In Your presence is fullness of joy. Psalm 16:11
If you have participated in a worship service where the presence of the Lord invaded the place, you know already that a liberating joy comes with it. It can be so powerful that people will lose the awareness of those around them and express their worship without any thought to what anyone might think of them. I have seen people take off running around the sanctuary, weeping at the altar, dancing like David did and shouting the praises of God with all their might. Personal dignity takes second place to responding to the sweeping presence of God in a service – or, for that matter, in your private prayer time at home.
Great revivals of the past have witnessed many a phenomenon. Dozens of people face down on the ground. No one pushed them – they fell to their faces of their own accord in utter submission to the presence and power of God. Some lay still for so long that it was feared they were dead. They weren’t – they were just absorbed in God.
As we consider these reports, some of which I have witnessed myself, we are challenged to realize that the greater the presence of God, the less we care about what people around us think. Our focus is to worship the Lord.
And we will also discover that in that blessed atmosphere, the Spirit of God will frequently deal with our integrity.
Integrity may be defined as being governed by the truth, even when it hurts. According to Psalm 15:4, a blameless man ‘makes firm commitments and follows through, even at great cost.’ Words mean something and for the disciple of the Lord, keeping our word should be a top priority.
Integrity is demonstrated in a number of ways: 1) godly stewardship over money and goods, 2) purity in moral issues, 3) reliability in our words, and 4) a hunger for truth.
Jesus said a great deal about money in the Gospels and I believe it was John Wesley who said that the last part of a person to be converted is his wallet! Being ‘squeaky clean’ in our financial affairs is a demonstration of integrity and honors the Lord. Maintaining our integrity may cost us but the person with integrity will not be swayed. Too many people can be bought if the price is right. For the disciple of the Lord, being ‘bought’ is never an option.
Where morality is concerned, integrity is key. Undisciplined private lives lead to public humiliations – secret affairs that lead to broken marriages, promiscuity and children deprived of a parent. Winston Churchill once said: ‘The price of greatness is responsibility.’ The greater the position one attains, the greater the responsibility to maintain moral integrity.
We will all one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account of what we have done, ‘whether good or bad‘. (2 Cor. 5:10) In I Corinthians 3, Paul described the scene by saying that our works will be tested by fire. If they survive the fire, we will be rewarded. If they don’t, we will still be saved but ‘as one escaping through flames.’ (vs. 14-15)
With regard to our words, integrity means that you tell the truth and what you say is what you will do. You can be depended on to keep your promises. It is impossible for God to lie. We believe His word is true and He can be utterly depended upon to keep His word. We are called to do the same.
A child does not need to be trained to lie – it comes naturally! Rather we ALL need to be trained to tell the truth. Once we have been born again, the Spirit of Truth comes to dwell within us. So if we walk in the Spirit we will only tell the truth! Simple honesty, straightforward conversations, showing up when you said you would, paying what you said you would pay – all of these are evidences of integrity.
Integrity will also stir up in us a hunger for the truth. Sometimes that means changing our position about certain beliefs. Life is a journey of learning and many of us were taught things early in life which we later discover are not quite true. Perhaps you were taught that the gift of tongues is not for today, or your denomination held to a particular interpretation about the end of days. As you grow in the Lord and learn more of the Word, you may discover that what the Word of God says does not quite agree with what your denomination told you.
What are you going to do? Integrity loves the truth. You choose to receive the greater understanding of the Word, even when you know it may cost you – perhaps in relationships with others.
Let me add something very important right here. In growing in truth we must also grow in graciousness. John wrote that Jesus was ‘full of grace and truth’. (John 1:17) It is possible to be full of truth but lacking in grace! The Word of God is not a club to beat people with; it is the Sword of the Spirit, not your sword!
Job teaches us another caution. He was blameless yet when the pressure was on, his self-righteousness began to spill out. He said to his three friends: ‘ I will never admit you’re right; till I die, I will not deny my integrity.’ Job 27:5 Self-righteousness and integrity don’t mix very well. Job was ‘righteous in his generation’ but had allowed a certain measure of pride (self-righteousness) to creep in. Our character is tested when we are under pressure and in Job’s case, what came out when he was squeezed was self-righteousness.
Fortunately, he came to his senses in the end and humbled himself before God.
The reward for integrity is the manifest presence of God and the reward for dwelling in His presence is integrity. They work together as long as we maintain a teachable and humble spirit to submit ourselves to the dealings of God in our lives.
As I heard a pastor say years ago: ‘Don’t let the devil make you proud of your humility!’