Sermon on December 04th, 2020
Kirche am Bahnhof, Frankenberg
by Andreas Latossek

Lead yourself – take responsibility

This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original videohere

Today is the last sermon in our series Me beyond compare. We thought about self-love and about who or what determines my worth, and today it’s about the topic of leading yourself, taking responsibility. Lead yourself, take responsibility.

Does anyone of you know Manfred Kick? Perhaps some of you remember when I tell you what it is about. I only know that I read that in the newspaper at the time and that it really impressed me. Almost two years ago, Manfred Kick was driving on the A 9 when he noticed a car in front of him that was lurching strangely. Kick saw the driver hanging unconscious in his seat belt and knew what to do. He accelerated, sat down in front of the VW Passat with his Tesla, let it open and brought it to a stop. Because Kick, 42, saved the 57-year-old’s life with it, international media reported on him. Here is an excerpt from an interview:
An expensive car like the Tesla would probably not be sacrificed by everyone.
M. Kick: Sure, but I didn’t understand that until later. A friend who is professionally involved in car tuning started crying on the phone and said none of his customers had done anything like that. It seemed normal to me.
So you just don’t have as much love for cars as others do?
M. Kick: No, I wouldn’t say that! But I know that a car is a commodity. It’s just sheet metal, it can be repaired. That may also have something to do with my job, I’m a metal worker. But everyone probably sees that a human life precedes. It was clear that the man had to be helped immediately.

1. Take responsibility.
In the Bible we read right at the beginning that God has given people this responsibility:
Moses 2:15:
And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
God has given us humans a mandate to take responsibility for our environment. From the wider context it becomes clear that this is not only about the Garden of Eden, but also about the people who live in it. The responsibility does not only extend to the others: Paul writes to the leaders of a church, Acts. 20.28:
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
And in Prov. 4,23 we read:
Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
So not in the sense of health but the responsibility that we should take on for ourselves. So God gives us a responsibility for our environment, the people around us and ourselves.

This is how it is now, we humans have a tendency in how we deal with it. And we notice that right at the beginning of the creation story. God creates a wonderful garden. It is teeming with trees, bushes and animals. Everything looks beautiful, there is a lot to eat and everything tastes really good. But there is a tree that God says you shouldn’t eat of it. God doesn’t do this because he’s mean, because he wants to trap people, but because he gives them a free choice. You have the choice to choose to connect with God or to renounce Him. You are responsible for it. And it comes as it must come, Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit. Then as God, as he always did and how God actually imagined the relationship with us humans, when God then comes into the garden to spend time with Adam and Eve, face to face, what are Adam and Eve doing ?

They’re hiding. Hiding from God is pretty stupid, it doesn’t really work, and when God confronts her, Adam says: It was the woman you gave me and Eve says it was the snake. They are a little right, because the snake naturally does them They are a little right, because the snake naturally tried to convince them to eat the fruit. But: Adam and Eve both had a choice. They had a choice and therefore they have a responsibility. And in our lives we almost always have a choice and therefore a responsibility. And what are Adam and Eve doing here? First they hide from their responsibility instead of standing by their mistake, and then they shift their responsibility off. It’s the other’s fault. Doesn’t that sound familiar to us? The other’s fault, the circumstances are to blame, my past is to blame. We too are masters of excuses. Maybe not everyone is the same, but I notice this behavior in myself too.

And I notice this behavior more and more frequently in our society, that people do not take responsibility, that they are irresponsible. Company bosses who do not stand by their mistakes or who simply flee. Parents who split up and their children have to grow up with only one parent. People who just throw their rubbish on the street. If someone treats others irresponsibly, there is always someone else who has to clean up their mess. There is one exception: when you treat yourself irresponsibly. But even there you have to spoon out your own soup sooner or later, and quite often others will feel that too.

Peter writes to the church:
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Paul writes that the starting point of our responsibility is God. It’s not us. Our life is not about a self-optimization program. It’s not about gaining more control in our lives by taking responsibility. It’s not about getting life in order yourself. This is total overconfidence. And it is not about living as we please, but about the fact that God in his goodness gives us everything to live that we need so that it pleases him. We can and should take responsibility for a life that does him honor and by the way God says that this will be a life in abundance, a life that gets to know him and his love more and more. God gave us everything because his Holy Spirit lives in us with the same power that Christ raised from the dead, Paul writes elsewhere to the Ephesians.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to reconcile us with God and to give us his Holy Spirit. He changes us. And we can support him in this. With his help we can take responsibility. And it begins with us that in addition to your faith there is a firmness of character and spiritual knowledge. And that means that we can control ourselves, everything that is in us in terms of desires and urges, in the most varied of situations, because we can trust that God takes care of us and holding our life in hand when things don’t go the way we want them to. This requires patience and in this, writes Peter, the love for God, for our brothers and sisters and for our fellow men grows.

Thomas Härry writes in his book: The art of leading oneself: People gifted and empowered by God face the responsibilities and tasks that God assigns them.
I have no responsibility to live someone else’s life. I have the responsibility to shape my life with what God has entrusted to me and the environment in which God has placed me. So if God has given us everything, it means that we must first discover what God has actually put into me in order to be able to take the place that he has intended for me.

Thomas Härry calls it:
2. Self-clarification.

And there are essentially 6 aspects to this self-clarification:
The first is
a. my identity,
that I know that I am a person who is loved, wanted, supported, cared for and blessed by God. It’s a lifelong process. For the last two Sundays I have been talking about how important it is that we perceive what is inside of us. Because without this knowledge of the heart we always live with a void. We are always driven to fill this void with achievement, with possession, with recognition. And then we do not live for the glory of God but to fill our emptiness. Then our life goes in the wrong direction. But if we know about the love of God, then it has a positive effect on our dealings with other people, if I am criticized, if someone is better than me. Failure doesn’t knock me out and success doesn’t go to my head.
The second are
b. My gifts and abilities,
which God puts into me and, as a contrast, also what I am not good at. c. My limits, my weaknesses.
I can’t talk myself out of it with them, for example there are spiritual gifts in the Bible that some have a special gift to serve, to pray, to tell people about their faith. We all have the mandate to do this. But then maybe it shouldn’t be the focus in which I use my gifts or pursue a profession with my abilities. We can ask ourselves what we are particularly good at, what is easy for us, and what other people see in us.Another point are
d. my values,
what is important to me, what my heart burns for, what I enjoy. Am I more factually oriented or with people, and if so, with whom?And then there’s
e. My dangers
these are areas where I have to be careful.
f. My wounds.
They say yes, and I notice it again and again: wounded people wound people. But at the same time it is so that where we can experience healing we can also bring healing to other people.

And finally,
G. My environment

I have to ask myself what that is what God put me in. The people in my neighborhood, at my work, in my club. That’s my responsibility.

If I do this self-clarification, then I can take on more responsibility because I see where God has put me and what he has entrusted to me. With all that I have and am I now take responsibility.

It starts with myself

3. Self care
‘Cause when I’m finished there is nothing left to give In my sermon on self-love, I said that it is not about selfishness. Rather, the image of a well is a good comparison here. God says that rivers of living water flow from him, and that these rivers should flow from me to others. Or, as he said to Abraham: I will bless you and you shall be a blessing.

And that’s why three aspects of responsibility are particularly important to me here and you can just ask yourself, how is my current situation in these areas? If I take responsibility, I take care of myself:
    a. Responsibility for my spiritual life
Do you still remember our human reaction? Hide, shift blame. How quickly do we find it to be said that my spouse is spiritually down and that is why my relationship with God is now looking bad? The sermon on Sunday didn’t give me anything and that’s why I’m not going into the new week encouraged. I didn’t like the songs and so I couldn’t worship God. I have so little time and therefore my relationship with God is only superficial. You know, all of this is only too understandable and I have probably already said all of this. But ultimately we are responsible for our spiritual life. It is our relationship with God and not that of our spouse or the church. It’s not the songs either, but ultimately our attitude, and it’s not about pleasing us, but rather about pleasing God. And it is our time and our priorities that we set, how much time we take for God. But as Christians, we believe that this should be the most important thing in our life. When the spring runs dry, we dry up. Therefore we should take responsibility and not deport it, because it is our responsibility.

Just like a second thing that is good for us
    b. Responsibility for good, sustainable relationships.
As people we are made for community. We need each other. One goes alone, is the saying. Some of us find this easier than others. Some also need more relationships than others. We are different there. And sometimes the choice isn’t very large. But each of us needs good friends. People, where I can be honest with my deepest struggles, weaknesses and fears. Where I don’t have to fight alone and find out that I am loved even when someone knows about all of this. Where to encourage and help one another and pray together. We should take responsibility for looking for, building, and maintaining relationships that are like this, whether that’s my spouse or a good friend, and maybe a multi-person home group.

And third:
    c. Responsibility for our body
And by that I mean something like enough rest, slowing down, sometimes electronics-free times, enough sleep, exercise, a balanced diet, sometimes indulging in something good. Everything that contributes to our body doing well, because Paul writes that we also do glory to God with him and that he is a temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 6:19)

And finally, it’s about taking responsibility in those areas that have an impact on the outside world.
Thomas Härry calls it

4. Self-control.

And here, too, you can ask yourself how it looks with you. Is there perhaps something after this sermon where you say that so far I have run away from my responsibility. But God spoke to me this morning and that is why I want to take on my responsibility again.

    a. Responsibility for my emotions
Each of us has feelings. Many of them are good, but there are also some that are not. Each of you would probably say that just because I’m mad at someone, walking up to the person and yelling at them is not good. So it is not good company to just act out our feelings. But now it is the case that with us as Christians some feelings are not so pious and therefore must not be. This leads to reactions like that we say to the other: I really love you, as a brother or sister in the Lord, but in truth we feel something completely different. We try to suppress these feelings like putting a lid on a pot of bubbling water. But actually our feelings are more like a seething volcano and at some point they come up. Then they may be directed indirectly against the person, you remember the reaction of contempt, or they may have a different direction. Anger is such a feeling. Fear is another thing that the Bible clearly states. Envy. Paul writes: And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom. 12.1)
And that also means our feelings. This renewal is not done by us. But taking responsibility for our feelings means looking at what is actually there, admitting it to yourself, asking yourself why it is. Maybe there is a reason I can address. And above all I can learn to go to God with these feelings, because renewal comes from him. To admit my feelings and my helplessness towards them and to ask him for change. That is true sanctification when we experience a change in that too. A feeling that I can think of would also be something like mourning missed opportunities, the upbringing that I experienced, that shaped me, the education that I never had, what paralyzes me and always keeps me in yesterday, bad experiences, where it is okay that there is a phase of grief, but then where I can also learn to look ahead and take new steps, if only they look like I get help.
The only limit I would see is that when someone is really depressed, there are circumstances where it becomes very difficult to take responsibility.

The second point is very often related to these feelings, because I have one too
    b. Responsibility for my dealings with people
I mean, of course, the way I behave in the family, towards my spouse, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, how I deal with criticism and accusations, weaknesses and shortcomings of others, but above all how I deal with differences of opinion and conflicts.
Does this lead to my attacking or pulling back, starting to talk around the backside? Or do I take heed of what Jesus says that, regardless of whether it is me or the other person’s fault, I take action to resolve a conflict where possible and approach the other?

And finally the
    c. Responsibility for what God entrusts
How I organize my time and set priorities. What I say yes to and what I say no to. How I bring my gifts and abilities into his kingdom. How I share my faith with the people whom God has placed in my environment. That I meet people and situations that God puts in my way every day in his sense. I don’t know if Manfred Kick is a Christian. At least he did spontaneously Acted according to Jesus. And that is what it is deeply about that God shapes and transforms me through and through and not just superficially, so that more and more comes out, what is also inside, and that agrees. This is best seen in spontaneous situations and where my faith is under pressure, where it takes self-control and perseverance. These are all talents that Jesus speaks of in a parable, which we should bring to his glory and not bury. God has put you in a certain place and specially equipped you for it. Only you can fill this space, in your environment, in the church.

God grants me and empowers me to take responsibility for my life and to live in such a way that my life does him honor, I once again quote Thomas Härry:
by clarifying who I am, what is important to me and how I can be helpful by making sure that the tank of my faith, my soul and my life energy remains sufficiently filled and by using every opportunity given to me to make the most of my circumstances and relationships.
And there we have to go against our human tendency to hide or to give up responsibility, but to take responsibility and live and shape from the source, from the connection to God. Amen



Would you like to get to know Jesus?