I AM RESPONSIBLE
Responsible—it has the word “response” in it. A responsible person is ready to give a response, an answer. Webster says that a responsible person is answerable. God made man on the last day of creation to rule (Gen. 1:26, 28). To rule does not mean to do as you please but to exercise responsible leadership. Dogs and pigs were not given that responsibility—man was. God went so far as to give Adam the assignment for naming the animals over whom he was given responsibility. He was made answerable for creation and specifically for the Garden of Eden. To say that we are responsible means that we are answerable—and ultimately to God who created us.
Lucifer wanted more responsibility but acted with gross irresponsibility. He was released of his responsibility and thrown out of heaven. He went after the crown of God’s creation to get back at God. His every act is an irresponsible one.He put doubt in man’s mind about about God’s trustworthiness and love, which led to the couples’ irresponsible disobedience. Sin is always an act of irresponsibility. We never have a good reason, a valid alibi. The most responsible thing to do when we have acted irresponsibly is to acknowledge it. When Adam acted with defiant irresponsibility, he compounded it by blaming God and his wife, who blamed the serpent, rather than accepting responsibility for his irresponsibility.
Irresponsibility often turns into excusing or blaming, playing the victim rather than the victor, reacting instead of responding. When Adam’s son Cain killed his brother and was called to answer to God, he excused himself by asking cynically, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In other words, “I am not responsible for him.” Irresponsibility defines our fallen nature. When sin entered the human race, irresponsibility ran rampant. Murder was the ultimate irresponsible act, taking out the person he was to care for.
We are sanctified into increasing responsibility, both in the natural and spiritual spheres. This is especially needed in a society that talks more about rights than responsibilities and for whom suing others has become epidemic. The message is, “I am not responsible, but you are.” An entitlement outlook focuses on my rights and your responsibilities. A victim mentality zooms in on what I needed, wanted, expected, and should have received—but didn’t, and holds the world responsible. The Word of God, however, points us to our responsibilies as redeemed people growing in our responses to God.
The airline tells us that it is not responsible for flight times; the hotel says it is not responsible for valuables left in the room; the restaurant says it is not responsible for the cars in the parking lot. In a society overdosing on rights and anemic about responsibilities, sanctified saints say, “I am responsible.” For what? For…
MY THOUGHTS. Thoughts can get away from us, so we are commanded, “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5b). If your thoughts are making you discouraged or depressed, have another thought. This is possible because “we have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16). David wisely asks God: “Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me…” (Psalm 139:23,24). Peace comes from having a steadfast mind (Isaiah 26:3). Paul commands us to think only on those things that are true, noble, and pure (Philippians 4:8), a command that assumes we are equipped to carry it out. To do so is to love God with all our mind (Matthew 22:37). Our thoughts don’t control us; we control our thoughts. We don’t own all our thoughts, taking them in like receiving a stray dog looking for a home. We turn away those thoughts that do not reflect who we are in Christ. So check it out: any unhealthy thought patterns, any mental games that are producing bad fruit, any fantasies? I am responsible for correcting wrong thoughts—and I can by God’s good grace.
MY ATTITUDES. Attitudes are formed from thoughts. If my default position is judgment and disfavor, I need to challenge my attitudes. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), which was an attitude of humble and obedient service. And Peter likewise urges us: “Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude” (I Peter 4:1). If what Charles Swindoll has said is true, that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it, then a Christ-like attitude guarantees a healthy life. God’s Word judges not only our thoughts but our attitudes as well (Hebrews 4:12). I not only read the Book—it reads me. And attitudes include motives, not only what we think but why and how we think. I need to pray, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). So how is your attitude? Are you able to thank God in all situations, or at least in most? Are you letting Him work all things for good?
MY WORDS. Words matter to God, because they carry energy—for good or for evil: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). We will give account for every careless word (Matthew 12:36). Because the tongue is difficult to tame, those who do are called mature and complete (James 1:4). David commands us to keep our tongue from evil and our lips from speaking lies (Psalm 34:13). The speech of righteous people rescues them (Proverbs 12:6), keeping them out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23). Is your mouth keeping you out of trouble—or in it? Are your words gracious, well-seasoned, edifying, comforting, and encouraging? Any untamed words on the loose?
MY ACTIONS. Paul writes that “each one should test his own actions” (Galatians 6:4), and the light of God exposes our actions for what they are (John 3:17-21). The eternal destiny of the sheep and the goats is determined in the teaching of Christ by their deeds (Matthew 25:31-46). Paul says that God “will give to each person according to what he has done” (Romans 2:6). Our actions reflect our heart. So we are commanded, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Colossians 3:17). If actions speak louder than words, what are my actions saying? The Great Commandment tells us to direct actions toward heaven (worship, prayer, Bible reading) and toward others (deeds of self-denial and mercy).
MY RESOURCES. Paul asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (I Corinthians 4:7). We are stewards, not owners; we manage what is God’s. We hold everything lightly because we own nothing. In the parable of the talents, a man entrusts his property to servants for investment purposes, and he judges the unproductive servant harshly. We will be judged for not using talents and treasures given to us. Are you a good steward of your resources—your car, your home, your space, your body, your ministry, your friends? Is God commending you? If I speak in tongues and prophesy, I am to faithfully steward those gifts, employing them like tools “as good stewards of God’s grace” (I Peter 4:10). People filled with the Spirit redeem the time, “making the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:15). Time, one of God’s gracious gifts, is to be invested, not spent. “So teach us to number our days…” (Ps. 90:12).
THE ENVIRONMENT. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” so we look after it, careful not to pollute it. Our assignment to rule over nature (plant and animal life) does not mean to do as we wish but as God wills. Contamination reflects irresponsible care.
MY BROTHER AND SISTER. In the body of Christ, we live with interdependence. Cain wanted to escape that responsibility. Paul writes that “each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). He says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Am I demonstrating responsibility in caring for others?
MY BODY. Paul reminds us, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price” (I Corinthians 6:19,20). I am to care for my body. Call it temple maintenance. I am not free to eat what I want when I want. I am responsible for giving my body proper exercise and sleep. If I die early because of poor stewardship, I am not fulfilling my destiny in God.
MY SPACE. God gives us territory for which we take responsibility. Our space starts with our room, our car, our possessions. We are called to be faithful with the “very little” in order to increase our territory. If we fail to “take dominion” over our space, why would God give us the farm? What does “very little” look like to you?
MY CHILDREN. I cannot guarantee that they will join me in heaven, but I am responsible to do whatever I can to facilitate it. Wounding a child’s heart does not rate high with God. We are answerable for bringing up our children in the “training and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) and leave the rest to God.
THE LOST. The lost do not know that they are lost. Those who do know are responsible for them (Ezekiel 33: 7-9).
TO GROW IN RESPONSIBILITY
Posture yourself as a servant. We are children of the Father and servants of the Lord. “Grace be to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” We hold the two identities in natural tension. One complements the other. Servants make no assumptions, like, “I deserve a rest.” Jesus told His disciples, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10). It is not hard to spot a servant. They look for what needs to ber done and do it. Confess your passivity, find a need, and meet it. Don’t be like the elder brother who worked hard but said, “Appreciate me. I am killing myself for you folks.”
Consider the reward of responsibility—more responsibility. How you live now impacts how you will live in the new earth. You will receive a significant upgrade in responsibility and with it corresponding authority. Responsible people have the blessing of heaven on their life—now and in eternity.
To be responsible is to be response-able, able to respond to God. I respond to God concerning how I spend my time and resources, how I use my mind, my body, my words and actions as a servant of Jesus Christ. And may the One to whom I am response-able say when I am through, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The only problem is: I am all too often irresponsible. I have wasted time and words and actions. I have behaved as if I am accountable to no one. I can only come for mercy with my poor record to the one person in the universe who was and is responsible—Jesus Christ, lay hold on His forgiveness, and grow in grace—and responsibility. I need to move past the deception that says, “Because I know it I am doing it.” To know and not to do is not to know. The single difference between the man who survives through the storms of life and the one whose house crumbles is that the wise man hear the words of God and puts them into practice (Matthew 7:24). So I will repent about what I am not doing and believe God to empower me to change.
There are only two ways to live, one is by the law, the other is by faith. Either I trust in my innate strength and will-power to change or I go outside myself to trust in the resources of heaven. When I hear that I need to grow in responsibility, I can either try harder or trust more. I can either go to Mount Sinai where the people responded to the commands of God, “All that you have said we will do,” or I can go to Calvary’s holy mountain, where I hear the good news that it is already done. I can either operate under the merit system or the mercy system. If I believe that I can pull off the assignment to change my behavior and walk in responsibility, I am hearing the word as demand. But under the law, there is no supply to match the demand. If, however, I hear the word as an invitation to trust in the righteousness of Christ on my behalf, the supply of grace is limitless for me. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” The grace of God empowers me to walk in ever-increasing responsibility.
This is because God is the most responsible Person in the universe. He is responsible with His words: “Every word of God is flawless.” He is responsible with His actions: “…he is good, and his mercy endures forever.” He is faithful to the thousandth generation. We can depend on His word and His works. He never forgets an assignment or appointment. What He says He does. He never has to apologize or excuse Himself for falling short of expectations. He never stretches the truth or defends Himself for missing an opportunity. He is responsible as a Father for His children. As a shepherd He cares for His sheep with a watchful and compassionate eye. As a King He exercises His rule with righteousness and mercy. So I look to Him and He makes me responsible: “Faithful is he who has called you, and he will do it.”