On Taking Personal Responsibility
Topical November 7, 2004
“The word of the LORD came to me: "What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: "‘The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son— both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. "Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right. He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or lie with a woman during her period. He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He does not lend at usury or take excessive interest. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between man and man. He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign LORD. "Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (though the father has done none of them): "He eats at the mountain shrines. He defiles his neighbor’s wife. He oppresses the poor and needy. He commits robbery. He does not return what he took in pledge. He looks to the idols. He does detestable things. He lends at usury and takes excessive interest. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he will surely be put to death and his blood will be on his own head. "But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things: "He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife. He does not oppress anyone or require a pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He withholds his hand from sin and takes no usury or excessive interest. He keeps my laws and follows my decrees. He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live. But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people. "Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. "But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? "But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die. "Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die. But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? "Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Eze 18:1-32 NivUS)
What kind of a God would allow you to be born into a world with an inherited load of sin that you are then personally responsible for?
Answer: A God who desires to give you a life characterized by overcoming victory.
We have a personal Savior. We also have a personal enemy.
The difference is that our personal Savior is self-sufficient and our personal enemy is not. It is here that the subject of demons must be addressed.
He has a host of demons at his disposal with the names of every imaginable evil, a multiplicity of evil that we cannot truly understand or sort out, but there is singularly matchless power in the Name or our Savior over them.
We have a personal responsibility to employ the Name of our personal Savior against these personal demons. They are not some figment of imagination.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Eph 6:10-13 NivUS)
By the way, I am reminded here of our recent political process in which many accusations were made – against our President, for instance – but without any better plan being put forward as a solution.
The majority of voters in this election responded overwhelmingly to a known plan for our nation’s future.
Our God has made known a plan of salvation through the righteous death sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus, for the forgiveness of sin by faith in him. By this faith we obtain his righteousness. This is proclaimed often in Scripture.
Have you ever read in Scripture about any plan that Satan has put forward for salvation? No, all he knows how to do is accuse God in our minds as being unloving, vengeful, unforgiving, vindictive, uncaring, accusing and selfish – the very qualities of Satan himself that he deceptively tries to pawn off on God.
Satan does not have a plan of salvation. By default I guess we could say that his plan is that we can all become gods ourselves – again the very sin that Satan himself commits in trying to preempt God.
By definition, if we could all become gods, then there is no God at all. We would all fall into a deathly crippling competition with no direction – because there would be no God for us. We would just all be for ourselves.
Trying to be our own god is just what keeps so many of us in defeat.
ILLUS: I recently talked with a young man who was facing the loss of his job, family, housing and freedom due to his ongoing struggle with the so-called demons of addiction in his life. He said that he thought that knowing Jesus was enough, but now he knows (after several failures) that he must also obey the commandments. Translation?: “I now know that I must also take personal responsibility for the victory of faith in my life. I cannot say that I take the Name of Jesus for my protection and then live as if I am my own god.”
We fall right into Satan’s hands.
How does this fit with the teachings of Jesus? We see in the numerous confrontations with demons that Jesus had throughout the NT that he has absolute power over them. Many times he cast them out. But did he come to continually do this for us, or to show us how to do it? It is still, and always will be, his Name that holds the power, but by faith he has given us the power to use and apply his Name. It is in this that we have to take personal responsibility.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:19-27 NivUS)
The consequences are serious for not assuming personal responsibility to keep our lives victorious against demons.
“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."” (Mt 12:38-45 NivUS)
When Jesus sent out his disciples, he did so with a charge to overcome demons – and they were successful. They were successful because they went in the power of faith in the Name of Jesus, but Jesus then cautions them against the encroaching deception of the flesh and brings them back to the mandate for personal responsibility. They must stay close to the grace that they received (Rom. 6).
“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."” (Lu 10:17-20 NivUS)
His mandate to the disciples was not unwisely presented. A later incident proved their need for the personal responsibility of closeness to his grace as brought about through prayer.
“"O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me." So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, "How long has he been like this?" "From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." "‘If you can’?"said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes." Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again." The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He’s dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn’t we drive it out?" He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer."” (Mr 9:19-29 NivUS)
That Jesus didn’t always intend to do everything for his disciples – that they need to take some personal responsibility – is also evidenced by the feeding of the 5,000.
“As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food." Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." "We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered. "Bring them here to me," he said.” (Mt 14:15-18 NivUS)
Further proof that we are personally responsible, and able through the Name of Jesus, to gain victory over the demons of sin in our lives is born out through the experience of modern teachers.
ILLUS: The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare by Dr. Ed Murphy, ch. 53.
Like Nicodemus, we must move from dark to light with an open, humble, submissive, and inquiring mind desiring truth in all its parts (John 3:1-21).
Conclusion: Trick or Treat? Take personal responsibility. The choice is yours.
Come on Wednesday evenings for personal revival. Why? – because you have a personal enemy that your personal Savior wants to help you defeat (or keep defeated). This is not a trick. It is a treat. Treat yourself so you will not be tricked out of a victorious, overcoming and gloriously beneficial and beautiful spiritual life. Let’s make the results of the next annual church survey show that we have gained in the disciplines of prayer, devotion and outreach.