Ambassadors to a World of Compromise
- Thursday, August 18, 2005
Since its inception, Hollywood has been fascinated with the strange, the unordinary, and the extra-terrestrial. Creature films, the fantasy genre, and science-fiction movies continue to draw thousands to the theaters with thrilling special effects and creative tales to satisfy your imaginative curiosity in the other-worldly.
What do you think would happen if an alien being really did visit our world-how would the world react? Fear, wonder, suspicion, acceptance, rejection?
You don't have to wonder; someone from another world did visit planet earth, and we responded by crucifying Him. It's not that Jesus was strange-He looked like any other man; it's not that He was out of step with the culture-He came as a Jew to Jews; it's not that He threatened people's physical safety-He healed them; it's not that He stole their resources-He created food for thousands and gave without cost.
Jesus Christ wasn't the problem. He embodied true humanity and united it with the essential nature of God in one perfect Person. The problem was in a world of sinful men that would not accept a visit from the Creator. Jesus didn't compromise Himself or His teaching to the world of men, and that made them angry.
Jesus' integrity to God's character and God's truth really frustrated the Jews-He wouldn't line up with their system of works and self-righteousness. He rejected their interpretations of the Law (Matthew 5:21-48); He rejected their superficial and hypocritical righteousness (Matthew 6:1-18); He rejected their love of money (Matthew 6:19-34). In short, He just wouldn't get with their program. To do that would require compromise, and Jesus was the epitome of integrity.
The American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin, 1992) defines integrity as "steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code," "the state of being unimpaired; soundness," or "the quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness." It comes from the word integer, which means being true to one's ethical standards, in this case, God's standards. Its synonyms are "honesty," "sincerity," "incorruptibility."
Integrity describes someone without hypocrisy or duplicity-someone who is completely consistent with his or her stated convictions. A person who lacks integrity-someone who says one thing and does another-is a hypocrite.
Integrity-integrity to the truth and integrity to godly character-that's what should characterize you if you are a follower of Jesus Christ. No doubt people will treat you like an alien, but integrity is the badge of every true believer. That badge will bring you into conflict with the world, because the world is characterized by compromise.
Christ left us-true Christians-on this planet to be His ambassadors with this message: be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world (John 17:16), and to the degree we represent Him, we will be treated like He was-with suspicion, scorn, ridicule, even violence.
In the world, compromise is virtue-it's what gets you ahead. Moral standards and Christian principles get in the way of the pragmatic and expedient. The underlying philosophy is based on accomplishing goals by whatever means are necessary. That self-centered perspective, inevitably leading to compromise of conviction and morality, is so prevalent in our society that there is no longer a national conscience. Guilt and remorse are nonfactors in determining behaviors.
Politicians, who should be upholding the high ideals of our country, instead are leading the way in compromise. They promote their lofty standards and high ideals prior to their elections but compromise them once they are in office. The same holds true in business, from corporate executives down to salespeople; in the courts, from judges to attorneys; in sports, from owners to athletes; and in all walks of life. As a result, people learn to lie, cheat, steal, and shade the truth-to do whatever is necessary to get what they want. Thus compromise becomes a way of life.
Unfortunately the philosophy and practice of compromise has even invaded the church. Because "tolerance" is the operative ideology in our society, the church adopts a similar perspective to reach the unsaved. Many churches now look for ways to give the gospel to people without offending them. Yet the very nature of the gospel is offensive because it confronts sinners with their sin. Ignoring that, many churches willingly compromise God's Word instead of standing firm on the gospel, and they give the world a watered-down version that can't effect any change.
On an individual basis, the spirit of compromise hits closer to home in your personal interactions. You may have had opportunities to proclaim Christ to unbelievers, yet out of intimidation or lack of confidence, you have kept silent. Perhaps you've found yourself compromising God's Word on some ethical issue at work or in your neighborhood and convinced yourself that such compromise was necessary to maintain your credibility as an employee or neighbor. Yet your Christian testimony is predicated on your complete devotion to God's Word as the highest authority-no matter what the consequences may be. God draws the elect into the kingdom through Christians who prove to be different from the world-who reveal their true allegiance by their commitment and obedience to God's standards.
The church is now so adept at compromising with the world that it has forgotten how to be uncompromising. That's because we readily accept the world's value systems and indulge ourselves in them to the point that we personalize them and they become our desires. In essence, our standards replace God's.
Scripture calls us to the opposite of compromise. From one end of the Bible to the other, God clearly commands His people to live apart from the world, to be separate from the world (1 Peter 2:9). Whenever we are tempted to compromise, we need only remind ourselves that God never compromises His absolute truths and principles for expediency. He always lives according to His Word. Psalm 138:2 says, "You have magnified Your word according to all Your name." God is committed to His Word, and as His children, we are to be also.
When you view God's Word as the ultimate authority, that opens the way for developing integrity instead of compromise. And integrity is the pathway to God's blessing.
When Solomon finished building the house of the Lord, the Lord appeared to him and said:
I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. And as for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, "You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel." (1 Kings 9:3-5).
The conclusion is simple: those who maintain a life of integrity will be blessed by God. It is the way we represent Christ on earth as His ambassadors. We identify with Him by standing apart from the world, not compromising God's truth or His character in how we live our lives, in how we conduct ourselves in His church. And when we identify ourselves with Him here on earth, He will confess us before His Father in heaven and will one day receive us to Himself.
Adapted from The Power of Integrity © 1997 by John MacArthur. All rights reserved.
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