Opening Statement: The subjects of ethics and integrity have become unpopular subjects in modern times. Integrity is a dying quality and people don’t like to talk about it. This fact was indicated a few years ago when Chuck Colson lectured on the subject of ethics at a military base in North Carolina. He had addressed 2,000 marine officers and noncommissioned officers. We’ll pick it up there. Colson writes: “They sat attentively in starched fatigues and spit-shined boots, but when the question-and-answer period began, no one stirred…until the general, a rugged, six-foot-six officer, turned around and said in a booming voice, “There will be questions.” Suddenly, hands popped up all across the auditorium.” His last question was: “Which is more important – loyalty or integrity?” Of course, Colson, who had learned the hard way that loyalty to a President, at the sacrifice of integrity, could land you in prison, replied, “Integrity comes first.”
Title: Excellence in Personal Integrity, Part I (Nest a series within a series. I’ve been talking to you about excellence in leadership and service. I am all about creating more leaders, not just filling a church with people.)
Series Review: We continue our series on God-glorifying excellence. We’re not about perfectionism. Neither are we about a snooty sophistication, elitism and professionalism. Rather, we believe that excellence in Christian living and work, when expressed with humility and authenticity, glorifies God and inspires people. When we do all we can within our God-given resources to pursue our tasks at hand with excellence in mind, that moves people toward the majesty and beauty, and order of God. It makes the New Community an inviting place to be. People like to hang around excellence.
Transition: Today our focus is on… Excellence in Personal Integrity, Part I
Illustration: Integrity can be a slippery word to define. It’s like the story of some theologians who were trying to come up with an accurate definition of the word, to they invited a philosopher into the room. “Tell us,” they said, “What is integrity?” The philosopher pondered the question. “Integrity,” he finally intoned, “is what you’re like when nobody else is around.” The panel thanked him, then ushered in the businessman and asked for his definition. “In my world,” the business man said, “Integrity means a person is as good as his word.” After thanking him, the panel invited a lawyer to join them. “What is integrity?” they asked. The attorney’s eyes cautiously scanned the room. He crept over to the door, opened it, looked outside to make sure nobody was listening, and then bolted it shut. He closed the windows and pulled down the shades. “Tell me,” he finally whispered, “What do you want it to mean?”
Definition: The idea of completeness or wholeness is at the root of the Hebrew term for integrity. And the reason I state that is because our text is found in the Hebrew Old Testament today. The term “integrity” has within it the idea of an integer. What is an integer? Within the realm of mathematics, it is one whole number. It is not one number and part of another number. It is not fractionalized. Rather, an integer suggests completeness or wholeness.
Application: When we apply this concept to our lives, we understand that we are considered whole or complete people when our beliefs have been integrated into our behavior. A person of integrity is not fractionalized with duplicity or hypocrisy. A heart and life of integrity is consistent in one honest direction. If a person of integrity begins a job, they finish it. If they make a promise, they keep it. If they commit a huge mistake, they admit it. If they believe something, they support that belief with their lifestyle. In this sense, they are whole and complete without a fractionalized life.
Texts: There are two places in the Old Testament that we need to go today. The first is 1 Samuel 16:7. The second is Psalm 78:70-72.
Text #1 Recitation and Background Information: King Saul turned out to be a disobedient king. God told Samuel that one of the sons of Jesse would be chosen as Israel’s next king. Seven of Jesse’s sons were passed over. When Samuel was looking at Jesse’s sons to determine which one of them was to be anointed the next King of Israel, the LORD told him.
1 Samuel 16:7: “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
We learn from this that integrity is not something that we can necessarily see. Samuel could not see it, but God could. So integrity is an issue of the heart that God sees. David, Jesse’s youngest son, was finally chosen. It’s neat that such a young lad was chosen, but to me, this is not the most remarkable fact in this story. In fact, we have all heard of young phenomenal people who make a big impact at an early age.
Illustration: I can remember as a boy watching Dwight Gooden at 19 years of age starting in the major leagues for the New York Mets. That was remarkable. So younger people are making significant contributions in several disciplines and careers all over the world and they have been doing so for centuries.
Observation: Let me share though, what I see as a remarkable fact in this whole Davidic narrative. The amazing thing I find in this story is not so much that David was the youngest, but that God was examining hearts at such an early age. God watches the hearts of potential leaders and servants. He sees the presence of integrity there.
Application: God is watching your heart. And so the all-important issue that we must all face is “Do we have a heart of integrity?” Integrity is the bedrock of ministry. Our integrity takes shape from an early age.
Text #2 Recitation and Background Information: The next passage that we’ll look at is a Historical Psalm that summarizes Israel’s history in a poetic way. The Psalm does have some sad elements in it, but it concludes somewhat abruptly on a positive note with their national hero, King David, from Judah, the founder of the dynasty that would rule in Jerusalem for over 350 years.
Psalm 78:70-72: “He also chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him, to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands.
Question: Some of you may be thinking, “How could this possibly be written about a man who did adultery with Bathsheba and when she was found to be pregnant, David arranged for her husband, Uriah’s murder?” I wonder how Uriah’s family felt about this Psalm? Others of you may be thinking in David’s defense. After all, how would you like to have the nitty-gritty details of your life published in the world’s best-selling book?
Peter Deison has noted THREE MAJOR EVENTS in the life of David. It’s my contention that these THREE MAJOR EVENTS demonstrate for us what integrity is. We will take these in reverse chronological order and we’ll deal with the first of three events today. We will start with a major event later in David’s life, then a major event in young adulthood, and finally a major event in adolescence that defined how he was a man of integrity and a man after God’s own heart. Each of these major events will be treated as individual messages. Stay with the series.
For now, are you a person of integrity? Do you have something to hide? Let’s move the private hidden parts into a consistent life in one honest direction.