~by John Roberts.
Worship is a familiar concept to Christians. We meet every Sunday morning to encounter God together with other believers. We pray, study the Bible, and seek opportunities to make disciples. But how often do we step back and examine the integrity behind these actions? In a world where every facet of life is publicized through social media, often our culture teaches us that what we portray on the outside is what will most clearly help our cause. Some of us even rely on how we are seen by others to determine our effectiveness in affecting the kingdom of God. However, God teaches in the Bible that He does not look at the outward appearance, but at the condition of the heart. (I Samuel 16:7)
Worship can be so easily overshadowed by the “doing the Christian life” well. But if we are to become true worshipers, surrendering all things before the throne of God, we must have integrity in our worship and in our lives. But what does it mean to live a life of integrity? How can this translate into our posture of worship to God?
Webster tells us integrity means “an unimpaired condition.” It means to be sound – to operate in a condition not weakened or damaged in any way. In kind, the Hebrew word for integrity means to be complete or solid. So, this idea of integrity is rooted in things that are steadfast, and sure-footed. To practice these attributes in our everyday life seems incredibly difficult. No one I know is immune to points where they feel damaged or shows moments of weakness. This is part of being human. From this standpoint, integrity sounds almost impossible. There’s a reason for it! When we rely on our sinful humanity alone, integrity is impossible.
Integrity is visible in the Christian life when no one is watching. When you complete a job, or keep your word when no one is around, you reflect the true mark of integrity. In seeking integrity in our worship, we must examine our posture to God when we are alone and vulnerable more so than when we are in the presence of other believers. Does your heart burn for the things of God when you’re driving to the supermarket? Do words of adoration leave your lips the moment you wake or before you fall asleep? We must pause every day and worship God in the privacy and shadows of our inner most thoughts.
But it is important to remember that integrity is not sinless perfection. A person with integrity does not live a life absolutely free of sin. No one ever will apart from Jesus Christ. But we can model the integrity of Christ by acknowledging our failures quickly and resisting the urge to hide the things in our lives that are wrong. When we worship, part of encountering a holy God is approaching with a heart of repentance. Understanding that our sin can never go away this side of heaven helps us accept, and even live joyfully, in the grace and mercy of Christ.
The key to understanding worship with integrity is found in our identity. Those of us who are believers can confidently say that our identity is in Christ. We believe in Him. We trust Him. We abide in Him. But to truly live a life of integrity, we have to realize just how important it is. If integrity promotes our relationship with Christ, then it should be constantly on our minds. This consistency helps guard against sin in our lives.
This principle can be broken down into two principles. The first deals with us and how others perceive us. Although others’ opinions do not ultimately matter in spiritual terms; how we are perceived outwardly can sometimes be a direct reflection of what is going on inwardly. This has less to do with the ones watching you and more to do with the character in which you conduct yourself. How do you handle conflict? Are you trustworthy? Are you approachable? Do you earn respect from others or do you have to ask for it in some way? This public perception is our reputation. And it is valuable for Christians. Having a good reputation opens the door to spread the gospel because others begin to value what you have to say.
The Bible is clear on what a good reputation will produce. Titus 2:6-8 says, “Likewise, be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.” Our opponents will be put to shame. This is not meant to promote prideful shaming of those with whom we disagree. Instead it promotes glory to the God in whom we put our trust and our faith. Our integrity is all about Him and not about us.
The second application deals with God and how God views us. For those who are in Christ, God doesn’t see you … He sees His Son. He sees the righteousness of Christ and a paid ransom for your sin. But the fact that God sees Christ instead of us doesn’t give us an easy way out. If anything, it gives us more of a reason to live a life of integrity. It is through personal and private integrity that we show God, in an intimate way, just how much we love Him. Even though no one else may be watching, God is always watching.
So, what can we do to pursue integrity in our worship? We can pursue integrity through regular prayer and time in God’s Word. Both promote being in God’s presence. This creates a posture of integrity simply because we are both exposed to God and exposed before God. Through these spiritual disciplines, we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us an refine us. In turn, prayer and study always produce good works. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” If we worship because it is God we aim to please, and not men, we will conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the offering. This is true integrity.
Conducting ourselves in this way produces righteousness. Proverbs 20:7 says, “The righteous man walks in his integrity.” If Christ is righteous (which He is) and we are in Christ (which we are) then we should live a life reflecting the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. We honor our salvation through our integrity. And through our integrity, we worship.
About the Author: John Roberts is the lead writer, editor, and content developer for the Church Resources division of Capitol Christian Music Group—including Brentwood Benson, Worship Together, and Worship Together Kids. John is also a studio musician, producer, and worship leader in Nashville, TN. He holds a MA in Religion from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and lives in Thompson Station, TN with his wife, Lee Ann, and their two children.