Spiritual Integrity

from a sermon by Joe Bishop on July 3, 1996

It is a great privilege to come together with the Book of Books, the living Word of God, and the Truth eternal!

In the first chapter of the Book of Job, verse 1 says, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” Continuing in verses 6-8 we read, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” As the story unfolds, Satan responded to the Lord and said, “Well, that is because you have a hedge around about him and are protecting him.” As we continue reading the story, we find that God said, “All right. You can test Job. You can try Job.” We read of all the trials that Job went through, followed by verse 22, “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.”

Chapter 2:1-3 says, “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” This is not a rerun of what we read earlier. I would like you to pay particular attention to the next few words: “And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.”

God gave Satan permission to go even a step farther, but not to take Job’s life. And then a question came from the woman who was closest to him in all the earth—his wife. She said to him, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.” What advice! “But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (Job 2:9-10).

The topic of discussion is spiritual integrity. I understand that this subject will put me and all of my brothers and sisters in the ministry under the greatest of scrutiny. When we stand behind the sacred desk, the Word of God goes, first of all, to the preacher. This is serious. But I am thankful for the truth of God’s Word; and that it gives us light and hope. It not only tells us how we should live, but it gives us examples of how other people lived. As we trust in God, and as our faith reaches out to Him, He empowers us to live by this Word. However, if you want to try to live by the Word of God in your own strength, you are in for a big surprise. You cannot do it, but if you will put your faith and trust in God, this is a Gospel of victory. We serve a God of power! We serve a God Who cares about us, and He is there to lead us, guide us, direct us, and to help us live a life that is pleasing in His sight. As we study God’s Word, God shows us and encourages us as to how we might better please and serve Him.

As we read this account of Job, we find the word integrity. If we were to try to define it, we might suggest meanings such as, “moral excellence,” “honesty,” or “sincerity.” There are people in this world who are not Christians but who are moral people. They have standards of behavior and a certain degree of integrity. We appreciate that. In the world that we live in, it seems that scandal and corruption are commonplace. In the business and political world it does not even surprise us any more. However, this same attitude has invaded the home and even the church. Integrity of any kind seems to be scarce. But I believe I am among a group of people here who are looking to God’s Word for that high standard of excellence. This Word of God is a high standard! You will not just get out of bed some morning and begin walking in excellence without something happening to you. We thank God for a high standard, and for the power that there is in the Blood that enables us to live up to it.

In the New Testament, the Bible gives the words of Paul the Apostle, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). What is that high calling? It is the calling for every one of us to walk in the spiritual integrity that we find in Scripture. Spiritual integrity is a high standard, but it is possible. It is what God wants us to do and what God empowers us to do.

While dictionary definitions point to moral excellence, honesty, and sincerity, we might further define integrity as doing right because it is right, not because somebody is watching. It is not doing right because our parents expect it of us, because society thinks that is the standard, or because somebody is watching over our shoulder. It must be because it is in God’s Word, and because we love God and want to please Him. We want to do all that we can to live up to this standard of God’s Word. It does not matter if we are in a crowd or by ourselves; we want to do what is right simply because it is right.

I believe that a person of integrity might also be defined as being a promise keeper. There is a well-known ministry called “Promise Keepers.” The organization has high goals and standards. However, I believe there is a standard for God’s people that all of us should aspire to. We should all be promise keepers, people of spiritual integrity—those who search God’s Word for His standard of excellence. Then by God’s grace, we should promise Him that we will live by that standard.

If there was one other word which I believe defines what spiritual integrity involves, I believe it would be “trust”—to be trustworthy. As we consider our text, we observe how God felt about the man Job. We see what was in God’s heart as He spoke these words to Satan about Job. The word God uses in our language here is “integrity.” God trusted Job. God trusted a man! We trust God, and surely He is worthy of our trust, but here was a man that God could say He trusted. He asked, “Have you considered my servant Job?” and then pointed out, “Still he holdeth fast his integrity” (Job 2:3). God said that! Oh, I would like to have that as my testimony. I would like for God to be able to say of me, “He has kept his integrity. I trust him.”

Integrity involves trust, and I believe as we consider this topic of spiritual integrity, the first thing we want to know in our hearts is that God trusts us. Then I believe it goes even beyond that to our relationships one with another throughout society. It is important within the church that we can say, “I trust you, brother.” I hope, by God’s grace, that my brothers and sisters in the Gospel can say of me, “I trust you.” That is the desire of my heart. I want to live up to the standard I see in God’s Word, and be worthy of trust. And I believe the only way is if I live by God’s Word, its precepts, and this high standard of excellence that we find in God’s Word.

As Christians, we represent Jesus Christ. If we call ourselves Christians and name the Name of Christ, we are carrying His name. As we go about our daily lives, on the job, at school, or about the home, it is just as if He is right there beside us in body. I think sometimes we forget that. We may say, “What I do is my own business,” forgetting that we are naming the Name of Christ—the highest Name in Heaven and earth, before whom every knee shall bow one day. We represent Him, and we carry His name, so we must live up to this high standard of excellence. I want Him to be able to trust me. I want you to be able to trust me. I want to lift up the Name of Jesus. I want people to see that He is the King of kings and Lord of lords and that this Gospel of Jesus Christ is real. If we name the Name of Christ, we do not walk in iniquity and sin anymore. There is a difference in our lives, and we can be trusted.

There is something about trust that we may not understand fully. It is this—trust is a very fragile thing. I believe we should protect, guard, and hold it in very high esteem. Trust is very valuable. Once it is broken, it is a very difficult thing to repair. I did not say impossible, because with God all things are possible. Sometimes people have stumbled and fallen, and broken trust, but by God’s grace, they have picked themselves up, asked God and man for forgiveness, and marched on. God has repaired that trust. He can do it! He has done so many times, probably for every one of us. But I want to tell you, if we have a picture of what this trust is and how fragile and valuable it is, I believe that we will want to protect it more. Sometimes I think it is like a fabric, a piece of cloth that is woven together. And it is so easy for the edges to begin to fray with use and to unravel. Do you know how hard it is when something gets unraveled to put it back so that it looks like it did originally? It is a big job. So I believe we must guard, cherish, and protect this trust.

It has been said that there are three great tests of integrity for those in the public realm—money, power, and sex. I would like to suggest that we have to face some of these areas on a personal level. I believe that as Christians, we need to live in financial integrity. I believe that Christians are tested on the use or misuse of authority, or power. This can be in the home, in the workplace, or even in the church organization. Then I believe that there is an area where Satan would like to try in these last days more than ever: in our moral integrity. Some people are very careful and meticulous about one or more areas of their lives, yet seemingly blind to other areas. I am very much aware that it is easier for other people to see our faults than it is for us to see them. It is very easy for me to see yours and I dare say, mine are probably more evident to you than they are to me. However, we are striving for excellence. We are pressing toward the mark. And as God shows us how to come up to the help of the Lord, I want to say in my heart, “Lord I am going to come up.”

This strikes my heart on a personal level. I want to examine my own life; I am not going to try to examine yours. But all of us can ask God to examine our hearts. More than once in the Scriptures David said, “Try my heart. Know my ways. See if there be any wicked way in me.” If we can open our hearts before the Lord, and let the search light of God’s love shine into us, I believe we can go away from this place better Christians than we came in. This is very important, not only so we can say to ourselves, “Yes, I believe I am coming up to the help of the Lord,” but also in how the Gospel goes forth. I believe our spiritual integrity will impact our unity as a church. And our unity as a church will impact our evangelism. So your integrity and my integrity are very important.

As I said, some people are very meticulous in one area of their lives and ignore another area of concern. To illustrate, I remember an account I read about a man and woman in Los Angeles who stopped at a Kentucky Fried Chicken take-out place. They were going to get a box of chicken and take it out to the park and have a little picnic. As the couple went through the drive-through, the manager was getting ready to take a bank deposit to the bank. Rather than walking down the street with a bag of money, he put the cash in a chicken box and set it down close by. When the man and woman came through the drive-through, the employee inadvertently handed these people the box with the deposit. Off they drove. When they got to the park and opened what they thought was a box of chicken, they found it was a box full of money. They could have said something like, “How about this! This is our lucky day!” But instead, they took the box of money and went back to the take-out place, went inside, and handed the money to the manager. That manager was more than relieved. He was excited! He shook this man’s hand, thumping him on the back and congratulating him on his honesty. He was at the point of calling the newspaper and saying, “Come on over, I have a story for you. Bring your cameras! We want to take a picture of these people. We are going to put it in the paper. We are going to tell all of Los Angeles about this man’s honesty.” But the man said, “Oh, no! Please don’t do that.” He said, “I am a married man and this woman is not my wife.” You see, we can be very careful in some areas and ignore others, but I believe God’s Word holds up a standard for every area of our life. Spiritual integrity is very important.

An example is found in Genesis 39 where we read the account of a man named Joseph. If there ever was a person of spiritual and personal integrity, it was Joseph. Follow his story from beginning to end and you will find that he was tested in all three of these areas that I mentioned. He was tested in the area of financial integrity. He was put in charge of Potipher’s house and later put in charge of the king’s business. He was also tested in the area of moral purity. He was tempted by Potipher’s wife to commit adultery, and his moral integrity shined out when he refused and went to jail for it.

Moral and spiritual integrity are not always well received.  You may sometimes suffer for taking a stand, and for doing the right thing. It is easy to think, If I do the right thing, I will automatically have the blessing of God on my life and everything is going to go well. However, Joseph went to jail because he did what was right!

Joseph was also tested in the area of how he used authority and power. When his brothers came back to him, Joseph had every reason to be angry with them. The Bible warns against being angry with your brother without cause, but Joseph had cause. But we see the evidence of Joseph’s integrity. He brought his brothers in to him, and he fell on their necks and wept, forgiving them. He said, “For this cause God sent me here. Do not be hard on yourself.” Do you see the spirit of forgiveness there? He could have said, “Now I have you in my power, and I am going to treat you just like you treated me. I am going to get even with you.” However, he had the spiritual integrity to do what was right. In all these areas of his life we find that Joseph was an example.

If you search through the Bible you will find many more examples. Many characters of the Bible were tested time and again in these areas of their lives. The Bible shows us by their example that we can have victory in our lives and truly attain to spiritual integrity in our daily walk. We can have something in our hearts that will please the Lord.

I would like to touch on a couple of these areas by way of application. It is a good thing to read and hear God’s Word, but the proof of what we hear comes in application. No matter how much we have learned in our mind, it is of no value until we apply it to our daily lives.

First of all, let us address this topic of financial integrity. It is very important. You may think that it is nobody else’s business. However, just as we are representatives of God, we also represent each other. I have learned in the last year or so that preachers and churches do not always have a good name. We had a church building project going on in the Richmond area of California. A lot of money was changing hands. Sometimes we would apply at a business for credit. As soon as we would say that we were a church, they were not interested. Churches have some of the poorest credit ratings. How sad! The organization that should be of the highest integrity is held in the lowest esteem.

The world looks at every one of us in our business dealings and financial encounters with people, as representatives of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our entire church. That tells me I must walk carefully. I do not want to embarrass you. I do not think you want me to embarrass you.  If someone said, “Is he your pastor?” I do not want you to have to duck your head. We represent each other! We truly do, in many areas of our lives. And financial integrity is an important part of our testimony that the world sees. If we are going to be effective witnesses to people, we need to have spiritual integrity.

Some people think that it is only those who are in charge who have temptations in the area of power or authority. However, we are all in charge of something. The use or misuse of authority can come into the home. Husbands and fathers, what does the Word say to you? Does it say it is fine for you to lord it over your spouse? Yes, it says for wives to be submissive to their husbands, but it also says, “Husbands, love your wives,” and “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.” You have a great responsibility. Wives and mothers, you say, “Well, my husband is the head of the house.” Yes, he is. And you can get him to do anything you want him to do, if you nag long enough. That is not the way it should be, but that is the way it could be. In either case, there is a misuse of authority. Integrity is to follow God’s plan.

In the work place you may be the employer or the employee, but God’s Word speaks to every one of us. Employers, if those who work for you are putting in eight hours’ work, they deserve eight hours’ pay. Employees, if you are getting paid for eight hours, your employer deserves eight hours of work. Do you know what the greatest excuse of embezzlers is? It is, “Well, I deserved it. I was overworked and underpaid, so I took a little bit out of the till.” And, “I work more hours and they don’t pay me overtime.” There is just excuse after excuse after excuse, all the way down the line. Employers could say, “I don’t have to give you a raise. I am paying you minimum wage, and that is all the law requires me to do.” What about spiritual integrity?

This mindset can occur in the home, in the work place, and even in the church. Be careful, pastors, ministers, Sunday school leaders, choir leaders, and head janitors. In 1 Peter we find the admonition, “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre; [or not for profit] but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:1-3). In any position you might have, your position requires you to be a good example of spiritual integrity. Truly the standard of the Bible is a high standard, but God will help us to measure up.

Another area where we must maintain integrity is in moral purity. It is very important. This attack of Satan is slipped in so seductively. Yes, that is the right word: seductively. It will come right in to the church and try the young and the not so young. We have a responsibility to God to maintain moral purity and integrity. In our wedding vows we promise to, keep ourselves to our spouse alone as long as we both shall live, “until God by death shall separate us.” This is a vow taken before God. It is not a light thing. The impurity in the world around us is so flagrant that we become accustomed to it, and it no longer shocks us. I told my wife a year or so ago that I think I have gone beyond the place where I am shocked anymore. Our church was formerly located in an area of San Francisco where so many things happened on the street—sights that I would not describe to you—that I feel I lost my ability to be shocked by anything. We have become so accustomed to immorality that we sometimes fail to see the danger of allowing the appearance of that mindset in our lives in such areas as the way we dress, the places we go, and our attitudes one to another.

Young people, we live in a world of seduction. Fornication is the sin of our time. I have heard many young people say that the purpose of dating is fornication. God help us! God has a plan, a good plan for sex. There is nothing wrong with sex; God invented it. But He ordained that it take place between a husband and a wife. That is His plan. We take vows before God. We cherish and protect our marital relationship as a union that makes a man and a woman one within the bonds of marriage. But sex is only within that union. The world will condemn us and call bigots if we say that homosexuality is wrong. However, the Bible says it is wrong! We may be ridiculed because we stand up for the principles of the Bible, but we still believe that what God’s Word says is true—that homosexuality is a sin. Other sexual sins are mentioned in the Bible and we need to be aware of what they are. We need to have a sense of spiritual integrity to still say, “That is wrong. I will not engage in behavior that violates God’s Word.”

This dating business can be a terrible temptation, and the attitude of the world for the guys is, “How many girls can you get and how far can you take them?” That attitude can come into the church. For the girls it is, “How much can we tempt them without going too far?” How far is too far? Integrity starts with the attitude of the heart. We need to be careful!

Sometimes people may not even realize what they are doing and the attitudes they are portraying. Young ladies, I just want to encourage you to take the Bible admonition to dress modestly seriously. Do not advertise what is not for sale. I know that there are styles and fashions in the world, but we do not want to see immodest fashions come into the church. I do not want to have to avert my eyes from someone because they are immodestly dressed. Our attire has to do with integrity and with trust. I do not want the question, “Where is that person coming from?” to enter my mind. God help us to have the right interpretation of things. We do not go around looking for offenses. I know there are fashions and styles and there are opinions about what is modest and what is not, but to me cleavage is always immodest, whether it is at a wedding, shopping mall, or in the church. What does this have to do with integrity? I feel that we represent each other, so we must be careful in these matters.

We never know who is around us and who is in the crowd that we are with. In our area there in Richmond, we are meeting new neighbors and we do not always recognize people. My wife was in the grocery store one day, and something very frustrating took place in the shopping line. She could have reacted negatively, but she did not. When she got to the front of the line checker said, “Oh, you are the people who are building that new church up there on Hilltop.” Behind her in line, somebody said, “Oh, my next door neighbor goes to your church.” Now, let your imaginations tell you what the representation of our church would have been if my wife had come unglued over the situation that had just taken place. Her representation of the church was in question. Our integrity, whenever or wherever we are, is very important.

About two weeks ago, a young lady who had started a new job told me, “One of our clients was in the other day and asked what church I went to. When I told him, he said, ‘Oh, I met your pastor the other day.’” You know what was happening in my heart? I did not know who the man was, where I had been, or what I was doing when this individual met me. I hope I was a good representative of the young lady and our church. I hope that my life, my behavior, and my response were appropriate, because I not only represent her and our church, but I also represent Jesus. It is just as if He is walking beside us all the time, everywhere we go, and observing everything we do. Would we do the same things if we were consciously aware that He was right there? A heart with spiritual integrity will endeavor to do that. I know we get busy and involved in things, but I believe that God can help us to be aware that spiritual integrity is very important. The unity of the church is at stake here. The church cannot really function and do its job properly unless it works in unity. Unity becomes unraveled if there is not this element of trust which is based upon spiritual integrity.

The evangelism of the last days, I truly believe, is going to be personal evangelism­—one on one.  It will come about through you talking to your neighbor, your relatives, or the people on the job. And the success of that evangelism will be contingent upon your integrity. You invite them to come to church. Why should they come to church with you? Would it be because they have good music, a special program, or play basketball on Wednesday nights? That is why some people go. But people will get saved because they see your integrity. They see your testimony and they trust you. If they do not trust you they will not come. Or they will come to please you, and never return again. But if you are showing spiritual integrity in your life to those around you, there is going to be something in them that will say, “I like that. I would like to have some of that.” That is where last-days’ evangelism is going to come from.

We are pressing toward the mark. We are pressing toward the high standard that we find in the Word of God, “The mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). May God bless you as you endeavor to do God’s will.