Taking Personal Responsibility for Sin

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 4.21.03 PMHere is a brief excerpt from my book “Cultivating A Gospel Shaped Attitude” about the importance of taking personal responsibility for sin. If you like it, I invite you to read the rest of the book.


Taking Personal Responsibility for Sin

 The most infamous episode in David’s life occurred during the spring of the year when he should have been out on the battlefield with the army of Israel, but instead stayed home. That night, David was walking on his rooftop when he spied a beautiful woman taking a bath. He sent for her, and they ended up committing adultery. As if that were not enough, David then had her husband killed in order to cover his tracks (2 Samuel 11). There are several points in this story where David had the opportunity to turn around and avoid this terrible sin altogether, but instead, he ran right past every warning sign placed in his path and plunged headlong into sin. David did not set out to get entangled in a web of his own creation, but nevertheless, one night of pleasure turned into a lifetime of pain. If the story stopped here, it would serve as an excellent example of human depravity and abuse of power, but the story does not end with David’s sin. God had a greater plan for David, so He sent the prophet Nathan to deliver a message (2 Samuel 12:1–15).

When Nathan arrived, he told David a story about two men, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had all of the flocks he could ever want, while the poor man had only one little ewe lamb. The poor man loved this lamb and took it to his home where it became part of his family. One day, however, the rich man had some guests over for dinner and didn’t want to kill any of his own flocks, so he took the poor man’s beloved lamb and served it for dinner. When David heard the story, he grew angry and announced, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity” (verses 5–6). Nathan then looked David straight in the eye and said, “You are the man!” When Nathan finished speaking, David’s heart was broken and he said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (v.13)

This is a surprising twist in the story because up to this moment, David had done everything within his power to try to cover up and hide his sin. He hadn’t shown anything even remotely resembling remorse. But when confronted by the Word of God through Nathan the prophet, we see a change take place in David’s heart. For the first time in this entire episode, David took personal responsibility for his sin and displayed what it means to be poor in spirit.

David was not perfect; he sinned and he sinned greatly. That is why we relate so well to him: because he was a human being just like us and possessed the capacity to sin in the most arrogant and foolish of ways. He is not presented to us as an example of moral perfection, but rather as the recipient of God’s grace. When confronted by Nathan, he could have gotten defensive and attempted to continue the charade, but he didn’t. He could have continued trying to hide his sin or to deny that it ever happened, but he didn’t. Instead, when confronted by his sin, David took personal responsibility for what he’d done and turned to God in repentance and faith.

We can never fully experience the grace of God until we come face-to-face with the enormity of our sin and be willing to take personal responsibility for what we have done. The men and women we meet in the Bible are remarkably like us and subject to the same sinful passions, desires, and cravings we encounter every day. Some were proud and arrogant, refusing to admit their sin. Others were genuinely poor in spirit, turning to God for forgiveness. Over the years, I’ve seen both of these responses played out within the church. I’ve watched people who have committed terrible, unspeakable acts of sin take personal responsibility and turn to Jesus for forgiveness. And over the years, it has never ceased to amaze me how God can take those who are utterly broken under the burden of sin and put their lives back together after they take responsibility for their actions. But I’ve also seen those who have decided to go the other direction and refuse to admit their sin. There is nothing more tragic for a pastor than to watch the bitter root of sin growing in a person’s heart and eventually consuming every aspect of their life.

Rationalizing Our Sin: Joshua 1

Have you ever tried to rationalize your sin?  Several years ago,  I had a guy come to my officeone day to tell me that he was leaving his wife.  It turns out that he had found someone who fit him and his personality better.  Someone who would fulfill his life and make him happy in a way that his wife could not.  For nearly an hour I listened to this man try to rationalize and explain away his sin.  The truth is that we all do this at times in our lives.  Maybe not as severely as this man did, but in various times and in various ways we all try to rationalize our sin.
Ultimately, rationalizing sin is one of Satan’s greatest tools for keeping us from experiencing the power of the gospel in our lives.  Rationalizing is the opposite of repenting.
Open your Bibles to Judges 1 and let me show you some ways that we sometimes try to rationalize or explain away our sin. 
This morning we begin a series of messages from the book of Judges entitled, “Delighting in Deliverance.” The book of Judges records for us the history of the nation of Israel as it descends spiritually and morally into chaos.  It’s primary purpose was to demonstrate why the monarchy, that is established in 1 and 2 Samuel,  was necessary.
For us the book serves as a tremendous example of why we need to be constantly reminded of our need for the gospel.  Even a casual glance through the book reveals that it deals with the issues of apostasy, backsliding, discipline, and God’s judgement.  It is a book filled with stories of some of the most interesting characters in all of the Bible — people like Samson, Gideon, and Deborah.  Because of this, the book often gets treated as just a set of moral stories about bravery, courage, and faithfulness.  But what often gets overlooked is that this book is primary about the gospel.
 The book begins by showing how we as God’s people can easily get snared by sin and then fall into the trap of trying to rationalize it to make ourselves look better.  
Let’s begin this morning by look at the basic setting of this book (v.1-7)
  • The events recorded in Judges take place just after the death of Joshua.
  • The book records for us the final stages of Israel’s conquest of Canaan.
  • You will notice that the book begins by reminding us of the promise God made concerning the conquest (look at v.1-2)
  • But if you read the text carefully you will notice right away that the people experience a lapse of faith that leads to disobedience. (v.3-7)
    • Judah enlists the help of Simeon
    • God never told them to do this, in fact in the previous verse God had been very clear that HE had already given the Land into their hands.”
    • In other words, the war was already over and the people just needed to go in and take what was theirs.
  • Rather than simply trusting God, Judah thought that they had a better plan.
    • They would get the tribe of Simeon to help them do what God had already promised that He would do.
    • This is a classic example of Proverbs 14:12 which says,  “There is a way that seem right to a man but its end is the way of death.”  
  • The simple truth of the matter is that we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that God needs our help or in subtle ways thinking that He needs help in carrying out His promises.
    • Therefore, we tend to cut corners or enlist the wrong kinds of help.
    • In the case of the Israelites, this initial lapse of faith ends up leading a number of other compromises.
    • Let me show you three ways that the Israelites rationalized their lack of faith in the remainder of this chapter and more importantly I want you to see that we make these same rationalizations:
Three Ways We Rationalize Disobedience
  1. We Overestimate the Strength of Our Enemy (v.16-21)
    • Notice the rationalization in v.19 – “but he could not drive our the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.”
    • The Canaanites Had CHARIOTS
      • Earlier when fighting in the hill country chariots were useless
      • But in the plains, chariots were a fierce and seemingly invincible new form of mobile warfare.
      • The Israelites were completely intimidated by them.
    • This was not the first time this issue had come up.
      • Joshua 17:14-18
      • Tribe of Joseph asks for another allotment of land because they are unable to drive the Canaanites out of the plains due to their chariots.
      • Joshua refuses and assures them that they will “drive out the Canaanites, even thought they have chariots of iron…”
    • Instead of trusting in God the Israelite got intimidated by the Canaanite chariots.
      • We hate to admit it but sometimes we get intimidated by the world and those who oppose the things of God.
      • We end up trusting more in politics, boycotts or other forms of protest than in the most powerful weapon at our disposal — the gospel.
    • The truth of the matter is simple — God is stronger and more powerful than any opposition that we will ever face.
      • The battle is real, but the outcome is sure.
      • Jesus WINS!
      • So don’t ever be intimidated by the enemies of the cross.
  2. We underestimate the guidance of God. (v.22-26)
    • God did not tell the Israelites to send a spy into the land, he didn’t tell them to go and make a deal with one of the inhabitants of the city.
      • But instead of simply trusting God and His plan for them, they decided to seek the counsel of the ungodly and it backfired.
      • Notice what happens in v.25-26
      • The man they enlisted to help them overthrow the city ended up rebuilding it in another location and the city of Luz became a constant reminder to the Israelites that they had failed to carry out the conquest.
    • Psalm 1:1-2 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
      • The key to being faithful to God is to trust His guidance and His Word implicitly.
      • We don’t need to seek after the advice of fall counselors, just trust Him.
  3. We allow economics to dictate what we do rather than the command of God (v.27-28)
    • God told the Israelites to drive out all of the Canaanites, but to some this policy didn’t make much sense.
    • The Canaanites could serve a much more practical purpose, so they put them to forced labor — why waste this source of free labor.
    • But again, God had not told them to do this so they compromise simply because it made good economic sense.
    • Sadly, this may be the single greatest problem we face in the church today.  People are willing to compromise on the commands of God simply because it might cost them economically.
    • Pleased with the Dynasty family/the Robinsons.
      • Phil’s language was too coarse but he was correct in what we said.
      • But more important still was. The family’s willingness to say they would walk away rather than compromise their faith.
      • Economics did not determine their obedience. Willing to do what was right even if it cost them financially.
So what we basically have in chapter 1, is view of the conquest from the perspective of the Israelites.  Bascially, they try to spin the story to make them look good.  The way they present the story is that they had conquered most of the land but had good reasons why they allowed some of the Canaanites to gone on living in their midst.
They rationalized their disobedience in order to try to explain their predicament.  Next week we will discover what God thought about all of this but for now I want to talk to you about our tendency to rationalize our sin.
Satan will always try to get us to rationalize away and explain our sin.  This strategy goes all the way back to the garden of Eden.  He showed Eve the forbidden fruit and then helped her to come up with a rationalization about why she should disobey God.  In Eve’s case she saw that the fruit was good for food and that the try could make her wise, so she ate.
Some of you have been rationalizing sin.  You’ve bought into the lie of Satan or you have simply fooled yourself into believing that you have a good reason for why you are being disobedient to God.
But I remind you that Proverbs 14:12 says ” “There is a way that seem right to a man but its end is the way of death.”  
What you are doing may make sense right now, but I assure that disobedience always comes with a price.  Rationalizing sin is one of Satan’s greatest tools for keeping us from experiencing the power of the gospel in our lives.  Rationalizing is the opposite of repenting.
Rationalizing keeps us bound in our sin and prevents us from experiencing the freedom of God’s grace through the gospel.
 My urgent plea to you is to stop rationalizing your sin, repent, and trust God.