Integrity: Sleeping Well, Living Better

This is the Life! Volume 1

Thomas Babington Macaulay famously stated that "The measure of a man?s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out". What characterizes a life of integrity and what kind of life do individuals enjoy when they master this virtue?

Todd WagnerOct 29, 2006Proverbs 10:9

We are in the middle of looking at a life that when it is lived well other people go, "That is a good life. That is a skilled life. That is a life that is informed intellectually. Not just a life that's informed intellectually but a life that is formed practically in the way it is fleshed out. If I was going to have a life that was associated with me at the end of my days, that's the kind of life I'd want." So we're working our way through This Is the Life. Who wouldn't want the kind of life that other people say, "I want a life like that"?

Typically, we immediately think of things like comfort and possessions and power and pleasure, but we know all how empty that is. We've said last week…I'll repeat it consistently…that the rich are infinitely better off than the poor because while the poor still think money will buy them happiness, the rich know better.

The life is not found in power, in possessions, and in pleasure. Life is found in who we are. It's been well said many times who we are when we are alone is alone who we are. Today, I want to talk to you about something that a loving father wants every one of his kids to have. It is the most precious possession you have. If you don't have this, you don't have a skilled life.

I sat down and jotted down what I thought this kind of life gives you. It's going to allow you to sleep well, to live securely, to be better off than the rich, be able to give your son a precious gift, you're going to love the light, you're going to be unafraid of 60 Minutes, the IRS, or nanny cams. It gives you true intimacy with the seen and the unseen, the transcendent and the immanent, people and God.

Folks with this can control their environment. They're not controlled by their environment, and they're capable of leading others boldly. Now, what kind of life is this? It's a life, very simply, of integrity. So what's integrity? Integrity comes from the word integer. An integer is a whole number. It's a number that is not fractioned off. It is any number that is complete (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 0 or -1, -2, -3, -4, -5, -6, -7 and on). That's a whole number. So a man of integrity is a whole person.

There's been a huge, huge problem that has risen over the last number of years. It is a distinction that has been brought about in our country between what is called the spiritual and the secular. As if there were certain areas that you do certain things, but other areas you're not expected to do those things.

In other words, our society has decided that it is not necessary to be a whole or consistent society. We are not a society with integrity because we say, "Over here is spiritual. Over here is secular." America struggles because we are not a country of integrity. We are inconsistent. Any life that is lived that has a distinction between spiritual and secular is not a life that is full of skill.

In other words, if I can put you in another place and it changes you who you are, you don't know who you are. A man of integrity never changes no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the chronological time, or no matter what the consequence. It's just like absolute truth. Something that is absolutely true can be universally applied across time, across culture and geography, and will always produce blessing. A man of integrity will never change across culture or across time.

But we don't live that way. In fact, this month in (October 2006) Reader's Digest, there's a gal who wrote an article called "America 2.0: The Upgrade." She was talking about how our country is hurting, and it needs a major upgrade. What she chose as the little tagline with that greatly titled article is this. "You Can't Lead with Lies." The first thing we have to do if we're going to upgrade is we have to stop the cheating.

She went through with a pretty impressive list of all the place that we cheat. In government. Talk about for instance, not just what happens up in Washington DC, but all the buy-offs, all the inappropriate campaign funding, all the inappropriate relationships with lobbyists, all the corruption with Homeland Security going on in the gulf coast. In media, plagiarism and fabrication of stories and facts. Within sports, steroids, pine tar, and payments to athletes who aren't working.

She says we are teaching our kids everywhere that cheating is perfectly acceptable because everyone does it. In other words, there's nobody who is a whole person who is consistent. She went through, and she decided she was going to tick off what she thought government could do, what business, sports and media could do, what institutions of higher education and service could do, and what we all can do.

I really laugh because the very first thing she said government could do was launching a "no cheating allowed' media campaign. Like anti-drug campaign, "Just Say No," cheating would be, "Just Don't Do It." The opposite of Nike. She says we need to get celebrities, moguls, and former presidents. I couldn't believe it. I went back through the former presidents (some who have recently died or some who are living) who we probably don't want to put up there and say, "Don't lie, don't cheat, don't compromise."

I want to tell you there is a good way to live. It is a life that allows you to be unafraid. I don't know how many of you guys know this, but recently, some producers from 60 Minutes have flown to Dallas and spent some time with me. They initially represented that they wanted to do a story on us. They said, "Here's the deal. Our society is extremely autonomous. They don't like accountability with anybody."

They go, "We are really amazed as we watch what's going on. We first, obviously, became aware of what's happening here because we've heard that somebody doesn't like the way you don't let them live autonomously. Yet, we look at the fact that this community of people is growing at a rate that we can't really explain. Not just growing, but people are willingly being authentic with one another and allowing others in their life who will hold them accountable and care for them and spur them on. It's a real human interest story to us.

We can't understand. We know that one guy is mad, but we also have heard legions going to your website. There are people who are happy to tell other people their story. Part of their story is that other people have not let them live in isolation, and it's made their life better. They go, "We would love to come and spend a segment and talk about this phenomenon of community and of living life together and of loving each other and caring for each other and extending each other grace and mercy but spurring each other on and calling a spade a spade in love."

I said, "Let me tell you something. I appreciate that, but I am not an idiot, and I am sure of two things. Firstly, CBS and 60 Minutes specifically is not looking to make Watermark more renowned. Secondly, you're not really concerned about making Jesus more famous, so I'm not really sure what your story is going to be about. But as a premise, I'm guessing it's not about those two things."

They laughed, and they go, "Well, you understand us." I go, "Yes, I understand you." So we processed that and wrestled with that a little bit. Hey, that's a story worth telling, but I just looked them right in the eye, and I said, "You guys are not trustworthy people to tell the story. Maybe in the future, we can work together, but right now, when we look to tell the story, we're not really sure that you should be the ones that tell it. In fact, I'm going to tell you why.

We know that what you do is you pre-script every show because we've talked to ex-60 Minutes producers and media consultants and other folks around the world who we've had the chance to know. What you do is you do countless interviews, and you're going to eventually tell your story the way you want to tell the story. You have the privilege to do that. I don't begrudge you that, but because we're not sure (unless you can make firm commitments to us) what you're going to tell with the story, we're probably not going to go that route. Here's what you can be sure of. I'm not afraid of what you're going to find out when you come."

The old joke is may 60 Minutes show up at your door at 8:00 on Sunday morning. May they riffle through all your documents and put the camera in your face and go, "What do you think about this?" I want to tell you something that really is amazing. I'm not afraid of anything that 60 Minutes is going to find out here. In fact, I'd be thrilled if they would really find out what they'd find out here and move on.

I guarantee there are some folks whose feelings we've hurt and aren't real happy about the fact that we didn't catch a note or an email in a timely manner. We've never said we're perfect, but we have said, "If there's something in our life that is inconsistent with who we want to be, tell us so we can ask your forgiveness, change, and move forward."

I can tell you that to our knowledge, there is nothing going on that is a cover-up or a commitment to conceal that which we thought for a second if it was known it would be the end of the trust that we've built with one another. That's a good way to roll. So right now, we're not going to do that story that way, but it's not because we're thinking, "Oh my gosh. Could you imagine if they rifled through who they are?" I'd love that, if they'd talk about it in a balanced and fair way.

In fairness to them, just because some people in the past have not been that way doesn't mean that every show will be that way, but right now, we didn't feel like that would be the right use of time and wisdom, so we'll evaluate that more as we go ahead and take a look at it. What are we talking about today? We're talking about how good it is to live a life when you know that even if you are examined, it's going to be okay. There is a great little book that I love to go back to every now and then. It was written in 1991. It's called The Day America Told the Truth.

There's a movie that we're probably all familiar with that was out six to ten years ago (somewhere along in there) with Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson, and Robert Redford called Indecent Proposal. In that movie, Indecent Proposal, we know the premise was that this very rich individual wanted to have relations with another man's wife and said, "One night. One time. One million dollars." It was an indecent proposal.

In 1991, long before that movie ever came out, in the book The Day America Told the Truth, those authors asked folks, "What would you be willing to do for $10 million? Not $1 million but $10 million. Two-thirds of Americans who were polled during that little interview said they would change what they're currently doing for $10 million. I'm going to say if it's worth changing what you're doing for $10 million, it's worth changing anyway.

Watch this. I'm going to walk you through what they found out. They said 25 percent of Americans would abandon their family for $10 million. Also, 25 percent said they would abandon their church. Believe me, I've been a part of churches where I would've done it for a lot less. If you'd do it for $1, you ought to do it. Just do it. Because you shouldn't need cash to get someplace where you're going to led well, loved well, spurred on, held accountable, and served with grace.

They said, 23 percent would become prostitutes for a week. They would give up their American citizenship. They'd leave their spouses. Now, that is stunning. What maybe is more stunning is that we're not sure we got all the truth there because some people would go, "I'd do it. I just couldn't say it. If I did it, would people know that I did it?" I wonder how much the numbers would go up that way.

For $10 million, 10 percent of Americans would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free. How about that? For $10 million, 7 percent of Americans would kill a stranger. The reality is, we're killing people for a lot less than that. How about this one? For $10 million, 3 percent of Americans said they would put their own children up for adoption.

George Washington, the father of our country, is the one who was most famous for saying that few men have the future to withstand the highest bidder. Few men can say, "Nope. I don't have a price. I can't be bought." If you have a price, someone is going to try and meet it one way or another.

There are a lot of proverbs that are out there that talk about this, and there are a lot of countries that say basically the same thing, which is if you will change who you are when no one is around, or if you will do something different knowing that you will never get caught doing it than you would if you were fully filmed and exposed, then you are not a person of integrity, and your life isn't skilled, because your life is not able to withstand the test of independence. It's not a true life. It is a masquerade. You're putting something over what you are.

What I want to do is share with you some basic little things and use from the Scripture some different little Proverbs that talk about this idea of integrity. Just to show you how important this is, in Psalm 15 (before we get to the Proverbs) this is a little psalm of David. He says, "God, who can be your friend? Who can live near you? Who can be your camping mate? Who can dwell in your tent?" It's not talking about a Coleman tent there or an Eddie Bauer tent. It's talking about who can go into the holiness of God.

"Who may dwell on your holy hill? Here's who. The person who is a whole and complete person. The person who walks with integrity. The person who works righteousness. The person who speaks truth in his heart. The person who does not slander with his tongue." I love that little statement. There's a great story about Robert E. Lee.

Robert E. Lee was a man of great integrity. For $10 million, for a chance to work for the president of the United States, he didn't feel like he should leave his family and friends. Lee was not a man himself who believed in the idea of slavery. Historians tell us that Robert E. Lee didn't even own a slave, but he did believe in states' autonomy and states' rights. So he was going to fight for that, even if some things that states were going to is wrong because Lee believed that people should have the ability to lead themselves, even if they lead themselves to despair and destruction as a group of people who were free.

Because he defended that, those groups of people who were committed to practicing evil, rightly, were swarmed upon and destroyed. It was his conviction that states ought to have the freedom to live as they want to live. I think you're right, but I also think that justice has a right to roll, that God has sovereignly given us government, and when you see evil, it is the job of government to move against it. I'm grateful that we had a president who was willing to say, "Mr. Lee, I respect you, but we will come against you," and we did, even as we should have.

Robert E. Lee was talking at one point to an individual who he needed to work with closely. He was asked by this individual about another man who was a well-known enemy of Robert E. Lee, who consistently slandered him. They said to Lee, "What do you think about this man?" Robert E. Lee spoke of this man in favorable terms. When he walked out, one of his assistants said, "General Lee, don't you know that man is one of your biggest enemies, and he consistently speaks poorly of you and takes you down behind your back at every opportunity he gets?"

Lee said, "He didn't ask me what that man thought of me. He asked me what I thought of that man." What a great statement. Hopefully, what Lee would've done in being honest is he would have said (among other things), "If I have one concern for this man, it's that he won't address me personally with some concerns he has for me. But as a leader, as a capable general, as leader of industry, these are some things he does well."

It says right here. " [The kind of individual who] does not slander with his tongue…" By the way, when you speak the truth about somebody, that is not slander. But there's a way to speak the truth to somebody. You don't surprise them with truth that you're telling others about them behind their back. You say it to them. "…nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD…"

In other words, he speaks against evil, and he supports those who are just. "…he swears to his own hurt and does not change…" In other words, I'm going to be a whole person, and this won't change no matter what my circumstance, age, or culture is. So if I look you in the eye and I say, "Hey, I will love you. I will love you until death parts us. For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, sickness or in health."

One of the things I do when I marry couples…brace yourself for this; this will dumb down the number of folks who ask me to do their weddings…is I ask them what they mean by these vows. I say, "If you mean you will stay committed to them, not live with them necessarily in that particular moment, whether being abusive towards you physically or by abandoning you and giving themselves to another.

It means you don't keep enabling them and covering up for them, but if you're not going to be committed to them at the end of time, no matter what they do, then don't take these vows. What I'd like you to do is ask yourself what is going to be the thing that releases you from this marital covenant and commitment.

In other words, are you giving your whole heart, are you committing to them unreservedly? Not that your relationship won't suffer, your fellowship and intimacy and ability to be one won't suffer if they do certain things, but is your commitment to pursue oneness with them what you said it is? In other words, will you pursue them and look for them to be restored until death parts you if they become an idiot? Because if not, what I'd like you to do is to write in the things that you think will make you free.

Again, not to separate for a moment geographically, physically, or even financially, but even with that, to pursue back oneness with them. Because if they cheat on you, if they're abusive to your children, if they take on an alternative lifestyle… If you're saying that's what's going to have you move on, let's just put that in the vows."

How many weddings have you ever been to that this happened? "I take you to be my lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, and keeping you only unto myself, I will wholeheartedly pursue you and never waiver in that until death does us part, unless you cheat on me one night in Cleveland or you give yourself away consistently to pornography or you lead us so poorly that you rack up considerable amounts of debt or I find out that you've taken on an alternative lifestyle. If you do those things. Then I'm out. I do."

You've never heard it. You have never heard it. Not one time. But isn't that what we mean? Again, hear what I'm saying here. I'm not saying here that you let somebody be abusive and unfaithful to you without consequence, but if it's going to change your covenant commitment toward them, then say it. That's what a person of integrity does.

We are to love one another in that marital commitment the way Christ loves the church. How does Christ love us? His loving kindness and his faithfulness towards us is unwavering. But does he let us go our own way? Are we separated from him? Is our fellowship with him affected? Absolutely. But he always is looking to reconnect with us. He's always looking for reconciliation to happen.

It should take some time when we've been individuals who've hurt one another to restore some of that trust, but the openness to that trust being restored, how every many years it takes, is there. Otherwise, have the integrity to say that when you get married. Part of being a man or woman of integrity is you swear to your own hurt, and you do not change. Wow. That's tough stuff.

What I want to show you now is why you want to be that person. I'm going to talk about the blessing of living this life. Here's what I told you I would do every week. I would define what it is. I would talk about why it's good to live that way, the consequences of not living that way, and I would show you that we have a perfect skilled life to learn from who deals with all the imperfections in our life in the person of Jesus Christ. So here we go.

Why is this a better way to live? I'll tell you why it's a better way to live. Firstly, you can sleep securely. People of integrity sleep well. In Psalm 32, David says this. He's king. He can do whatever he wants to do, and no one can jack with him, but he says, "How blessed [happy] is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!" Not covered up, but has been dealt with and, if you will, has been paid in full.

How happy is the man to whom there is nobody who is going to say, "You're guilty." That's what it means when it says, "…does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!" In other words, there is nothing about me in the dark that you don't know about me as we deal with each other right now.

Watch this. David is going to testify from his own personal experience. What he had done as king is he had taken a look out over the kingdom, and he found one that wasn't his that he wanted for his own. He basically got involved in murder and cover-up and deceit, all for the sake of some momentary pleasure. He covered it up as best he could.

Even though at the time nobody knew it except one who a little bit later was going to have it supernaturally revealed to him, David knew it. He knew he wasn't a man of integrity any longer. He wasn't a whole man, and this is his testimony to you. Can't you identify with this (folks who are living like that)?

You made a decision years ago that you thought you could deal with something quietly in a little room and then you could just move on? Well, you can't, can you? It keeps haunting you every year when it comes around in the calendar. You keep counting how old that decision would be. I'm going to tell you, there are people here who have made the exact same decision, who have lived as David is about to tell you that he lived, who love you, who want to tell you there's healing, there's hope, someone cares, we care, and God cares.

We want to offer you the forgiveness we've received. Whether that's an abortion, whether that's theft, whether that's abuse, there's healing if you go back and say, "I'm no longer going to keep this thing inside of me. Here's why." David says, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand [of conviction] was heavy upon me…" Watch this.

Are you discouraged and depressed out there today? Are you somebody who goes, "I can't figure out why I can't experience life"? Are you somebody who tries to cover up your pain by dipping your toe in pleasure or by medicating yourself with some chemical so you don't have to deal with the reality of the darkness that's in your heart? Let me tell you the first thing I would do if I were you. I'd go back, and I'd take a fearless inventory and say, "Where have I, in the kingdom of my own life, done some things that I think I have to keep quiet."

God's heavy hand is upon you, and you are wasting away. " …my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer." That'll preach in Texas. You know what David meant. David is saying, "I can't sleep. Even though I'm king on the softest bed in the kingdom, I am dying because I have not lived in integrity." God has a solution for what you do if you can't sleep well because of stuff like that. He wants to cover your sin. He wants to impute to you righteousness, not guilt. But he says, "This is the way you're going to have to deal with it."

"He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion." Are you here this morning, and you're not sleeping well? I'm going to tell you it's because there isn't integrity in your life. It's the first place I would do a fearless inventory. You'd go, "No one can handle my story." You're not special. I don't care who you've killed, who you've abused, what you've done, how you've been abused. There are people here who can tell you, "I've met Jesus in those moments, and he is good."

This is what it says in Proverbs 3. "My son, let them [the words and practices of wisdom, the things I've taught you and the way to live] not vanish from your sight; keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck." When you do that, when you live that way everywhere you go, "Then you will walk in your way securely and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet."

Do you see that? People who live this kind of life sleep securely. They are sound sleepers because they're not afraid of sudden fear that someone is going to expose something in their life. You're going to experience continual peace. Isaiah 48:22 and Isaiah 57:21 say the same thing. There is no peace for the wicked. I don't care if you're on a Tempur-Pedic, you're going to not sleep well. God wants you to sleep well.

As a dad, my youngest is 3 years old today, but I have teenagers in my house, and I love to walk in their room at night, and I like to see them sleeping well. Not tossing and turning, not waking up with nightmares and dreams and fears, but that they're secure in my home. Not dealing with pains and scars that, emotionally, I'm throwing on them, or others are. I've protected them so they can sleep in peace. As a dad, that makes me proud. That's what God wants for us.

There's a guy named Edgar Guest. He wrote a number of poems. This one of my favorites that he's done. It's called "Myself."I want to read it to you. This what he says.

I have to live with myself, and so

I want to be fit for myself to know.

I want to be able, as days go by,

Always to look myself straight in the eye;

I don't want to stand, with the setting sun,

And hate myself for things I have done.

I don't want to keep on a closet shelf

A lot of secrets about myself,

And fool myself, as I come and go,

Into thinking that nobody else will know

The kind of a man I really am;

I don't want to dress up myself in sham.

I want to go out with my head erect,

I want to deserve all men's respect;

But here in the struggle for fame and pelf

I want to be able to like myself.

I don't want to look at myself and know

That I'm bluster and bluff and empty show.

I can never hide myself from me;

I see what others may never see;

I know what others may never know,

I never can fool myself, and so,

Whatever happens, I want to be

Self-respecting and conscience free.

I'm no Shakespeare scholar, but I've learned from Lady McBeth. I don't want to walk around obsessively washing my hands saying, "Out, damned spot. Out," when there are no spots there except the spots I see on myself for the murder I'm a part of. If you live a life of integrity, it's going to change your rest. It's going to change the way you sleep. But guess what else? It's going to change the way you live when you're awake. You're going to live securely. A person of integrity lives securely.

Proverbs 10:9. This is what it says. "He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out." It is only a matter of time. Do you know why you're washing your hands? Do you know why you're tossing and turning? Do you know why your vitality is being zapped like the summer heat? Because you know it's only a matter of time before somebody figures this thing out. If you're lucky, it'll be before you get to a real class judgment.

Proverbs 26:26 says this. " Though his hatred covers itself with guile [with a society that endorses it] , His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly." The sooner it gets revealed, the better he'll be because he won't continue to live in the illusion that somehow he's getting away with it. Psalm 94 has the psalmist exhorting those folks who say, "God doesn't know. God doesn't hear what we're doing. The psalmist says, "Does the one who made the eye not see? Does the one who made the ear not hear? Are you kidding yourself? It's just a matter of time."

Matthew 10:26. This is what Jesus says. "Therefore do not fear them…" In other words, fear here is, again, love and respect. Think of that. Sometimes you watch the folks on MTV, you watch what's going on in Hollywood, you watch the way people are getting after it and having no apparent consequences, you watch the way that guy who you're on a road trip with is consistently unfaithful to his wife and has incredible stories at breakfast, and there's nothing going on that you can see.

Don't be deceived. Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. Jesus is saying don't love their life, "for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known." Proverbs 1:33 says, "But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil."

Let me share with you another story. About two years ago, I'm sitting there going through the mail with my wife. I open a letter, and there in all caps are written the words, "WE KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE DONE." My wife is about 12 inches from me. So my flesh wanted to go, "Oh my gosh. Surely, I've done something. What have I done?" My wife goes, "What does that say?" I go, "Give me a second. I'll tell you."

It's not really what I did. I looked at that and I know, "We know what you have done?" I go, "Sweetie, look at this." She goes, "We know what you have done? Is it for you or for me?" It just said the Wagners. How great it was to get that letter and to right away get to share with my wife and not go, "I recognize that fragrance, and it's not my wife's." Now, the phone is ringing in the background, and it's going to be a voice telling my wife.

I wasn't concerned that somebody got my laptop and gone to my history and cookies and found something. I wasn't concerned that somebody had seen the way that I've handled myself in private and the way I've dipped my toe into the coffers someplace. I just said, "I have no idea." She goes, "I have no idea."

We have friends who all the time see things that I do and love me enough to go, "Did you see what you just did right there?" I go, "What?" They tell me, "What you just did was this." I go, "Oh," and I deal with it right then. There nothing lingering in my life. I am not telling you that my life is sinless. I am telling you there's not an area of my life that I'm covering up and hiding from you guys.

I'm not telling you that won't see me do something this week that's going to disappoint you a little bit. But I'm going to tell you if you see it, and you talk to me about it you're going to find me going, "You're right. I could have handled that with more grace, more gentleness, more love, more thought, couldn't I?"

Do you know how good it is to get a letter like that right next to your wife and get to share it with her? That's not because of who I am. It's because of what God, in his kindness to me, has made me love. Him and his ways. So you live securely. I'll just tell you. I think, because of some other stuff that was on there, we've never talked to this poor person, but I think it's related to where we live. I think that's what that letter was referencing.

A number of years ago, I think it's five now, when Alex and I had a chance to build a home and move, we shared with everybody who was a part of Watermark at the time. "Here's the deal. We're going to buy a lot in the city of Dallas. It happens to be in Park City schools. We're going to get to build there. It has nothing to do with my salary. You need to know that.

There's no way we could buy the lot with my salary. There's no way we could pay the taxes with my salary. This has to do with a relationship that God has blessed us with that I want to bring others in so people here would know. That I would love this person, not be influenced by this person in any way. This is a family situation. This is a not deal to do with the ministry. I want everybody to know that."

That house now has appreciated in value almost twice what I bought that lot and built it for. Maybe somebody one day was on DCAD, you can go type it in, and it's an insane amount of money what that house is worth right now. So every day, my wife and I still ask ourselves, "Is this where God would have us be right now with our family?" As of today, we really believe it's okay.

But I felt so bad for somebody who thought, "Surely the reason Wagner's there is because he's ripping people off. He's fleecing the flock." I wish they would've just asked me. We could have told them, "No, no, no. Here's the deal. Just like we told the folks who were here five years ago when it happened. You can't trace this back to Watermark. It's not a parish, and it has nothing to do with my salary. It's just, right now, I'm incredibly responsible for this stewardship of blessing." I think that's what it was related to, but we couldn't even help the person who thought we had really done something.

Here's what I can tell you. How great it is to live a life of integrity. Not a perfect life, but a life that's whole. So when you get that letter, when the IRS calls, when 60 Minutes wants to come and film, you go to bed, you live happily, and you say, "Follow me. See what you want to see. Let's talk about it."

Persons who live a life of integrity are better off than the rich and the rebel. I've said this many times. I've said this many times. The rich are infinitely better off than the poor because while the poor still think that money will buy them happiness, the rich know better. The pleasure seeker knows that this last pleasure didn't make it, so I never need to seek pleasure again.

Listen to what the Proverbs say. Proverbs 19:1: "Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool." Even though the perverse guy who is acting like a fool and a rebel is saying they're having a riot in their heart, it says even in laughter, the heart might be sad.

But watch this one. It goes to the rich part. Proverbs 28:6: "Better is the poor who walks in [his wholeness, his completeness] than he who is crooked though he be rich." Here's why. It's not because you can't be rich with integrity. It's because you cannot have peace without integrity. The man with integrity, though he be poor, has peace, but the rich guy doesn't necessarily have to have integrity to be rich. Just like there are poor people who don't have integrity who are not happy either.

You might make a case that it's better to be rich and lack integrity than it is to be poor and lack integrity, with one exception. You might still think if you were just rich, you'd be happy. That rich guy has already knocked that off and knows it. The point is, this is better than silver and gold. You don't want to be bought.

You don't want to be a guy who can believe that your wealth is some high wall in your imagination (as the Proverb says). "I am free from insecurity, I am free from fear, I am fear from distrust because I'm rich." No, you're not, and you can still have your vitality zapped, even though you're living in a very, very, comfortable way.

There are lots of stories out there about guys who can buy their kids whatever they want to buy their kids, but there are two things a rich man without integrity can never give his kids that every dad who loves his kids wants to be able to give him: a good example and a good name. Rich people who lack integrity cannot do that.

I'll tell you a funny story talking about having not a good name. When NASA was first developing its Apollo program and was going to go to the moon, they trained on a Navajo reservation because some of the terrain there was similar to the arid regions of the moon. A couple of astronauts were out in their spacesuits taking a walk one day, and this Navajo chief was walking with his son who had been trained a little bit in some of the schools on the reservation, so he spoke English.

The Navajo chief said to his son, "Who are these men?" The son asked him, and they said, "We're astronauts, and we're going to go to the moon." The Navajo chief said, "Ask them if I can send a message with them." The kid said, "He wants to know if he can give you a message you'll take to the moon." The NASA people thought that would be a great opportunity to get some credit for all the ways they're going to work. So the Navajo people are going to send a message to the moon.

When the Navajo man said what he said, the son would not interpret it for the astronauts. So they listened, and they wrote it down as phonetically as they could. They went to the village, and they asked the village, "He wants to send a message to the moon. This is his message. What does it mean? They all laughed, and they wouldn't tell him.

So they had to go get a government translator, and they said, "What does this man want us to tell people when we get to the moon?" The message he wanted to send was this. "Be careful for these men. They are here to steal your land." That was the name they had earned. So anybody who was part of the legacy of that government, they felt like, "That's who you are."

You can't give a son, no matter how rich you are, a good name if you don't have a good name to give. That's why one of the great things about being a man of integrity is that not only are you better off than the rich, you're a blessing to your sons. Proverbs 22:1, "A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold." Proverbs 20:7, "A righteous man who walks in his integrity—how blessed are his sons after him."

I said you sleep well, you live securely, you're better off to the rich, and you're a blessing to your sons if you're a person who walks in integrity. This next one is likened to some of them, but I want to say that they love the light. A person of integrity loves the light. They love the light. They're not afraid of anything.

The English word sincere is a transliteration of two Latin words: sine and cera. Sine in Latin (for those of you who know it) means without. Cera means wax. So sine cera is something that was stamped on the best work of the best artists and sculptors of their day. What would typically happen if you were working on a piece of marble in a sculpture, and you weren't careful enough, and you cracked that sculpture, is they would fill it with wax. They would color it in such a way that you couldn't really see it.

You'd put those sculptures out in the sun and the light and the heat, and the intensity of what you could see in natural light would expose that this was not an unblemished work. So the best sculptors when they were done, you would pick those sculptures up, or you would look to see if sine cera was on them. "They are without wax." You can hold them up to the light and the heat and the test of time, and they will not blemish.

People of integrity are sine cera. They are without wax. There's nothing that light is going to expose that that you couldn't see in a quick once over because they are who you see them to be. I have to tell you a funny story. I love my kids. I have great kids. I really do. But they're not perfect, just like their dad is not perfect.

Something happened to them last night that, had it happened to me at times, I would've felt just like they felt. Here's what happened. There's a deal going on that my wife was putting on for some friends. So she was there. The way my week has been, I needed to be alone some. So I was away, but I came home, and they didn't know I came home. I just opened the door and walked in.

In the kitchen, there were a couple of my kids who were going at it. I mean, they were going at it. It was just verbally abusive. No cuss words, but just demeaning. I stopped as I came around, I stopped right there. I reached in my pocket, and I got my cell phone, and I put it on video and just stood there. I let them go for about four and a half or five minutes because I love them, and I know how much I need to see myself sometimes.

One of the things they said was this. "Oh, what are you going to do? Tell Mom when she gets home that I did this? She isn't going to know." I go, "Ooh." All of a sudden, one of them took a different angle and looked, saw me, saw the candid camera, turned over, and walked over and said, "I just want to ask you for forgiveness for the way that I behaved. The other one looked up like, "Where'd that come from?" She goes, "Dad's right there with a video camera." Stop.

I thought, "How many times has my wife said this to me? 'If people knew the way you're treating me right now…' I say, 'Well they aren't going to know, babe.'" I just want to ask for your forgiveness right now because there's my daughter with a video camera. I'll tell you what. It was not a "he said/she said" anymore. I never rolled tape. All I had to do was go, "Do you need to see?"

This time there was no qualification, no trying to explain because every time she started to, I'd go, "I don't want to hear testimony. Let's watch it." The truth just overwhelmed them, and they said, "I have nothing to say." It was just so great because they're so tender, they're so sweet, and they love each other.

How many times would I go, "There's tape? There's tape." See, there's tape. It's not about being judged by tape, it's about knowing who we are and just saying, "I don't care if there's tape or not. I want to tell you who I am. Even wanting to be that man, because we're not perfect men, there's going to be times that we blow it, and that's why perfect men perfectly own their mistakes.

My kids did a great job of that last night. I really saw a tenderness in them but because they were confronted with it. Listen, here's the great news. I live amongst people. We're not perfect. We have one who we're going to talk about who lives this skilled life, and we're going to become like him. A father who loves us who says he's going to conform us into the image of this one.

I'm going to tell you, you put on a camera on me 24/7, it's going to hurt you to see me do some things sometimes, but if you love me, you'll go, "Hey Todd, right here. I don't want to expose you. I'll expose you if I have to. What I really want is to love you." Do you see this in yourself? My friends have never videoed me to my knowledge, but I've been at multiple dinners where they go, "Can you replay to you what we just saw?" And I go, "What?"

They all go around the table and say, "We saw this. There's a lack of gentleness. There's a lack of tenderness. There was a tone," or whatever it might be. I go, "Really?" They go, "Yep." I go, "You guys are watching a movie that I'm not living." They go, "Oh yeah, you are," and I get to deal with it.

It was funny. The 60 Minutes­ people asked me, "Are the things that happened to this guy who is mad at you, does it happen a lot?" I go, "Are you talking about Care and Correction? It happens six times a day in my marriage, but it's personal, private, and brief. When my wife shows me stuff and her friends show me stuff, 99.9 percent of the time we all come to our senses. Every now and then we get a little hard-hearted and run away. This guy is running away a little more than others right now, but we're going to keep loving him."

So here's the gig. Let me tell you why Jesus is the perfect example of this. Here's what so amazing about Christ. I'm going to show you two places. The first place is in John 8. What Jesus said about himself isn't what's impressive. What his friends said about him isn't impressive. Watch what his enemies didn't say about him. He's going on, and he's a man of integrity. So even though he's in a place that, if he was just quiet it would be better for him, he didn't care because it was time to speak.

" Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you [the leaders of the day] would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.'"

That's what you call straight-forward communication. Watch what he says next. "I just told you something about my life. Which one of you wants to bring up something in my life that isn't absolutely, 100 percent correct. You've been following me for years. Have you seen one thing that I've done that speaks to a lack of wholeness, goodness, and perfection?" I want to tell you, this is one of the most amazing moments in Jesus' life at what is not said at that moment. So he says, "If I speak the truth, why aren't you listening to me?"

In John 18 a little bit later, he's talking to Pilate, and Pilate is begging him to speak up. Jesus said, "If I've done something wrong, testify the wrong that I've done, but if I've done rightly, why are you hitting me?" Can you say that? You have film? You have audio? You have witnesses? What kind of life could say that? A perfect life. The truth is we all know we deserve a whipping.

Let me tell you something else about Jesus. He loved the light. Do you see how Jesus was taken captive by these men? When did they get him? At night in the garden where no one else was around. Why? Because they knew what they were doing was wrong, and they knew if they did it in the light that people wouldn't let them because he was loved by the people. So when they came to him at night with clubs and torches…

He says, "Why do you come to me at night? Aren't I standing in the temple all day long? You know right where to find me. I'm over here in the garden just trying to get some time alone with the Father praying so I can handle men like you. It should tell you something that you have to sneak around to get me because you are not men of integrity, but this isn't your story. It's mine.

I'm up to what a God who says something and does it does, giving myself over, so let's turn around, let these men go, and let's get back in and carry on because I love this world that has been unfaithful to me, that has been immoral towards me, that has rebelled against me, but I told the world I would swear I would love them and show them my love even to my own hurt, even death on a cross. So let's go."

That's a man of integrity. That's why it's the greatest life that was ever lived. It's a solution to your lack of integrity and my lack of integrity. It's to find him, the one who knew no sin who became sin on your behalf that you might become the righteousness of God in him and have, as David said, your sin covered, and no have imputed to you the guilt you deserve but imputed…which means given to you…the righteousness which is his.

Who would give his perfect life for your corrupt life? Somebody who loves like nobody else could love. His name is Jesus. His life was so good and so full that a loving Father wants to make you like him. So he's in a process in communities like this and through his Word and Spirit of nursing you into that oneness of Jesus Christ. He wants to conform you into the image of his Son.

You want to have a skilled life? You have to have a life of integrity. You want to have a skilled life? You have to be somebody who says, "Come on. Bring the cameras." You want a skilled life? You have to have friends who are rolling film for you all the time, so when you miss it, you go, "You're right. Thank you. Now we don't need to film anymore because I'm agreeing. It's there. I'm repenting of it. I'm making restitution as I should, but there are no secrets with me."

I don't want this to be a secret either. Jesus Christ loves you. He wants to deal with your lack of integrity, completeness, and wholeness. If you come to him, he will give you what you could never get on your own and allow you to have relationship and intimacy with him on his holy hill. Let me pray.

Father, thank you for these friends and the way we can come together this morning and encourage each other as we look at what a skilled life would be. We want to be men and women of integrity. We want to be folks, Lord, who, even if we're never going to be known, live the same way because we're loving you.

We don't care what the world sees. We care who we are before you, the one who has done everything for us. In all wholeness, in all completeness, Father, make us like your Son, Christ. We want that not because we hope if we do that, you'll love us. We're doing that because we see you've loved us and we want to show you that we love you.

What a great God that the thing we have to do to show you that we love you is what allows us to sleep well, live securely, have more than even the richest guy on earth would have if they don't have that, will give us the greatest ability to give the greatest gift to our son, will allow us to say, "Come on, light. Shine on in," and a multitude of other things we didn't have time to get to that are so good. Father, thank you that the life you want for us is life indeed. May we serve you now as we seek to live it. For your glory and our good, we pray, amen.

If you don't know this Jesus, can I talk to you about him? If you do, may you have a great week living the life for him of worship. Have a great week.

About 'This is the Life! Volume 1'

It's the ultimate self-help book. Centuries before Drs. Laura, Phil and Benjamin came on the scene to tell us how to live, love and parent wisely, God weighed in on these matters in the Book of Proverbs. Today's "life coaches" have simply repackaged God's wisdom but the concepts are timeless and truly life-changing. In this multi-volume series, Todd Wagner combs through the book's 31 chapters and identifies principles for approaching life with wisdom and skill. Each of the attributes is perfectly embodied in the person of Jesus Christ and guaranteed to bring abundant life to those who apply them - regardless of whether they've chosen to acknowledge Christ as Lord or not. Discover the blessed life God has in store for you in Volume 1 of this practical and applicable series on Proverbs. This is The Life, Volume 1, offers advice on: the fear of God, integrity, generosity, purity, wise words, discernment, kindness, and the thirst for knowledge.