Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Week Twenty -Two - Integrity

“The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.”  Psalm 7:8
“….according to mine integrity that is in me.”  The Bible definition is: completeness, fullness, innocence, and simplicity.  The Psalmist is asking the Lord to judge him according to the integrity that he possesses. A deeper look into the definition will help us to define the character quality of integrity. 
One dictionary put it this way: “possession of firm principles: the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standards.  Completeness: the state of being complete or undivided. Wholeness: the state of being sound or undamaged.”
Another said, “Integrity comes from the Greek words 'integritas' and 'integra' meaning whole. It enters into every aspect of one's life. It is a belief system without faltering, no matter how dangerous it is or how unpopular it is with others. It includes: sincerity, keeping one's word and agreements, honesty, truthfulness, ethics, fairness and justice.”
These definitions give a wide scope to the facets of this quality.  In so doing, they reveal the depth and width of the expectation of those who claim to have integrity.  It is truly a quality rare and valuable.
Several years ago I was challenged to initiate a practice in my life of taking a Bible principle and asking the Lord to teach me not only the meaning, but to also teach me how to implement it into my life.  Integrity was one such study.  I found that not only did the Lord open my mind to the various nuances of the word, but He took time to challenge me personally by bringing circumstances into my life that forced me to choose between responding in integrity and responding with lesser character.  Sometimes it was as simple as telling the truth.  Sometimes it was honesty in business decisions.  Other times I found myself faced with having to take a Biblical stand in public.  Over and over the Lord brought situations before me that made me consider integrity and allowed me to see my own weaknesses.  I have never forgotten those weeks of study.  Even today I can remember the feelings of fear and anxiety as I was being forced to speak up and stand up for right.
I challenge you to do the same.  Just as the Psalmist is opening his life for the Lord’s examination, you, too, must ask yourself – how would I measure up if I stood before the Lord to be judged according to my integrity?  Will you take up the challenge?


And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever.”   Psalm 41:12
“…upholdest me in mine integrity…”  Integrity creates position, which is a type of protector and defense.  It is a boundary that gives security and upholds the individual.  For example, in computer language, integrity of information is about how to deal with security and reliability of the data in the system.  Solid security measures mean that the data will be retained safely until needed.  Integrity thereby creates a security and confidence.
There is much to be said about the knowledge that you have done right and are going right - no guilt, no accusing thoughts, just solid assurance and solid stance.  The old adage of “having your ducks all in a row” would apply here.  A person of integrity is prepared.  He has a contingency plan and his personal business is secure.
This type of lifestyle is admirable and desirable.  However, take time to look again at the verse.  Ask yourself this question – Is this person’s base in his own works of integrity or somewhere else?  I think you will find that though the Psalmist is doing his part in living and ordering his life in integrity, he is living his life before the Lord and basing his life upon the Lord to hold him up.  He isn’t living proudly and self-sufficiently, but rather, humbly and honestly with His God.
There is no place for pride and an air of self-sufficiency in integrity.  The sense of place created by integrity is one of humility and dependency.  It draws men and gives opportunity to point them to Christ and not ourselves. 
Are you guilty of thinking that you are a “self-made” person?  Do you think that you have gotten to where you are by your own smarts?  Integrity means admitting that we are but stewards responsible to God’s authority.

“So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.”  Psalm 78:72
God, knowing the rebellious heart of Israel, still fed and guided them.  With skill and integrity He proved himself to be a loving and merciful God. 
He is a God of integrity.  He is true to His Word.  He does not change simply because the situation gets difficult.  He maintains his principles and keeps his promises.  His heart is secure and trustworthy.  He is fair and ethical and does not alter.  His Word is settled, and we can depend upon Him.
We can trust Him fully.  We do not have to wonder what He is up to.  We do not have to fear that tomorrow we might be disowned.  We do not have to be ashamed or make excuses for Him.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever – wholly dependable. And, he isn’t afraid for us to examine him.  Conversely, he challenges us to prove Him – to put him to the test.  He will always come through with flying colours!
Integrity, therefore, is a godlike quality.  It is also the character of Christ as we read in II Peter 21-23 because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:  Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:  Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously…”
If even the Saviour of glory lived in integrity and then entrusted himself to the integrity of God the Father, why should we not even more so? 

Job makes for an interesting study in integrity.  Poor old Job was tested beyond measure, but the thing he clung to was his integrity. 
“And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?  And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.”  Job 2:3
“…holdeth fast his integrity…”  In the face of great trial, instead of letting go of his religion and cursing God, Job holds it faster than ever. "Still he holds fast his integrity, as his weapon, and thou canst not disarm him-as his treasure, and thou canst not rob him of that; nay, thy endeavours to do it make him hold it the faster; instead of losing ground by the temptation, he gets ground. Constancy crowns integrity.  (Matthew Henry)
I love that – “instead of losing ground by the temptation, he gets ground.”  Integrity gives Job endurance and hope.
“Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity?  Curse God, and die.”  Job 2:9  
Integrity means maintaining your good name and character. It is having values, being consistent with your values -- not wavering due to outside influences, but standing strong in how one should live and believe. It is always doing the right thing even when you know no one else is looking, or in Job’s case, no one else is supporting you.  How sad that his wife was not of the same calibre. Distress and loss had brought her to abandoning her faith and her God.  Job, on the other hand, stood firm in His resolve saying, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”  Job 13:15 and “….till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.”  Job 27:5
Let’s make a note here.  There is a difference between integrity and stubbornness.  Integrity is based in principle and belief.  Stubbornness is based in self and rebellion.  Job is not stubborn, but he is principled.  He is not rebellious, but totally submitted to God’s righteous judgment of the situation.  He knows that staying where God has placed him, though it is a hard spot, is the place to be.  It is the place where God will bless and honour, and the place where Job can be best used to bring God glory. 
Finally he says, “Let me be weighed in an even balance, that God may know mine integrity.”  Job 31:6 
Hard times test what is really in our core. They can either strengthen our resolve, or crack our façade.  Job was willing to allow God to test him.  What about you?  Are you willing to allow God to check out your level of integrity? Do hard times create strength in you or do they cause you to crumble?  Are you willing to go through confusingly hard times solely for the glory of God?

Let’s look at three more verses in Proverbs on integrity before we finish.
“The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.”  Proverbs 11:3
Integrity gives direction to life.  It refers to wholeness, a person whose thoughts, words, and actions are congruent, and therefore not in conflict, a life of harmony, lived according to conviction. Some would contend that these convictions are completely individual and vary widely from person to person.  That is relativism, a thought that pervades our society.  But, this would mean that even selfish or cowardly people could be said to have integrity. However, worthy convictions are based upon ultimate truth – the truth found in God’s Word. Integrity, then, is a “life in which thoughts, words, and actions are congruent and conform to ethical principles.”
When we live by truth and understand the true value of right decisions based upon truth, we have a solid guide for life.
“Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.”  Proverbs 19:1
Integrity gives dignity and is free.  The poor man and the rich man can have a basis for agreement and an expectation of blessing as they both live according to Biblical truth.  The truths of Scripture, if applied to our lives, will create an atmosphere of compassionate concern, honest living, personal confidence, and strength of character, no matter our social level. 
The Golden Rule, for example, is instructing us to take into account the dignity of another person, treating them as we would want to be treated. The Bible is full of such straight forward instruction on the treatment of others, the expectation of God, and the comparisons between right and wrong, as we see in Proverbs, which help us to not only make decisions, but also understand the outcome of our decisions.
Exercising sound judgment is the ultimate skill of life and that is not determined by our bank balance, but rather by our understanding and application of the Word of God.  The person of integrity will be found doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, and for the right reason.
Conversely, those who choose not to integrate Scriptural directives into their lives will always find that they are living a disordered and complex life full of foolish hurts.  They will remain focused on the temporary instead of the eternal and find little satisfaction in life.  Integrity will elude them.
“The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.”  Proverbs 20:7
And, finally, integrity brings blessing, not only for the person so attuned, but also for his heritage.  His family will be blessed.  They will have a solid, peaceful and secure home life and will take the teachings of that home into their own.  Let me give you two examples that show us how important it is for us to live a life of integrity.  My grandfather pointed this out to me years ago.
Jonathan Edwards was a great preacher of years gone by, he was known as a man of great integrity.  “Edwards's descendants have had a disproportionate effect upon American culture: his biographer, George Marsden, notes that "the Edwards family produced scores of clergymen, thirteen presidents of higher learning, sixty-five professors, and many other persons of notable achievements”.  Throughout the generations his offspring are found in places of prominence and the blessing of God is upon his family.
Joe Kennedy was believed to be a bootlegger during the prohibition and made his fortune on insider trading and stock manipulation. Throughout the generations his offspring, due to wealth and influence, are also found in places of prominence, but we do not see the blessing of God upon his family, but rather the judgment of God. 

The blessing of God is upon those who follow His Word.  It is as simple as that.  A person of integrity knows this to be true and is comfortable with the fact that obedience brings blessing.  Honouring God creates a platform for God to honour you, and not only you, but ultimately also your family.

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