This column by the late Executive Editor ofCHRISTIANITY TODAYis reprinted from the November 8,1963, issue.
One of the many fine things in the old Chinese culture was the sense of responsibility. “This thing [or matter] is on your body” means, “The responsibility is yours and you will be held accountable”—and it worked.
There were times, of course, when this acceptance of full responsibility stemmed from fear, while in many instances “face” may have been the motivating factor—the one appealed to felt a sense of pride in being so trusted. On the other hand, it often came from a deep sense of loyalty.
Man’s responsibility to God is a real and abiding precept of the Christian faith, but even the practicing Christian often fails to realize how strong and persuasive this responsibility is.
We are prone to think our conduct is a matter of option, choice, personal decision, when in fact the question is one of direct personal responsibility to God and therefore can be determined only in the light of God’s revealed will.
The Ten Commandments are God’s moral and spiritual laws in two areas—man’s responsibility to God and to his fellow man. Our Lord summed them up in one word: “love,” toward God and toward our brothers. Most Christians will acknowledge this principle in theory, but they often fail in practice.
Responsibility is not merely a matter of making a Christian profession, after which we live in a spiritual vacuum, set apart from God as far as daily obligations are concerned. The fact is that every day should be lived in the light of our responsibility to God—every act, decision, thought, and motive should come under this concept.
Once we recognize this and act upon it, we are well on the way to achieving inner peace and outward effectiveness.
This does not mean that the way becomes easier; it may become much harder, for the loving will of God for us often includes difficulties, even persecutions. But being obedient to God’s will and recognizing our basic and ultimate responsibility to him transforms this allegiance into obedience and enables us to act and react with God as our companion and helper.
Every day we are confronted with decisions that must be made, problems having to do with our own lives and those of others. The obedient heart, deeply aware of ultimate responsibility to God, makes decisions that will glorify God and bring honor to his name.
Man is a responsible creature, responsible to God. When this basic truth is either unknown or violated, chaos results—chaos in individual lives and in nations as a whole.
“In God We Trust” on our currency is a tacit admission of our national responsibility to God. Current trends that will make our national life purely secular confuse the issue with the separation of church and state. The fact is that men and nations are responsible to God and evade this responsibility to their own undoing.
I have known Christians who, while fully aware of their personal responsibility to God, were nevertheless utterly miserable. This came from their failure to understand the nature of that responsibility. In every minor detail of their daily existence they would stop to ask God what he wanted them to do, then look for some leading or omen that would reveal his will for them. The result was often a life of vacillation, uncertainty, and frustration. They failed to use sanctified common sense.
When we surrender our lives to Christ, a Pilot comes on board the ship of life; the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts, and he makes the decisions for us. This is not to deny that we repeatedly need and receive specific leading for specific problems. But it is to say that the person filled with and directed by the Spirit will make the right decisions as a rule; he has already made a complete commitment to God, a recognition of personal responsibility to him, so that certain attitudes and actions are fixed in the light of God’s revealed will about them.
The Bible is filled with illustrations of those who were aware of their responsibility to God and because of this acted for his glory and their own good.
Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife. There was the occasion, the place, and the pull of the flesh. But Joseph’s answer was, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” His decision was predicated not on his own desires but on responsibility and obedience to God.
Daniel and his friends were offered the dainties of the king’s table; but a sense of higher responsibility was theirs, and they chose a simpler fare.
Later, confronted with another choice—worshiping the king or dying in a fiery furnace—they recognized their responsibility to God and defied the king.
In his later years Daniel had to choose between hauling down his colors and refraining from open worship of God for a season, or the consequences of worship. He chose God and found himself in a den of lions. He had a sense of his responsibility to God above all else.
In the Acts of the Apostles we read of the arrest of Peter and John and the officials’ demand that they cease preaching in the name of Jesus. Their reply rings down through the centuries as a challenge to Christians today: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to harken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19, 20).
Cultivating a sense of responsibility to God is both a definite act and a process. On the one hand it is involved in regeneration, when we consciously accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and make him the Lord of our lives. It is also involved in the work of sanctification, wherein we grow in our apprehension of God, our obedience to him, and our willingness to serve him.
Basic to all is man’s recognition of the complete sovereignty of God. We are responsible to him because we are his by creation and redemption. If we admit his sovereignty, we must recognize our own responsibility to know and do his will. This should not be an onerous duty; rather, it is a joyous privilege, for God requires nothing of us for which he will not at the same time supply the wisdom, guidance, and strength.
Frustrated? Uncertain? Miserable? The answer is not to be found in man-made panaceas or in multiplied activities. Rather it is to be found in this command: “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46:10).
Admit God’s right to command and guide, and recognize your responsibility to him. Act on this basic truth, and you will see life in proper perspective.
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