The Expository Files.

Accepting Responsibility 


Prevalent in society today is an attitude of irresponsibility exhibited by increased crime, glorification of sin throughout advertisements, television, etc., and the common practice of white-washing sin by calling it some kind of disorder or disease. Typical of this attitude is a phrase (resurrected from the 70's) flippantly used by many: "The devil made me do it." While these words may not be confessed, all the excuses and evasive behavior sends the message: "It wasn't my fault."

We need to sound the alarm because the devil is in the process of devouring us and we are refusing to recognize it. We must stand up and accept responsibility for our thoughts, our feelings and our actions. No one else is responsible; not the devil, not our friends, nor our neighbors, our families and definitely not our circumstances (as some would have us believe). What each and every individual thinks, feels or does is his or her responsibility. It's a result of free choice.

Actions are a result of our thoughts. Matt. 15:19 warns of the dark side and Philippians 4:8 encourages us to fill our hearts with lovely, pure, righteous and noble things. Why? Very simply, if we think about wicked things, we run great risk of eventual involvement in those wicked deeds. In contrast, if we fill our hearts with truth, the results can only be the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

For instance, 2 Pet. 3:18 commands us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." Whose responsibility is that? Is it the preacher's job to get us to grow? Is it our parent's task to force us to grow? Is it the responsibility of our brothers and sisters to somehow make us improve? The elders are to watch, oversee and feed, but are they charged to make us be what we ought to be? The plain truth is: If I grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, it's because I have established that goal in my life and I set about the task of achieving it regardless of what anyone around me does or does not do. I am ultimately responsible for me.

Consider Joseph. He needed only God to do right. He had no family to support him. His only family sold him into slavery. Imagine the feeling he must have endured. Joseph could have given in to Potiphar's wife and easily (in today's climate) blamed his family circumstances or past. Being sold into slavery by your own brothers could have a serious effect on your "self-esteem" and stability. Circumstances are just that: Circumstances! In no way do they ever justify violating God's laws.

Women and men alike today cry out and bemoan their childhood, or their economic condition, or their family relationships and they all claim that because of these circumstances they can't be what they ought to be. Nonsense. Such arrogance. God has promised us that He would never allow us to be tempted beyond that which we're capable of dealing with (1 Cor. 10:13). Granted, it is more difficult to do what's right under certain circumstances, but it's not impossible and to think so is the same as calling God a liar.

When Jesus was 12 he hurried off to the temple to be about His Father's business. At any early age he recognized his responsibility and dealt with it. Do you think his friends encouraged him? It is doubtful the other boys had such concerns at all. If they were like some kids today, they probably ridiculed him.

I see my brother's and sister's in Christ half-heartedly attend worship service. Always an excuse for not being there on Sunday night and Wednesday night, even Sunday morning Bible classes. Although attendance is not the only measure of someone's faithfulness, it exhibits a level of interest or lack of interest in spiritual matters. And it is an individual responsibility, either to be gladly accepted or evaded.

Some will declare: "I just don't get anything out of worship service or Bible class. They just don't provide what I need." With all due kindness, sin is our problem; it is our only problem and the only solution is Jesus Christ and His message. If we're not getting anything out of services, it may be we are not putting anything into them. Again, I am responsible for making the services of the Lord's church meaningful to me. If I'm not understanding, I need to seek the help to understand. If I'm having trouble in my life, I need to search out solutions. I cannot expect others to do it for me; they can help, only as I accept my own responsibility.

The Scriptures are very clear as to who will be held accountable for my actions. Ezekiel 18:20 declares "the soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father nor the father the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." 2 Cor. 5:10 states, "... we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." The next time we try to blame someone or something else for not getting everything we want out of a lesson from the Word of God, let's take a minute and see what we can do to make a difference instead of just blaming the preacher or someone else. If truth is being taught, it is the responsibility of the hearer to take it and use it.

Years ago we had a friend who was overweight. She finally agreed to enter a medical clinic to get help for the condition. The obesity was not due to a physical problem, but rather emotional. During the course of treatment, the counselors undermined her faith in God and she eventually became an agnostic. She lost weight but she also allowed others to convince her that religion was the root of her problems and she gave up her faith in the Lord. It would be easy to blame the counselors for her denial of God (and they do share blame). But ultimately, my friend was to blame. She made some wrong choices because she allowed herself to believe the lies of the counselors rather than trusting in the Lord and obeying Him.

We need to wake up. We need to quit blaming our actions, thoughts and feelings on someone or something else. If I'm not growing it's because I'm not doing the things growth requires. If I'm not learning, its because I'm not studying. If I feel abandoned by God, its because I've separated myself from Him. If I feel empty, its because I've not allowed God to fill my life with meaning. If I feel lonely, its because I won't allow God to hold my hand and lift me up. I must work out my own salvation with fear and trembling and only God can help me do that. Friends and family, brothers and sisters in Christ can assist me but whether I have their help or not, I am ultimately responsible for all that I think, all that I feel and all that I do.

 Submitted By Warren E. Berkley
The Final Page
Guest Editorial . . . By Paula Berkley  
From Expository Files 3.12; December 1996