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Our Integrity toward God

December 9th, 2019

In my integrity You uphold me and set me in Your presence forever. (Psalm 41:12 BSB)

Psalm 41 is one of those prayers of David where he cries out to God because of his enemies. Let us not forget that David was in a unique position, and as king he was surrounded by those who sought favors, and if not granted wished and perhaps schemed for his downfall. Always in this world, earthly places of power are filled with scheming and corrupt people. And even in the church these realities exist, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).

The Peace of God amidst Conflict

Most of us do not have as many hateful enemies as David had, and to always think that we do can turn us into narcissistic paranoids. Most of us are not on the minds of others all the time, or the foci of their hatred and jealousy. But we all have someone(s) who wish us ill-will, or at least we are familiar with the feeling. It is impossible to go through life without having some conflict with others.

David’s example of taking these to God in prayer, of admitting plainly his own sins to God – “O LORD, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against You” (Psa. 41:4) – and putting these accusers before Lord, asking for His protection, is a wonderful pattern for all of us to follow. If the friction is due to our own sins against them, or our unkindness or our silence that has perpetuated the division, then we should take every step we can to span this chasm and make peace with them. Christ said that even in the act of worship, if we know that our brother has something against us, we should leave our gift there and go and be reconciled to our brother first, and then come and offer our gift (Matt. 5:24-26).

If you and I have people who are troublesome to us, and we cannot seem to make peace with them, then we should take them to the Lord in prayer and give them to Him. And if we do not, then the words of James convict us, “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2). We should let God be our protector and our avenger, as the scripture says: “Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord'” (Rom. 12:19).

Integrity

But the verse above is David affirming that God upholds him in his integrity. Integrity is not the same as sinlessness, for David has already confessed his sins. Rather David is describing the sincerity of his heart toward God. “Integrity” in English comes from the word “integer” meaning a whole number. It fundamentally means wholeness or completeness. The word in Hebrew, tom, means the same. It is the opposite from a conflicted or divided heart.

It was used twenty-four times in the Hebrew Old Testament and always meant wholeness, fullness, uprightness, or integrity. For examples:

“He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out” (Prov 10:9).

“The way of the LORD is a refuge to the upright” (Prov. 10:29).

“I will ponder the way that is blameless … I will walk in my house with integrity of heart” (Psalm 101:2).

Someone with integrity remains committed to the work of God in his heart and life. He (or she) is quick to confess his sins when he disobeys the Lord, whether the disobedience is in thought or in words or in action.

David also instructs us at the beginning of this psalm that Christian integrity is not neutral or defensive in nature, but it has a positive force of going out into the world and seeking to do good. His psalm starts out: “Blessed is he who cares for the poor; the LORD will deliver him in the day of trouble” (Psalm 41:1). Not even the king would be right to pray that God sustains him simply because he was the king. No. Integrity means faithfulness in heart toward the calling of God, and in sincere service to that calling.

Struggles with Integrity

There is not a one of us who does not struggle in some way with this issue of whole-hearted commitment to the will of God. Even when doing the “big things” in the fulfillment of our Christian calling, we can be tripped up with impatience in “little things.” We can become irritable and impatient with others with minor failings, or who merely seem to make our way a bit harder to walk. But this is the standard of God and we find no other lessor standard. As often as we fail, we must pick ourselves up from the ashes and let the Spirit instruct us on what we need to do differently, confessing our sins and receiving God’s cleansing, and continue on in following Christ.

To do the right thing (God’s will) in the right way (God’s graciousness) and for the right reason (God’s glory) is the Christian’s integrity. And there is peace and protection in doing so. Do not make the indicator of your success as a Christian to be such things a holding positions in church or in a Christian organization. Wherever selfish ambition rears its ugly head it can do harm to the work of God. Rather keep your eyes on Christ and do what He commands you to do in your heart. God will notice and use you and reward you in His way and in His time.

Psalms

Integrity In Your Home

November 21st, 2019

I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O LORD, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless. (Psalm 101:1-3)

David’s vow as a king speaks to us all, teaching us to guard our hearts and our homes from unholy and impure influences, to walk with integrity of heart within our own houses. The psalm is primarily about earthly rulers, and the importance of integrity, but its application does not stop there, and also applies to each of us.

David, of course, unfortunately failed his own test, when his eyes cast over the bathing Bathsheba, and lust did the rest. The passage starts with the phrase, “In the spring of the year when kings march out to war, David sent … the whole army of Israel … but David remained in Jerusalem” (2 Sam 11:1). It has long been held by many Bible students that David was not doing his own duty and, thereby,  opened himself up to temptation.

Your Home

Luther held to a concept of three earthly governments: civil government, the church, and the home. Though theologians have been most interested in civil government and the church, we should not forget the importance of the home. In the home we are still subject to civil and church government, but in a much diminished way. Marriage, family, and the home is the first institution established by God, and it is the most important in life. For there values are formed and adopted, and love and fairness are experienced, or should be.

Everyone has a home, even those who live alone and are unmarried, have a home. And a Christian’s home should be a place where God is honored and evil is kept at bay. Admittedly, it is difficult to do this in today’s world, for there is so much evil in the news and entertainment medias. But to the degree possible, we should guard against polluting our hearts and minds with in pure thoughts.


Steadfast love and Justice

To values David espoused as primary to consider: (1) steadfast love, favor, or mercy, chesed in Hebrew, and (2) justice or proper judgment, mishpat in Hebrew. These words are important words and essential concepts to understand the Old Testament and how we are to live God-honoring lives. These both start in the heart of God and in His character, and the more we know of God’s mercy and favor to us, and of His judgment and justice, the more we will be able to live properly here. Truly the meanings of these two words are inexhaustible, but they consist basically of the confidence of God’s love to us and of our responsibility to think and act properly and righteously.

It starts in the heart

We cannot help but notice that David’s choice of verbs is important. He says he will “sing” of God’s steadfast love and justice, and singing comes from the heart. He described his worship of God, of valuing God’s faithfulness and goodness, making these thoughts the dominant ones in his heart each day.

He also says he will “ponder” or consider these things. This goes beyond sheer emotion or feeling, and means he will reason out the meanings of these attributes of God. He will “walk” with integrity in his home, and this describes his daily life, everyday, and the whole day. He will go about his duties contemplating these realities. And he will also “set no wicked thing” before his eyes. “Set” means to put or apply or place, and it has the idea of the matters that he will attend to during that day.

A king, of course, or any public servant, will have to deal with impure things in terms of judgment, and the remainder of the psalm has to do with winnowing out those impure people and matters from his government. His intention is to get rid of these things that cause offense to his conscience and heart.

Paul advised believers not to toy with those things that offend our consciences — even if they do not bother every Christian. “But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean” (Rom. 14:14). If you and I feel guilty for doing something, then we should not do it. If our feelings of guilt are not well grounded in truth, or justifiable, then God will show us that as we mature. But just because other Christians may be involved in some activity and say it is okay, if we feel uncomfortable in our hearts, then we should not do it.

What is unsaid

David only alludes to his desire for God to walk close to him, as he says, “When will You come to me?” To be a believer in the Lord Jesus is not merely about thinking the right thoughts, or doing the right things. It is especially about walking in fellowship with God through the Spirit. We faithfully stand for God not because we are so clever but because God is so faithful. We stand in Him.

Walking in the faith means walking in the fellowship of the Spirit with God. Christ Himself shows up in our lives and in our consciousnesses through His Spirit, speaking to our spirits. And He enables us to stand. (See Romans 14:4 and Jude 1:24.)

Questions:

  1. How often is the steadfast love and judgment of God on your mind?
  2. Do you long for daily fellowship with Christ?
  3. Are there unconfessed sins and unsurrendered habits in your life that you need to give to God?
  4. What impure things do you set before your eyes daily?
  5. How do you ponder about the love and justice of God?

Psalms