Integrity of the Heart

In Genesis 20 Abimelech the king of Gerar takes Sarah from Abraham for a wife, because Abraham said she was his sister. Sarah was close to 90 years old, yet I’m guessing she was still beautiful and desirable. Abimelech and his household suffered sterility (and perhaps illness) and was risking death because of it. God appears to him in a dream and tells him the cause. Abimelech replies that he had taken Sarah “in the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands.” He hadn’t “approached her” yet (a euphemism for sex). God said that was why Abimelech was getting a warning instead of getting toasted.

Abimelech was blameless in taking Sarah for a wife. There was no malice, no intent to harm. We might even say it was an “accident.” Yet he and all his household still got sick. He was under the death penalty in spite of his integrity. At his arraignment he pleaded his innocence, and rightly so. But if he kept Sarah as a wife then the Judge was still going to carry out the sentence. Ignorance was not an excuse.

Doing something wrong, even when we do it in the “integrity” of our heart, is still enough to get us the death penalty. We may not know something is wrong, but that doesn’t excuse guilt. A police officer won’t buy ignorance of the speed limit as a reason for speeding. We’ll get a ticket anyway. God won’t buy alleged ignorance of His Law either. We are responsible for knowing right and wrong, and for choosing right. This is one of the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eating that fruit carried with it the responsibility for our actions regardless of integrity of the heart.

There are those who think that sinning is okay, because we have the cosmic eraser of Jesus to eliminate the consequences. Some go so far as to use lip service to some nebulous Jesus as cover for doing whatever they want – in the integrity of their heart. Just ask them. Instead of following specifics of God’s Word, they will say they “follow their heart.” Really? What’s in the heart if we ignore what God says yet claim to follow Him? Do you think Abimelech “had Jesus?” Was he perhaps exercising his “freedom in Christ?” He certainly was innocent of a crime (in this instance anyway) yet he was still experiencing the consequences as if he had. He would even die if he kept going.

Integrity of the heart is fine, if your heart has been “fleshasized” by God. If it isn’t, a person can have a wrong “integrity of the heart” because they act in accordance with a heart of stone. Integrity simply means “wholeness,” meaning consistent thoughts and actions. Stone heartedness with accompanying stone-type action is still integrity. A bad guy can have integrity within himself, since he does “bad” actions in tune with his “bad” heart. A good person has integrity because he does “good actions” in tune with his “good” heart. The only wholesome and healthy integrity, however, comes from a good person who has a heart in tune with God. Those in between, the ones who claim a good heart while ignoring God’s Word, are those God calls “lukewarm” and serve only to cause Jesus to yak (spew, throw up, or vomit; for those readers in other countries not familiar with American figures of speech).

“ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:15–20, ESV)

Shalom
Bruce

Fear of God part 2

If you’re going to worship a god, make sure He’s the God who can destroy all other gods. Don’t choose those wimpy gods who cannot see or hear and don’t even have the power to blow their own noses. If more people feared God, we might see more gentle treatment of each other. We might also see a greater interest in what He says.

 

“The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you.” (Deuteronomy 19:20 NASB95)

 

My son tells me that there were a number of things he didn’t do when he was younger. He avoided them because he was genuinely afraid of what I’d do to him if he misbehaved. “My dad would kill me” was not such a bad motivation for avoiding certain behavior. Especially when there is a lack of understanding in the child, and the big issue is just to avoid harmful behavior. Of course I wasn’t ever going to actually kill (or even injure) him (shhhh!) but it didn’t hurt to be afraid of me at least a little. Enough for him to avoid straying into destructive actions.

 

I love my kids and do not want them to learn the hard way. I want them to avoid natural consequences. So I develop other, perhaps more immediate and painful, artificial consequences to help them learn how to make good choices. A swat on the butt as a reminder to obey Dad is much better than getting run over by a car. The getting run over thing tends to be a one-time only learning experience. God does the same for us.

 

7I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7 KJV)

 

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? (Lamentations 3:37–39, ESV)

 

God creates evil in the sense that there are bad things that happen if we don’t listen to Him. He does it because He loves us, and wants us to see the cost of moving away from Him before it’s too late. If a little bit of true terror will help me choose correctly, it is much better than learning too late that my choice was wrong. He wants us to fear Him above any person, teaching, or situation that might tempt us to abandon trust and obedience. It is not a blind fear that He wants, but it is still a fear that is tinged partly with terror as well as respect and reverence.

 

14I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. (Ecclesiastes 3:14 KJV)

 

12“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. 13“It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. (Isaiah 8:12-13 NASB95)

 

Fear of Him should override fear of anything else. If we are His kids, we do not fear destruction or rejection. But it’s good to be afraid of what He can and will do if we are not on His good side. If you are not His kid, you have every right to be terrified when He comes for you in judgment. One way or the other, sooner or later, fear of Him will impress itself on everyone. Better to feel it now and move closer to Him than to feel it when it’s too late.

 

From Whole Bible Christianity chapter 2 Fear