Taking Personal Responsibility

Pointing at ManIn a time of lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, and social distancing, we are more cut off from others than we had been previously. Obviously, there are challenges to this type of social arrangement – including spiritual challenges. One such challenge is that it is increasingly important for each of us to take personal responsibility for our faith and our standing before God. Paul mentioned this idea in his letter to the brethren in Philippi:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

Paul wanted these brethren to maintain their faithfulness even when he was absent from them and could not encourage them in person. The reason for the lack of in-person interaction is different today. And, of course, Paul was only speaking of himself as being absent from them; the brethren in Philippi were still together. However, the challenge described by Paul is the same. We must maintain our faithfulness, even without the in-person encouragement we are used to receiving from other Christians.

In this article, we are going to notice why personal responsibility is important, some ways in which we are to take personal responsibility, and also why taking personal responsibility should never cause us to think that isolation from fellow Christians is to be preferred.

Why PERSONAL Responsibility Is Important

The reason why personal responsibility is important is rooted in the fact that God takes a personal interest in each one of us.

  • God made each one of us in His image – “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness… God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). This did not just apply to Adam and Eve, but to all people (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9).
  • Jesus died on the cross for each one of us – “And He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
  • Each one of us will give an account for what we have done – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
  • Each one of us will receive his/her own reward – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Because God made each of us in His image and Jesus died on the cross for each one of us, we can each work to please the Lord and receive the salvation His offers regardless of what anyone else does.

What We Are Responsible to Do

Once we recognize that we are each personally responsible, we must next determine what it is that we are to be doing in order to please to the Lord.

  • We must know the will of God – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This requires us to spend time in studying the Scriptures.
  • We must communicate with God – “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We may have others pray for us, but we must not neglect to offer our own prayers to God.
  • We must follow the will of God – “But prove yourselves to be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22). Obedience is a responsibility for each of us.
  • We must keep from sinning against God – “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God has promised a way of escape because He expects us to strive to resist temptation.
  • We must be a light to the world – “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Through our example (1 Peter 2:12) and our teaching (1 Peter 3:15), we are to point people to Christ.

We can work to do each one of these things regardless of what others do. We can also carry out each of these even if we are separated from our brethren.

Brethren Are Still Important to One Another

While we must appreciate the need to take personal responsibility for our faith, we should not go to the extreme of thinking that our relationship with brethren is unimportant or optional. We need to remember that we do still need our brethren.

  • We are to encourage one another – “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13). As we already noted, we can resist temptation on our own through the way of escape God provides; but we have a much greater chance of success if we have others to encourage us in this.
  • We are to assemble with one another – “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). We must do this as much as possible especially as we face difficult circumstances, just as the Hebrew writer alluded to for these brethren.
  • We are to pray for one another – “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16). Again, we can and should pray to God for ourselves; but there is an added benefit when we are praying for one another.
  • We are to work with one another – “From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16). This is one of the reasons why the local church is important. It is a self-edifying body that works together. Each one of us needs to be a part of this.
  • We are to love one another – “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11). Love is what binds all of us together (Colossians 3:14). We must not disregard others because we are only interested in looking out for ourselves.

Personal responsibility should never be seen as a substitute for the help and encouragement we gain from one another in the body of Christ.

Conclusion

We should not be content with current conditions being the “new normal.” There can be times for temporary or emergency measures and exercising wisdom and carefulness. At the same time, we should not think that the present situation of lockdowns, sheltering in place, and social distancing is “better”; and we certainly should not prefer it.

However, while we have to endure these challenging times, let us be sure to take personal responsibility and remain faithful to God.


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