Integrity: Wholeness and Holiness
(Titus 2, Matthew 4)
Introduction: When I was growing up, one parent of a friend liked to challenge my group of friends on whether we were saved. It was good to be forced to think about eternal things and my relationship with God. However, I also remember that same parent was not honest - he suggested a way in which I might save money by cheating the government. The contrast was stark - and I remember his lack of integrity as clearly as I remember his gospel prod. How about you? Is your life a mixed message? What does it mean to live a life of integrity? Let's jump into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!
- The Right Example
- Read Titus 2:6-7. What is our obligation to those who are younger? (To encourage them by setting a proper example.)
- Why do we have an obligation to them?
- Does this obligation extend only to those of us who are teachers? (We all are teaching something, whether we realize it or not.)
- I listened to a young atheist complain that when he was out sharing his beliefs people would give him the "evil eye." The adult in the conversation assured him that society was improving by becoming more open to all views. Is an open, tolerant attitude our personal goal? Or, are disapproving looks part of setting an example? (The Bible tells us to set an example by doing what is good. When there are enough good people who live good lives, it creates social pressure to do what is good. A positive example is more compelling than a negative look.)
- Read Titus 2:7-8. Who else, besides the youth, are watching us? (Those who oppose us. Allies of Satan.)
- It may not come through in these lessons, but I regularly use humor when I teach my class. When I stand up to preach, the audience grins at me because they know what is coming. If I'm saying something funny, am I violating the Bible's direction to be "serious" in teaching? (The Hebrew word means "weight" or "honesty." If you look at the three words in our verse - integrity, seriousness and soundness - it paints a picture of high-level teaching. Not lightweight. Not last minute. Not second-rate. That does not exclude humor (I hope), but too much humor may make it seem you are not serious about the subject.)
- Have you ever walked out of a boring sermon or lesson and immediately forgotten what was preached or taught?
- Is part of being "serious" about teaching taking steps to help people pay attention and remember what was taught? (When I preach, about a third of the time I'm telling what I hope are humorous stories. The reason is to retain attention and pin my (serious) point in the memory of the listeners.)
- From your own observations about teachers of the gospel, how important is integrity? (Opponents of the gospel love to point out the hypocrisy (generally in the area of sexual sins) of Christian leaders. You can think of several who fell. On the other hand, Christian leaders like Billy Graham, James Dobson, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell stood for decades in the spotlight without moral failure.)
- The Right Example
- Read Matthew 3:16-17. In the conflict between good and evil, what has just happened to Jesus? (The conflict begins in earnest. God has just said He is "well-pleased" with His Son. Satan wants to trip-up Jesus. Satan wants to ruin His example.)
- Read Matthew 4:1-3. Put yourself in Jesus' place. Would you take Satan's suggestion?
- What issues are involved in Satan's suggestion? (Satan is challenging Jesus' position and power as the Son of God.)
- What would be wrong with turning stones to bread? God just told Jesus He was the Son. Jesus is hungry. Why not? (Satan is asking Jesus to prove that God is right. Satan is asking Jesus to depend on His own power, rather than trusting God.)
- Read Matthew 4:4. How does this answer Satan's temptation?
- How did Jesus understand the temptation? (Jesus saw this as an issue of trusting what God had just told Him - that He was the Son of God.)
- When we think of being a good example to those around us and to unbelievers, what kind of things do we have in mind? (Obvious things. Not stealing, not lying, not committing adultery, and not swearing.)
- Why are we studying such an obscure thing, trusting God, in a lesson about being a proper example? (All of the obvious things start out as an issue about trusting God. People steal to support themselves, people lie to avoid problems, people commit adultery to satisfy pride, people swear to sound brave. Trust and reliance in God is a cure for all of these obvious sins.)
- Read Matthew 4:5-6. Would you be tempted to throw yourself down from a high building?
- Does this show us that Satan is not very smart? "Here, jump off this cliff."(Satan is following up on Jesus' answer to the first temptation. Jesus said He was going to trust God and trust the Scriptures. Satan reacts by quoting the Bible and saying, "Let's see how much you trust God. Throw yourself down from this high point.")
- Read Matthew 4:7. How do you understand Jesus' answer? (Satan is taking Jesus from one extreme to the other. Jesus' answer shows that we are partners with God in obedience. We should not put ourselves in dangerous places.)
- Read Genesis 3:1-5. How is this like Jesus' first temptation? (It is a challenge over whether Eve will depend upon herself (or worse, the serpent) or whether she will trust God.)
- The Bible does not say this explicitly, but what has allowed Eve to be confronted with this test? (She is apparently standing by the forbidden tree! There is just one tree in the entire garden that she should avoid, and she is standing by it! Worse, she says that it is wrong to even touch this tree so she should know that standing close is a bad idea.)
- How does this compare to Jesus' second temptation? (She has put herself in harm's way. Jesus refuses to do that.)
- In setting a good and honest example, how would you apply the point we just discussed? (Part of our example is to avoid being involved in activities which are obvious tests of our faith. The best example is not that we were tested and won, the best example is avoiding unnecessary testing.)
- How else do you think we can we test God? (Jesus' answer in Matthew 4:7 is a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:16. Deuteronomy refers back to a story found in Exodus 17.)
- Read Exodus 17:1-3. How are the people testing God? (By complaining about their circumstances and God's leading.)
- How would you apply the point we just discussed in living a life of integrity? (We need to avoid complaining about God. We should set an example of gratitude towards God.)
- Read Matthew 4:8-9. What issue do you see here? (Isaiah 14:13-14 suggests that sin originated because Satan wanted to be like God. Here, Satan asks Jesus to worship him. Since worship should only be given to God, in this way Satan would be "like God.")
- Why would Satan think Jesus would fall for an obvious temptation like this? (Satan offers Jesus a "shortcut" for His mission on earth to win back the world for God. Accepting Satan's offer would avoid the pain and suffering that lie ahead for Jesus.)
- Read Matthew 4:10. What answer does Jesus give to Satan? (Only God must be worshiped. Jesus rejects the offered shortcut.)
- What lesson do we find in this for living a life of integrity? (No shortcuts. The most impressive example of a life devoted to God is serving Him when it is not easy. When it costs us something.)
- Friend, your life creates an influence for either good or evil. You either bring glory to God or glory to Satan. Why not determine today to use your life to give glory only to God?
- Next week: Optimism: Happiness and Healing.