Saturday, May 17, 2014

Integrity

                The other day I had a word pop into my mind. I have been pondering on it ever since. I have been asking myself what it means, and if I have this word reflected in my life. The word is “integrity”. I started thinking of Phillip and Steven in the book of Acts. They were men of integrity, weren't they? They were full of faith, had the Holy Spirit living on the inside of them, and were chosen for ministry by the people of the church. But I just couldn't seem to let this word go, there seemed to be more to it than I was seeing initially. This word was with me the next morning and then that afternoon. Again, that same word keep growing louder and louder in my head until I gave into the Holy Spirit and went to His Word. This is what I discovered, and it is my prayer for you who read these words, as well as for me, that we would become a people of integrity.

                The first mention of the word integrity in the Bible is found in Genesis 20:5. Abram (not yet Abraham) has taken his wife Sarai and his whole family down to Egypt because there was a famine in the land. As they are going Abram tells Sarai to lie to the Pharaoh of the land because if they find out she is his wife they will kill him. Sarai agrees and ends up in Pharaoh’s harem. While he is sleeping that night the Lord speaks to Pharaoh and tells him that bad things will happen unless he lets Sarai go. Pharaoh, not knowing that Sarai was Abrams wife took Sarai in innocence. His motives for taking Sarai were pure and had no cunning or craftiness behind them. So he says to the Lord;
                “Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister?’ And she, even she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this.” (Genesis 20:5)
                Pharaoh had no idea that Abram had lied to him, and did what any Pharaoh of that time would have done- he saw a beautiful woman and he took her. But he speaks to the Lord and tells him that he had no idea of this sin; his integrity of heart was not to go against the Lord. In this context, integrity refers to innocence. It points to the conscience of a person. Our conscience is a part of who we are. Our conscience tells us what is right and what is wrong. Even those who do not believe in Jesus have a conscience. Paul reveals that truth in Romans 2:15 when he points to unbelievers knowing right from wrong, even though they do not have the Holy Spirit.

                But, I find that integrity is more than just an innocence of conscience. It is more than a knowing what is right and doing it. Integrity also refers to the sincerity of our hearts. It reveals our motives, and our intentions towards everything we do. The dictionary refers to integrity as a character trait. Integrity will reveal to us the truth behind everything we do. We all have motives for doing the things we do. We may do something good for someone because we want recognition for our efforts. We may work hard at a job because we desire a promotion. We may seek to serve more at church, because we seek a title of leadership. We may seek to do good because that is what Jesus asks of us. Whatever the motive is behind what we do- our integrity will reveal it.
                David understood the power of integrity in his life. He understood that his heart was deceitful and the motives that he may say he has for doing something may be false and deceiving him before God. (Psalm 26:1) Our integrity is more than just being right or wrong. Our integrity should help define who we are in Christ. Integrity says that we are sincere and honest towards everyone and anyone. We have no intentions of being deceitful, cunning or crafty in what we do- there are no hidden agendas, no strings attached. To be a Christian, we must have integrity. But, most importantly, our integrity must first be before God. Integrity is having a sincere desire to be single-minded in our devotion to God. It asks the question, “Are we genuine?” Are we genuine in our dealings with our brothers and sisters in the Lord? Are we honest and upright in our relationships to our spouses, children, and family members? Are we sincere in our devotion to God our Father? Are we honest before Him?
                God knows the very deep secrets of our hearts. He knows all our dirty little secrets. He sees them clearly. He is just waiting for us to have integrity and to admit them to Him. Matthew Henry writes that a man (or woman) of integrity is someone who will “desire to have his inmost soul searched and proved by the Lord. He is aware of the deceitfulness of His own heart; he desires to detect and mortify every sin; and he longs to be satisfied of his being a true believer, and to practice the holy commands of God.” (Matthew Henry’s Whole Commentary on the Bible, Psalm 26:1)
                Do we desire to have our inmost souls searched by God? Do we know and understand the deceitful nature of our hearts that have been defiled by sin? The Lord God knows all my inmost thoughts and desires. He knows all my dirty laundry. He knows every spot and blemish that has ever or will ever stain these garments of my flesh and soul. Yet, He says to me, and to you - “Come and be honest before Me. Let me reveal to you the motives of your heart. Become innocent before Me, in the integrity of your heart.” It is in sincerity, and in honest, unhindered openness before God that I am able to be a person of integrity.
             
   It is my conscience that needs cleansing, for my conscience is defiled with sin. It is my motives that need examined, for my heart deceives me. It is my faith that needs strengthened because my weaknesses seek to exalt themselves before my God. It is my unwillingness to be real and be honest before my God that causes me to disobey His commands and leading in my life. It is through the integrity of my heart that I will become the woman God desires me to be. It is in integrity that He will be able to cleanse me, justify me, sanctify me and change me into the woman He has designed me to be. Integrity before God first, will lead me to live a life of integrity before His people.

                It is my prayer this day that we, as His chosen people, would become a people of integrity. That we would see the need to be honest and open before our God, and be willing to lay our hearts bare before Him; He already knows the very depths of our souls- let us be willing to be examined by our God. He has created me to be His, and has asked me to become a woman of integrity before Him- our perfect and spotless God. May the Lord God open my heart, no matter how painful, and reveal to me the sins that abide, and cleanse me from all the unrighteousness that dwells in the midst. In Jesus name, Amen and Amen.