by Rick Ezell on Wednesday, January 01, 2014 at 7:00 AM
God not only has characteristics, He has character. The characteristics of God are often spoken of: compassion, holiness, righteousness, justice, and mercy, to name a few. But the Bible speaks of God's character, too — He is never changing: the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is faithful, trustworthy, true, and loyal. He can be counted on. His Word is everlasting. As a God of integrity, He desires a life of integrity in His followers.
Integrity is a God-like life of consistency and sincerity, with no deception or pretense. Integrity's overriding quality is wholeness. In fact, the word integrity is derived from the same root word as integer, meaning whole. In other words, no discrepancy exists between one's public life and one's private life. People of integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear.
Integrity is not reputation — others' opinion of us. Integrity is not success — our accomplishments. Integrity embodies the sum total of our being and our actions. Integrity is not something we have, but something we are. It inevitably shows itself in what we do and say. Integrity is needed because people are watching us. Will our behavior match our beliefs? Will our character correspond with our confession?
Authenticity The old adage is true: Our walk must match our talk. We need to live in such a way that our family, church, and friends will know that who we say we are, we are. We live without duplicity or deceit. When everything is stripped away, our name, reputation, and character are all we have. For the sake of our churches, our families, and our very lives, a life of integrity is required. In fact, integrity is as essential as spiritual health, family priorities, and personal development. In the long run, integrity is what really matters. For one to live with integrity necessitates that one conduct himself in an authentic manner. Paul instructed the Philippians, "Be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:10, NASB). Sincere is a Latin word, meaning "without wax." It originated in the marketplace. In ancient Rome, if anyone wanted an authentic statue of fine quality, carved by someone who took pride in his workmanship, they would venture to the artisans marketplace in the Quad in Rome and look for booth's bearing a sign: "sine cera" or "without wax." In the "sine cera" booths one could find the real thing. No flaws, no cover-ups, no shady deals. Men and women of integrity are those rare and lasting individuals who are the real thing. They have no hidden flaws and no hidden agenda. They are authentic and genuine.
Honesty One way authenticity reveals itself is by always speaking the truth. Take note of a couple of proverbs: "The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are trustworthy" (Prov. 12:22, NIV). "The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the unfaithful are destined by their duplicity" (Prov. 11:3, NIV). We reflect God's character when we speak the truth, for "God ... does not lie" (Titus 1:2, NIV). Honesty has always been hard to find. Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, lit a candle in the daytime and traveled about looking for an honest person. Blaise Pascal said he didn't expect to meet three honest men in a century. The Institute of Behavior Motivation has found that 97 out of 100 people tell lies, doing so about a thousand times a year.
Honesty is like a boomerang. Our words, along with who we are, always travel full circle. Every time individuals engage in dishonest activities of any kind the results come back to haunt them. Just ask any politician about skeletons inthe closet. The person of integrity is different. He or she is that rare breed who fulfill their word, follow through on commitments, and tell the truth, even if it costs. Speaking the truth always wins out. The writer of Proverbs says, "Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out" (Prov. 10:9, NIV). When the truth is told nothing comes back to trouble us.
Conviction Integrity is not only about authenticity and truth-telling; it is also about convictions. A person of integrity stands for what is right. One cannot be a person of integrity without deep convictions. They know what they believe and why. Convictions are not forced on an individual; they are beliefs and actions of choice. Francis Kelley wrote, "Convictions are the mainsprings of action, the driving powers of life. What a man lives are his convictions." Martin Luther King, Jr. often told his children, "If a man has nothing that is worth dying for, then he is not fit to live."
Conviction must rest on the knowledge of the truth as spelled out in Scripture. The righteous knowledge needed to mold our conviction comes from being intimately acquainted with God's Word. Without knowing and practicing biblical principles we wither like grass in the fires of temptation. Eric Liddell's conviction of honoring the Sabbath Day led him to forgo a Sunday race at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. A few days later, before another race for which he had not prepared but was allowed to compete, a fellow competitor put a note in Eric's hand: "He who honors me, I will honor." Eric raced with his convictions in tack. He honored God; and, God honored him. Eric Liddell won the race and the gold medal.
God desires His followers to live with integrity, though it will not be easy. Living with God-like character, being the same person in private and in public, and living out our faith — being true to biblical teaching — is hard and uncomfortable. Choosing to be real, honest, and standing with convictions will always be a challenge in a world that accepts (and sometimes) applauds the lack of it. Yet integrity impacts and influences those around us, especially our children. Only time will tell the impact our walking matching our talking will have on our children — and their children.