Integrated Living: Christ desires to be the Lord of our whole life!

When the details of the life of Dennis Rader, the infamous “BTK Killer” of Wichita, Kansas, were made public early last year, it was revealed that he had been leading a double life. He led a Cub Scout group and was active in his church. No one imagined he was capable of doing any harm to anybody. But underneath that facade was the terrible truth: he was a cruel killer without a conscience who killed many people over many years for his own pleasure. His ability to carry on two very different lives attests to his ability to be, in his own words, “very compartmentalized. I can wear many hats.” We don’t know if he was born again, but he might have been. Any one of us can confess to believe in Jesus Christ and still compartmentalize our lives so that we are, in effect, two persons living in the same body—a Christian “good person” and somebody else.

Rader may be an extreme case, but he illustrates the opposite of what we want in our lives –what we will call “integrative living.” That is, a life that is not marked by compartmentalization but by a unity of belief and conduct, of values and behavior. In other words, where there is no pretence. We want to be people of integrity, without secrets, open and accountable for our actions. As shocking as his crimes were, almost more shocking was Rader’s charade. He heard and apparently believed in Jesus Christ, played the part of a Christian, and had everyone fooled, including his wife. Though we may be repelled by his conduct, we can all acknowledge that we are all capable of compartmentalizing our lives in ways that do not honor our profession of Christ’s Lordship.

Integrative living means that what we profess to believe, we do believe in our hearts, and thus it shows up in everything we do, whether we are alone or in a group, and whether the group is with us or against us. We do not deny that we are simultaneously sinners and saints, what Martin Luther called “simul justis et peccador” in Latin. We should learn to live without hiding our “shadow side,” but acknowledging it and bringing it into the light of Christ more and more every day.

Jesus Christ came that we might have life to the full, or in abundance (John 10:10). This means that in Christ we can find wholeness, and the potential to be all that God has created us to be. It also means that we do not have to be afraid any more. We have a God and a Savior who have provided for us in every imaginable way, so that we can enjoy the life they have created for us. This grace makes possible a life of integrity, where we can be honest about our shortcomings, failures, and sinfulness, knowing that these were the very reasons God sent Jesus to bring us salvation. We received salvation and the gift of holy spirit not because we earned it but because we needed it and because God loves us.

“Salvation” has at its root the Greek word “sozo,” meaning, “to make whole.” The biggest part of this wholeness is the gift of holy spirit that fills us with the presence and power of both God and Jesus Christ. We then have a spiritual connection with God that has the potential to be the antidote for the toxic influence of sin in our lives. We also have the opportunity to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, the most whole person who ever lived, and gradually take on more and more of his characteristics as we grow up spiritually. What a deal! Why would anyone decline such an opportunity? We’d like to believe that it is mostly because they haven’t heard it presented to them accurately.

Our salvation is secured when we believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, distilled into its two key elements in Romans 10:9 and 10: his resurrection and his Lordship. We have to believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. This is relatively easy, once we understand the powerful historical arguments for his resurrection. We believe many things about historical figures on much less evidence. So we saw a picture of Napoleon once, does that mean he was a real historical figure? It is also relatively easy to confess Jesus as Lord. That involves recognizing the authority of his exalted position at the right hand of God, and his provision of holy spirit.

Getting saved is easy, and gets us in the game. The greater challenge is to “work out” this salvation and integrate it into our lives. That is what is meant by the phrase in Philippians 2:12 and 13, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” We have salvation within, but we need to work it out into our whole lives so it benefits us and others. To do this we have to learn to submit all aspects of our lives to his Lordship and believe that our lives are not our own to do with as we please. We now belong to the Lord who bought and paid for us, and it is our blessed responsibility and privilege to accept his Lordship and allow him to care for us as only he can. To the extent that we refuse him and compartmentalize our life into “things I am willing to give up to his care” and “things I will take care of myself,” we will be divided in heart and mind and unable to have simple faith that he is there for us.

“Integrity” is “the quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.” When something is whole, it is not fragmented, divided, or full of holes. It has a unity of purpose, a simplicity, and a peace about it. For instance, every part of the whole wheat berry is good for food, and every part is in the right proportion for good nutrition. Once humans try to split it up and isolate its various parts, problems arise. The white flour that results is not a good thing for our bodies. An apple seed is a whole thing that can reproduce an apple tree, but if scientists divide it up and analyze it they cannot put it back together to make it grow. Christ comes into our life to bring unity and peace. He doesn’t become Lord of just our “go to church life” and our “reading the Bible life” and our “doing spiritual stuff” life. He comes to be Lord of our whole life—our “get out of bed in the morning” life, our “lost my stupid keys and my life is ruined” life, and our “should I quit this job?” life.

So in order to enjoy the life he gave us we must learn to give the Lord Jesus permission and authority to move in every area of our lives. He is a gentleman and will respect our boundaries. If we put up a “stay out” sign, he will generally honor our choice and stay away. But if we swallow our pride, or our sense of shame for how we messed up, or our sense of hopelessness that things could ever change, and just ask the Lord to come in and exercise his Lordship, it is amazing how fast things can change and how much we can grow in the process.

In the flesh we are not whole. In fact we are full of holes, divided of mind, and have a host of mixed motives. Paul addresses this phenomenon in Romans 6 and 7. We do the things we don’t want to do and don’t do the things that we want to do. Galatians 5:17(KJV) says that the flesh lusts against the spirit. That means that we desire things that hurt us, and which go against what the holy spirit in us is all about. If the goal of our Christian life is to be more like our Savior, then we have to learn how to integrate the truth of God’s Word into every aspect of our lives, and allow the spirit of God to influence us more than our fleshly desires. This is a challenge, but we have to remember that we have been given the ability to overcome.

“Integrated” means: “To make into a whole by bringing all parts together; unify; to join with something else; unite.” Thus, to live integrated lives we are called to “bring all our parts together” in Christ. We do this by bringing all of our problems, issues, challenges, temptations, sins and other “junk” to him to help us overcome it or at least manage it. That makes our lives unified under his Lordship, long before we are actually able to be like him. We may not be perfect, but we can perfect our hearts and be motivated to be honest and accountable for our actions. That pleases the Lord, for he knows that in this life we will always fall short of his glory. Finally, integrative living means that we will “join with” others who are on the same path toward manifesting wholeness, and with whom we can share the burdens we encounter along the way. Knowing we are not alone in our struggles makes a huge difference in our faith and conduct.

Integration of the natural and the supernatural is an important doctrine for Christians. It keeps us from religiosity, where we claim to have a relationship with God but don’t act like it. We say that we love God whom we cannot see, but cannot love our brother, sister, neighbor, co-worker, etc. whom we can see (1 John 4:20 and 21). It also keeps us from so compartmentalizing our lives that we put up with sin and addictions and problems and never get help from the Lord or his people.

In the Lord we have nothing to hide. We have been accepted, forgiven, and empowered to do the work he did. We can now move on to honesty and accountability, not content to have correct doctrine or to be right, not just holding truths but being held by the truth. We don’t just pull out our ministries when we have an audience, but we are on call 24/7, and especially at home. As the saying goes, what we are when people are looking is our personality; what we are when people aren’t looking is our character. We need to become people of character—the character of Christ our Lord.

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