing to do, oh boy, you already know what
I'm going to say, don't you? There's an entire movement within Christianity that believes in a second experience of grace which comes with certain gifts of the
Spirit. And they call this the second blessing. This is very common in charismatic churches.
They call it the second blessing. This passage ain't got nothing to do with that.
What Paul is referring to when he says, I wanted to come to you so that you might have a second experience of grace, essentially what he's saying is
I wanted to come to you twice. Because Paul's intention was to go through Corinth on his way to Macedonia and then back through Corinth on his way to Judea.
He says that in this text. He says in verse 16, I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea.
That's the two blessings. When he says I wanted you to have a second experience of grace or a second blessing, he's not talking about two administrations of the
Holy Spirit in the life of an individual. He's talking about his presence as a grace of God going through Corinth and back through Corinth.
But that's what didn't happen. Paul's plans changed.
And this is the crux of the issue. His travel plans are under scrutiny. Isn't it so weird that this is the thing?
Of all the things Paul did great, of all the ways that he ministered to these people, of all the things that he has undertaken to minister to the
Corinthian people, what's going to be his undoing is that he said he was going to come at a certain time and he didn't come and therefore they think he's a liar.
How quickly can a church turn against a ministry? It happens so quick that people will find something upon which to claim the lack of integrity.
I heard a story the other day. And these stories, again, they're sad.
My wife and I hear them quite a bit because we have connections with folks in ministry and all around different places.
I get e -mails from pastors all the time that just need somebody to talk to. But the other day
I got a message. Pastor got home, all of his stuff was in the yard because he lived in the parsonage.
You know what a parsonage is? A parsonage is a house that's owned by the church. Well, the deacons voted him out after Sunday service.
They went and unloaded his house, put it all in boxes. That was how he found out he lost his job.
Think of the argument that's being made against Paul. You're not a man of your word.
You've changed your plan and therefore you can't be trusted. You've said you're going to come twice.
Now you're only going to come once. Paul Barnett in his commentary on this passage, he says this.
He says because he did not return immediately to Corinth as he indicated he would, the Corinthians now regarded
Paul as a double -minded man, unable to stick to his plans. Looking at things from the Corinthian standpoint,
Paul had a major change in his plans and could be seen as being a vacillating man whose behavior reflected a worldly rather than a godly wisdom.
That's what he was being claimed. Paul says,
I wanted to come to you twice. I wanted to. And this is why I say his second defense is,
I had a sincere desire. I truly had a sincere desire to do this.
And then he asked the question, was I vacillating? Was I careless when I said I was going to do that? Did I make this plan dishonestly on purpose?
And the answer is no. He said, did I say yes, yes, and no, no?
And by the way, the double terms there, which are the double term for the positive, the nai -nai in Greek, kai -to -oo -oo in Greek, sounds funny.
Nai -nai, kai -to -oo -oo is yes, yes, and no, no. He said, did I say that to you?
What? Oh, the baby, yeah, kai -to -oo -oo. Some commentators believe that this was actually a way of taking an oath, was to say the positive twice, yes, yes.
Or to say the negative twice, no, no. To say I will under oath would be to say
I will, I will. We know this is in keeping with at least the typical way of speech in the
Bible because any time something is emphasized in the Bible, it's said twice. When Jesus said, Simon, Simon, Satan has sought to sift you like wheat.
Verily, verily, I say unto you. We see these terms over and over. And so to emphasize yes, we would say yes, yes.
Or to emphasize no, it would be no, no. And Paul says, did I do that? Did I give you the yes, yes with the intention of it being no, no?
Did my yes really mean no and did my no really mean yes? And the answer is no.
Paul had a sincere desire to do what he said he was going to do. He had a sincere desire to not give his word and then change his mind.
And in the midst of his defense, Paul appeals to an even greater truth. And that's this, and here's the truth.
Verses 18 to 22 are a little difficult, but this is what he's going to say. My travel plans have changed, but my message hasn't.
Notice what he says in 18. He says, As assuredly as God is faithful, our word to you has not been yes and no.
What's he talking about, our word? Not necessarily about his travel plans, but about his ministry.
As surely as God is truthful, I have not come to you with yes and no, but I have come to you with a consistent message.
And what is that message? Verse 19. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you,
Silvanus and Timothy and I. By the way, two or three witnesses. These three men,
I and Timothy and Silvanus, was not yes and no, but in Him it's always yes.
We have always come to you with a consistent message. And then he says one of the most important verses in the
Bible. This is the one I'm thinking of coming back to next week because my heart is just so tied into this verse right now, especially with everything.
Everybody wants to talk about Israel. Everybody wants to talk about God's promises to Israel. Hear this verse again when it says, All the promises of God find their yes in Christ.
You want to talk about what God's promised to Israel? God promised Israel a Messiah, and He delivered. God promised a seed and a land.
They've got it. They've got the seed. The seed is Christ. They've got a land. It's the new heaven and the new earth. Yeah, I may have to preach that next week because we can't forget the importance of that.
And Paul's saying my message has not changed. Yes, my travel plans changed. And yes, you might try to bring some type of argument against my integrity, but understand this.
When it comes to Christ, my message has been consistent. And if you want to judge the integrity of a ministry, you look at the message.
If you want to judge the integrity of a pastor, you look at what he preaches. What is he teaching?
Is his message consistent? Paul says my message has been consistent.
And again, I could just preach on this all day. He says not only that, for all the promises of God find their yes in Him.
And that is why through Him we utter our amen to God for His glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us and who has put
His seal on us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. That seems so out of place, but what he's saying there is he's saying we have unity in something more than travel plans.
We have unity in the gospel. And let me tell you this. If you have unity in the gospel, then we can get over minor errors of where we're going to go and when we're going to be as long as we trust that we're all rowing the same way.
Brother Andy's phrase. Brother Andy always talks about the rowboat. He says being in church is like being in a boat.
And we all sit in the boat. Some are rowing. Some are sitting.
They ought to be rowing. And some are rowing the other way. We are rowing.
We're going forward. We have a consistent message. You're calling the integrity into question.
You're calling because of a travel change. You're calling my ministry into question.
But my ministry is not traveling. My ministry is Christ. And that has not changed.
And our unity by the Spirit is in the gospel. And I truly desire to come to you again.
I want to point this out again. He says in verse 15, I wanted to come to you.
Verse 16, I wanted to visit you. I had a sincere desire.
When I said I was coming, I wasn't lying. And those who are accusing me of lying have other motives for those accusations.
Those who are accusing me of lying have other reasons for those attacks.
And then finally we get to his third defense. His first defense was
I have a clear conscience. His second defense is I had a sincere desire. Thirdly, I have a benevolent motivation.
Look at verse 23. But I call God to witness against me. It was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.
Think on that. Why would Paul's visit or his lack of visit be sparing them?
And the answer is this. There was great strife and turmoil in Corinth.
And Paul's presence would have added to that turmoil.
Go on and read. He says, I refrain from coming to you again at Corinth, not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy.
For you stand firm in your faith. For I made up my mind not to make another painful visit to you.
See, he's already been there. There's already been a painful visit made. He already knows what has happened before and he didn't want it to happen again.
For if I caused you pain, who is there to make me glad? But the one
I've pained? And as I wrote to you, so that when I came to you, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice.
For I felt sure of all of this, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.
Paul has written them a letter that is a painful letter. He has made a painful visit and out of his love for them, he has refrained from coming.
This letter that Paul mentions in verse four, we do not possess.
Some people think it's 1 Corinthians. I don't. I talked about this in week one.
I think Paul had four correspondence with the Corinthian people. Corinthians A, B, C, and D. We have
B and D. 1 Corinthians is B. 2 Corinthians is
D. There's a letter he wrote before 1 Corinthians. It's mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5. He said, pertaining the things that I wrote to you.
So that was a previous letter. And in between 1
Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, there is another letter he calls the painful letter. The letter that he wrote with tears.
The letter which I imagine excoriated them for their failures. The letter that I can only assume had words that were cutting and striking and painful based upon what he writes here.
Sometimes telling people the truth is hard. It's easy to tell people when they're doing good.
It's easy to tell people when things are great. It's hard to sit across the table and challenge someone who is not.
To call them to account for their sin. To call them to repentance. And to possibly even threaten them with the danger of one day the church excommunicating them.
I can tell you it's not fun. Amen indeed. To sit across the table from someone who is living in unrepentant habitual sin.
You're calling them to repentance. And they look at you and say, I don't care.
Or I'm not going to change. Paul loved the
Corinthians. And love, when it is true love, is honest.
And Paul is not motivated by anger, jealousy, envy, or a desire from drama.
Paul is motivated by his love for them. And Paul's love motivated him not to come.
Paul genuinely desired to put their needs above his own. And he was doing what he believed was right.
Even if they didn't agree with his decision, or felt he should have done differently, they should not have questioned his motivation.
His motivation was love. You understand this.
Maybe you don't. When we begin to consider why people do things, or what people are doing, we have to consider why they're doing the thing that they're doing.
We talk about this when I teach the ethics class in our academy. We talk about, okay, we have the action, but then we have the motivation for the action.
And the motivation can determine whether the action is right or wrong. You don't think so.
Think about, well, I use this example in regard to violence. Violence, people say, oh, there's never a time for violence.
Yes, there is. When violence is motivated by benevolence, there can be a time for violence.
CPR is violent. You break ribs, leave bruises, but you save a life.
Spanking is violent. You don't think so. Try to spank an adult. They'll call it, why would you do that?
But spanking has a purpose. Amen? Motivation matters.
And Paul is saying in this last section, I was motivated by my love for you.
You may not agree with what I did. You may think I should have done different, but how dare you say that I did it out of worldly wisdom or some selfish desire.
What I did, I did out of love for you. So Paul's three defenses are, again, he had a clear conscience, he had a sincere desire, and he had a benevolent motivation.
So now let's think about that in a practical sense. Let's think about that as we consider how do we apply a sermon like this to ourselves.
Well, first things first, let's think about ourselves as the person who is being attacked in regard to our own integrity.
Have you ever had your integrity called into question? Some of you said, no.
Yeah, it happens. People call your integrity into question. Here you go.
I'm sorry, wrong one. This one. When someone calls our integrity into question, when questions about integrity arise, the first thing, is my conscience clear?
But what did I say earlier? Is my conscience first molded by God's word? If my conscience is molded by God's word and my conscience is clear, that's first.
But here's the thing, if your conscience isn't clear, maybe you did do something wrong. Right? I mean, can't we be honest?
The conscience is a tool God gives us. And if we're going home at night and we can't get to sleep because we realize we have wronged that individual, maybe there is a moment of need for repentance.
See? That conscience is a tool. Paul says we obey.
I read it earlier, Romans 13. We obey our leaders. Why? Not only because we are concerned we're going to be punished, but because we have a conscience that's going to bear witness to this.
So number one, do you have a clear conscience? Number two, did you have a sincere desire?
You know why you did what you did. Oh, by the way, I don't know if anybody did anything. I don't know, like after sermon, like who was he talking about?
I don't know. Like there's nothing going on. We do have a deacon's meeting today, but it ain't about this.
No, it's just, this is like practical, right? If I have someone calling my integrity into question, first thing
I have to ask myself is, are they right? Is my conscience clear? Did I have a desire that was selfish rather than sincere?
And finally, was I motivated out of something other than love? Was I motivated out of selfishness? Was I motivated out of greed?
Was I motivated out of personal up -building and tearing down someone else?
These are questions we have to ask ourselves, and Paul is addressing these. He's saying I can go through all of these and say
I am absolutely innocent. I'm not a vacillator. My conscience is clear.
My desire was sincere. My motivation was love. But now the other side.
And again, I could do a whole sermon on just this next screen. When we are dealing with others, when we are dealing with others, do we automatically assume the worst in others?
We hear something bad about someone. Do we automatically run to believe it?
Do we automatically consider, yeah, I imagine that person probably did do that thing.
See, you don't realize it. I know you might say, well, this isn't in the text. It is in the text. It's under the text because this is what the men at Corinth were doing to Paul.
They were these. They were automatically assuming the worst about him. They were making snap judgments based on partial information.
You ever see somebody do that? Don't you hate it when people do that to you? Don't you hate it when someone sees you make a
Facebook post and automatically assume the worst about you rather than coming to talk to you or actually considering that they may misunderstand what you're saying rather than automatically considering the worst about us?
Well, don't we want to do that for others? If we don't want people to do that to us, don't we want to do that for others? And are we bitterly hoping for others to fail so we can look at the crowd and say, see,
I told you he was a bad guy. See, I told you she was a bad lady.
Let me tell you something. These three things will tear a church apart because what you have on these three things is you have a people who are consistent fault finders.
They're not rowing forward or backward or sitting. They're punching holes in the boat. Sorry, Andy, I had to add the illustration.
You got somebody with a drill. I don't know what year I'm in. They got a drill and they're punching holes because this is the way the church is destroyed as people rather than loving each other, rather than thinking the best of each other, rather than praying for one another.
Brother Andy said earlier we should pray that list. We should pray for one another. If we hear evil of someone, we don't automatically believe it.
We go to them. We pray for them. We talk to them. We encourage them. We ask them. We seek honesty. We love them.
Because ultimately all of our relationships should be Christ -centered. That's Paul's point going back to what he said about Christ.
All of the promises of God find their yes in Christ and all of the relationships of God's people find their center in the gospel.
Do we apply the gospel to our relationships? Well, how would we apply the gospel to our relationships?
The gospel is first and foremost a message of reconciliation. Now we are to be ministers of reconciliation.
First and foremost that means reconciliation between God and man. But also we are to be ministers of reconciliation with one another.
Loving to bring each other together rather than tear each other apart.
Loving to come together under the banner of Christ rather than seek to divide under the banner of some perhaps false misaccusation.
Paul's message in this really is a defense of his own ministry but it becomes a pattern for us in how we ought to treat one another and how we ought to live our lives in the integrity of the gospel.
So my encouragement to you this day if you're struggling, maybe you're struggling to forgive someone.
Maybe you're struggling with something that someone else in your life has harmed you or hurt you. Maybe you should instead of harboring those feelings and those angers and maybe instead of talking to others maybe you should go and talk to them.
Maybe you should seek to reconcile. Or maybe, maybe you should as Brother Mike and I talk a lot let love cover a multitude of sins and just get over it.
Maybe that's what needs to happen. And maybe you are the one who feels like your integrity has been called into question.
Again, I say nothing's happened here. But maybe you feel like you're that person. Paul gives us at least a simple method for examining ourselves.
Lastly, and I'll close with this, where's the gospel in this message? The gospel again is the center of everything because the gospel brings us together in Christ.
But the gospel also reminds us this, we cannot have a clear conscience, a truly clear conscience if we're outside of Christ.
If this day you are living outside of the Lord Jesus Christ and you have not yet bowed your knee to the Lordship of Christ, if you have not yet repented of your sin and trusted in Him, you may have a clear conscience in your mind, but you don't have a clear conscience before God.
So I would encourage you today, know this, every man is a sinner, every woman is a sinner, every child in this room is a sinner, and there is only one
Savior and it's the Lord Jesus Christ. And He says, come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.
So if you today have a conscience that isn't clear with God, turn from your sin and trust in Christ.
Let's pray. Father, I thank You for Your Word. I thank You for Your truth.
I pray Lord that now as we examine ourselves in preparation for the participation in Holy Communion, Lord I pray that we would seek to have a clear conscience before You.
If there are sins in our life that need to be repented of, that we would repent of those, that we would run from them, and that we would hold fast to the cross of Christ, the one who provides for our salvation and the only one who can save.
We pray this in His name and for His sake. Amen. Thanksgiving, I understand, is different in different households.