How to be an Integrating Christian


August 16, 1998 ~ Pickering Standard Church


Over the past several weeks we have heard a variety of messages upon the great need to apply our Christianity into our daily lives. Since Christianity is nothing if there is no evidence of it in how we live this is an important lesson for us to learn, but it falls short of the teaching of the Bible that our Christianity is not something that is merely added to our lives but that our lives can only be lived within the context of our Christianity. We have learned that it is important to live our lives as Christians and that that the living of practical, real Christianity is a greatly needed commodity in this world, now we will see how we are to live our lives in this way. Last Sunday evening Brian spoke on removing the barrier that separates our Christianity from our regular life, today we will carry that further by showing that the removal of that barrier should not result in the secularization of our faith but in the Christianizing of our living. This message is based upon portions of the life of Joseph which we will be studying in order to show that Joseph was a Christian who exhibited his devotion to God in every aspect of his life and show that it is impossible to appreciate Joseph, or any Christian for that matter, outside of his Christianity. Rich Mullins wrote in one of his songs:


Rich Mullins, Here in America ~ I am home any where as long as You are where I am.


We will see during this message that the same belief was true for Joseph.


Our first passage is taken from the beginning of Joseph's captivity in Egypt, when at the age of seventeen (Genesis 37:2) he is sold as a slave to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guard.


Genesis 39:1-6 - Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.


Joseph believed in God and that belief was visible to the people who saw him. Through Joseph's way of living Potiphar was able to see that the Lord was with Joseph and see that the Lord made all that Joseph did to prosper, and as a consequence he left all the administration of his property in Joseph's hands. Notice the response of God to this foreigner's trust of His servant on account of this visible faith: God blessed the house of Potiphar and all that he had on account of Joseph. Because of Joseph God was kind to his master and His blessing was upon all his master's property. We only learn of Joseph obliquely in this passage, all we are really allowed at this point to see is the blessing of God upon the one to whom Joseph was responsible but it is this very act of blessing that sheds the greatest light on the true character of Joseph: The blessing of God was previously given by God to Abraham and it included all who would do well by him:


Genesis 12:2-3 - I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

There are a multitude of reasons why this should be so but foremost among them was the fact that Abraham was chosen by God for a purpose and that he himself was faithful to God just as we will see that Joseph was. Abraham was quite simply a man of faith and we can reasonably conclude that Joseph was, like his great grandfather Abraham, a God fearing man.


We learn more of Joseph's faithfulness in his encounter with his master's wife and his response to her attempts at seducing him:


Genesis 39:6-10 - Now Joseph was well-built and handsome. After a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he refused.


"With me in charge," he told her, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.


Joseph was a real man confronted by a real woman who really wanted him to go to bed with her. His invariable response was to refuse her advances. He did so not by making an excuse such as his being too tired, or not being willing to harm his master, or any other of a multitude of reasonable human responses. His one answer to her was that he would not sin against God by doing what she wanted him to do. He appealed to his faith in God, a God universal over all creation, a God Who would hold him accountable to a standard of behaviour rather than to the fickle measure human reason. The important point for us to remember is that Joseph stood on his belief in God regardless of the position of Potiphar's wife in relation to that same God. His rejection of her advances were based on his love for God and could not consider that a lack of belief in God was sufficient in power to cancel the strength of his argument.


Regardless of his innocence in this situation Joseph was sent to prison because he was accused of sexually molesting Potiphar's wife. He was in prison on false charges and yet his character does not change, we read this incredible testimonial of his desire to do his best for God regardless of where he found himself:


Genesis 39:20-23 - Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.


We do not read of Joseph treasuring the injustices that had been done against him, even though he had ample cause; he was, after all, sold into slavery by his own brothers, and thrown into prison on account of a lie. Instead we are told that he was faithful to God and that he was subsequently entrusted with responsibility because the Lord was with him and blessed all that he did. He was given charge over the whole prison and in the course of his duties he met the king's cupbearer and his bread baker who had angered Pharaoh. In the conversation he had with these men we see further into his character:


Genesis 40:1-8 - Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men— the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison— had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, "Why are your faces so sad today?"


"We both had dreams," they answered, "but there is no one to interpret them."


Then Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams."


When met these two men he did not suddenly switch into "Christian" mode and say a few God-words, Joseph spoke his words of comfort to these two men because his Christianity was the principle by which he lived, he was concerned for them because they had had a sleepless night and looked tired and sad. His belief in a God Who personally cared for him caused him to care for others. When he found out that they were sad because of their dreams he tells them that the interpretation of dreams belongs to God. The statement that "interpretations belong to God" was a natural statement, flowing out of Joseph's belief in a God Who could do anything and Who is intimately involved in the lives of man. Joseph, I believe, would have had difficulty believing in the modern concept of coincidence and as a result his encouragement of these men isn't cast in Christian sentiment, it is the result of his being a Christian in every aspect of his living, it is the result of his being a Christian who saw in every occurrence the hand of God. He was not ashamed of what he believed but gave evidence of his belief without fear, not because he decided not to be scared but because there was simply nothing to be scared of. He was living life as God intended it to be lived, in a way that the acknowledgement of God in life was even more natural than breath.


Genesis 41:14-16 - So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it."


"I cannot do it," Joseph replied to Pharaoh, "but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires."


Joseph, at the time that Pharaoh took him out of prison, was about thirty years of age; he had been in Egypt for most of the past thirteen years, it would be another nine years before he saw his father again, and he had spent at least two years in prison waiting for the cupbearer to remember him to Pharaoh. In both of the episodes of the dreams Joseph ignored any past injustice and sought to honestly and openly present his God to those to whom God has sent him. When he spoke to Pharaoh he even gave advice on what Pharaoh's response to his dream should be and how he should organize his nation to minimize suffering during the famine. In all that happened to him Joseph knew that God had a plan, that there was a reason why some things happened to him and why different things happened to others. He knew that God's plan was perfect and went along with it even if he didn't understand why the plan was as it was.


The Bible does not tell the story of Joseph by saying that he was called to go to Egypt and minister there and ultimately become the ruler of Egypt for the salvation of his family; the Bible tells us the story of a youth who was sold by his brothers into slavery, who worked as a slave for his master, who was punished for a crime he did not commit, who was forgotten, and who was finally rescued. Through all of these trials Joseph never forgot that he was first and foremost a believer in the Almighty God and no matter where he was, or in what circumstance he found himself, he served God with his whole heart. This is evident from his words to his brothers after their father Israel's death, when Joseph was fifty-six years old (Joseph was born when his father was 91, and his father died when he was 147):


Genesis 45:4-8 - Then Joseph said to his brothers, "Come close to me." When they had done so, he said, "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt."


When you think of how this man had been treated, how his life had been short circuited, how he had been abused, it is truly amazing to realize that he did not merely live for life's sake but that he saw, in every occurrence the hand of God guiding him on. He even regarded the sale of his body into Egypt as nothing but the method that God used to place him where he was supposed to be.


Last week Brian spoke of a barrier that separates the Christian aspect of our lives from any other and of the need for that barrier to be removed. In our brief study of the life of Joseph we see that that same barrier was non- existent in his life because he didn't believe that his belief in God could be separated from his way of living. From his point of view it would have seemed ludicrous to think that there was an aspect of life over which God had no control. That is the only way that any of us here today will remove that barrier from our own lives, by realizing that there is no part of our lives over which God does not have jurisdiction. Our world has been successful over the past centuries in relegating faith in general and Christianity in particular to the realm of the religious, placing it outside of normal, every day living where it can have no effect on life. To Joseph and every other Christian in the Bible this would not only have seemed to be a ridiculous concept, it would have been understood for what it truly is: A blatant lie fabricated by people who wish to overcome the power of Christianity lived openly for all to see. There is no barrier, there can be no barrier, between faith and living because the God in whom we place our faith also gives us life and the means to save it. Let us pray today that we will allow God to work through us in what ever circumstance we are placed that our faith may be evident to all.