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Christian Responsibility

For many, this word responsibility has some very negative connotations. It arouses the specter of works-religion, as if it is a price that must be paid for God’s free gift of salvation. This, of course, is not the case. Salvation is the free gift of God, without cost or price; but does this necessarily mean that He doesn’t give His redeemed children any work to do? Not at all; rather, He instructs them as to how they should live and also what their responsibilities are as His special people; this involves the expenditure of time and effort on their part.

Another factor is that man’s natural laziness reacts negatively to criticism. To be reminded of responsibility is akin to being accused of neglecting it. We grow accustomed to a way of life and dislike change. But change is what being a Christian is all about. Continual change, some of which can be quite difficult as one becomes more and more like his Lord, is a lifelong process (Eph. 5:1-12).

God has placed the future of the world in the hands of His chosen people, His seed. They are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13-16). They are the audience toward which the Great Commission is directed. We know from Scripture that in the long term the Christian faith will eventually permeate and come to predominate in all the nations (Rev. 11:15). This, though, will not just happen; it is the responsibility of God’s people to bring it about. God doesn’t change, nor does He equivocate; He will not do for us what He has commanded us to do. Reader, are you a Christian, really and truly? If so, God has given you this responsibility. He has given you everything you need to do the work He assigned you. He has placed your corner of the world in your hands. All you need to do is obey Him.

Why is this so hard? Why is there so little being accomplished? One reason is because there is so very little understanding. Our church leaders have so neglected the teaching of responsibility that the great majority of Christians are still babes in Christ. All are guilty of irresponsibility but the church leaders that neglected to properly develop their congregations are especially guilty; they will receive the greater condemnation (James 3:1).

The deficiency is not only a lack of maturity but also misdirection. Christians have been so misguided by the centuries of inadequate teaching that the idea of responsibility for the world around them is now utterly foreign to most of them! If so, what can be done? How can they be reconciled to God’s truth? They can’t just be told; they need to see a total picture that puts it all together for them.

Many rationalize that their personal contribution is so insignificant that it is unnecessary to overall success. Alternatively, some feel that others will not respond to God’s call and that whatever they attempt to do alone will have been undertaken in vain. They then lose heart and don’t put any real effort into it.

Obedience is often painful and will be neglected without a strong and ever present motivating force. What is this force? It is based on faith, faith in God, faith that He exists, that His word is true, and that He really requires this of them. Each Christian must believe that God is interested in him as a person and will be pleased if he obeys and displeased if he does not.

Given all this, what happens when the believer feels that he is all alone, a voice crying in the wilderness? How does he persist even when it is obvious that this may well be the case? He must see, even when left totally on his own, that this is what God requires of him. He cannot understand why but God does understand and has a purpose for placing him in what seems to him to be an utterly futile situation. His desire to please God should override everything else in his life. It should be his all-consuming ambition but, even if it’s not, it must be important enough to be a significant motivating factor. As he matures in the faith, obedience grows in importance and eventually predominates over other considerations.

One may rationalize that if he disobeys God and does nothing, he still goes to heaven and is the recipient of all its blessings. He may not be in the upper echelons but will still be a forgiven resident. In other words, he decides to live his life in some respects in disobedience to God and then relies on God’s forgiveness. The big question for such an individual is whether or not he is really a true Christian. Jesus said of such persons:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt. 7:21-23)

Notice His words: “many will say Lord, Lord” or we could say many will have “gone forward and accepted Christ” and afterward lived a life of pretence. Some of these, suspecting they are not truly converted, go forward to accept Christ again and again. They keep trying to convince themselves that they have been born-again but in their heart of hearts they know they are not true Christians. Their readiness to disobey God (“work iniquity”) belies their profession of faith.