Survival Tip #7: Integrity

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 8/2/2020
Proverbs  Wisdom 

A while back I discovered an awesome website called MasterClass. For a modest cost, you can sit at the feet of Masters and learn all the secrets of their craft! Whenever I’m traveling, I load up a class and soak up wisdom like a sponge.

You can have Gordon Ramsey and Thomas Keller teach you cooking. Christina Aguilera singing. Spike Lee film making. Penn & Teller about magic. Steve Martin comedy. Stephen Curry basketball. I listened to all the masterclasses on writing—Malcolm Gladwell, Judy Blume, Dan Brown, James Patterson (to name few). I listened to Chris Voss teach about the art of negotiation. Doris Kearns Goodwin on presidential history and leadership. Bob Woodward on investigative journalism. Howard Schultz (Starbucks) on business.

It’s fascinating content! Every instructor is terrifically skilled, gifted, and a trusted authority in their respective fields. There is one topic, however, that’s strangely absent—and its perhaps the most foundational and critical of all. It’s integrity! There is no MasterClass on Integrity!

Now suppose there were in fact a MasterClass on Integrity, who would you have teach it? Proverbs 20:9 asks: “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am cleansed from my sin?’” A while back Lara and I saw a movie. An investigative journalist is given an assignment to interview, and do a write up about Mr. Rodgers. The journalist’s wife pleads with him, “Please don’t ruin my childhood. Please don’t ruin Mr. Rodgers.” We’d be hard-pressed to identify many people who are universally recognized/trusted for their integrity.

I don’t know to “whom”, but I do know “where”, I’d direct you if you were interested in a MasterClass on Integrity. Proverbs 1:1-4 says, “Proverbs. . . are for learning wisdom and discipline, for understanding insightful sayings; for receiving prudent instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity; for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced, knowledge and discretion to a young man.”

The Proverbs touch upon virtually every conceivable aspect of integrity. The rest of this series is going to explore some critical areas where integrity is absolutely indispensable—like in our speech, in matters of justice and fairness, in using our wealth/influence, in our personal conduct toward others. But this morning I want to let the Proverbs writer make a case for INTEGRITY itself.

First, what exactly is integrity? Proverbs 14:2 is a good starting point: “Whoever lives with integrity fears the Lord, but the one who is devious in his ways despises him.” Integrity is fearing, respecting the Lord in every aspect of life, from your heart, in your mind, in your body, behavior, and actions, in regard to other people.

The Proverbs writer gives the highest possible appraisal of integrity. Proverbs 14:26-27, “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence and his children have a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning people away from the snares of death.” Why is it when we talk about self-esteem, integrity, the fear and respect of God, almost never comes up? Not only is integrity the essence of true confidence… not self-oriented confidence, but God-oriented confidence… Integrity is the cornerstone upon which our whole life is to be built. Integrity is a fountain that continually spills out life upon everyone and everything it touches!

Second, why is integrity important? Look at Proverbs 14:26. (1) Integrity builds strong families, strong children. Proverbs 20:7, “a righteous person acts with integrity; his children who come after him will be happy.” Proverbs 20:11, “Even a young man is known by his actions—by whether his behavior is pure and upright.” (2) Integrity builds strong neighborhoods, communities, and cities. Proverbs 11:11, “A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but its torn down by the mouth of the wicked.” (3) Integrity builds strong governments, it prospers and blesses nations. The Proverbs writer repeatedly points out how a ruler’s power, authority, throne, kingdom is established on righteousness. Proverbs 16:12, “Wicked behavior is detestable to kings, since a throne is established through righteousness.” Proverbs 25:5, “Remove the wicked from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established in righteousness.”

My entire childhood, everyone feared the Soviet Union. But Reagan made the point that Evil Empires never stand. In time, they always collapse in upon themselves. Remember the book of Daniel? The Assyrians. The Babylonians. The Persians. The Greeks. The Romans. The beastly character of the nations always spells their demise! The only true, permanent, enduring Kingdom is that of Christ Jesus Himself. The Bible tells us that Christ Jesus would establish his kingdom in righteousness! But as for the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela… the United States. . . without righteousness a nation crumbles.

But where I really want us to focus our attention this morning isn’t on the degradation of families, communities, or even our nation… let’s talk about the degradation of personal integrity. Your integrity and my integrity! I saw this statement in Proverbs 9:12: “If you are wise, you are wise for your own benefit; if you mock, you alone will bear the consequences.” If we don’t internalize principle of integrity for ourselves, how can we have credibility insisting upon it for others?

Third, how does God feel about our integrity? If someone points out your lack of integrity, the common response today is shrug of the shoulders, and then a counter-attack. “Oh yea, so what! You… You… You…” We’ve become quite adept at deflecting matters of integrity. What struck me about the Proverbs is that God is not neutral in any way whatsoever about integrity. God doesn’t shrug his shoulders! Could we do a brief survey?

Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, observing the wicked and the good.” Proverbs 16:2, “All a person’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs motives. . .” Proverbs 15:9, “The Lord detests the way of the wicked, but he loves the one who pursues righteousness.” Proverbs 17:3, “A crucible for silver, and a smelter for gold, and the Lord is the tester of hearts.” Proverbs 20:27, “The Lord’s lamp sheds light on a person’s life, searching the innermost parts.” You or I might be shrugging your shoulders but God is keyed into our integrity hotter than a laser beam!

But the Proverbs writer doesn’t stop here. There were two Proverbs that shook me to the core of my being. First there is Proverbs 21:3: “Doing what is righteous and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” God sees right through our religious charades. This is a major theme of the OT Prophets, of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. All our religion is vain if in our heart of hearts we despise what is God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. The second verse is Proverbs 15:29, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous.” Remember what James 5:16 says? “The prayer of the righteous man availeth much.” The inverse is shockingly true. The prayer of the wicked availeth nothing.

Less I be accused of mincing any words whatsoever, consider Proverbs 3:33: “The Lord’s curse is on the household of the wicked; but he is a friend to the upright.” There is nothing ambiguous here about the necessity of righteousness! God is not neutral in the matter. Remember James 4:6? “God opposes the proud but gives grace (and more grace) to the humble.”

If you want grace after grace, if you want answered prayer, if you want your worship to be an acceptable and pleasing fragrance before God, if you want God as true friend. . . yes… in CHRIST JESUS all these things are YES AND AMEN… but they are YES AND AMEN to a heart humbled, and inclined, respecting and fearing, trusting God, a heart warm and welcoming of every good, pleasing thing that is the perfect will of God. There is nothing good in store for the hardened, God-despising heart. Proverbs 10:6, “Blessings are on the head of the righteous. . .”

Fourth, how can we grow in integrity? A key passage is Proverbs 2:7-9, “He [God] stores up success for the upright; He is a shield for those who live with integrity, so that he may guard the paths of justice and protect the way of his faithful followers. Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and integrity—every good path.” There are two key parts to this verse. There is what God offers those who walk with integrity. He stores up success. He shields. He guards. He protects! (in addition to all the other things we’ve laid out). But then there is kind of explosive AHA that occurs. Understanding begets greater understanding. Integrity begets greater integrity. There is no greater reinforcer of integrity, than practicing integrity!

I love Proverbs 4:18-19: “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining brighter and brighter until midday. But the way of the wicked is like the darkest gloom; they don’t know what makes them stumble.” Proverbs 13:9, “The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is put out.”

Proverbs 3:1-4, “My son, don’t forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commands; for they will bring you many days, a full life, and well-being. Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will find favor and high regard with God and people.”

Here are some MasterClass suggestions for growing in Integrity. First and foremost, you have to let the Word of God (the Holy Spirit) establish the value of integrity in your heart, mind, body, and soul. Just reading about righteousness, justice, and integrity makes my heart come alive. Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.” YES LORD! Proverbs 16:7, “When a person’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” YES LORD! Proverbs 11:5, “The righteousness of the blameless clears his path, but the wicked person will fall because of his wickedness. The righteousness of the upright rescues them, but the treacherous are trapped by their own desires.” We need that value clarified and reinforced ad nauseam. Proverbs 10:7, “The remembrance of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.”

But secondly, to grow in integrity, we have to get down to brass tacks. We must allow God’s Holy Spirit, through God’s Holy Word, to specifically call us, back to integrity. This week you can go to Lakeside Christian Church message pages and download this manuscript, and find plenty of bonus material!

What does integrity practically look like?

What does it look like in business? Proverbs 11:1, “Dishonest scales are detestable to the Lord, but an accurate weight is his delight.” Proverbs 13:11, “Wealth obtained by fraud will dwindle, but whoever earns it through labor will multiply it.” Proverbs 15:27, “The one who profits dishonestly troubles his household, but the one who hates bribes will live.”

What does it look like in friendship? Proverbs 11:13, “A gossip goes around revealing a secret, but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.” How about conversation? Proverbs 13:5, “The righteous hate lying; but the wicked bring disgust and shame.”

What does it look like in marriage? Proverbs 12:4, “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a wife who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.” What does it look like on the farm? Proverbs 12:10, “The righteous cares about his animals health, but even the merciful acts of the wicked are cruel.”

What does it look like as a citizen/neighbor? Proverbs 14:5, “An honest witness does not deceive, but a dishonest witness utters lies.” Proverbs 19:1, “Better a poor person who lives with integrity than someones who has deceitful lips and is a fool” Proverbs 22:28, “Don’t move an ancient boundary marker that your ancestors set up.”

What does it look like in a culture of compromise? Proverbs 20:25, “It is a trap for anyone to dedicate something rashly and later to reconsider his vows.” Proverbs 25:26, “A righteous person who yields to the wicked is like a muddied spring or a polluted well.”

Here I am preaching about integrity while striving to grow in integrity. Thanks be to God, he gives grace upon grace to us as we grow!


Scripture Verses

Proverbs 1:1-4; 2:7-9; 3:1-4; 9:12; 11:13; 13:11; 14:2; 15:29; 20:7, 9, 27; 21:3; 25:26

Worship Playlist

Glorious Day by Passion

What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong

Do It Again by Elevation Worship

King of Kings by Hillsong

Study Questions

  1. How do you decide whether you should trust someone?
  2. Read Proverbs 31. What would help you live with more integrity?
  3. Confessing your sins is a great place to start gaining integrity. Read 1 John 1:9 and confess your sins before God.

Apply It!

Resources

Our In the Wilderness sermon series booklet provides a place for sermon notes, questions for reflection, and a challenge to read through the book of Proverbs in 31 days. You may pick up a booklet at Lakeside on Sunday mornings or weekdays between 8:00 am & 4:00 pm.