“Resist the devil, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:9-10
“Today, O Lord, let me put right before interest – let me put others before self – let me put the things of the spirit before the things of the body – let me put the attainment of noble ends above the enjoyment of present pleasures – let me put principles above reputation – and let me put Thee before all else.” ~ John Baillie
Christians are called to live with integrity. We know that we have been chosen by God (1 Peter 1:1) and that we’ve been called to be holy – even as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16). We know that we’ve been called to “love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22) and that we have been “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5) to be people who do not lie and bear false witness against others (Exodus 20:16). But, living with integrity is not always easy. We’re quickly drawn toward materialism, present pleasures, popularity, and our own self-interests. We quickly stray from paths of integrity because temptations are all around us. The more that we come to “know Christ” the more we will realize that our integrity will be challenged every day. This is a common experience (1 Peter 5:9) and Christ does not leave us to face this harsh truth by ourselves (Matthew 28:20).
We are “living stones” that God is building into a spiritual house that is acceptable in His sight (1 Peter 2:5). We are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation” that has been called out of the darkness of our world (1 Peter 2:9) and that God continues to “perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish” (1 Peter 5:10). We are clearly called by God to live with integrity in our lives and to demonstrate holiness with our actions. To be “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5) is to realize that we are “distinctly different” from other people, and to see that we’ve been set-apart from the rest of the world to honor and serve and glorify God.
Many Christians collapse before this truth and begin to believe that living a holy life (one marked by honor and integrity) is nothing more than a Christian ideal. But, this is not the case! The times that we spend with God in prayer and in worship change us. We discover that it’s all but impossible to go away from our encounters with God unchanged as we come to “know Christ” more intimately. Prayer and worship change us – and they deeply affect how we live in the world. The time that we spend with God challenges us to put what’s right before our own self-interests – to put other people before ourselves – to put things of the spirit before things of the body – to put God and God’s Kingdom before all else.
Integrity is born in our lives as God continues His work to “perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish” us (1 Peter 5:10). God’s at work, at this very moment, to create the types of holiness and integrity that exhibit His work in our lives! Integrity isn’t created in our lives through our own efforts and abilities. Integrity is the power of God at work in us – driving us toward peace with God; good-will toward others; healthy relationships in our families, in our workplaces, and in our churches; and compassion and concern for those who need to be touched by the love of Christ.
To “know Christ” is to personally experience God’s life-altering power! To “know Christ” is to realize that it’s impossible to go away from intimate encounters with God unchanged! Our hearts are grafted to the heart of Christ as God’s power comes to life in our lives (John 15:4) and as we come to more intimately “know Christ.” We are changed and transformed as our intimate connection with Christ alters the way that we live our lives and as we learn new ways to interact with other people in the spirit of love.