Living a Life of Integrity

Introduction

Living as a whole, integrated person can be challenging. We tend to put on masks, saying one thing but contradicting it by how we live. We struggle each day with issues of right versus wrong and good versus evil. We tend to rationalize our behavior and compromise God’s standards of integrity. We may explain away or ignore these sins. These are the vices of the virtuous—sins that may have become accepted as the norm. But God is holy, and we must not allow any compromise with sin to infiltrate our lives. Because God is light, He will graciously reveal what we try to hide so that we can grow in integrity.

The Struggle for Integrity

We need integrity and honesty.

11 “Do not steal. Do not act deceptively or lie to one another." Leviticus 19:11 CSB

Paul’s struggle for integrity is found in Romans 7.

15 For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. 19 For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me. Romans 7:15-20 CSB

In what ways can you identify with his struggle?

The story of Adam and Eve’s fall is in Genesis 2:25-3:13.

25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” 12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” 13 And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” Genesis 2:25 - 3:13 NKJV

Number the following steps in the order they happened.
___ shame
___ disobedience
___ hiding
___ deception
___ fear

Some of the ways we can be deceived are listed below.

By ourselves.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22 NIV

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8 NIV

By others.

17 I appeal to you, brethren, to be on your guard concerning those who create dissensions and difficulties and cause divisions, in opposition to the doctrine (the teaching) which you have been taught. [I warn you to turn aside from them, to] avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites and base desires, and by ingratiating and flattering speech, they beguile the hearts of the unsuspecting and simpleminded [people]. Romans 16:17-18 AMPC

14 So then, we may no longer be children, tossed [like ships] to and fro between chance gusts of teaching and wavering with every changing wind of doctrine, [the prey of] the cunning and cleverness of unscrupulous men, [gamblers engaged] in every shifting form of trickery in inventing errors to mislead. Ephesians 4:14 AMPC

By Satan.

1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1 CSB

3 But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly! 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 CSB

Authentic prayer calls us to rigorous honesty, to come out of hiding, to quit trying to seem impressive, to acknowledge our total dependence on God and the reality of our sinful situation. It is a moment of truth when defenses fall and the masks drop in an instinctive act of humility. Brennan Manning, Reflections for Ragamuffins

Because we can be deceived so easily, how can we know when we have sinned or are improperly hiding?

12 Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults. Psalm 19:12 NKJV

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV

12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NKJV

Our Lack of Integrity Has Been Exposed

Why is it a human tendency to hide? The answer is in John 3.

19 “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light lest his deeds be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been done by God.” John 3:19-21 LSB

What does God’s light do?

We must be careful to avoid hypocrisy. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were examples of how not to have integrity.

Jesus exposed hypocrites.

6 He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me.
7 They worship me in vain,
teaching as doctrines human commands." Mark 7:6-7 CSB

This style of living is dishonest.

23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written: The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you. Romans 2:23-24 CSB

And so is the hypocrisy described in 1 John 4.

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20 CSB

Lying can be a matter of life and death.

1 BUT A certain man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, 2 And with his wife’s knowledge and connivance he kept back and wrongfully appropriated some of the proceeds, bringing only a part and putting it at the feet of the apostles. 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart that you should lie to and attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit, and should [in violation of your promise] withdraw secretly and appropriate to your own use part of the price from the sale of the land? 4 As long as it remained unsold, was it not still your own? And [even] after it was sold, was not [the money] at your disposal and under your control? Why then, is it that you have proposed and purposed in your heart to do this thing? [How could you have the heart to do such a deed?] You have not [simply] lied to men [playing false and showing yourself utterly deceitful] but to God. 5 Upon hearing these words, Ananias fell down and died. And great dread and terror took possession of all who heard of it. Acts 5:1-5 AMPC

Why do you think Ananias told this lie?
To whom was he lying? Who influenced him to lie?
Why do you think God took this so seriously?

Have you ever been lied to? How did you feel, and how did the lie impact your relationship with the person?

Our lives should be able to withstand close examination by other people. We should live honestly—not pretending to be something we are not in order to create a false impression. Imagine a mind-reading device that can project on a screen what a person is really like and what he or she is thinking.
Would you want this invention used on you? Why or why not?

1 LORD, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I stand up;
you understand my thoughts from far away.
3 You observe my travels and my rest;
you are aware of all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue,
you know all about it, LORD. Psalm 139:1-4 CSB

Some of the common ways we can compromise our integrity are listed below. Are any of these a problem area for you? What can you do to make things right with God and other people? The Scriptures reveal what God likes and doesn’t like. He gives you everything you need to be able to apply His wisdom and truth to address whatever the compromise is.
___ living a double life
___ telling “white lies”
___ saying one thing but doing another
___ cheating
___ manipulating people’s impressions of you
___ failing to keep promises
___ hiding for self-protection
___ illegally copying or downloading
___ other

As a person of integrity, I no longer define myself by my sin or the sin committed against me, but by who God declares me to be. Bill Thrall, Leadership Catalyst, Inc.

Practicing Honesty

We can learn and apply much from Paul’s example of integrity.

4 Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please people, but rather God, who examines our hearts. 5 For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives — God is our witness — 6 and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others. 7 Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nurse nurtures her own children. 8 We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 9 For you remember our labor and hardship, brothers and sisters. Working night and day so that we would not burden any of you, we preached God’s gospel to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how devoutly, righteously, and blamelessly we conducted ourselves with you believers. 1 Thessalonians 2:4-10 CSB

Underline or circle or list the things that Paul’s integrity prevented him from doing in his relationship with the people of Thessalonica. What a heart of love!

The importance of keeping a clear conscience before God and men cannot be overestimated.

16 Therefore I always exercise and discipline myself [mortifying my body, deadening my carnal affections, bodily appetites, and worldly desires, endeavoring in all respects] to have a clear (unshaken, blameless) conscience, void of offense toward God and toward men. Acts 24:16 AMPC

21 For we take thought beforehand and aim to be honest and absolutely above suspicion, not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men. 2 Corinthians 8:21 AMPC

Honesty ought to be displayed in all aspects of our lives. Do not neglect the areas found in the verses below.

6 For this same reason you pay taxes, for [the civil authorities] are official servants under God, devoting themselves to attending to this very service. 7 Render to all men their dues. [Pay] taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due. Romans 13:6-7 AMPC

23 Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men, 24 Knowing [with all certainty] that it is from the Lord [and not from men] that you will receive the inheritance which is your [real] reward. [The One Whom] you are actually serving [is] the Lord Christ (the Messiah). 25 For he who deals wrongfully will [reap the fruit of his folly and] be punished for his wrongdoing. And [with God] there is no partiality [no matter what a person’s position may be, whether he is the slave or the master]. Colossians 3:23-25 AMPC

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:13-17 NIV

Consider these essential standards for honesty:

  • Make sure everything you possess was obtained honestly.
  • When you speak, speak the truth. There is no such thing as a white lie.

Speaking Honestly

Your speech reveals what is abundant in your heart.

34 “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” Matthew 12:34-35 NKJV

People cover up the truth about themselves.

19 “And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light lest his deeds be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been done by God.” John 3:19-21 LSB

James 3:8-10 tells us much about our speech and the two types of power it has.

7 Every kind of animal, bird, reptile, and fish is tamed and has been tamed by humankind, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness. 10 Blessing and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way. James 3:7-10 CSB

How does this illustrate our struggle for integrity?

We build trust in relationships through our integrity. And we erode trust through our dishonesty.

28 A lying tongue hates those it wounds and crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin. Proverbs 26:28 AMPC

How could lying result in a lack of trust? How do you feel after someone lies to you? How have lies eroded your trust?

Think of a time when you did not tell the truth. How could you have come into the light of God’s truth?

Any distortion of the truth in word, exaggeration, actions, attitudes, or silence is deceitful and a form of lying. Lying and abusive speech are inconsistent with a life of following Jesus.

8 But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. Colossians 3:8-10 CSB

Consider the two verses below.

29 No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 CSB

6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person. Colossians 4:6 CSB

Can you apply one or both of the verses above to a relationship with someone you know? What will you do? When will you do it?

Transparency is simply disclosing yourself to others…. In vulnerability, you deliberately place yourself under the influence of others…. You give them the right to know the pain of your weakness and to care for you. You choose to let others know you, to have access to your life, to teach you, and to influence you. Bill Thrall, Ken McElrath, and Bruce McNicol, Beyond Your Best

Read James 5:16 below, then consider the quote above.

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. James 5:16 CSB

What would it look like for you to reveal yourself in your close relationships by being really honest about who you are and who you are not?

Describe a time when you were vulnerable (not simply transparent) about one of your weaknesses.

When you put yourself in humility under someone else’s influence, what was the result?

Memory Verse

29 No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 CSB

The journey into integrity requires coming into the light—living truthfully as well as telling the truth. What has God been showing you about your need to grow in integrity? Who do you trust to walk with you on your journey?

The pursuit of godliness is not the pursuit of perfection but the pursuit of integrity and authenticity. Bill Thrall, Leadership Catalyst, Inc.

Things to Remember

  • Deceit creates a struggle and exposes the need for integrity.
  • Our goal is not a life of sinless perfection but rather a life that does not remain hidden.
  • God calls us to strive for a clear conscience before Him and others.
  • Our speech exposes and expresses our heart.

Points to Ponder

Being honest to oneself is often difficult. Read Psalm 51:6. How are you speaking truth to yourself about your emotions, behaviors, identity, relationships, character, and so forth? How is a spiritually mature person speaking truth into your life?

Why is this journey often difficult? How honest do you feel today?


Published: July 10, 2024

Updated: July 10, 2024