How to improve our spiritual reflexes

I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:20

In Matthew 5, Yeshua encourages believers to exceed the righteousness of the religious leaders by being sincere and genuine. The hypocrisy of the leadership was evident in all of their public actions, and Yeshua was constantly confronting them on their hypocrisy.

But Yeshua always focused on his followers doing the right thing from the heart, not just following a set of rules. He said that what was in the heart would overflow into actions that reveal the true intent of the heart.

Good people do the good that is in them. But evil people do the evil that is in them. The things people say come from inside them.

Luke 6:45

This is a challenging principle, but one that also helps us gauge where we are in our spiritual journey. How?

By reviewing our reflexive interactions with others, we can see how “changed” our heart is. When we say the wrong things and then realize it later, we know that our immediate heart response, like a reflex, responds with what it’s full of. If it’s full of bitterness or frustration, it will lash out in anger. If it’s full of peacemaking and reconciliation, it will seek to reach out in love and sacrificial effort for the sake of another. By self-reviewing our conversations with others, we can get an idea of how positive or negative our spiritual reflexes may be.

This is why, when we become angry or frustrated, it is recommended we wait until we have a chance to “cool down” before providing a response to a particular situation. Then we allow the negative emotion to pass where we can think more clearly of an appropriate response. Likewise, if we have a caring or willing heart impulse to help someone who comes across our path, we shouldn’t stifle that feeling and allow the moment to pass without acting on it.

This is a challenging dynamic process that requires maturity to navigate. If we constantly fill our hearts with the bitterness and strife we may encounter in our families, work places and social media interactions, then we are sure to outwardly act on those heart responses. But, if we keep our hearts filled with the positive aspects of our spiritual heritage of finding ways we care for others, healing the hurts around us, and going above and beyond for those who are antagonistic towards us, we will be more likely to  respond reflexively, in the moment, in a way that honors God.

Some of the practical ways we can do this is through memorizing helpful Bible verses, having hymns or spiritual songs that are meaningful to us in our daily routine, and by choosing to privately and sincerely pray throughout the day for our own responses and to overcome the actions of others. These habits produce a life of integrity, a life that honors God, because it is a life of refusing to succumb to the culture around us, and to maintain a righteous attitude in the face of adversity.

When we can train our reflexes to operate in this way, we are then able to magnify God to those around us just as he intends us to.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The unavoidable integrity that shines in the darkness

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Yeshua encouraged the believers to boldly follow his directives in the face of any opposition. He wanted them to influence that generation in positive ways so that by their unavoidable example others might also be drawn to the truth.

However, this public displaying of good works was not to be the sole end, but also the means by which the message of the kingdom was to be disseminated. If the disciples took his message to heart, it would fill every aspect of their being and their interactions and there would be no way to hide the fact that they were new creations in God’s sight. Yeshua’s analogies of being like candles on a lampstand or a city on a hill accurately capture the intent of the kingdom message: it would be unavoidably visible in a world of darkness: a candle can’t help but shine; a city on a hill at night can’t help but be seen.

How unlike the religious leaders of his day who outwardly did good works only for the display of righteousness; this was not because their hearts were changed, but only so they would appear to be righteous in the eyes of others.

Matthew 23:2-3, 5 “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. “Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. … “They do everything to be seen by others…

Yeshua knew that the religious leaders would calculate every appearance of their public actions to be in line with the strict letter of Torah, but in their hearts and minds they were as corrupt as dead mens’ bones.

Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. “In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

By contrast, Yeshua called his believers to be people of integrity, those whose sole motivation would be to glorify God and to be obedient to him no matter what the physical cost would be. This type of good works that would be seen by others was to come from a completely different place of motivation than the religious leaders of the day. Yeshua was creating a new kingdom of idealized subjects: those who are under no compulsion other than a genuine desire to do what’s right at all times. They would be aligned so closely to their heavenly Father and their Lord that obedience in the face of any difficulty or persecution was not even a question, it was a foregone conclusion.

This is how the kingdom would be grown until it would fill the earth. There is no other way. A strong eternal kingdom cannot be fostered in an environment of doubt, hypocrisy, and disobedience; it needs to be based on an underlying central integrity that cannot change or diminish over time. These acts of internal integrity then become evident as being something different than the world has to offer, and it causes others to be drawn to its collective light.

Philippians 2:15 That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…

The example of their unavoidable integrity has been set for all time. It is up to us to receive and carry that metaphorical torch which will then be handed to the next generation.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Doing what is right in God’s eyes

Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you forever, when you do that which is good and right in the eyes of Yahweh your God.

Deuteronomy 12:28

Doing what is right in the sight of God is the biblical definition of integrity. It means following his instruction or acting according to his precepts.

Some examples of those who have done what is right in God’s eyes can help us to understand what this practical righteousness or integrity looks like.

2 Chronicles 14:2-5 Asa did what was pleasing and good in the sight of the LORD his God. He removed the foreign altars and the pagan shrines. He smashed the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded the people of Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his law and his commands. Asa also removed the pagan shrines, as well as the incense altars from every one of Judah’s towns. So Asa’s kingdom enjoyed a period of peace.

2 Kings 22:1-2 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah from Bozkath. He did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right.
2 Kings 23:24 Josiah also got rid of the mediums and psychics, the household gods, the idols, and every other kind of detestable practice, both in Jerusalem and throughout the land of Judah. He did this in obedience to the laws written in the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the LORD’s Temple.

Notice in these examples that Asa and Josiah were considered doing what was right in God’s sight because they were doing something according to God’s word. As kings, they had the ability to make laws and take actions that would guide and protect the people of Israel. They had chosen to take action, to do what was right in God’s eyes (according to his word), in regards to the corruption and idolatry that they saw had creeped in among God’s people. They were men of practical vision who recognized that the idolatrous influences of the surrounding cultures were polluting God’s people and they acted in accordance with God’s word; they did what was right in God’s eyes.

By contrast, those who instead follow their own ways do what they think is right, not paying any attention to the commands of God.

Proverbs 16:25 There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.
Proverbs 21:2 People may be right in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their heart.

Similarly, we can see peoples’ stature and the impressive way they present themselves, but we don’t always know what’s in their heart.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

Some people’s actions are praised, but they may actually be hypocritical because they are doing things only to be seen as righteous by others. Yeshua had to combat this type of unrighteousness among the leaders of his day.

He said to them [the Pharisees], “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Luke 16:15

There are things that are right in the sight of God, and there are things that are an abomination in the sight of God. The key factor is understanding what God’s perspective is, then we can know what’s right and what’s wrong.

Even if the rest of the world doesn’t understand our motivation, we can still do what’s right in God’s eyes. Meditating on his word and understanding it in its entirety provides us the correct context for our outward actions. Like Asa and Josiah before us, this type of obedient integrity purifies God’s people and accomplishes God’s purpose in each generation.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here.

Living lives of integrity by intentionally placing God’s word in our hearts

Do what is right and good in the Yahweh’s sight, so all will go well with you. … For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands Yahweh our God has given us.

Deuteronomy 6:18, 25

Yeshua taught that believers should demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands. The integrity of the actions we pursue and the decisions we make should come from a genuine place in our hearts, not just outward compliance.

What Yeshua was teaching the audience of his day was nothing new. Moses had urged this of the Hebrew community over a millennia earlier, and they had formed many traditions around his template to maintain a continuous recognition of the commands of God.

Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for symbols between your eyes. You shall write them on the door posts of your house, and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

The method used by Hebrew believers over the years to accomplish this doing of the commands from the heart is in the recitation of the Shema. As outlined from a popular Jewish website below, this process has become a daily declaration of their faith.

Shema Yisrael (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל) (“Hear, O Israel”) are the first two words of a section of the Torah that is the centerpiece of the morning and evening prayer services, encapsulating the monotheistic essence of Judaism:

“Hear, O Israel: G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is one.”

In its entirety, the Shema consists of three paragraphs: Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41.

Its recitation twice daily (morning and evening) is a biblical commandment. In addition, we recite it just before retiring for the night, as well as in the Kedushah service on Shabbat.

Indeed, this succinct statement has become so central to the Jewish people that it is the climax of the final Ne’ilah prayer of Yom Kippur, and is traditionally a Jew’s last words on earth.

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/705353/jewish/The-Shema.htm

While I am not suggesting we adopt this specific Jewish tradition listed above, its method of identifying what is most important and reviewing it in an intentional way should be an example to us of the tenacity required to imbue their culture with a recognition of an obedient life, an upright and righteous life, a life of true integrity.

How diligent are we in making sure the words of God are in our hearts so we can act on them without even thinking? Like physical reflexes, we should respond to our situations and conditions in ways that honor God because his instruction is thriving in our hearts. When situations arise that demand our obedience, we shouldn’t have to seek commentaries and biblical concordances; we should be so imbued with God’s word that his Spirit can bring those insights to the forefront of our thinking, and therefore our actions, whenever needed.

Moses’ method in the commandment involves a constant, daily, repetitious routine that would saturate the culture of the people. “…you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

If we could find ways to incorporate this level of diligence in our daily routines for ourselves and within our families, we would not only be following the commandment, but we would also be living lives of integrity that would be clearly and intentionally patterned on God’s word.

Noah’s life of integrity and righteousness is an example for us to follow

This is the account of Noah and his descendants. Noah was righteous and was a man of integrity among the people of his time. He walked [habitually] with God.

Genesis 6:9

Noah is remembered most famously for building an ark and surviving a great flood. But most people don’t realize he is the first person in the Bible to be named as righteous.

The Hebrew word for righteous is tsaddik. A tsaddik is a person who is considered just and righteous in conduct and character, Other contexts of the word include describing someone who is upright, honest, virtuous, pious. It is a word commonly used of good kings or judges who faithfully dispense justice and fairness.

In most Christian circles today, righteousness is typically viewed as something that is only conferred on an individual from God, as a bestowal of a righteous state that they did not possess previously. This perspective comes largely from the apostle Paul writing about the legal aspect of imputed righteousness, as in the case of Abraham who was accounted or considered righteous for his faith in God.

But this heavy theological concept of imputed righteousness masks the meaning of the word, as it implies someone can be considered righteous while not really being righteous; it is simply a way God chooses to view those who place their faith in him.

In reality, I think what Paul was attempting to convey, as it is used of Abraham in the book of Romans, is the idea that faith is equally considered a righteous act, along with all other lawful, virtuous, honest, and upright actions. Faith in God and his Messiah is considered a righteous action. That would have been a revolutionary concept to his audience. To be a tsaddik, they knew, was to faithfully and obediently follow the torah (or instruction) of God that has been revealed. To do this effectively, Paul says, requires faith, a righteous action like any other.

For Noah, this would mean that out of all others in his generation or age, he was the individual who most closely matched the ideal that God had provided up to that point because of his faith. While those in his day may not have had any written Scripture, there were undoubtedly oral teachings that had been passed from generation to generation since the days of Adam previously. And in God’s eyes, Noah was a tsaddik, a righteous individual, one who faithfully and continually walked with God.

To walk with God in this sense is to live in a way that pleases him, to abide by his counsels and admonitions, to be familiar with God and his ways and to direct one’s own personal affairs in agreement with God’s. This is biblical righteousness.

This is a life of integrity, as Yeshua described this concept in his Sermon on the Mount. To demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands. To be a person of your word, simply saying yes or no, and doing what you say. To crave equity; thirst for doing the right thing, To avoid hypocrisy, and to magnify God by letting your good deeds “shine.” To conduct yourself with mildness and gentleness, and, if necessary, to endure harmful attacks of those who may not agree with your right actions. All of these things could essentially be said of Noah, which is why he was considered a tsaddik.

We would do well to follow in his footsteps among our generation, doing what’s right in the face of adversity and corruption around us. God may not task each of us with building a literal ark, but we should be just as mindful of our responsibility to positively influence those around us through our integrity and faithful obedience to God’s revealed word.

Making the right choices every day helps keep us on the right path

Righteousness keeps him who is upright in the way, and wickedness overthrows a sin offering.

Proverbs 13:6

Those who have integrity are often described with similar terms such as “upright” or “perfect.” This idea of perfection, though, is not as though one is completely without fault; it is more a concept of completeness, or wholeness.

Yeshua uses the phrase in a similar way when he encourages believers to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt. 5:48). This is a Hebraic way of expressing that believers should be totally consistent in their lifestyle: their beliefs and what they say should match 100% with what their actions convey. This is wholeness, perfection, integrity.

In the proverb above, walking in righteousness is said to guard or “keep” one in the way of God. The more our lives demonstrate consistency, the simpler it is to stay on the correct path.

By contrast, when our lives are in disarray and when our actions are inconsistent, we struggle more to keep our focus where it needs to be. The wickedness of those who do not walk with integrity is said to “overthrow their sin offering.” This is a demonstration of how even the best of intentions can be counteracted by a pattern of inconsistent behavior.

Living a life of integrity or wickedness is a life of momentum. The weight of our everyday thoughts and actions drive a flywheel of consequence that can keep us headed in positive or negative directions based on patterns we are establishing in every decision.

When we are consistent in our actions and our speech, we establish patterns of righteousness that tend to keep us walking in the right way. Sin is less of a temptation and a distraction because we have established views and behaviors that we begin to thrive in. This encourages further righteous actions and as a result, we begin to exhibit larger measures of integrity in our interactions with others.

My eyes are on the faithful of the land, to dwell with me, Whoever is walking in a perfect way, he serves me.

Psalm 101:6

Integrity: A Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Core of the Bible Podcast Episode 10 – Integrity: A Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

In this episode we will be exploring the deep desire for integrity that is a hallmark of believers. This desire wells up from the deepest recesses of our spiritual being, driving us to be conformed to the life of Messiah, a life of truth and righteousness.

Yeshua stated it this way: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

In the Core of the Bible paraphrase, I have restated it this way: Crave equity; thirst for doing the right thing, and you will be blessed as you are satisfied.

I like the idea that righteousness or integrity is a craving. We can relate to that sensation from a physical point of view, so it is easy to translate that into a spiritual perspective. A craving or a thirst is something that cannot be ignored, it must be pursued until it is satiated. A life of integrity is one in which those cravings are striven for in every area of life.

Hunger and thirst are the body’s urgent indicators that nutrition and fluids necessary and vital for life need to be ingested as soon as possible. In like fashion, a believer cannot deny the indicators of holy injustice and inequity which can only be satisfied with right actions. Just like the correct food and drink allow us to live healthy lives, believers thrive on righteousness.

Isaiah 41:17-18 NKJV – “The poor and needy seek water, but [there is] none, Their tongues fail for thirst. I, the LORD, will hear them; [I], the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers in desolate heights, And fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, And the dry land springs of water.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.

Psalm 107:9 For He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

Hunger and thirst are the physical representations of the deeper spiritual needs that we all share, and therefore we have a common bond with all other humans in the pursuit of having these needs met.

According to Yeshua, the life of integrity is a life that is hungry and thirsty for righteousness. The world is a barren desert wilderness where righteousness is not to be found, unless God meets that need for us. And he can, and he will.

The Bible is filled with stories and parables regarding hunger and thirst, and the provision of God. For example, as Moses is recounting to the Israelites their struggles in the wilderness for 40 years, and how God had provided for them, he says:

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. … “

This passage is rich with the imagery that speaks in more concrete terms about spiritual truths. The example of Israel wandering in the wilderness is akin to our own wandering journey through this life. The uncertainty of the daily provision was a real struggle that had to be endured. Yet, God overcame that uncertainty of daily food by providing manna. But the text also says WHY God did this:

He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Just as their physical hunger was provided for, their spiritual hunger could be provided for if they would seek his word and his wisdom as earnestly as they sought the manna each morning, and with the same regularity. The Bible teaches us is that whatever is needed, God can provide. Wandering Israel needed food; God provided manna. They needed water; God provided miraculous pools and springs to sustain them.

Drawing on this very imagery of the wilderness journeys, Yeshua states further:

John 6:31-32, 35 NLT – After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. … Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Yeshua spoke not only of the bread of life that he could provide, but of the water of life to satisfy every thirst:

John 4:14 But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.”

John 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”

God knows we have a need, and he has provided for that need. In some cases, people don’t recognize their need for this spiritual food and drink, and therefore carry on through their lives oblivious to the richness available to them. This is why it is the person of integrity who recognizes this need, and feels the hunger and the thirst for righteousness every moment of every day, and pursue those cravings by drawing near to God. Their cravings drive them to seek for the truth of God’s instruction, and God provides.

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible regarding Matt. 5:6

Blessed are they which do hunger … – Hunger and thirst, here, are expressive of strong desire. Nothing would better express the strong desire which we ought to feel to obtain righteousness than hunger and thirst. No needs are so keen, none so imperiously demand supply, as these. They occur daily, and when long continued, as in case of those shipwrecked, and doomed to wander months or years over burning sands, with scarcely any drink or food, nothing is more distressing. An ardent desire for anything is often represented in the Scriptures by hunger and thirst, Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm 63:1-2. A desire for the blessings of pardon and peace; a deep sense of sin, and want, and wretchedness, is also represented by thirsting, Isaiah 55:1-2.

They shall be filled – They shall be satisfied as a hungry man is when supplied with food, or a thirsty man when supplied with drink. Those who are perishing for want of righteousness; those who feel that they are lost sinners and strongly desire to be holy, shall be thus satisfied. Never was there a desire to be holy which God was not willing to gratify, and the gospel of Christ has made provision to satisfy all who truly desire to be holy.

Isaiah 55:1-2 1“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you without money, come, buy, and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost! Why spend money on that which is not bread, and your labor on that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of foods.…

Psalm 42:1-2 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul longs after You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God.

How can you tell if you’re hungry? Well, if your hungry you’re most likely going to eat whatever small bit of food is put in front of you. But if you’re full even the most generous portion of delicious food will not seem appealing in any way.

The person hungry for righteousness will eat every little scrap of it that comes their way, while those who are not hungry wouldn’t touch it if it was served in the very center of the most delicious cake. The hungry yearn for even crumbs of righteousness to fall from the table. Those who are full do not value integrity and righteousness at all, and would rather use any means and any methods to get what they want.

So, in my mind, a natural question arises: If those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are filled and satisfied, then could the opposite also be true? If one doesn’t hunger and thirst for righteousness, will they not be filled?

The Bible speaks of it in this way:

Job 38:15 – Light is withheld from the wicked, and the arm raised in violence is broken.

Proverbs 4:19 – The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.

Prov 11:3: The integrity of the upright shall guide them, but the perverseness of the treacherous shall destroy them.

Prov 13:6: Righteousness guards the way of integrity, but wickedness overthrows the sinner.

1 Cor. 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Ultimately, those who choose to follow their own ways demonstrate the lack of integrity that God desires of his people who will accomplish his purpose, and they are therefore outside of his kingdom. The way of the unrighteous is to reject the wisdom of God. In doing so, they seal their own fate, if they remain in that state.

In the first chapter of Proverbs, the Wisdom of God is personified as an individual warning people to abide in God’s ways:

Proverbs 1:30-33 They refused my [Wisdom’s] advice. They despised my every warning. They will eat the fruit of their lifestyle. They will be stuffed with their own schemes. Gullible people kill themselves because of their turning away. Fools destroy themselves because of their indifference.

By contrast, the righteous long for the wisdom of God. They seek his counsel at every opportunity.

1:33 But whoever listens to me will live without worry and will be free from the dread of disaster.

Prov 2:7-8: He lays up sound wisdom for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk in integrity; that he may guard the paths of justice, and preserve the way of his saints.

Those who seek God’s wisdom will walk in their integrity.

Titus 2:7-8 And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us.

By walking with integrity, we provide no opportunity for others to demean the message of the kingdom. In fact, we exhibit the very characteristics that God desires of his people, and that becomes a light to others in a world filled with the darkness of selfish ambition and careless avarice.

In summary, being a person of integrity can be simply stated as someone who strives to do the right thing, according to God’s standards, at every opportunity. They are so focused on righteous living that it can be characterized as a deep and enduring hunger and thirst that drives them. In so doing, God promises their hunger will be filled and their thirst will be satisfied.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. Integrity is a lifelong pursuit, but one that God promises will be rewarded when we seek his wisdom and righteousness in everything we do.

We need to keep in mind that integrity is one of the concepts that is integral within the core of the Bible qualities of kingdom, vigilance, holiness, trust, forgiveness and compassion. It is my hope you will continue to review with me these aspects of human expression that, I believe, God expects of all people.

If you found today’s information helpful, you can view all other episodes of the podcast by clicking here.

Striving after the passionate faithfulness of past generations

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86:11

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

Psalm 143:10

The person of integrity is one who intently seeks to know the truth of God. They desire to walk in that way, to conform their lives to what God desires of them. They have made seeking God the passion of their life, hungering to know him more and to know the correct way. They will not rest until they have heard a word from God, until he has shown them the next steps on their path.

The Psalms are well-known among believers because they are filled with this type of pleading to God for guidance, for pouring out praise to God and outwardly declaring a desire for righteousness in speech and in action.

As believers, we identify with the passionate expression of these principles, because we are ignited with the same Spirit. The kindred longings and desires of our hearts beat in unison with those faithful who have gone before and expressed their deepest secrets which are immortalized among the pages of Scripture. The integrity that lived and breathed in them inspires us to learn of their ways and mimic their faithfulness.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Hebrews 12:1

Understanding the positive by defining the negative

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.

Proverbs 11:3

The book of Proverbs provides a wealth of God’s wisdom in brief statements. The juxtaposition of positive and negative characteristics help to illustrate each other, causing them to stand out in bold relief to one another.

When we understand the characteristics of the negative quality, we look to its opposite in order to understand the positive quality more fully. This is the beauty of the proverbs that contrast good and bad qualities.

In this verse, the integrity, the completeness or wholeness, of someone who is righteous or upright is contrasted with the twisted ways of those who are deceitful, or who act covertly in order to accomplish their own ways, even if it means overthrowing the actions of the righteous.

Many Bible versions will list this negative quality as “perverseness.” While this is not technically incorrect, the word “perverse” tends to have a different connotation in our modern vernacular. Relating the underlying Hebrew word as “crooked” brings out some of the meaning of the original: the idea of twisting or distortion of something by acting covertly in an intentional manner. This is an apt description of how someone who is treacherous would act in order to accomplish their own ends. In the end, it destroys them.

By contrast, the righteous or upright can be guided in the correct way to walk by recognizing the opposite of the crooked, twisting, covert ways of the treacherous. A person with integrity will deal honestly and fairly with others at all times. There is no hidden agenda with a righteous person; what they say, they will do. They are known as a “straight shooter,” someone who can be trusted because they are faithful and loyal. Everything is open and above-board in dealing with a righteous person, and you will always know where you stand.

In Matthew 5:33-37, Yeshua encourages believers to exhibit these characteristics in all of their outward relations: “Be a person of your word, not requiring any oath to substantiate your actions. Simply say yes or no, and do what you say.”

When we act in this way, we can honor God and magnify the positive characteristics displayed in his word.

How to change the world, or at least your corner of it

During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. … Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. … The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service. … But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.

Daniel 1:1, 3, 5, 8

One of our admonitions from Yeshua is to demonstrate virtue and purity that exceeds those who are merely following external commands (Matt. 5:20). Sometimes these external commands take the form of direct instruction, and sometimes these “commands” come in the form of allowances or tolerations of our culture that would violate the purity of our relationship with God. We must resist both forms of this type of cultural influence.

In the case of Daniel and his friends, they were removed from their home and brought to a completely different culture under a new political regime. Even though they were favored within this new dynamic, Daniel and his friends, in their integrity, resolved not to be negatively influenced by this turn of events, and to remain loyal to God.

The Hebrew culture that Daniel had been raised in had very specific dietary requirements in order to maintain faithfulness to the Torah, or instruction, of God for his people. Given the “freedom” to eat all types of foods and meats in his new environment, Daniel was committed to remain faithful to those requirements at any cost.

Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.” Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff … “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. … At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king.

Daniel 1:9-12, 15

Daniel and his friends were able to demonstrate to this chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s staff that God was able to meet their needs, even if it meant going against the cultural “mandate” of royal rations.

Integrity has this ability to influence others through maintaining a set of internal commitments that will not be shaken under any circumstance. This is a highly valued commodity among all people because it is rarely seen in common practice.

It is our obligation as believers to be so thoroughly committed to our faith that through our integrity we become the influencers of those around us, rather than allowing them to influence us.