Imagine it is lunchtime on Sunday. Your church parking lot begins to empty with worshipers eager to beat the rush at their favorite lunch spot. A few minutes down the road, a driver recklessly cuts you off; you offer a less-than-cheerful response you would not have considered using moments before in the sanctuary, and due to the traffic ahead, the other car slams on breaks, and you rear-end them.
Right before you make the impact, you uncomfortably notice your church’s logo on their rear windshield sticker. It’s the exact sticker you have on the back of your vehicle. In just a few minutes, you are bewildered at how religious you can be in a sanctuary and how angry you can quickly become outside of it.
David wrote Psalm 101 as a uniquely memorable worship song. While starting with reasons to sing, he quickly examines lifestyle patterns. He knew true worship is more than what we express musically within a religious service. Honest worship propels us to give God glory in every aspect of our lives.
While our worship songs of yesterday and today include iconic phrases of biblical truth and sincere expressions, how often do we sing a line like this one:
“I will pay attention to the way of integrity” (Psalm 101:2).
I can’t imagine singing that phrase in worship on a Sunday, but I also see how desperately we need to do so. To pay attention to something is to investigate it with great diligence. What do we discover if we put integrity under the microscope to examine it with the utmost diligence? David tells us in the rest of this worship song.
“I will live with a heart of integrity in my house” (Ps. 101:2).
Of all the environments David could cite needing integrity, he starts in his home. Sung on the heels of corporate worship language in verse one, he leads us right to the one place to verify if what we sing is what we truly believe. In your home, you portray the real you. Your spouse sees what others do not. Your children know your greatest devotions and your most constant distractions. Your extended family has seen you at your worst within those walls and the best you try to portray outside of those walls. If you want to start anywhere with integrity, the home is the first environment to see if you intend to live out what you sing.
“I will not let anything worthless guide me” (Ps. 101:3).
God’s Word is supposed to be the standard that guides our beliefs and behaviors, but plenty of other potential guides are vying for our attention and allegiance. Media is willing to guide you in thinking about what is going on in the world, and the more we stay addicted to our phones, the more we become indoctrinated in defiant worldviews. The programs you watch, the music you consume, and the content you devour change you. The culture rapidly changes what is worthy of acceptance and what deserves to be canceled. To stay unaffected by the constant pressure to conform to the ideals of the day becomes increasingly more challenging. If we allow worthless things to guide us, then our personal conduct veers from what God’s Word says people of integrity should live.
“I cannot tolerate anyone with haughty eyes or an arrogant heart” (Ps. 101:5).
In the last verse of David’s worship song, he communicates relationships’ role in our attempts to live dignified lives. He sought to distance himself from pridefully rebellious individuals and draw near to humbly faithful servants of the LORD. While David is not calling from isolation from the world, he is prioritizing connecting to individuals committed to the Word. What do our relationships have to do with our pursuit of integrity? Everything! Peer pressure is not just a danger for the teenagers in your life. Our closest relationships will determine our greatest loyalties. If your closest friends demean a pursuit of a holy lifestyle, do not anticipate experiencing one yourself. You must choose to have the people closest to you be people who are closest to God. Their influence will make a sizeable difference.
“I will sing of faithful love and justice” (Ps. 101:1).
If thinking about your need for integrity seems overwhelming, you are not alone. Can I say that I perfectly display godliness in my home, conduct, and relationships? I can’t. None of us can. That’s why I must bring us back to the beginning of this psalm. Before David sang of his need for personal integrity, he thanked God for the faithful love available for all the ways he couldn’t succeed.
The Apostle Peter understood it in just the same way. In one verse, he thanks God for his mercy (1 Pet. 2:10). In the very next verse, he calls believers to abstain from sinful desires to exemplify integrity (1 Pet. 2:11). We are to live our lives so that unbelievers have reason to consider the truths of God that are observable in our patterns of living (1 Pet. 2:12). We undeservedly experience mercy at the cross of Jesus, and that sacrifice propels us to want to honor Him with our lives.
So, is it even worth trying if you can’t achieve perfect integrity, is it even worth trying? It is if we understand the progression. We thank God for His faithful love (Ps. 101:1) when we were unfaithful ourselves, and as a result of that, we want to do our best with the strength he provides to “pay attention to the way of integrity” (Ps. 101:2). Just because you can’t be an Olympic athlete doesn’t mean you should abstain from all exercise. Just because you can’t retire a billionaire doesn’t mean you should not put something back in a retirement account. And just because you can’t get it right all the time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt it all the time.
We desire that the lives we live should match the songs we sing. Don’t proclaim truths in the sanctuary that you can’t live out once you leave the parking lot. Instead of focusing on what others see in church, consider what God notices within the revealing aspects of your conduct. Pay attention to the way of integrity, because if you don’t, you will pay attention to something far less worthwhile and most likely experience it.