I Walk in My Integrity
Scripture: Psalm 26
If you have God’s saving grace you can walk in integrity and go boldly into the presence of God in worship.
Well, I decided to try something for the next three weeks. At the beginning of the summer Psalm series, I mentioned that we would have different Psalms for different occasions, and the Psalms start in different places emotionally because we often read them from different emotional starting places. That’s why we have such a variety of psalms. There are psalms for when you’re sad and scared. There are psalms for when you’re persecuted, there are psalms for when you’re convicted of your sin, and you need to repent to the Lord. And then on the other side of that, there are psalms for when you’re expressing happiness and joy in the Lord and you want to worship, you need words to worship. You’re declaring your confidence in God’s goodness and in his salvation. There are lots of psalms teaching us the gospel from lots of different situations. And because of that, because of that variety that we find in the Psalms, some of the Psalms are more difficult to understand simply because they don’t resonate very well with our experience, at least not obviously or regularly. It’s not the way we normally think about God. There are Psalms that when you read them, you think, Do I really want to pray like this? You ever read one of those? Do I really want to pray like this? Should I pray like this? Is it okay if I pray like this? They’re challenging because they express ideas and emotions that are pretty far from the way we normally think.
In some cases, they may even seem like the wrong way to think. There are some very challenging psalms. Should I be, should I even be thinking like this? Is it sinful for me to think like this? So I’ve decided for the next three weeks to preach on three Psalms that don’t really resonate with the way I usually think about God or about myself or about the world that we live in. I’ve heard them described as difficult psalms. And so why look, why should we look at difficult psalms? Well, for one reason all scripture is God breathed and useful for correction and reproof and training in righteousness that every godly man and woman would be equipped and complete, so that they could perform every good work. And these psalms are no exception to that. These Psalms are Scripture, these are Psalms. This is God’s word to us. And when we come across any passage of Scripture that challenges the way we think, our first instinct is going to be to correct it. But the point of Scripture is that it corrects us. So we don’t conform Scripture to our perspective, we conform our perspective to Scripture. We don’t tell God what we’re to think, he tells us what we’re to think. And so these will be these will be challenging, but they’ll be challenging in a good way.
Next week, we’re going to look at Psalm 44, in which the Sons of Korah accuse the Lord of mistreating his own people and sleeping through their slaughter. And if you think that sounds challenging, the next week we’re going to look at Psalm 109, where David asks God to come and kill his enemy, making his enemies’ children fatherless and his wife a widow and a whole bunch of other stuff that we didn’t learn in VeggieTales. It’s going to be a challenging one.
This week we’re going to look at Psalm 26 and this psalm is challenging, but for a completely different reason. As you heard it read earlier in the service, you may have felt a little uncomfortable with just how much it focuses on David and how good David is. Did you pick that up? Really focuses on how great he is. If we put together a song service at Calvary, if we say, Hey, Jamie, team, come on up here, let’s have a song service here at Calvary this morning. And this song service was filled with lines about how innocent and filled with integrity we are as compared to all those blood thirsty people we saw this week. Okay? How would you feel about that? How would you feel about singing those songs? I think you’d be a little uncomfortable, right? You know? I would be too. I’d be very uncomfortable with that.
And a quick reading of Psalm 26 can give you that kind of impression. And that’s why I want us to take a closer look at it. There’s a lot to be gained from a psalm about what it looks like to walk in integrity and navigate the evil that we encounter in this world. But Psalm 26 agrees with the rest of scripture that tells us that this can only be done with God’s forgiveness, with God’s empowering grace at work. If you have God’s saving grace, you can walk in integrity and go boldly into the presence of God to worship. Psalm 26 is one of those passages of Scripture that is both freeing and challenging at the same time. So it’s freeing because once you grab hold of the grace of this psalm, you’ll stop depending on yourself. But it’s challenging because that same grace will make you examine your own integrity.
So if you have your Bible, go ahead and open it to Psalm 26. It won’t be on the screen today in front of you. So go ahead and have that left open in front of you. And we’re going to walk through this psalm and we’re going to unpack it by answering three questions. What does it mean to walk in integrity? How is it possible to walk in integrity. And do we walk in integrity? Those are our questions. Let’s start with our first question.
What does it mean to walk in integrity? David starts off, oh, Lord, vindicate me oh, Lord. By the way, that is a brave request. Vindicate me oh, Lord. You know what it means to vindicate? It means to try someone and find them not guilty. It means to judge someone and to then drop the charges because that person is innocent. That’s vindication. The Hebrew word here is Judge. So David is saying, judge me, God, I know I’m innocent. So judge me. How many of you are already thinking, yeah, I’m not going to pray that. I am not going to pray that. If that’s the song that is coming after this sermon, I am not going to sing the final song today. Verse 2, Prove me, Oh Lord, and try me. Test my heart and mind. So he’s asking for God to drill down into his heart because ‘go ahead, God, do it.‘ You’re going to see that there’s nothing in there that would condemn me. Nothing there. By the way, some scholars think that this is a song that God’s people might have sung just before they enter into the temple for worship. We don’t have the context for how all these songs were used, but that this might have been a song that was used just before entering into the temple. If you look at Psalm 15, it’s similar because it lists out acts of iniquity as qualified – not iniquity, but integrity, the opposite of that; these acts of integrity, that would be qualifications for being able to walk into God’s presence. And later in this Psalm in verses 8 & 9, David says that he loves the habitation of the Lord’s House and he asked God not to sweep him away with all of the other sinners in his wrath. And so he’s clearly got God’s presence in mind. He wants to be able to stand in God’s presence. And he’s saying, go ahead, test whether or not I have integrity, because I know I do. And then on the basis of that integrity, I can stand in your presence. And if you’re a theological, palms are already starting to sweat. I understand that. So stick with me here through this whole sermon. Okay? We’re not at the end of this yet, so stick with me. This is not a good time to check out, all right? David goes on to detail what he means by integrity. Verses 4 & 5. I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites. I hate the assembly of evildoers and I will not sit with the wicked. Now, don’t get too caught up with proximity here. What I mean is, when we think of sitting with someone, we usually think of sitting next to them. You’re all sitting next to people right now. So that’s when we say, I’m going to sit with so-and-so. We think we’re just going to sit down next to this person. But that’s not what David means here. Some Christians have taken it this way. Some Christians have taken it. They’ll argue that Christians shouldn’t be in the presence of non-Christians. They shouldn’t be engaged in conversation with them. They shouldn’t be friends with them. And that’s, by the way, that’s how we end up with big bubbles filled with Christians who have no idea how to interact with the world. That’s not what David’s saying here. That’s not what he means. He’s not saying I have avoided contact with all sinful people. To sit with the wicked means to join with them in being wicked. If you look at Psalm 1, you’ll see that a person is blessed, according to Psalm 1:1, a person is blessed if that person does not sit in the seat of scoffers. That doesn’t mean finding out where the scoffers have been sitting and then avoiding those places to sit. It means not to join with the team of people, those who are mocking the Lord, not to be involved in that mocking. And that’s the same sense here. So here’s what integrity is: it’s the ability to say there is evil in the world and I am not part of it. That’s integrity. I’m not part of it.
There are men of falsehood in this world. There are people who have figured out that you can make a lot of money and you can get a lot of power if you are selective with the truth. There are people who have figured out that life will be easier if you bend the narrative in your direction rather than actually saying what happened. And David says, I’m not one of them. I’m not one of these falsehood people. Test me, search me, God. You will see the truth. There are hypocrites in this world. They say they have integrity, but they don’t have integrity. They put up a false front. They make themselves look like fine people, but they’re not fine people. And you will find them both outside of the church and inside the church. And David says, I’m not one of them. I am not one of them. Examine me. You will see that what I say matches who I am. There are assemblies of evildoers in this world. There are teams of people and corporations and subcultures and affinity groups who are hell-bent on bending people toward hell. They assemble for the purpose of coming up with plans that violate God’s law and violate God’s Word. And David says, You won’t find me working on those teams. You won’t find me involved with them. You won’t find my name on those team rosters. I don’t make plans with those folks. In fact, here’s what David does instead.
Verse 6: I wash my hands in innocence. He washes his hands in innocence. Clean. Nothing. Nothing on him. He’s entirely his own man. He says he goes to God’s altar in ritual purity. I can stand here. I’m allowed to be here because my hands are clean. He thanks God aloud. He tells people of God’s glory. He says He goes and tells the stories of God’s glory all the time, letting people know about who God is and his wondrous deeds. Not only don’t I sit with evil people and join in their assembly, I’m firmly in your assembly, God, I’m on your team and I am standing here with clean hands. I love your house. I love being in your presence. There’s no place I’d rather be than in the presence of the glory of God. Verses 9 and 10: Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, in whose hands are evil devices and whose right hands are full of bribes. Do you see that very clear line? You see that clear line that he’s drawing there, between the team of evil doers in the world who will be swept away with God’s judgment and the team of innocent people who can stand in his presence. And David says in verse 10: But as for me, I will walk in my integrity, test me, Lord. And when you do, when you look at this heart, when you look at these hands, when you look at my life, you will see that I am innocent and you will vindicate me.
I was watching a baseball game on TV a few weeks ago. Now, if you’re not a fan of baseball, you have to forgive me for this next illustration. It’s summertime, and I sometimes I just can’t help myself, okay. But I was watching this game the other day and my team was playing and they were up to bat and we were down three. The bases were loaded and our player steps up to the plate. And you know exactly what we want in this moment. You know, we’re down three. You know exactly what we want right here. And he did it. He blasted a grand slam home run and all the bases cleared. He didn’t just get a single and drive that guy home. He didn’t just get a ground out but he go all the runners home. He did everything. He got exactly what we what we wanted. And as soon as he did it, as soon as he did it, he flipped his bat in the air, he turned to the dugout, whoa! and he flexed to the dugout. And then he started that little trot around the bases, you know, like, I can go as fast as I want. I’m going to go all the way home. No one can do anything about this. And he’s celebrating, you know, and he gets home and all the high fives are happening at home. And then he gets down into the dugout and he sees the camera and he starts pointing at me, you know, through the camera like I’m part of this somehow. And I’m like, yeah, I’m part of this somehow. This guy, performed at peak confidence, peak level. He owned the moment that we needed, perfectly. Is that what David’s doing here? Is that what he’s doing? Is he flipping the bat and is he giving a flex on what he has accomplished with his integrity? Because if that’s all that he’s doing here, I don’t think there’s a person in this room who would be celebrating with him right now. I know I wouldn’t. Not if you’re honest. Not if you’re honest. Not if your words match your deeds and thoughts. I know how my life was this week. I know how things went for me, I’m pretty sure I know how things went for you. If the takeaway here this morning was that to stand in the presence of the Lord, to be vindicated and clean, that your integrity has to be perfect, well then there’s no hope. No one’s integrity would stand that test, including David’s, by the way. And yet here we have this psalm. The answer has to be one of two things: Either no one can pray this and no one can stand before the Lord, or there must be more to integrity than our own perfection.
So let’s ask this third question: how is it possible to walk in integrity? The careful readers in the room will have noticed that I thoughtfully stepped around a few lines of this poem so far. Now I want to go back to those lines, because they are the key to understanding what David is telling us here and there. The difference between a psalm that condemns us, and a gospel that saves us. He does say, vindicate me, oh Lord for I have walked in my integrity, and he does point to his behavior. David can say with some level of confidence that he is innocent. But how does David think his integrity is possible? What’s the motivating and equipping power and energy behind David’s integrity? Verse 3: For your steadfast love is before my eyes and I have walked in your faithfulness. Yes, I walk in integrity, but it’s because I walk in your faithfulness. My eyes aren’t focused on my ability. They’re focused on your steadfast love God. Now, what’s he talking about? Because that seems like a very strange dynamic. I walk in integrity because God is faithful.
How does how does a person walk in God’s faithfulness? How does how does that work? Well, we need to understand that David is not writing this psalm from outside of a relationship with God. He’s writing from within an already established relationship with God. So he’s not conceiving of a God and saying to himself, how would this God of my own conception accept me? How do I think that might happen? I know I’m going to walk in integrity and that way that God will accept me. He’s not saying that. He already knows God. He already has a relationship with him. Or more accurately, he’s already been known by God. God has already established that relationship with David and with all of his people. And the foundation of this relationship that the creator of the universe has with his people is not based on their performance. That’s not how God has a relationship with anybody. He doesn’t have a relationship with anybody based on that person’s performance. It’s based on his own mercy and grace and forgiveness toward them. Listen to God establish this relationship. This is a passage from Exodus chapter 34:6-10. God has just rescued Israel, his people, from Egypt. He’s pulled them up out of Egypt. They’re traveling through the wilderness. He’s about to give the law to them. Moses goes up on the mountain, the people decide: Hey, you know what? Let’s melt down all of our jewelry. We’ll make a golden calf, we’ll call it Yahweh, and we’ll worship it because that’s what we like to do. And so they make this golden calf. Moses comes trooping down off the mountain, and there they are worshiping an idol. He breaks God’s law because he’s so angry. Heads back up the mountain and God says, All right, we’re going to hit reprint. We’re going to do this again. And this is what the Lord says about this relationship, Exodus chapter 34:6-10. The Lord passed before him, before Moses, and proclaimed, the Lord, the Lord a God, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. By the way, those are the two words that we see in verse three of our Psalm (steadfast love and faithfulness of God). Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation. And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth. And he worshiped. And he said, If now I have found favor in your sight, o Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance. And God said, Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all of your people I will do marvels such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation, and all the people among you shall see the work of the Lord. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.
That’s the relationship that David has with God and that God has with all of his people. It starts with God’s steadfast love and grace and forgiveness. David isn’t saying, God, I have the integrity to be accepted by you. He’s saying I have integrity because I have been forgiven and accepted by you. I have integrity because you forgave me. In fact, if he hadn’t, David wouldn’t have that integrity. He wouldn’t have it otherwise. None of us would. None of us would please God. Otherwise. I’d be in the assembly of sinners. I’d be swept away by your wrath if you had not been merciful. That’s why David ends this Psalm, Psalm 26. He ends it. But I will walk in my integrity, redeem me, and be gracious to me. The Psalm is an extension of the relationship that God started when He was gracious with David and redeemed him out of his sin. You don’t ask God to be gracious with you and redeem you if your integrity is perfect. But you do if you know your integrity isn’t yet perfect. You know, church, there’s only ever been one person who could point to himself and claim to be accepted by God entirely on the basis of his own integrity. Only one perfectly fulfilled that covenant relationship. Only one could write this psalm and not end the Psalm with Redeem me, Be gracious to me. The only one who could ever maintain that perfect level of integrity would have to be God himself, which is what makes Christ the Son of God, and His perfect integrity so important to our understanding of salvation. It’s the perfect performance of Jesus Christ and our identity in Christ that provides for us our vindication. Here’s what I mean. Our relationship with God is also based entirely on grace. It’s based entirely on grace, not on any performance, just like it was with David. And that’s always been true with God’s people. It’s always been about God’s grace, from the very, very beginning. Listen to Paul describe this. We know that that grace is provided to us by Jesus. It comes at the cost of his sacrifice for our sins. A man of perfect integrity died for people who have compromised integrity like us. And Paul describes it in Galatians 220. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ, who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. See it’s just like, it’s just like David. David says, Lord, I walk in your faithfulness. Paul says, Jesus Christ lives in me. So now I live by faith in the Son of God. Jesus provides that perfect integrity that we need to stand in the presence of God.
If you have Christ, you have the integrity to be able to stand in the presence of God. God doesn’t accept you based on your performance; he accepts you based on the performance of Christ. I can’t hit the Grand Slam, I can’t flip the bat and flex to the dugout. All I can do is see Christ point at me and say, By God’s grace, you’re part of it too. You’re part of it too. You can’t do any of this. But I include you by God’s redeeming grace.
There’s one more question that we need to ask, and this last question may sound just a little bit strange. Do we walk in integrity? And you say, Kyle, didn’t you just get done telling us and explaining to us that if we have Jesus, we have his perfect integrity as a gift of grace from God to us? Yes, I did. Yes, I did. In fact, without it, we could never stand in God’s presence. We could not be accepted in his household. We couldn’t be in the place that God’s glory dwells. And David knew that. He wrote from within that relationship where he was already forgiven and redeemed. And yet, here’s the psalm. He wrote this psalm. He wrote a psalm about his own integrity, not sinless integrity, certainly not perfect integrity. This is not integrity that doesn’t need God’s grace and forgiveness. It’s integrity that comes from God’s grace and forgiveness. And yet he’s asking the Lord to test him, to look at him, to search his will, to see what delights him, to see that he has run away from sin, and that he finds his joy in the glory of God. Because that’s what a forgiven man will do.
That’s how you know your heart has been transformed by God’s grace. You’re going to strive for this kind of integrity. It’s going to look like this. Your eyes will be fixed on the steadfast love of God because God is faithful to his people with mercy and forgiveness. You’re going to want to walk faithfully before him. The 19th century pastor J.C. Ryle wrote in his book; he had a book called Holiness; he wrote in his book on holiness this: Jesus is a complete savior. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s sin. He does more. He breaks its power.
You see, God doesn’t come in Christ and simply take away the condemnation of your sin. He comes into your life and breaks the power of the sin that’s going on inside of you. He’s destroying it. For those of you who know Jesus, you should be seeing regular fracturing of sin in your heart and mind as the Holy Spirit consistently breaks its power. There will be, and there must be, a steady destruction of the old patterns of your now dead sin. Increasingly, you should be seeing an emergence of integrity out of the broken husk of your old, dead, sinful self. Because that’s what a relationship built on grace in Christ will look like. That’s just what it is. And if you don’t see the emergence of that integrity in your life, if you don’t see this growing of integrity and love for the Lord and turning from sin in your life, it is fair to ask whether you have that relationship with God founded on His grace at all. If you can look and see the unrepented falsehood and hypocrisy of your life, there’s good reason to hit the pause button on celebrating God’s grace to you. If you are making sinful plans with sinful people, don’t fool yourself into believing God’s grace somehow covers you. That’s the very hypocrisy that David is calling out in the Psalm. That’s the bad fruit that would come from the good tree that Jesus himself says. Can’t happen. Can’t happen. Those are his terms. If you don’t have God’s saving grace through Christ, it will be reflected in your lack of integrity and your lack of passion to be in the presence of the Lord. And if you have it, if you have this grace, if you have trusted in the saving grace of Christ, and you have been miraculously, by God’s grace, included in his perfect integrity, then you will see that integrity growing in you. You will see that that integrity springing up out of your heart, out of your mind. You will hunger for truth and for honesty. You won’t say I’m going to hide behind some falsehood. No, you’re not going to want that anymore. You’re going to say, I want to know the truth. I don’t want to be told falsehoods and lies by my world. That tells me I’m fine just the way I am. I don’t want that anymore. I want to know who I really am. I want to know what my real problems are so that Christ can come in and shed light on them and make me new in them. I want people to be honest with me. I want there to be honesty in my life. I want to be told these lies, these false narratives anymore. I want to stand in truth, in God’s presence.
And then what that’ll do is it’ll cause you to regularly have a spiritual heart screening. And increasingly you’ll say, Lord, look at the victory that you’re accomplishing in me. Look where I was. And now look where I am. And look what you’re doing in me. Praise God for it. Look how I am becoming more like Jesus in his integrity. And you will increasingly look at the world and see what it is trying to offer you. And you will say, No thanks. I’m going to walk in my integrity. Let’s pray.