My friend’s eyes revealed what I was feeling—fear! We two 13-year-olds had behaved poorly and were now cowering before the camp director. The man, who knew our dads well, raised the decibels as he shouted, “You, the son of Dick Thomas, and you, the son of Ray Felten, how could you have done this?” Needless to say, we wanted to crawl under the table—feeling the weight of personal responsibility for our offense, and having remorse over the shame we had brought to our fathers.
God gave Zephaniah a message for the people of Judah that contained some potent words about personal responsibility for sin (Zephaniah 1:1,6-7). After spending chapter 2 describing the judgments He would bring against Judah’s foes, He turned His eyes squarely on His squirming people in chapter 3. “What sorrow awaits rebellious, polluted Jerusalem!” God proclaimed (Zephaniah 3:1). “[The people] get up early to continue their evil deeds” (Zephaniah 3:7).
He had seen the cold hearts of His people—their spiritual apathy, social injustice, and ugly greed—and He was bringing the “fire” (Zephaniah 3:8). And it didn’t matter if the individuals were “leaders,” “judges,” “prophets”—everyone was guilty before our holy God (Zephaniah 3:3-4).
Now, this account might seem far removed from our day. But consider the reality that each of us is personally responsible for the shame our sin brings to our heavenly Father, those we love, and other believers. As the apostle Paul wrote of those who persist in rebellion against God, “You are storing up terrible judgment for yourself. . . . [God] will judge everyone according to what they have done” (Romans 2:5-6).
In contrast, may we choose to live in a way that honors our holy, loving Father and leads to no remorse.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Colossians 2:1-15
Read 2 Corinthians 5:10 and consider what it says about what lies ahead. Read 1 Peter 5:5-6 and Ephesians 1:7 to see what happens when we humble our hearts and seek God’s grace.
What comes to mind as you consider personal responsibility for your sin? How can our rebellion and wrong choices bring shame to God and others? What can you do to show genuine repentance for your actions and choices?