One of the most crystal clear descriptions of integrity is found in Psalm 15…“O Lord, who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill?” (v.1).
Note well, that the answer that follows says nothing about wealth, education, physical beauty, giftedness, speaking skills, church offices held, cars owned, whether one is married or single, stock portfolio, number of children, clothes that are worn, color of skin, or any such factor. “He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; he swears to his own hurt, and does not change; he does not put out his money at interest, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken” (vv. 2-5). David is not talking about how to get saved. Rather, he is describing what it is to be saved. These moral declarations are not conditions for acceptance with God. They are the consequence of it. Thus, David is not talking about requirements for entrance into the kingdom on the part of those outside, but about enjoyment of the King on the part of those on the inside. The questions David is asking, then, is this: “Who will enjoy God’s fellowship? Who will commune with God?” God cannot and will not abide in the presence of nor bless moral corruption.
When you hear that obedience and righteousness please God, is that good news that lifts you up or is it a discouraging burden that oppresses and depresses you? Do you get excited when you read Psalm 15?
These moral guidelines are oppressive and legalistic only to those who still love their sin. For example, the only reason integrity should be a burden to you is if you enjoy being dishonest. Righteous deeds will be bothersome only because you prefer unrighteous ones. Speaking the truth will hurt only because it feels good to lie. Obedience to the righteous commands of God is easy for those whose hearts have been gripped by grace and whose lives are empowered by grace. Clearly, God takes great pleasure in our obedience. But His pleasure in obedience “is not like the sadistic pleasure of a heartless coach who likes to see his recruits sweat and strain under impossible conditioning exercises” (John Piper). In fact, in Luke 11:46 Jesus pronounces a curse on such moral taskmasters: “Woe to you teachers of the Law! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” But God is not like that. “With every command (like those in Psalm 15), He lifts not just His finger, but all His precious promises and all His omnipotent power and puts them at the service of His child. God takes pleasure in your obedience because everything He commands is for your good. All of God’s commands are like a doctor’s prescription or a physician’s therapy. They may not always be immediately pleasant, but they are intended and designed for your health and happiness. If occasionally there are painful side effects, it is because the disease is so bad that severe medication may be required. God, our spiritual physician, takes pleasure in our obedience to His commands because the doctor really does care whether or not we get well.
To use another analogy, the loving parent forbids snacking before dinner not because she is a heartless killjoy but because she has labored long over a feast of food beyond your wildest culinary dreams. Your attitude toward the moral commands of Psalm 15 depends entirely on whether you pursue God’s righteousness by works or by faith. To obey God as though it were a matter of works is to obey out of your own strength with a view to your own merit. To obey God as though it were a matter of faith is to obey out of His own strength with a view to His glory. But how does ‘faith’ produce ‘obedience’? As John Piper explains, “when you trust Christ to take care of your future (‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for’), the inevitable result is that sinful strategies to gain happiness sink in the peaceful confidence that God will make a greater joy for you in His own way.” Sadly, the reason we resist God’s laws and pursue our own sinful strategies is because we believe that we can do better at securing our happiness than God can. In Hebrews 11:24-26. Moses’ faith in what God offered produced his works. He had confidence that what Christ offers is better than the fleeting pleasures of sin. Moses looked to the reward of God’s promises, he weighed that against the rewards of unrighteousness, and he rested satisfied in God.