My bike got stolen. When I was a kid my Dad bought a new 24” bike for me from Kmart with only a few stipulations. I was supposed to lock it up each night in the garage. This was the era when Huffy made bikes that looked like dirt bikes. Mine was black and had racing numbers on it. It was cool!
Well, I didn’t lock it up every night. I left it in the yard overnight regularly, and one night it disappeared. A second stipulation was that if it got stolen, my dad wouldn’t buy me another one. I was on my own. I spent a summer running everywhere and earning money for a new bike. Finally I had enough to buy a 10-speed. I didn’t lock it in the garage; I brought it into the house, down the stairs, and into the basement every night. Yes, every night. And it never got stolen. I still had it when I went to college. I was responsible for that bike. I owned it. You could say I owned the one that was stolen, but I violated the first rule of ownership—I didn’t take responsibility for it.
What does it mean to own your sin? Someone asked me this. I told them that owning his sin would make his marriage better, and he thoughtfully asked what does that mean?
I’ve also had a Christian not like that word. They told me that their sin doesn’t identify them anymore, and it’s forgiven, so why should they own it? I’m using the word not as an identity statement, but referring to responsibility. Do you take responsibility for your sin?
And I think owning is an illustrative metaphor for that idea. If you own a car, you are responsible for it. You have to make the payments, get the insurance, and get it new tires when it needs them. No one else is responsible for your car, only you. No one else is responsible for your sin, only you are.
Ezekiel taught us this in a graphic way.
“The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself. Ezekiel 18:20 (NASB95)
So if owning my sin is taking responsibility for it, then what are some signs I’m owning my sin?
You Don’t Point Fingers
There is no sin against me that excuses my sin. There are some awful, tragic ways that sinners sin against each other. I’m not dismissing those at all. But I cannot excuse my sin because of someone else’s sin. No sin against you justifies your sin.
So owning my sin means I don’t point fingers at others. I don’t look at their sin against me or their “worse” sin as making mine acceptable.
This is especially tempting in marriage. Families like to point fingers at each other and justify themselves. The husband says he wouldn’t be sarcastic if his wife didn’t embarrass him in front of others. She says she wouldn’t yell if her kids would just do what they’re told. And the kids claim they wouldn’t be so disrespectful if their dad wasn’t so passive. Everyone is pointing fingers at someone else. Every family can become the Spider-man Pointing meme.
So where are you pointing fingers at others?
You Don’t Resent Accountability
We need accountability. We need another Christian to care enough to tell us that we are wrong in a gentle but firm way. We need intervention. We need other believers.
But we don’t like accountability. We don’t want to be asked tough questions. We don’t want others intruding into our lives and expecting us to change. But God expects us to change. He commands intervention (Gal 6).
Accountability doesn’t work if the person being held accountable doesn’t want it. Paul Tripp has said that you cannot hold a runner accountable. They need rebuke. A sinner that owns their sin doesn’t run. They expect to be called on their sin. They hate their sin and want to be rid of it.
The sinner that owns their sin will appreciate, yes appreciate, accountability.
So where are you resisting accountability? Where do you think accountability is good for others, but not for you?
You Don’t Fight Consequences
Often when we fight consequences we are downplaying how serious our sin is. This is why the formerly adulterous husband can cringe when his wife asks where he’s been. This is why the teen who has asked for help with his pornography can still fight losing his phone privileges. This is why the addict can fight giving up his credit cards and cash and living on an allowance.
We all like to believe that when others commit the same sin, their version of it was worse than ours and deserves consequences. But our sin… no way. Why can’t those around you see that you’ve changed and remove the consequences? That’s how we like to think. But when I own my sin, I know there are consequences. And I’m okay with that. I’ve earned them.
Where are you fighting consequences? Where do you think your consequences are too harsh?
You Don’t Completely Forget the Past
The Apostle Paul did tell us that he forgot those things behind (Phil 3:13-14), but he couldn’t have meant that he forgot all about his past at all times. We know this because he’s also the apostle that told us about his life before Christ. His forgetting didn’t mean never remembering it.
Paul also regularly reminded us of who we were (Eph 2:1-3; Col 1:13, 21, etc.) before Christ. Why would he do that if we’re supposed to completely forget the past?
So the Christian that owns their sin doesn’t completely forget the past. They don’t live in it, but they also know that remembering who they were humbles them. Remembering how they blew it can protect them from it happening again. After all, without God’s grace it could happen again. In your own strength, you are the person that could commit that sin.
Where are you desperately trying to forget the past? Where are you too quick to believe you are not at all that person anymore?
I’m sure there are more signs of owning our sin, but these are enough to challenge me. Do you own your sin?