On the Lack of Personal Responsibility

We  are  residents of  a  world  that  refuses  to  take  any  responsibility.  “The devil made me do it. My spouse made me do it. It’s my boss’s fault.” On and on it goes; where it stops, no one knows. One of the funniest movies I’ve seen in recent years is a movie called Rocketman.   The lead character’s standard line when something goes wrong is, “It wasn’t me.”

For some reason, God’s people think when  they stand before the judgment seat of Christ  they are going to be able to blame their parents,  the church,  their pastor,  or their circumstances for their lack of maturity. By the life-styles, choices and actions of most believers, I am convinced that people think they will be able to pass the buck when it comes to personal responsibility.

What percentage of responsibility for my spiritual development is the Holy Spirit’s and what part is mine? The Scriptures say, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” If that’s true, do I do anything? If the Christian life is about living “in Christ”, does that relieve me from personal responsibility?

One of the  key  principles  in  developing doctrine is  to remember  that  the doctrines and teachings of Scripture balance each other. For instance, you have grace and judgment. You have election and the free will of man. They are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. In knowing this, we avoid extremes (and even heresy).

The people  who figured  out  the balance between my personal responsibility and God’s did not own a bigger Bible than I own; they just studied it. They also applied it. In Second Peter, chapter one and verse three, we read, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (NIV).  Paul says that God has freely given us all things.  We have limitless resources available to us through the Holy Spirit. Paul said we overwhelmingly conquer through Jesus Christ.  That being the case, why are so many believers failing in the Christian life? Why are we settling for less than God’s best? Is it that God is not working as hard for some as He is for others?  Are the missionaries taking up all His time and energy? I don’t think so. Every indication, implication, and instruction in Scripture says just the opposite. God has given us, through His Son, victory over the world, flesh and the devil. I don’t have to walk in defeat. I can walk in victory by abiding in Christ’s victory.

Okay, but there’s still a problem.  What am I supposed to do besides abide? That seems like I’m just supposed to sit in a hammock and wait on God to overwhelm me. Not at all. With the commandment to abide you also discover the commandments to act. Again, two sides of the same coin. The Master’s commandments regarding obedience and discipline are not optional. They are imperatives.

Jude said, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (emphases mine). Paul told us to put on the whole armor of God. God isn’t going to dress us every morning. We’re old enough to get dressed ourselves. He provides the armor, but we have to put it on.

James said,  “Submit to God,  resist the devil and he will flee from you.” I have to submit    and resist. The devil is not going to run because I go to church, or even because I’m sincere. He won’t run because I’m a Bible toting Baptist. He runs when I submit and when I resist.  I have to do something. Jesus conquered the devil, but I have to act on what has been done on my behalf.

In Philippians, chapter three, beginning with   verse  twelve,  we  read, “Not  that  I  have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that  for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (NIV).  Christ took hold.  I take hold. I am to strain toward and press on. For what? For what is mine in Christ Jesus. The work of Christ is a finished work, but I have to appropriate it, apply it, and abide in it. I don’t get it by osmosis. It comes through discipline and obedience. It comes from standing in and standing on the promises.

Many churches still have altars. In the old   days and in days of revival) the altars were filled with people and with tears.  In times when God’s Spirit moves in, we realize there’s something we need to do.  Now there’s nothing magical about a trip to the altar. In fact, it’s easier to go to the altar than to put yourself on the cross.   You don’t grow by walking to the altar, but it’s a step in the right direction. It’s what you do after you leave the altar that counts. You can wear a path out to the altar, but if you don’t change your mind and your lifestyle through obedience and discipline, it won’t mean much.

Read Hebrews 11, the Hall of Fame of Faith. Those poor people. They didn’t have Bibles, cassette tapes, religious TV, contemporary Christian music, no radio Bible teachers, no study helps, none of the “advantages” we have. But they had something we don’t have. They had power with God. They were able to subdue kingdoms, work righteousness, obtain promises, and shut the mouths of lions. They lived in a supernatural realm that makes our Christian experience look anemic. What worked for them will work for us.   Faith  acts on the promises of God.  Faith obeys God.  Surrender to the purpose of God.  There’s nothing new –only the need for a new generation to walk in the old truth.

God has given me everything I need to live   the abundant Christian life, but I have to want it. There must be in my heart a hunger and thirsting for righteousness. There must be an appetite for the things of God. There must be a passion to obey. Hudson Taylor, when asked why God used him, said, “God had looked long for a man weak enough, and He found me.”  God’s looking for people He can use – but they have to be looking for God.

5 thoughts on “On the Lack of Personal Responsibility

  1. Tell me Pastor Catt,man in his purely natural state,can we completely avoid sin(read personal responsibility)? Isn’t sin and the refusal to take personal responsibility natural to man? Isn’t refusal to take responsibility very well within the Natural Law or proper natural human conduct? I mean,we seen to have a natural contradiction. Human beings without the help of the Holy Spirit will inevitably act against their own nature. A human being is bound to follow the dictates of his spirit but cannot control the demands of his flesh! Please answer me this.

    From Africa with love,
    Langat Kibet,
    Nairobi,Kenya(East Africa).

  2. Wow, Langat, such a question. Doesn’t Romans 8 address many of these questions? I would turn to Paul first – http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+8&version=NIV . I’ll leave it to Pastor Catt to answer your question because it is quite above me.

    I do know this. Every day as I ask God to help me live my life – that the weaker I become, the stronger He is. I think there is a lot to be said about having faith like a child because sometimes it is so easy to get wound up in high minded debates that we forget the low downtrodden brother in the corner who is having a rough time.

    While I’m here — thank you for a great Mother’s Day service, Pastor Catt, it was moving and the best one I’ve ever attended.

  3. Pastor Catt,

    You are correct in mentioning ‘responsibility and personal discipline’ – our consumer oriented society decrees the opposite. Great approach to the true complexity of surrendering one’s life to Christ!

    Yours in the Faith.

  4. you have to move on the promises of God, or you’ll never dwell in them. God had already conquered the Promise land for the Israelites, but it was up to Joshua to charge it. Obedience comes with a Promise, and every promise in the Bible required an act of obedience. Learning to trust in the promises of God while living in a world of broken promises and learned distrust is one of the greatest challenges a Christian will EVER face. Personally, I don’t think human nature has changed THAT much since the times of Joshua. The Fall of Man and the brokeness associated has been occuring since Adam and Eve. The earth Joshua knew was just as broken (or at least broken enough to instill fear and doubt). We, as the Israelites did, have every earthly reason to be cynical and doubt. The difference was that Joshua placed his faith in God and not man. David was another example of that. The first step is to, through reading His word gaining the Head Knowledge that God, NEVER breaks his promises; we delay our own receipt of His promises by not following the game plan.

    But there’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom are the ACTIONS that take place when Head Knowledge imprints itself on our Heart. Only then, does the believer start taking responsibility for their own walk. That takes time. We, as humans can plant a seed, but only God can make it grow. Obedience and taking responsibility comes through learning to trust in a world where trust can be a dangerous thing; trust in the authority and trust in the consequences.

    The church can do much to foster trust to the generations of broken promises and broken trust. Churches don’t need to compromise, concede, or make excuses for Biblical Truth. What the church can (and most Christ Centered Churches I think do) do is understand that the process of moving the Bible from Head Knowledge to Heart Knowledge (which is wisdom) is not an event, but a process requiring the graceful guidance of mature Christians mentoring the babes in Christ and providing TRUSTING relationships within the church body to fulfill the mandates of Hebrews 10:25.

    In Him,

  5. Dear Brother in Christ,
    In Romans 8:13, the Bible says “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (NKJV). In Galatians 5:16, we read “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (NKJV). We can control and overcome the demands of the flesh if we want to. We can “put to death the deeds of the body”. And that is where personal responsibility comes in – surrendering to Jesus completely so that we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, not by our might or strength. Jesus said in John 15 that without Him, we can do nothing. Without Jesus we are nothing. It is certainly not by our power or might but by the awesome grace and power of God. That is part of what, I believe, Pastor Catt was talking about. The fundamental question is this – what choices have we made, what choices are we making right now and what choices are we going to make in the future? Remember God has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness. In fact a defeatist life is contrary to the proclamation of Jesus on the cross, “IT IS FINISHED”. Yes, it is finished – the devil is defeated and we have the victory to live to the glory of God. All through the Bible, the theme of personal responsibility flows. For example, “Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” in James 4:7, implies action on our part – submitting completely to God. Therein lies the victory. When God is in full control of our lives then we can resist the devil, soar like eagles and take our rightful place as ambassadors for Christ. Hallelujah. The devil is a liar. God has called us to a life of victory and holiness and we shall live according to His Word in Jesus’ name. Our God is more than able to keep those who are His. Yes, we were born with a sinful nature but that sinful nature has been overcome by the blood of the Lamb – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. have a great day.
    Yours in Christ
    Pastor Panton (PJ)

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