Integrity - How Important Is It?
Integrity is a topic that has been overlooked by the Christian community as our pursuit of things of the world and "doing things for God" have often become the most important focus. There is a new move of God coming that will prepare the church or HIs Bride for the return of Jesus. His bride will be spotless and without blemish. This is a time where the church is being prepared to walk both in the knowledge of God and to live what He says authentically on the earth. To know what God says in His Word and to be able to live it out is called walking in integrity. To understand integrity, we need to know; what it is, what the Word of God says and how different people in the Bible walked in integrity, why it is important, the links between ethics, morals and integrity, what the Apostle Paul says about integrity and finally how to move forward. This is a vital topic to understand as we are saved totally by grace, and through this grace, we are called to walk on the earth. This walking as followers of Jesus must be in line with what God's Word says. When our inner private world and outside public world are consistent, we can then be most effective in fulfilling the "good works" God has made us for.
1.What is integrity?
When we understand God, we realise that the outward show and the default position of all people due to the Fall is sinful. God, is calling us to live differently to the world and live in a way that our outward actions are a reflection of our inner place. In 1 Samuel 16:7, we read:-
For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.
This process of walking in integrity is one where we can live authentically as a follower of Jesus, both when people are watching and when we are alone. Who we are must well up from that desire to be a follower of Jesus and " be imitators of God as dear children" (Ephesians 5:1). The opposite of integrity is corruption and hypocrisy. When we live a life that is not one of integrity, we are not only being corrupted, but the success of our lives, relationships, and ministry are negatively impacted and even destroyed through the inability to walk a life of godly integrity. How, then, does walking in integrity help us imitate God?
The word integrity comes from the word integer and refers to wholeness. As integers are whole numbers, a person with integrity is a person who is whole; they are the same person no matter the situation. You may see them in public or private and they are the same person. There is no difference in how they live their lives. The world is crying out for whole people to step forward and to lead.
The word integrity is used in the old testament slightly differently. In the Old Testament it means being without blemish, complete, perfect, sincere, sound, upright and whole. In the New Testament it means being honest and adhering to a pattern of good works.
Having a desire to walk in integrity means that we understand our duty to recognise and discern God's will for our lives. By studying the Bible we can become knowledgeable of God's plan for how we are to live. Integrity means going the next step and living purposefully so we live out what we learn. James 1:22 says, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." Discipleship is about walking in a way that we both desire to learn the Word of God and understand it, and then keep working at it until what we know has been successfully applied to our lives.
2.What does the Bible say about integrity?
There are a number of people who were known in the Bible for their integrity. As we read about each person, we find that God blessed them because of their resolution to walk in with integrity, godly character and moral purity. Some examples include:-
a. Jesus - Lived a life where he walked in total integrity. He was entirely without sin. Because of the way God walked in complete integrity, through Jesus, we can be made righteous.
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21
b. Job - For Job, walking in integrity was the highest priority. Even though Satan took everything away of worldly value, Job still proclaimed that his integrity was something he would never let go.
5 Far be it from me
That I should say you are right;
Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. Job 27:5
c. Daniel - Right from the beginning of his time in the foreign land, he chose not to be defiled by anything. Daniel chose to walk in integrity by eating simple vegetables and drinking water and not very attractive foods but would pollute his mind and body. Later, when the other governors and satraps wanted to destroy him, they could not find any error or fault because he walked in godly integrity.
So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. Daniel 6:4
d. Solomon - Solomon started well. He asked for wisdom, and God gave him not only wisdom but incredible blessings. Sadly, these blessings caused him to walk with the gods of his many wives. He started with godly integrity but lost his way.
4 Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in the integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments,
5 then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’
1 Kings 9:4-5
e. David - David wanted God to judge him according to how he walked both in public and in private. He knew God saw and judged us from the heart!
The Lord shall judge the peoples;
Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness,
And according to my integrity within me. Psalm 7:8
f. Paul - Was converted from persecuting Christians to being persecuted. It was wonderful how God transformed the heart of Paul is such a radical way. He encouraged the Philippians to read and agree to what God had shown him and follow the example of how he lived. He became an example to others on how to live a life of godly integrity. What he taught was how he lived.
17 Brethren, join in following my example and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. Philippians 3:17
The book of Proverbs also has things to say about integrity:-
Proverbs 11:3 - The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them. When we walk with godly integrity, we will not be destroyed by our lives' decisions and actions.
Proverbs 10:9 - He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will become known. When we walk in integrity, we walk securely, knowing we will have a good reputation, and there is no fear that anything wrong in our lives will be uncovered.
Proverbs 20:7 - The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him. When we walk in godly integrity, we leave a legacy for our children or those around us to follow.
3.Why is integrity important?
When we understand who God is, we understand God does not just act with integrity. God is integrity. Jesus, even when being fully God but walking a life fully human, was tempted far beyond what we have been tested. The 40 days in the wilderness without food and then being tempted would have been impossible to us. Yet, in all his life, Jesus never sinned and in public and private always walked in integrity. (For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15) Jesus is the only one in history who was without blemish, perfect, completely truthful and his life demonstrated a pattern of good works. Having integrity from a biblical perspective means that we are consistent between what is on the inside and what is on the outside. Our beliefs, behaviours, words, actions, attitudes, values and practice align are clearly intentional and are the same in private and public.
When we understand the Word of God, integrity is essential for five key reasons:-
We are called to imitate Christ. Paul said "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1.
We are children of God, and we are being called to represent God on the earth. We are chosen to proclaim the one who had saved us from a life and eternity of destruction and darkness. (But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; 1 Peter 2:9)
Living in integrity brings life. This means learning to live in the spirit. (For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Romans 8:6)
When we live our lives with integrity, God is glorified. (Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16)
Only through integrity can we complete all the "good works" God has made us for. (For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10)
It is important to note here that we are not shielded from negative talk and actions from others, both believers and unbelievers. When we walk in integrity, the evil deeds of others are often exposed leading to slander and attempts to bring us down. This is really tough, but I still encourage you that the benefits of living a life with godly integrity is worth it!
4. The important link between ethics, morality and integrity.
When talking about integrity, we can easily believe that to have integrity is godly. When we understand the terms ethics, morality, and ethics, we understand that integrity must be founded on the right morality and ethics to be godly. Simply the three terms mean:-
Ethics - this refers to a standard. This standard can be right, wrong, good or evil.
Morality - this is the way we live according to right, wrong, good or evil.
Integrity - this means being sound, complete and integrated through the way we integrate our ethics and morality. If the standards we understand (ethics) and how we live align (morals), we walk with integrity.
The warning with this understanding is that we can have a low ethic (do not have a healthy understanding of right and wrong) and live in a way that involves lying, cheating etc (low morality) then we can be unethical and immoral but walk with integrity. When our moral is consistent with our personal ethic then we can walk with integrity. This, though, is not the integrity the Bible is referring to.
Walking in biblical integrity, then, is to not only claim we are Christian, but to understand the high and holy ethics that are taught in the Bible, but to live our lives according to these ethics (Morality) Walking in integrity is to be serious in ensuring our talk matches our walk, both publicly and privately. In Luke 6, 46 Jesus says“ But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?. Jesus says that to follow Him we must not just call Him Lord and read about what He says, we must do what He has called us to do! For Christians, this is the integrity God is calling us to walk in.
5. A study From Paul - How To Live With Integrity
The Apostle Paul had written important things for us to help us in our quest to imitate Jesus and walk in integrity. There are three key things we must grow in, in this area of our lives:-
A. Speak with truth in every situation
As Christians, we are called to speak the truth at all times and in every situation. In Ephesians 4:25 we are commanded to speak the truth as we are all members of the one body.
25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25.
God cannot lie (Titus 1:1-2) and Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). Jesus is the way, truth and life and is the only way to the Father. (John 14:6)
As Paul walked in integrity he could give a calm, consistent answer to any accusation. He lived openly before others so he did not have to make up stories or lies and then try to remember what he said later. Life is always simpler and less stressful when you tell the truth! Telling the truth always is a freeing concept.
B. Live in line with scripture
To begin with, we need to believe the Scriptures are from God and as a result we need to obey whatever God tells us to do. What God writes in both the Old and New Testaments is very important. We know God's moral law stems from His holy character which is evident throughout the whole Bible. As we live according to the Spirit and die to the flesh as written in Romans 8, we can have the strength to enact what we are told to do to live as followers of Jesus. The scriptures are essential to both be all we are called to be and equipped to do every good work God has made us for. This is clearly outlined in 2 Timothy.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16 - 17)
C. Keep a blameless conscious towards men and God.
To do this, we need to:-
i. Inform our conscience by God's Word
In Matthew 25:31-46 we read of Jesus talking about separating the sheep from the goats. This is not the world and the church, but God separating the people who knew and followed Jesus and those who did not believe in the church! Many thought they knew Jesus but in the end, they lived their lives not as God's sheep but as goats. To be a sheep we need to know the Shepherd and follow what He says. This means that reading the Word of God is essential. God is calling us to read the Word and let it penetrate our heart like a sword, causing our intentions to be revealed in God's holy presence. Without the Word of God, we will be polluted by the world's thoughts and ideas.
II. Live before God in a way that confession and turning away from every wrong thought, motive, attitude word and deed is a natural way of living.
God is calling us to live a life examined by God and not just an outward life before man. We must choose not to fake it but continue to take our actions, behaviours and thoughts to God and let him examine our hearts, where all sin begins. (Mark 7:21-23). God is calling us to stop rationalizing and excusing our sin by blaming others. Instead, God is calling us to confess and turn away from any sin as soon as the Word or Spirit convicts us, no matter what is done to us, and have a blameless conscious towards God.
III. Ask forgiveness of those we have sinned against and take steps to avoid future offenses.
As followers of Jesus we must ask forgiveness when we sin against others. We do not need to go to people and confess except when they are aware of it has affected them. When we confess we also must choose to not do this again..
There is a correct and incorrect way of apologising. Do not say "If I was wrong, please forgive me". Instead, say "God has convicted me of how wrong I've been in ______(offense). Will you forgive me?"
IV. Be motivated for a life of integrity in the light of the reality of eternity and the coming judgement.
As we are certain of the resurrection and the coming judgement then walking in integrity to ensure we could depart this earth at any time. We desire to ensure we have a blameless conscience towards all men and especially God. If not, we need to deal with it immediately. Being ready to stand before God and give an account of our life at any time is an essential part of following Jesus.
6. Final comments
Living a life of godly integrity is a non-negational part of an authentic Christian's life. There are a few final points that are worth considering:
A. Integrity impacts destiny and dignity
As God's people because Christ is in us we have been called to live a life worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1). We not only represent Christ on the earth (2 Corinthians 5:20) but as the church we have been placed in His body. (Colossians 1:24).
B. God's holiness tears us apart
When we abide in the presence of God Isaiah says we are undone and torn apart. Before we can walk in godly integrity, we need to experience God's holiness and fully understand our heart's position. Peter realized the power of Jesus. He falls to his knees (Luke 5:8) and understands his sin in the light of God's holiness. This traumatic encounter is something we need to experience so we can take the radical measures that are needed to be made righteous before God. Only repentance and forgiveness through the blood of Jesus can we be made righteous. We also need a humble heart where we do all it takes to no longer sin. We are not self sufficient …… we need the grace that only Jesus gives us.
C. In holiness that comes through godly integrity, there is power.
One of the favourite passages of mine is in John 18:4-6. Jesus had 600 armed guards come to arrest him. When He told the he was the one they were looking for, the I AM (God), they fell back on the ground as they experienced some of the incredible power Jesus had. This response to the power of Jesus demonstrated to them who He was. It was his last show of power before the cross. An amazing part of this is that Jesus, the mediator between God and man calls us righteous and ensures we are not destroyed or consumed by his holiness. We are made righteous as Christ makes His home in us! His power is evident as we walk in godly integrity.
D. How do we know we are making progress?
When we can ask ourselves how we live when no one else is living, we start to see if our private life is the same as our public life. Am I consistent with how I behave? Biblical integrity involves having the right heart and being the same both with others and by myself. This is also the same with close relationships. Do I act the same with my spouse and with people I work with and those I see time to time? As we learn to live with godly integrity, we learn to live consistently and to live disciplined. When we are disciplined we can do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons…… even when it is hard!
We demonstrate who God is to others by how we live.
Even when we are not aware, we are closely watched to see if our faith in God is lived out. Are we authentic, and do we really live what we say we believe? People not only make value judgements about how we act and speak, but they learn about who God is through our lives. This is a massive responsibility! Our godly integrity points people to who God is!
What we desire most determines how we behave.
How we act reveals what we really desire. Do we desire the praises of man or God? If God, then godly integrity is a huge priority. Sensing His holiness is the first stage of how sick our heart is and how much we need the grace of Jesus to be made whole. We must have our weakness exposed before we can truly walk in power.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Walking in integrity is essential if we are going to walk in the power and authority we have been promised as God's sons and daughters. God is calling us to encounter His holiness, understand the state of our heart, and from there honestly and humbly receive the grace God he gives us through the death of His Son, Jesus. To walk in godly integrity, we must read the scriptures, understand what God is calling us to do and how to live and be committed to hearing through our conscience and His Spirit and be quick to deal with any wrongdoing both in our thoughts, speech and actions. This does not guarantee our lives will be easy, as when we walk in integrity others often are greatly troubled when our integrity exposed their hearts.
Today, choose not to be lukewarm, but to do whatever it takes to live a life that truly imitates the life of Jesus. When you do this, you will be able to truly represent your Heavenly Father on the earth and through integrity fulfil the destiny in God you have been created for. The private, inner man needs lots of work ........ but it will be worth it when you hear Jesus say "Well done good and faithful servant!".