Study 11: A Man of Integrity

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being…”

Psalm 51:6a

O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbour, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; he swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He does not put out his money at interest, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. 
He who does these things will never be shaken.

Psalm 15

We are continuing our study on the Character of a Godly Man.

Integrity is the character of man after God’s own heart. As David emphasized in his prayer of confession, “…behold, You desire truth in the innermost being…” A man who is not only undivided, not a hypocrite, not compromised, but a man who is honest to his very core and pours God’s truth into his heart.

Psalm 15 goes to the integrity and honesty of a man, the prerequisite for one who will enjoy an intimate walk with God, and be useful to Him. What David reveals about integrity is a man with a clear conscience (bound up in the very word, integrity) and the character that flows from truth spoken in the inner man.

One cannot address the issue of integrity without spending a significant amount of time on the conscience: sadly a topic often overlooked, misunderstood and abused by many. Though the conscience is immaterial – you can’t touch or measure it – it can drive a man to suicide, determine a life of joy or depression, marks the difference between a sociopath and a ‘normal person’.

1 – What is the Conscience?

  • “the one who stands alongside” either accusing or commending (Rom 2:15)
  • It is not God’s law, yet may reflect it
  • Think of it as the mechanism God intended to shine the truth of God’s Word into your inner life exposing it either to commendation or condemnation
  • It is like your spiritual nerve-endings indicating pain to warn you when something is wrong (and likewise, think of the lack of conscience as leprosy, where all feeling is lost)

2. The Conscience can be seared or sensitized

  • Paul warns of those who dull or sear their conscience (1 Tim 1:5-6)
    • “those who have strayed from a good conscience, a pure heart and a sincere faith”
    • this is a package deal – those who violate their conscience no longer have a pure heart and their faith is no longer sincere – the seeds of hypocrisy and apostasy have been sown
    • straying from a pure conscience results in fruitless discussion and pride (when you violate your conscience, things become murky)
  • The rule is: do not violate your conscience – even though it is not God’s law, and even if it is poorly informed. What is done in violation of conscience not only sears and defiles, it is sin (see Rom 14)
  • Instead we should be calibrating and informing our conscience with Truth

3. The Conscience must be trained in the truth

  • We always battle an ‘underbaked’ or ‘overbaked’ conscience
    • your conscience may warn you of things that don’t matter to God
    • your conscience may be silent when it should be warning you of violating God’s Word
    • these two often exist in the same person (self-righteous legalism, anyone?)
  • The greatest culprit in misinforming our conscience is a combination of worldliness and psychology
    • we get used to sin by exposure to it in the culture and entertainment
    • we are told by the authorities of psychology that guilt is always bad and we should discard it
    • psychology commends pride and tolerance of sin, ultimately inverting the conscience (calling what is good, evil and what is evil, good – Isaiah 5:20-21)
  • We must confront our conscience with God’s Word
    • Peter had his conscience confronted in Acts 10:9-16, where God commanded him to set aside his objections to non-kosher food and particularly, his separation from Gentiles
    • this was a serious issue to deal with in the early church, and Christians were urged to have patience and forbearance with one another while they matured to a better-informed conscience (Rom 14)
  • Dig into the Scriptures and cultivate conviction on its truth and emphasis, repent of guilt whether you feel it or not (guilt is first a fact, not a feeling) and this starts the process of sensitizing and cleansing your conscience

4. Love what God loves, hate what God hates

  • A calibrated is that which loves what God loves, and hates what God hates (Psalm 15:4)
  • As you act according to integrity and not hypocrisy, as you aim towards a conscience which commends rather than condemns, your life will be oriented towards and energized by good works (Eph 2:10) 
  • This is where the battle must be fought and won – where nobody else can see, but you and the Lord; the inner life

5. What defiles the Conscience

  • Psalm 15 contrasts the man of integrity against those things he despises
  • He does not slander
    • Slander is at its core hypocrisy: talking about someone what you would never say to his face
    • Deal with slander (notice how it is the prerequisite for a heart that loves God’s Word in 1 Peter 2:1)
  • He does no evil to his neighbor
    • Do you speak and act with integrity cleansed from malice?
    • Are your words and deeds aimed at building up and not tearing down (Eph 4:28-29)?
  • He doesn’t take up a reproach against his friend
    • We must clear our accounts and not hold grudges
    • When you hold something against someone and don’t deal with it, it loads your conscience and you cannot act with integrity towards them

6. Hypocrisy is Cancer

  • Is there any part of your life, if it were exposed would shame you? Destroy you?
  • A hypocrite cannot hide it from his family and children
  • Note how much weight Paul puts on a sincere conscience, with the result being that he will not be ashamed (make a word study on conscience and shame sometime)
  • Conviction is impossible to cultivate in the soil of hypocrisy
  • Hypocrisy is the seed of apostasy – it will destroy faith
  • Our culture is designed for hypocrisy
    • we are highly individualistic with much privacy, especially online
    • business justifies so much compromise and legal wrangling, it is easy to begin to play with right and wrong
    • it is so easy to live a double life, especially between work, home, and church
  • We are not pragmatists, we do not have a price – we must be morally predictable
  • Aim towards a life internally regulated by God’s Word
    • accountability is good, but it is a means towards the end
    • it is so easy to hide and get around accountability
    • the goal is to be captive to God’s Word when nobody is around and you can get away with it

A man of integrity will not be shaken. Your yes is yes, your no is no. Your convictions go to your core and you will not be spiritually shaken. You will not lose your moorings. Your family will be secure under your leadership. You will be growing and progressing as you speak truth in your heart. 

This is not talking about perfection – a perfectly clear conscience will only happen when we are glorified and no longer fight sin – but this is about the work of integrity. Cleansing your conscience, maturing your conscience, building conviction, deepening your roots, working integrity. Then you will be able to teach and proclaim the truth with clarity and conviction. You will be steady and persevere to the end. “He who trusts in You will not be ashamed.”

To you who are still in your youth – start now! This is the time when you determine your course, and integrity must begin today. What God desires of you is integrity.

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