Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Blame Game

Sermon preached on February 17, 2013: Personal Responsiblity
There is a game is the most popular game in the whole world.  It has no pieces, board, cards, or moving parts.  It does not require a game controller, yet it is extremely popular with children, youth, and adults alike.  It is free and can be found being played in every home around the world.  It does not need to be translated into other languages because it is universal and come in one’s native language.  People keep playing it in spite of the fact that when you play it you lose in some way.  The name of the game?  It is called the “blame  game.”

The Blame Game is one of many ways that people avoid taking responsibility in their lives.  This morning I would like to talk about taking personal responsibility for your life,  We are just a handful of weeks from revival services.  My hope is that God will move in our midst.  Yet I know one key ingredient that will be needed if we are to have revival here at Richland Baptist Church.  It is for each one of us collectively to take personal responsibility for the course of our lives.  Now even if no one else does this you can experience personal revival if you are willing to take responsibility and set your mind on the things of God.  Let’s take a look at the problem of lack of personal responsibility.

I have already introduced you to one of the ways that the lack of personal responsibility is played out in the blame game.  There are other ways as well.  Some of them are:  hiding from the truth, denying the truth, shifting the focus on to something else, becoming political, and shifting the blame.  There are many more, but one thing that all of these have in common is that they provide a way for the unspiritual mind to avoid taking responsibility for his or her life. 

We see some of these play out in the Garden of Eden.

8  Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9  So the LORD God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10  And he said, “I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
Genesis 3:8-10 (HCSB)   

The natural reaction to doing something wrong is to hide.  It is reflexive.  That is to say it occurs without conscious thought and the most upright seeming person will instinctively hide when he or she is caught doing something they are not supposed to.  Hiding from the truth keeps us in a lie.  You see as long as we continue to hide our sin controls us.  When we are open with ourselves and with God about the sin then we are able to finally break free from those things that being us down.  I have always found it kind of silly that Adam and Eve hid from God.  Did they really think they were able to hide from the creator of the universe.  And yet don’t we do the same with our own sin?

 11  Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12  Then the man replied, “The woman You gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.
Genesis 3:11-12 (HCSB)

Well hiding did not work.  God knew the answer to the question yet He asked them anyway.  Why?  I believe that God was giving Adam the opportunity to confess his sin.  Notice though this turned into the first instance of the game that has been played through human history.  The blame game.  First he blamed his wife, and then he blamed God.  The woman, guys this does not look good for us.  The role of husband is to love, honor, and cherish our wives.  Playing the blame game with her is anything but.  It is a refusal of personal responsibility and is certainly not worthy of respect. 

So the LORD God asked the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “It was the serpent. He deceived me, and I ate.”
Genesis 3:13 (HCSB)

Not to be out done Eve did the same, except she did not blame her husband.  She said “The devil made me do it.”

Another way of avoiding responsibility is through denial.  It is an out in out refusal to take responsibility for your actions and the impact that these actions have on others.  It often comes in the form of a deception.   Denial is the primary defense mechanism that is seen in people who are destroying their lives though unhealthy living.  This denial is so strong they delude themselves and try to convince others they are justified in their thinking. 

And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong.
Romans 1:28 (HCSB)

Shifting focus can work in avoiding taking responsibility.  Some times these shifts can sound very moral.  You have heard it said, “I am just a sinner saved by grace” or “love covers a multitude of sin” or “I am not as bad as that other guy”

10  “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11  The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’
Luke 18:10-12 (HCSB)

Shifting the focus takes the attention off of the person onto something else.  This can also take the form of being political.  Being political takes the responsibility away from the individual and puts the focus on some public figure or cause.  I want to say something that is not going to be popular, but has to be said.  It is something that is hard for me to say yet upon meditation on this I keep coming up with the same result. 

The conservative evangelical community has spent the last thirty years in coordinated political movement.  Any honest assessment would require us to say that it has been a miserable failure.  On nearly every political issue you can look at we have lost ground.  What is more we are losing relevance and influence in a culture that is becoming darker every day.  Why?  I believe that is our refusal to take personal responsibility in what God has called us to do.  Let me ask you this over the last 30 years think about how many discussions you have had with non-Christians about issues like abortion, gambling, euthanasia, welfare, and more recently homosexual marriage.  Get an idea in your mind of how many times you have had a political discussion with a non-Christian.  Now over that same period of time how many times have you shared your hope in Jesus Christ? 

Ninety-five percent of all Christians have never won a soul to Christ.
Eighty percent of all Christians do not consistently witness for Christ.
Less than two percent are involved in the ministry of evangelism.

In 2011 there were only about 2 baptisms for every 100 SBC members.  See the graph here. 

It is my opinion that as a community of believers is has become easier to share our political beliefs than it has been to share our spiritual beliefs.  In doing so we have abandoned our responsibility to:

19  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.
Matthew 28:19-20 (HCSB)

With the decline in reaching people for Christ is it any wonder that the world is becoming darker?

What is the effect of the refusal to take personal responsibility?  The primary effects are that people are stuck in their brokenness, powerless to change, and living lives filled with broken relationships.  

22  A wicked man’s iniquities entrap him; he is entangled in the ropes of his own sin. 23  He will die because there is no discipline, and be lost because of his great stupidity.
Proverbs 5:22-23 (HCSB)

This proverb makes clear the effect of a lack of personal responsibility.  We are trapped by iniquities, entangled by sin.  Death and a state of being lost follow where there is no discipline and stupidity.  Notice that God’s wisdom points out the stupidity of this condition. 

5  For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. 6  For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. 7  For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so. 8  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 8:5-8 (HCSB)

“For the mindset of the flesh is hostile to God” Why? “because it does not submit to God’s Law,” Why? “because it is unable to do so.”  When a person  refuses to take responsibly for his or her life to set his or her mind on Spiritual truths of God they are helpless to change or do anything that brings honor to God.  We are helpless to do so when we refuse personal responsibility.  Think of it this way.  If I can shift responsibility away from me in one of the ways I have just mentioned I have removed my role in brining about God’s will in my life.  When I do this I am challenging God to either radically alter my circumstances or to change everyone around us so that we can manage to live with them.  Perhaps , if I may be so bold, it is in fact us that God wants to change and not our circumstances nor others around us.  Well it begins with personal responsibility. 

An elderly gentleman took the stage to talk about some of his business successes. He told about starting his own business and becoming a millionaire at age 21. He told about the ten's of millions he made and the many businesses he purchased by the age of 30. This successful business man described his private airplanes and extravagant yachts.

But he also described the broken relationships, multiple divorces, lawsuits between family members, a teenage daughter's attempted suicide, and his son's incarceration. In his closing encouragement, the elderly gentleman said this:

"As a young man, I set out to climb the ladder of success and in the world's eyes, I climbed it. But when I got to the top of the ladder, I discovered that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall!"

                                                Called 2 Love - – Our Legacy of Hope Begins at Home.

Let me ask you this, “Do you have your ladder leaning against the wrong wall?”  If you do not know if you are saved then it is time to check out what wall your ladder is leaning against.  If you look earnestly, if you allow God’s Holy Spirit to shine brightly and expose that you have missed the mark in your life then you will have an opportunity.  It will become your personal responsibility to recognize and acknowledge that you are on the wrong wall.  The Bible expresses it this way:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:23 (HCSB)

But your responsibility does not end there.  If you recognize that your ladder is resting against the wrong wall then you have the responsibility to get off the ladder and set it against the right wall.  In the Bible this is called repentance. 

9  God tells them what they have done and how arrogantly they have transgressed. 10  He opens their ears to correction and insists they repent from iniquity. 11  If they serve Him obediently, they will end their days in prosperity and their years in happiness. 12  But if they do not obey, they will cross the river of death and die without knowledge.
Job 36:9-12 (HCSB)

Finally you have to enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. 

42  He commanded us to preach to the people and to solemnly testify that He is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. 43  All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.”
Acts 10:42-43 (HCSB)

It is by taking personal responsibility of recognizing your sin, repenting of your sin, and entering into a relationship with Christ that you can be saved.  You are not alone in this.  God’s Holy Spirit is there to aid you as you walk this path.  The only thing God needs is your willingness to make the change. 

Once you are in a relationship with Christ your responsibility does not end.  If you fall into sin again through selfish will or from spiritual neglect is your solemn duty to repent. 

4  But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. 5  Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its placeunless you repent.

Revelation 2:4-5 (HCSB)

Return to Christ and do the works He has called you to.

What if someone sins against me?  We live in a fallen world and at times we refuse personal responsibility because we claim the guilt of other’s sin gets us off the hook to take responsibility.  But the Bible has very clear instruction in this as well. 

3  Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4  And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Luke 17:3-4 (HCSB)

We have a responsibility to lovingly correct a brother or sister in the Lord and then to forgive them.  When we hold a grudge or when we refuse to take control of the circumstances of our lives we stay stuck in bitterness and unforgiveness. We have to live in a right relationship with others. 

17  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18  If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:17-18 (HCSB)

When we have trials we have a responsibility to endure and grow in maturity and completeness (James 1:2-4).  When we feel lost we have a responsibly to seek after God.  We have a personal responsibility to worship and obey God.  Keeping in mind that some day we will be called to give an account for what we have done with our lives.  “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God (Romans 14:12).” We have a responsibility to love and serve others.

13  For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. 14  For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Galatians 5:13-14 (HCSB)

I could go on with a much longer list of personal responsibilities that God has called us as believers to live out, but let me conclude with one that I think touches every responsilbity that we have as Chrisitians.  We have a responsilbility to walk according the Spirit of God and not by the selfish desires of the flesh.

16  I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17  For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.
Galatians 5:16-17 (HCSB)
As we come the end of this lesson let us examine our own lives.  Let us take a look at ourselves under the light of God’s Holy Word.  Do you measure up?  In some way we all come short in meeting the standard that God has set before us.  He has made a provision for us to overcome the sin in our lives through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Have you entered into that relationship with Him.  If not perhaps this morning you would take the responsibility to come forward and receive him this very hour.  Perhaps you are already a believer, but realize that you are missing the mark in the area of personal responsibility.  Today is a good day for change.  My encouragement to all of us is that you would take time to examine your hearts and lives as we lead up to revival services.  That we might enter in to a time of personal responsibility where we come completely open to God and ready for His life altering power to move in our lives.  It begins with a decision to take responsibility for your life and then turn it over to Him who is able to do more than we could ever hope or imagine to do on our own.  Let’s Pray