The Path Less Traveled Final

Are you pursuing honesty all the time or just when the bright lights of life are on you? Is the person people see the same as the person you and I actually are?

A number of years ago I was living in California. I went to Hollywood to walk around and hopefully meet some movie stars. I met one. Well, I was in the same store as one. This actress was a “girl-next-door” type in movies. She always seemed like a sweet person in all her movies and the interviews she did on TV. Well as I was working up the courage to speak with her was able to observe her interaction with another fan. It wasn’t good. How she presented herself in-person was totally different than how she portrayed herself on the big screen and in TV interviews. I was crushed. The person she was with the lights on was totally different than the one she was when they were off.

Our character – who we really are – must match with the person we project to others.

How are you doing with that?

What kind of a person are you?  Notice I didn’t ask you what others saw in you or how you acted towards others. Do you look the same regardless if the room is full of people are the room is empty? Sometimes – perhaps oftentimes – our public reputation and our private character don’t match. This is a basic issue of being holy. Being holy, first and foremost, means we must practice integrity in every area of life. Our character – who we really are – must match with the person we project to others. How are you doing with that?

Someone once said A person is not given integrity. It results from the relentless pursuit of honesty at all times.

 I think this captures the source and definition of integrity. A person of integrity pursues honesty – runs after it – all the time. Now this is not an easy thing to do. There are temptations to cut corners in being honest all the time. But we must try to resist falling to those temptations. Honesty is not the best policy…it is the ONLY policy.

Another aspect of integrity is the character – reputation issue.

A person’s character is who that person is. It isn’t necessarily how they are seen by others but who they are. It is the distinguishing characteristics of that person. Like my intro to this article, the actress to whom I referred had a character that was, well, not that good.

A person’s reputation is how they are seen by others. A person’s reputation is what is projected to be seen by others. It is the person we want others to think we are rather than who we really are.

So who are you? When it gets down to it, what is an accurate description of just who you are?

If we are honest (that word again!) with ourselves we all have issues with the character – reputation thing. We all change our behavior to fit our audience to one degree or another. Our choice to improve this area of life on our path of holiness is whether we recognize the problem in our lives. This is a hard truth to admit. We all do hypocritical things – things that may look good but all the while the real me or you is vastly different.

Pursuing holiness – at least in our present state –  isn’t about having none of these issues come up. No it is about being aware and wanting to change those things.

A story from the early Church

The church began in the book of Acts. During the early days of the church, all the members of the church had to rely on each other for support and help. They were viewed as weird, betrayers of Judaism or as gentiles invading the world of Judaism. To say they faced opposition is an understatement. And the opposition wasn’t just from the religious class. The State – Rome in their case – also didn’t really like them either since the Church pledged their allegiance to Christ, not to Caesar. It was an interesting time. Consider this

And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:32-37 NASB

So Joseph sold some his land and gave it to the Apostles for their use. That was pretty cool and sacrificial, huh. He certainly lived up to his name the Apostles called him (Son of Encouragement). Now lets turn our attention to chapter 4 and two folks names Ananias and Sapphira.

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.

Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things. Acts 5:1-11 NASB

This is the first instance of lack of integrity in the Church. Sadly it isn’t the last. But let’s consider what happened in this episode. So Joseph decided to sell a possession and give the apostles the proceeds from the sale. If you read before that episode, you won’t find any command to do so. Joseph simply chose to do this wonderful deed.

Apparently Ananias and his wife Sapphira saw this and the blessing of Joseph’s actions. So they decided they would do the same. Well, not the same. They would simply ACT like it was the same. They evidently thought they would be considered encouragers as well. So what did they do?

They sold a field of their own for a price. They kept some of the proceeds of the sale for themselves and gave the rest to the apostles for their use. There was nothing wrong with what they did. However, they allowed others (or actually told others) that they had done exactly as Joseph did. They wanted their reputation to be of giving people who put others ahead of themselves. But their character was different. They chose to deceive others about their true identity. they were interested in projecting a good image – an image of sacrificial givers – rather than being sacrificial givers. They were caught and God judged them harshly for their lack of integrity. Peter hit the nail on the head when he said You have not lied to men but to God.” Our lies – whether in words or deed – are lies to God, not man. 

So how are you doing with integrity? Are you pursuing honesty all the time or just when the bright lights of life are on you? Is the person people see the same as the person you and I actually are? These are tough questions. They deserves honest answers. Before we can ever make strides in holiness, we must be first honest with ourselves and God about what we do and why we do it.

Integrity is the first step on the path of holiness. Be sure your first step is on solid ground and not on shifting sand.

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