I accept full responsibility


 

I accept full responsibility

How often do we hear that?  
But what are the consequences?
What does it even mean?
What does it mean to us?
And what does it mean to others?

 

There’s so much in the news lately about politicians and government workers taking “full responsibility” for one thing or another.  And why not?  Absolutely nothing happens to them.  Well – that’s not really true.  Some get put on paid “administrative leave” – which means they get paid to do nothing at all.  Others get “transferred” – which means they end up in another department, with a promotion and raise in pay.

The phrase has almost no meaning these days.  So – to show what it was supposed to mean, here’s a couple of definitions from dictionary.com for the word responsible

1. answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management (often followed by to or for):
He is responsible to the president for his decisions.

2. involving accountability or responsibility, as in having the power to control or manage:
promoted to a responsible position in the firm.

Seems like maybe people have forgotten that the “promoted” in definition #2 pre-supposed that the promotion was warranted, based on having successfully controlled or managed.  In this day of everyone gets “participation trophies” just for showing up – success or failure don’t mean anything either.  Given that, it’s no surprise that “taking full responsibility” is equally meaningless and carries no concept of actually being accountable for anything.

And so – more and more we become a people who assume we can get away with anything at all by merely saying “I accept full responsibility” – and fully expecting that whatever actions were taken (or not) that led to whatever outcome (no matter how bad) occurred, the matter is over.  And we’re outraged when someone won’t accept our statement that we have accepted responsibility!

What about God? Will He accept our statement accepting full responsibility?

The short answer is – yes, He will.  We can certainly say that to Him.  And He will listen to us.

And if we say it often enough – He will eventually accept it.  Unfortunately.  Be careful what you say and ask for!

In the first five books of the Old Testament, there are 28 instances of the word responsible.  Some indicate when people were responsible for what they did.  The rest said that, given the circumstances, the people were not responsible.  These books made up what is called “The Law”.

Here’s what Jesus said about relation to “The Law” and the “experts in The Law”

Lk 11:45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”
Lk 11:46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

Lk 11:47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.
Lk 11:52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

And then there this, from Paul, in Romans 3:23 –

Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …

Yes – this one is a segment of a verse – out of context.  That’s intentional.  The remainder will be brought in shortly.  However – I can’t include the whole thing here without giving away too much for those that don’t know the full context.  And – unfortunately, all too often, this segment is taken completely out of context.

In the same way – here’s another segment out of context, a few chapters later in Romans 6:23 –

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death …

So we see – when we accept full responsibility for our actions on this earth – we are accepting whatever judgement comes with them – and that judgement is death.  Not the “death” that we all experience when our heart stops / we stop breathing.  No – it’s the death that means the trip to Hell.

While it’s not difficult to assume the “normal” meaning of death, it’s not correct.  

I sometimes say that being born is fatal.  I mean that in the “normal” sense of dying.  In context it would come as part of a discussion of all the things that can kill is – like driving without a seat-belt, riding a motorcycle on the freeway, eating bacon – stuff like that.  
But in a very real sense – being born is fatal could also refer to things like the wages of sin is death.
The difference is that there is a way to avoid the price for the wages of sin being the other kind of death.

So – what’s the difference between these two kinds of death?  And why does the same word get used for both?

To answer that, let’s start with –

In a number of languages clear distinctions are made in the use of terms for dying on the basis of the manner or circumstances of death. For example, one term may refer to death primarily as the result of old age, while another term may refer to death caused by sickness, and still other terms may be used for death caused by violence. Careful distinctions must be used in determining the choice of terms based on particular contexts.
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 263). New York: United Bible Societies.

In the same manner, we must also look at different types of “death” in the following way –

… must be understood in a spiritual rather than in a strictly literal sense. This bold figurative language is characteristic of the Gospel of John (and other books) and should not be eliminated, though in some languages a strictly literal translation may be understood only in a literal sense and thus lead to misinterpretation. In some instances, therefore, it may be necessary to suggest the metaphorical significance by translating ‘he will not, as it were, die.’
Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 263). New York: United Bible Societies.

Let’s see if this is borne out when we look at the above verses in context.

Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …

Ro 3:21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death …

Ro 6:19 I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Because you have done this …

At this point, you may be asking – why all this talk about death?
It’s not like taking responsibility actually carries any real weight – 
it’s not like it means anything at all.
So why talk about death?

Unlike people (us), who talk about justice but often do nothing other than talk about it – God must have justice.  Eaton’s Bible Dictionary says the following about the Justice of God

JUSTICE OF GOD—that perfection of his nature whereby he is infinitely righteous in himself and in all he does, the righteousness of the divine nature exercised in his moral government. At first God imposes righteous laws on his creatures and executes them righteously. Justice is not an optional product of his will, but an unchangeable principle of his very nature. His legislative justice is his requiring of his rational creatures conformity in all respects to the moral law. His rectoral or distributive justice is his dealing with his accountable creatures according to the requirements of the law in rewarding or punishing them (Ps. 89:14). In remunerative justice he distributes rewards (James 1:12; 2 Tim. 4:8); in vindictive or punitive justice he inflicts punishment on account of transgression (2 Thess. 1:6). He cannot, as being infinitely righteous, do otherwise than regard and hate sin as intrinsically hateful and deserving of punishment. “He cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). His essential and eternal righteousness immutably determines him to visit every sin as such with merited punishment.

Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

The very first time we see evidence of that is in Genesis 3, which is all about the various punishments handed out to the serpent, to Eve (and all women) and Adam (and all men) –

Ge 3:14 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

And so we’re on notice that there will indeed be some sort of responsibility for all our actions.

Just in case someone may think this was a one time thing – or maybe God was all talk and no action – the very next chapter in Genesis tells us about Cain and Abel.  You may remember that Cain killed Abel, because God was more pleased with Abel’s offering to The Lord.

Gen 4:3 … Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Ge 4:6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

So God warned Cain about his offering and his reaction to God’s response to that offering.  However –

Ge 4:8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Cain finds out, too late, that God really does demand justice –

Ge 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Ge 4:10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth. ”
Ge 4:13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

Even here though – when Cain assumes there will be no justice if he is killed, God shows that justice truly is important to Him –

Ge 4:15 But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain , he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the LORD’S presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Hopefully, by now, we also see that justice is important – and will be done.

Throughout the Old Testament then, we read about various sacrifices that are carried out to atone for the sins of the people.

What about mercy?

So what happened to mercy?  Doesn’t God promise to show mercy?  For instance, we read about the calling of Matthew in Matthew 9:9-13 –

Mt 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Mt 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”
Mt 9:12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Yes – mercy – and not sacrifice any more.

However – there’s still that issue of justice.  From what we read earlier about the Justice of God – the justice part cannot simply go away.

For that, we go to what is arguably the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16 –

Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

First of all – we see that belief in Jesus is what’s required in order to be shown mercy.
But still – where’s the justice?

Going back to Jesus’ statement ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’ – we read this in Hebrews 10:1-18

Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

Heb 10:1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Heb 10:5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
Heb 10:6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Heb 10:7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, O God.’ ” 8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Heb 10:11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Heb 10:15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
Heb 10:16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.” 18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Through Jesus’ sacrifice – His crucifixion – all sins have been paid for.  Justice has already been carried out for everything that we have done, are doing, and will do.

However!

At the Last Supper, when Jesus was talking about His looming death which would become that ultimate sacrifice, He said this –

Mt 26:27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Conclusion

To bring all of this together –

Justice requires some sort of payment for all wrong going.
God, because of His very nature, must have justice.
Jesus died so that we wouldn’t have to pay the price ourselves.
Mercy is offered to those who believe in Jesus.

Therefore – we can come to only one conclusion regarding those who refuse to believe in Jesus.

Those who don’t believe in Jesus –
and who therefore refuse to accept His death as payment for their sins –
keeping in mind that justice must still be served –
have effectively said – “I accept full responsibility”.

In Revelation 20:11-15 we read –

The Dead Are Judged

Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Those whose names were not found in the book of life are the ones who refused to believe in Jesus – who accepted full responsibility – who paid the price of justice on their own – Hell.

We would all do well to remember that no matter how meaningless this little phrase – “I accept full responsibility” – may become among people – it’s still incredibly important to God.

Justice will be done.
The price will be paid.

The only question is who pays.

Who is paying for you?

Jesus offers to take full responsibility for us.
Will you let Him do that?
Or will you insist on paying yourself?

 

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