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Building Lasting Values
Audio of Today’s Message: https://mega.nz/#!fR8TEIib!4K8f5FcHrb-viKzNro4mUKZ-ApWfM1QnbH0O6audsNw
If I were to ask, “What’s our greatest ability,” most would say that they are good at one thing or another, like they’re good with their hands, good at fixing things, or maybe they’d say they’re good at gardening, writing, or fishing.
But may I suggest that our greatest ability is that of taking responsibility, or the ability to respond rightly to life. You might say it is one of the greatest gifts given to us by God. God has given to us the ability to choose how we respond to life’s difficult situations. Now, we all respond differently to the problems and difficulties we face in life, but we also respond differently to the various opportunities that come our way. And so, responsibility is all about choices.
Now most of life is out of our control, like where and when we were born, not to mention to whom. We also don’t get to choose a lot of the circumstances and events that happen either, like illnesses, death of loved ones, or even the choices people make that directly affect our lives. But we do have the freedom to chose how we react or respond to them, and because we have this freedom it makes us responsible, or can I say, “respond-able.”
You might say that responsibility is the great developer. It builds character and helps us grow. Winston Churchill said that responsibility was “The price of greatness.”
This morning in keeping with our series on discipleship in building up God’s House within through biblical values, what I have found is that taking and accepting personal responsibility for our choices is a vital component to building up the other values that we’ll need.
Looking at the decline in moral values, it’s pretty obvious there has been a decline in the acceptance of personal responsibility. Nobody wants to accept responsibility for anything. We want to accuse other people, making the situation their fault, while excusing ourselves in the process. We live in this blaming, accusing, and excusing society that won’t own up to its responsibility.
We see this attitude in three basic mind sets, which are completely opposite of personal responsibility.
This is where we demand our rights. “I have my rights” is the rallying cry of this mind set. Our country today is obsessed with personal rights. We have criminal rights, computer rights, animal rights, children’s rights, victim’s rights, abortion rights, housing rights, privacy rights, along with the right to live, and the right to die. Our culture has reached the point where the obsession with individual rights is making it hard for us to think socially.
And so, along with the Bill of Rights, maybe we should also have a Bill of Responsibilities. We hear a lot about our rights, but we don’t hear much about our responsibilities given those rights. We hear a lot about entitlement, but hardly a word about obligations. And we hear a lot about freedom of choice, but unfortunately very little about commitment.
This is where it’s never our fault. The rallying cry of this mind set is “This is not my fault, it’s someone or something else’s fault.”
An FBI agent embezzled $2,000 and lost it gambling in Atlantic City. They terminated him, but he wins reinstatement when the court ruled that his affinity for gambling with other people’s money is a handicap and thus protected under Federal law.
A school district employee was fired for consistent tardiness. He sues the school district arguing that he is the victim of Chronic Lateness Syndrome. Not sure if he won, but he sure was inventive.
A young man steals a car from a parking lot and is killed while driving it. It’s tragic, but His family sues the owner of the parking lot for failing to take steps to prevent such thefts.
We have become a nation of victims.
This mentality believes that the world owes them a living. The rallying cry for this mind set is “You ought to take care of me.” This coupled with politician’s promises saying, “Vote for us and we’ll take care of you,” is why we now have a society of people who feel that they have the right not to work, but still be taken care of.
In stark contrast to these anti-values, the Bible says, “Live life with a sense of responsibility, not as those who don’t know the meaning of life, but as those who do.” (Ephesians 5:15 Phillips)
Now, notice the reason why we are to live life with a sense of responsibility. The more literal translation says not as fools but as being wise, which means we are to know God’s purpose along with our own.
If we live life irresponsibly, it means that we really don’t know God’s purpose, or for that matter, even our own. Let’s begin by looking at those reasons we need to live responsibly.
1. God Is Watching
“There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13 NKJV)
We need to live responsibly because God sees what we do, even the stuff we hide from others, and even our deepest secrets and thoughts, and one day we’re going to have to answer to Him for every one of them.
Please take to heart this next statement. “Life is a test of responsibility.” Life is a warm up, a dress rehearsal for eternity. God is testing us to see how we will respond and how responsible we are to what He has given to us, including our faith, as the Bible says that God has given to all of us a measure of faith (Romans 12:3).
God put us on this earth so that we can know Him personally and to develop a love relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. But He also want us to develop character, and those values that will help us be the disciples He’s called us to be.
Therefore, are we responsible? The Bible says that each of us will be rewarded according to our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. God will then see and evaluate how responsible we were with this wonderful gift.
God has made an investment in each of us when He created us, and so each of us will one day stand before Him and give an accounting.
“So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12 NKJV)
God is one day going to audit our lives, therefore we need to live responsibly. Are we using our time, talents, and treasures wisely?
Daniel Webster said, “The most important idea I ever thought was the day I realized that I am personally and individually accountable to God for how I lived.”
The first reason we need to live responsibly is because God is watching and will hold us responsible for the responsibilities He gave. This in and of itself is enough, but there are two more.
2. We Affect Others
None of us live in a vacuum. We are not independent or dependent, but rather we’re interdependent on each other.
The Bible says, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.” (1 Corinthians 10:24 NKJV)
But we say, “It’s my life, I’ll live it the way I want. If it doesn’t hurt you, or if you don’t know about it, so what?”
But it does. Every decision we make affects somebody else. It changes us, and these changes affect others. And while we may not see it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
Let’s say we go out on a lake in a houseboat, and we each have our own individual room. Now, in my room I begin to drill a hole in the bottom of the boat. Now you come in and say, “You can’t do that.” But I say, “This is my space, it’s my life, and I’m not drilling in your space. If you want to drill a hole that’s fine, but you can’t tell me what to do in my own space.”
Your natural reaction, besides trying to take the drill out of my hands, would be to say, “But you don’t understand, we’re all on the same boat, and we’ll all go down together.”
That is why it’s totally irresponsible to say, “I can live any lifestyle I want. If I shoot up drugs, or shoot my brains out, it doesn’t matter.” But it does matter, and it affects others. Therefore, we are to live our lives responsibly knowing that we do affect others.
We are to live our lives as the Bible tells us in what has become to be known as the Golden Rule.
“Do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12 NIV)
Further, in God’s Great Commandment to love Him with the whole of our being, Jesus said that the second is like unto the first, which means that loving our neighbor as ourselves is our showing God how much we love Him (Matthew 22:36-40).
We are therefore to live responsibly because God is watching, and we affect the lives of others when we don’t. But there is one more, and this is a real positive one
3. God Rewards Us
“And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 28:2 NKJV)
When we follow God’s word for our lives, when we obey what the Bible tells us, then God will bless our socks off.
Jesus said,“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29 NLT)
And so, when we act responsibly and obey what the Bible has to say, then God will give us even more, even an abundance, but when we are irresponsible, then we are not to expect much from God.
How Can We Be More Responsible?
There is a book in the Bible that talks about our responsibilities. It is the Book of Proverbs. It teaches us how to build strong relationships, handle our finances, build a business, raise a family, and how to succeed in life. Proverbs is a storehouse of godly wisdom just waiting to be opened, read, and applied.
Now, Solomon uses the word “wise” for those who live responsibly, and he uses the word “fool” for those who don’t. Now, a fool doesn’t mean stupid, dumb, or uneducated. It means being irresponsible. A person can have a high IQ and be a fool, or they can have a Masters degree and still be foolish. But in the same vein, a person can have a grade school education and be wise.
Now, God contrasts being wise and responsible with being foolish and irresponsible 69 times throughout this book in various scenarios.
Let’s take a look at four of them, and see how we can be more responsible and thus see God’s blessings.
God says that if we’re not saving for the future, then we’re being irresponsible. What I found interesting is that the average Japanese citizen has $207,000.00 in savings. They are considered the most disciplined savers in the world.
In America, 57 percent have less than $1,000.00 in savings, and 39 percent have no savings at all. I think the reason is because we’ve bought into the lie of instant gratification that says, “I have to have it now.” It’s the “Buy it now, pay for it later plan.”
What’s wrong with this picture is that we’re acting like our government. Only the government can get away with deficit spending, and that’s because they have a machine in the back room that prints more money when they need it. However, unless we have a money tree in our back yard, we’re heading for serious problems.
As Americans we spend, but never save for a rainy day. God says that such behavior is foolish. I found a statistic that says that the average American spends at least six hours a week shopping. What I also found interesting is that the more education one has, the more they shop. So education doesn’t prevent a person from becoming foolish.
The book of Proverbs says,“In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” (Proverbs 21:20 NIV)
Literally it’s saying that the wise person saves for the future, while fools spends whatever they get.
But when we live on less than we make so that we can give God the tithe, and put some away in savings, then God says we’re being responsible.
When asked how he had amassed such wealth, John D. Rockefeller said, “It’s real simple. I give the first ten percent as a tithe back to God. I save ten percent. And I live on the other 80 percent.”
Ecclesiastes 7:4 NLT says, “A wise person thinks much about death, while the fool thinks only about having a good time now.”
Whether we like it or not, God uses money and possessions to test whether we are being responsible with what He has given to us.
The second area of responsibility involves our reactions.
As I stated before, while we can’t always control those things that happen to us in life, we can control how we react to them. When we can handle the pressures, stresses, problems, and pains in life without losing it by becoming all stressed out, angry, or depressed; then we show both maturity and responsibility.
Jesus tells us to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). That’s responsibility in action.
Proverbs says,“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11 NIV)
And Jesus said that when we vent our anger we’re going to have to give an accounting to God for it.
“For every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36 NKJV)
Personally, that is not one of my favorite Bible verses. It says that I’m going to be held responsible for every careless word I’ve spoken, in jest, in anger, and even in private.
But we don’t have to despair, because we can take full advantage of the fourth responsibility that we’ll get to in a moment.
So if we want to be responsible we need to start putting our minds in gear before we set our mouths in motion. We need to think before we speak and act.
The third area of responsibility involves our minds.
Solomon says that as a person thinks in his or her heart, that is who they will become (Proverbs 23:7). Our minds control most everything we do. It influences our thoughts, affects our emotions, which in turn controls our actions. It all begins in the mind.
To relieve some false guilt we may be feeling right now, please understand that we aren’t responsible for every thought that passes through our minds. Our thoughts can come from overhearing other people’s conversations, or the devil loves to plant thoughts in our mind. However, when Satan gives us a thought, it’s a temptation, but when God gives us a thought, it’s an inspiration. What this tells us is that both God and Satan are vying for our minds.
Martin Luther gives us some pretty good advice in this one. He said, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
While we aren’t responsible for every thought, we are responsible for what we choose to let in. This is why so many are living irresponsible lives. It amazes me at what we allow ourselves to see and listen to.
“A wise person is hungry for truth, while the fool feeds on trash.” (Proverbs 15:14 NLT)
Today there’s all this trash on the Internet, TV, and in the movies. What is sad, however, is that we’re paying good money to let them put their trash in our minds.
There is a common phrase that we use to rationalize this behavior. We say, “It doesn’t phase me. It doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t affect me.” But who are we kidding, it does affect.
We never forget anything we see or hear, because our minds didn’t come with a delete key. These thoughts lay dormant until certain stimulus brings them back in living color. Many of us, unfortunately, have been storing this garbage for years. What we need to understand is that whatever we put into our minds will inevitably find an opportunity to come out, and it does so generally at the wrong time.
Further, it weakens our values and lowers our resistance, and that’s because we’ve become accustomed to it. That’s why it doesn’t bother us anymore. When things don’t bother us, but should, that is a warning sign that we may have already passed God’s boundary markers.
One way that Satan is so successful at making sin acceptable is by getting us to laugh at it. But sin is not funny. Sin is what put Jesus on the cross. Now, how funny is that?
There are some believers who never read their Bibles, because they’re so full of the world’s trash that they no longer hunger for God’s word.
Are we guarding what goes into our minds? Are we being responsible?
The last area of our responsibilities looks at our mistakes
“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13 NKJV)
God provides mercy and gives us another chance when we confess and repent.Therefore, the responsible thing to do is to admit our sins, admit our mistakes and ask God to forgive us, and then walk in His ways. If we need an incentive, listen to what God says in His word.
“The wages of sins is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NKJV)
To live responsibly we need to understand that in and of ourselves it is impossible. What we need, therefore, is a power beyond ourselves. We need a Savior who can forgive us of our sins, and the good news is that Jesus is that Savior.
The Bible makes it clear that all of us have fallen short of God’s holy and righteous standards of life (Romans 3:23), but God in His mercy has extended to us forgiveness and reconciliation through our faith in Jesus Christ.
We also need the power of the Holy Spirit to help guide and lead us in the way of truth and wisdom. He does so mainly through God’s word, the Bible, which He helps illuminate, along with giving us His gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.
So where do we stand? Are we being responsible, or are we missing out God’s best because of our irresponsibility?
Today, don’t miss out any longer. If you haven’t asked Jesus Christ into your life to be your Savior and Lord, then do so, and if you have, but realize that you’re not as responsible as you need to be, then ask the Holy Spirit to come and give you the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, you need to succeed.
The Bible says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5 NIV)
What the Bible promises is that if we lack thewisdom we need to live this life for God, then all we need to do is to ask Him, and He will give it liberally, with no questions asked, and without finding fault with our request.
That’s living responsibly and accepting our responsibility.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study