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Taking Responsibility for Our Sin

Biblical counselor Jim Lewis explains why victory over sexual addiction is contingent upon a person’s willingness to take responsibility for their sin. He outlines the different types of responses, right and wrong, and what’s really at the root in a man’s heart.  

Brooks: Ok Jim, well the idea of taking responsibility intrinsically sounds like the right thing to do, but it may not be the first thing that comes to everyone's mind when they're dealing with a serious subject like sexual addiction. So, what is the biblical basis for telling someone that's struggling with sexual sin that they need to take responsibility for their sin?  

Jim: Well Brooks, in Ezekiel 18 the Lord said, “What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? “As I live,” says the Lord God, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die." Now, that sounds a bit extreme to some, "the soul that sins shall die," but here's the point. The proverb was popular because it was an excuse for sin. People would say, "it's not my fault. I learned this sin from my father." But here, the Lord is saying that you can't blame your sin on anyone or anything else. If you sin, it's by your own choice. We are all responsible for our own actions and can’t blame anybody else. And in James Chapter 1, it says, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone." In other words, it's not God's fault either. "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed." We deal with a man's sexual sin, so this this verse is very useful. It is our own desire that causes us to give in to temptation and sin. We sin because we want to. It's that simple, and so it's no one's fault but our own.

<pull-quote>It is our own desire that causes us to give in to temptation and sin. We sin because we want to. It's that simple. It's no one's fault but our own.<pull-quote><tweet-link>Tweet This<tweet-link>

Brooks: You know, this whole concept might strike some people as being kind of harsh. If that's a person's reaction to this, what might you say to communicate where you're really coming from with this?  

Jim: Confronting someone with their sin may seem hard and harsh, but God does it out of a heart of love and we as biblical counselors join God in confronting a man in his sin, in order to bring about godly sorrow that leads to repentance, and to real heart change, and to forgiveness, to cleansing and to reconciliation with God. It can even lead to restoration with the people that you've harmed. So, the whole point of confronting a man in sin is to do him good, and that's the most loving thing that you can do.  

Brooks: Well I know you do counsel men coming out of sexual sin. What things have you found that men tend to do instead of taking full responsibility for their sin?  

Jim: There are several common excuses that a man will choose if he refuses to take responsibility. He will usually respond in one of five ways and every one of them is demonstrated or spoken of in Scripture. The first is blame shifting. The most famous blame-shifter is Adam, who told God that the woman God had given to him gave him fruit from the tree. In other words, it was her fault and not his. A second response is to put something off until later. Paul was preaching to the Roman governor Felix, specifically about self-control, righteousness and the judgment to come. And at that point, Felix stopped him. He didn't want to hear about judgment. He told Paul to go away and come back at some other time. He was delaying taking responsibility for his own sin. Number three would be self-justification and that was what King Saul did when he was confronted by the prophet Samuel for disobeying the direct command of God. Saul had offered a sacrifice which should have been done only by the prophet, but he told Samuel, "you were delayed, and the people were leaving, so I forced myself and offered the burnt offering." In other words, "it's not my fault you were delayed. I had no other choice." There are hundreds of different ways that men justify their actions like this. Number four would be minimizing sin, trying to make the sin look smaller than it is. Again, King Saul is our example when he was confronted by Samuel for disobeying God. He spared the flocks of the Amalekites. He was told to slaughter them. And when he was confronted, he claimed that sparing them was still doing everything he was told to do. But he was clearly not being obedient. And number five is counteracting in anger. The Proverbs often speak about the reaction of the scoffer, the man who takes the things of God and treats them with contempt. Proverbs 9 says, "He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, and he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you." If a man's reaction is anger, that means he's trying to take control. He is counterattacking in anger as an excuse to avoid dealing with his own sin.  

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Brooks: Jim, where does all this ultimately come from? What's the real root issue here? Because, it seems like with these different characteristics you've described, there's got to be something at the bottom of this. And I would think if we take care of that, then people are ready to start taking responsibility.  

Jim: There's actually a simple answer to your question. All these responses are in of themselves sinful, and the root cause of all sin is pride. Self-protective pride, mostly. Pride makes us want to blame someone else. Pride makes us postpone dealing with our issues. Pride causes us to say it wasn't my fault. Pride is what makes us minimize sin. Pride is the sin behind anger and the need for control. Every bit of it is pride. And the answer is to confront men with the truth of the Word of God and trust the Holy Spirit to bring about conviction.  

Fortunately at Pure Life, we have any number of resources that describe well the sin of pride and how it leads to every other sin and how we need to take responsibility. All of our resources are based on scripture. So between our books and simply sharing the world of God, usually men begin to own their own sin.  

Brooks: Maybe we could end with a note of hope here. What can someone expect when they go through this? Oftentimes it's a painful process of taking responsibility for sin. What's down the road for them?

Jim: Well Brooks, you're right in saying that the process is painful. So, the first thing that I would say is that you can expect pain. It hurts to move past your self-deception and admit that you alone are responsible for the mess you're in. And this is often accompanied with great sorrow and loss. But then, something wonderful begins to happen. You begin to see what your sin does to the heart of God, which is doubly painful, but is also the beginning of repentance, of calling sin, ‘sin,’ and changing your mind about it. Then you'll begin to turn from it. And along with repentance, there's confession of that sin to God. When, in godly sorrow, a man confesses and truly forsakes his sin, there's forgiveness and the power of that sin is broken, and a man is finally reconciled to God. The first step towards forgiveness is taking responsibility. So, there's great hope for any man who will just step up and own what he's done.

Jim Lewis is a Biblical Counselor for Pure Life Ministries. He received a B.A. in Religion from Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL and both the M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Dr. Lewis served as a pastor for 30 years.

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