One of the recurring laments of our society is that of an absence of integrity; particularly in one’s refusal to keep promises. This malady is prevalent in every sphere of life. For example, consider the marketplace: Businessmen lament having to hire an army of lawyers in order to make sure that contracts are iron-clad; consumers are weary of being given empty promises about product service; employers grow frustrated as employees cut corners and then lie about it; and employees grow disillusioned by the unfulfilled compensatory benefits promised by their employers. The days of a meaningful handshake to seal a deal are long gone and we all suffer for it. There is no doubt that dishonesty in the marketplace has contributed to inflationary pricing along with deflationary morals.
On the family front spouses, are emotionally destroyed as the one that promised to love them “until death” has abandoned their covenant, and now they make the same empty promise to the “new and improved” spouse. Parents often fail to keep their promise to spend time with their children and this lack of relational integrity is often felt for decades. The cynicism of the youth regarding marriage and the so-called generation gap are some evidences of the fallout of a society that has largely abandoned the virtue of integrity.
We who claim to be followers of Jesus are right to be troubled by such a moral decline. We should be deeply disturbed that many government officials are blind to their calling to be ministers (literally, “servants”) of the people, and that they instead see themselves as those who will say and do whatever it takes to ride the gravy train. Yes, we should lament both the exceedingly high divorce rates well as the increased promiscuity of the unwed living together as though they were married. We should be disturbed by these integrity failures as people refuse to keep their word, while others refuse to give their word. A lack of covenantal integrity should deeply disturb the believer, for such behaviour is symptomatic of a deeper problem; namely, a broken relationship with God. A refusal to live righteously, a refusal to live with biblically defined integrity is an offence to God.
The psalmist asked “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” He answers, “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:1–2). In other words, those who enjoy fellowship with God, those who persevere to the end and who thus enter into glory, are those whose lives are marked by a Christ-centred integrity; an integrity that proves their profession of faith. If I can put this another way: Those who are in covenant relationship with God (by His grace) will demonstrate it by a life of covenantal integrity. They will be committed to keeping their word before God, which means that they will “abide in [His] word” (John 8:31). Jesus made it clear that only those who abide in His word are His “disciples indeed.” If one’s life is marked by covenantal disobedience, it becomes increasingly apparent that the profession of faith is a sham.
I am not suggesting that the believer never fails in covenantal faithfulness. Sadly, we are not (yet!) immune from the temptation to fail in obedience to Christ. In fact, we are often assaulted by the tendency to shirk our responsibilities before God and thus, with great conviction, we often find ourselves seeking His grace in forgiveness. What I am saying is that covenantal faithfulness (obedience) is of supreme importance to those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus. We desire to faithfully follow Christ and when we fail to live out our (joyful!) obligations of allegiance to Him, it deeply troubles us. We strive for integrity. We desire for our lives to match our lips.
Covenantal faithfulness is of central importance in the Scripture. God warned Israel time and again (see, for example, Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28) that He expected them to obey Him. He warned them that if they did not then He would turn away from them. Of course, this is exactly what happened in the destruction of Jerusalem, along with the temple, in 70 AD. In 1 Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul warned the church at Corinth (and us by extension) that they need to take heed to Israel’s failed covenantal faithfulness lest the same thing happened to them. He was not suggesting that they could lose their salvation; rather, he was warning them to examine themselves, for a mark of genuine conversion is a life committed to faithfully obeying God; that is, a pursuit of covenantal faithfulness.
With this in mind, we as members of BBC need to examine our covenantal integrity. How are we doing? Are we striving to faithfully follow our Saviour? Are we bothered by our occasional failures in this regard? Specifically, how are we doing with regard to our church covenant?
On 14 October 2007 we had a glorious service in which over two hundred people stood as a congregation and affirmed our covenantal relationship with Jesus and with one another. We sealed this by the observance of Communion. For many, this was a time of great commitment and has helped to solidify our practical love for Christ and thus for His church. But nearly four months later we—each of us—should pause to examine our commitment. For instance, are you faithful to the services of BBC? Why, if we are covenantally faithful, has our Family Bible Hour attendance not increased? Why do only less than half of our members attend our midweek Bible study and prayer meeting? Where are the rest?
On another issue, how is your attendance to the Communion services? Even if you cannot legitimately attend all of the Sunday evening services, does not covenantal integrity demand that you gather with the church to partake of the Lord’s Supper? As I have demonstrated before from Scripture, to refuse the Lord’s Supper is tantamount to rejecting Christ. And what about guarding the unity of the church? Does not covenantal faithfulness demand that we refuse to gossip? I could name several other issues, but let these suffice. My point is that while we lament the lack of integrity in our society, let us be sure that we are not just as guilty in an even more important sphere: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As a practical help, let me encourage you to put a copy of the church covenant in the flyleaf of your Bible and to periodically review it. I do this and find that it is beneficial. No, the covenant is not the gospel, and keeping it does not save us. However, since it does sum up what it means to be a Christian, it demands faithfulness in its exercise.
As society seems to be spiralling towards moral chaos due to a lack of integrity, let us, God’s people, show a better way. When the corrupt world system collapses under the weight of its own moral bankruptcy, we will be there as a refuge for those who desire to dwell on God’s holy hill. Indeed, in dependence upon God’s grace, let us live out covenantal faithfulness and be a holy hill shining a bright light, thus bringing glory to God.