The Blame Game (A Guide to Complete Freedom from Sin)
Repent (verb): to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.
- The Oxford Dictionary
Our Father in heaven, Your name be honoured as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
The blame game is not a new invention, manifested by modern times. In fact it started right at the beginning of man’s history, in the very first book of the Bible, Genesis. Adam and Eve set the first blame game in motion. God asked Adam “Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:11-13) Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, and as Nick Gumbel put it, the serpent didn’t have a leg to stand on.
Even Aaron, Moses’ brother, blamed the people when he made them the golden calf at the bottom on Sinai (Exodus 32:21-24). But do we have any genuine basis for blame shifting, does it really matter whose fault something is anyway, and does that provide any genuine release from sin or its consequences?
“The man who can smile when things go wrong has thought of someone else he can blame it on.”
- Robert Albert Bloch
When things go bad many of us look for someone to blame. It is human nature and, after all, there are some circumstances we find ourselves in that are the direct result of the actions of others. Psychologists have said for years that the actions, or inactions, of our parents as we grow up, have a significant effect on whom we grow up to be. This fact was alluded to in the Bible about three and half thousand years ago, but let’s not begrudge psychologists their revelations.
• Those who survive in the lands of your enemies will waste away because of their sin; they will also waste away because of their fathers’ sins along with theirs.
Leviticus 26:39 (1440BC)
As we can see, under certain circumstances, God did hold individuals responsible for the actions of others (Leviticus 26:39, Jeremiah 32:18). Though the actions of a small child can be the fault of a parent, eventually children grow up and must take responsibility for their own lives and actions. Israel also matured and God, through Ezekiel, declared that they too could no longer blame anyone else for their sin (Ezekiel 18:1-3), and that He would punish each of us according to our own sins alone (Ezekiel 18:4). Ezekiel sums it up later in verse 20.
• The person who sins is the one who will die. A son won’t suffer punishment for the father’s iniquity, and a father won’t suffer punishment for the son’s iniquity. The righteousness of the righteous person will be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked person will be on him.
“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers - but never blame yourself. It's never your fault. But it's always your fault, because if you wanted to change you're the one who has got to change.”
- Katharine Houghton Hepburn
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
- Lewis Benedictus Smedes
It is clearly stated that each individual will be judged based on his or her own actions (Ezekiel 18:20), so blaming someone else serves little benefit. However, God does acknowledge that the actions of others do influence us (1 Corinthians 15:33), so if we find ourselves blaming someone for our own sin we may as well take the opportunity to act on that feeling in a Godly manner.
Blame tends to keep our focus on the actions of others, preventing us from identifying and dealing with our own issues and sins. Our focus is bound with emotions like anger or grief. Before we can properly focus our attention on our own actions, we must first let go of past hurts (Ephesians 4:31). Forgiveness, though often difficult, is the best way of achieving this (Matthew 5:44; 6:14-15; 18:21-22; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:27; Romans 12:17-21; Ephesians 4:32).
• And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your wrongdoing.
An important side benefit of forgiving others is it that it gives God the opportunity to forgive us. Holding back forgiveness not only holds us back from moving forward but it also holds God back from releasing us (Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25).
• “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.”
Once free of the blame game, now our burden of grief and anger are released, we are free to reflect on our own actions and move forward. Besides, I personally love to forgive my enemies; it confuses the heck out of them.
“When a child can be brought to tears, and not from fear of punishment, but from repentance he needs no chastisement. When the tears begin to flow from the grief of their conduct you can be sure there is an angel nestling in their heart.”
- Horace Mann
Why are court judges so concerned about a defendant’s remorse when sentencing? We can know in our heads that what we did was wrong. We can know in our heads that we need to stop. But these alone seldom prevent us from sinning again and again, or, as judges say, ‘re-offending’. It is not the knowledge in our heads that show transformation from sin to righteousness but rather the wisdom of the heart. Judges call the outward sign of that heart-felt understanding of our sin and its consequences ‘remorse’.
True wisdom and remorse come from the Holy Spirit and so the first step we must take is to seek understanding and correction from God. We see the pattern in Job 36:10, which starts with, “He opens their ears to correction...” then comes the repentance “…and insists they repent from iniquity.” We see in 2 Chronicles 33:10 [Manasseh’s Repentance] that “The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they didn’t listen.” How do we listen? James 1:5 tells us “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.”
“Of all acts of man repentance is the most divine. The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.”
- Thomas Carlyle
Repentance is true revelation from God, it flows into your head as understanding, down to your heart as remorse, and out through your mouth as confession. Though confession is not repentance, it is an essential part of the overall process (Proverbs 28:13; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9), and may include confessing to God, a pastor, a trusted friend or the person to whom the sin was committed. Evil done in secrete, hidden in darkness, has power. This power is broken when it is brought into the light. That is why truly sinful people do not want their sin revealed (John 3:20), and will not confess unless backed into a corner.
• The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.
Therefore, this is the process of repentance: Revelation, Remorse, and Confession. Here is where we are so far:
1. Forgive those who have negatively contributed to our circumstances, this brings about a freeing of our mind, and heart,
2. Pray and receive revelation about our own actions, this brings remorse,
3. Confess, this brings God’s forgiveness.
TURN OR BURN - Turning Away
• “Therefore, house of Israel, I will judge each one of you according to his ways.” This is the declaration of the Lord God. “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, so they will not be a stumbling block that causes your punishment.”
Taking responsibility for our sin through repentance will secure God’s forgiveness, and make us righteous through the grace of Christ Jesus, but have we really taken full responsibility for our sin if we have taken no preventative action against future sin. The bible says we need to “turn away” (Ezekiel 18:30) from our sin. What does that mean?
Turning away can involve many actions, they are designed to remove stumbling blocks that can trip us up and lead us back to sin. I’ve made an acronym to help you remember the three things you can do to eliminate these stumbling blocks. A.D.D. Think Attention Deficit Disorder. Temptation is always there to grab our attention, that in itself is not a sin, but what we do with it from point on is the difference between sin and righteousness. The same way that sufferers of ADD can’t hold their attention on one thing for very long, once you are aware of a temptation, get distracted from it, quickly. A.D.D. Avoid, Disassociate, Destroy.
Avoid temptation. E.g. If your sin is lust and you go past an adult shop on the way to work, find another route (1 Corinthians 6:18, 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; James 4:7).
• Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:22
Disassociate with like-minded sinners and tempters. E.g. If your sin is infidelity and you have friends who sleep around, it’s time to say goodbye (Psalm 1:1; Proverbs 6:27; 13:20; 22:24-25; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 15:33).
• Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
1 Corinthians 15:33
Destroy material associated with the sin. E.g. If your sin is alcoholism and you have liquor in the house, pour it down the sink (Deuteronomy 7:26; 13:17; Joshua 6:18; 7:1; 2 Kings 23:24; Matthew 18:9).
• You must not bring any abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be set apart for destruction like it. You are to utterly detest and abhor it, because it is set apart for destruction.
Some say there is safety in numbers, but I say there is safety in Exodus: run away from sin. Failure to do so leaves stumbling blocks in our path that can lead us back to the commission of sin, and God’s punishment (Psalm 7:12). Every time Satan knocks at the door, let Jesus answer.
• Fools mock at making restitution, but there is goodwill among the upright.
The level of responsibility discussed so far, covers you and God. This process: Revelation, Remorse, Confession, and Turning Away; puts you in right standing with God (Hebrews 10:17) and leads you towards being a righteous person, closer to Christ (Romans 8:1). It does not, however, put you in right standing with those your sin may have already hurt.
Have a look at step eight and nine of the AA’s 12 step program:
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
You’ll notice that these steps cover identifying those hurt and making amends. Making amends is a biblical principle and is considered a just and right thing to do.
• “So when I tell the wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ but he repents of his sin and does what is just and right— he returns collateral, makes restitution for what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without practicing iniquity—he will certainly live; he will not die. None of the sins he committed will be held against him. He has done what is just and right; he will certainly live.
Unfortunately it is not always possible, and not always received well. But none-the-less it can be a very rewarding and healing process, not just for the recipient, but for us as well. Fortunately, making amends is not critical to our salvation, as salvation is by faith alone, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), and making amends is a work.
To sum up we have five major points:
1. Forgive those who have negatively contributed to your circumstances (Matthew 5:44; 6:14-15; 18:21-22; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:27; Romans 12:17-21; Ephesians 4:32), this brings about a freeing of your mind and heart, and paves the way for God's forgiveness to us,
2. Pray and receive revelation (James 1:5) about your own actions, this brings remorse which is the catalyst for repentance (changing of the mind),
3. Confess (Proverbs 28:13; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9) actions that are contrary to God’s Word, this brings God’s forgiveness,
4. Turn away (Ezekiel 18:30), avoiding temptation (1 Corinthians 6:18, 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; James 4:7), disassociating with bad company (Psalm 1:1; Proverbs 6:27; 13:20; 22:24-25; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 15:33), and destroying anything related to the sin (Deuteronomy 7:26; 13:17; Joshua 6:18; 7:1; 2 Kings 23:24; Matthew 18:9); this will protect you from tripping up in the future, and finally,
5. Where possible, make amends (Leviticus 6:5; 2 Samuel 21:3; Proverbs 14:9; Ezekiel 33:14-16), this can bring about healing to, and forgiveness from, others.
Now, let me ask you, are you holding onto a grudge and finding that it is holding onto you? Is there a reoccurring sin that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to shake? Maybe you know Jesus already, maybe you haven’t met Him yet, it doesn’t matter. Let me encourage you that there is a solution, that Christ Jesus is the answer, and, though it is not always easy, If you let Jesus in, He will guide you through. So I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this article, and, if this does sound a little like you, if I can, I’d just like to take a final couple of minutes of your time and lead you through a prayer:
Friends, just put your hands together and pray with me: Dear Jesus, thank you for your word today. Thank you for showing me that there is way out of my sin and it’s consequences. Thank you Jesus for dying on the cross for me that I can be forgiven, I thank you for revealing to me the true nature of my sin and the damage it does to not only myself, but to others Lord. With heart felt sincerity I ask you to forgive me, thank you Jesus. And as I am now forgiven, I also forgive those who have sinned against me: take away my grief; take away my anger. Lord give me a new heart and a new spirit, free me of all the ill will for others that I’ve held onto for all this time. And finally, Lord Jesus, give me wisdom and guidance to avoid the pitfalls of future temptation, give me the strength and determination to turn from my old ways. Thank you, I pray, in your glorious name, amen.
And finally friends, I leave you with this thought…
The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.
- Albert Ellis
If you are struggling with an on going issue and you need support, here are a few web sites that you man find useful, sorry Australian only:
13 11 14
Australian Drug Information Network