The Power of Accountability
For three years, Jesus was on Earth, living with and teaching His disciples not just doctrine, but how to live. He poured out His life on the cross, but He also poured His life into the twelve men that He would leave to reach the world with the Good News of Salvation for sinners.
This group of people that those around called followers of the Way, Christians and “those that turned the world upside down” followed the pattern of the Master, meeting daily, sharing all things in common, and investing themselves into the lives of other believers.
But over time, bigger groups overtook the tight knit ones and organizations. Whereas it was said of the people of Corinth that there were so many people that wanted to share a word, today many expect to come and hear one person speak a prepared word. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad you’re hear this morning to hear me speak.
What I’m wondering though is, what if the reason that some churches are waning is not that people aren’t coming to church any more, but that we’ve put all the weight of Hebrews 10:25’s command to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together on the one day a week where we hear a sermon while we miss the thrust of the verse—so that we can exhort one another to good works.
What if the power that we lack comes from the fact that our Christian life needs communion with other believers and a furtherance of our Christian walk?
The Power of Community
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.Acts 2:42-47
The Testimony of the Disciples
In the beginning of the book of Acts, Peter has just preached his sermon and 3,000 have accepted Christ and joined the church. How did this new group of disciples grow in their faith? They were diligent in their attendance to the preaching of the Apostles, maintained fellowship with other believers, observed the Lord’s Table, and were faithful in prayers.
How did this affect the believers? It drove them to share with one another, it drove them to charity, it drove them to want to be together daily, and it drove them to gladness and simplicity of heart. This life brought praise to believers and the Lord added to them daily as people saw the care and concern that they had.
The Testimony of Today’s Believers
Some see Christians as a tribe or social club where people meet. One of my coworkers views my church as a social network of sorts.
The culture is constantly trying to paint Christians as intolerant bigots if they do not except the lines that the culture is pushing. Some groups of Christianity are attempting to bring about God’s kingdom here on this Earth now. While being a part of the civic community is not wrong, God does not promise that America will be a Christian country.
Christians are attacked for believing “unscientific” things like Creation. They are also mocked for not keeping up with social progress. If that weren’t all, some Christian groups that provide aid are looked down on for proselytizing.
Granted, these views of today’s believers aren’t all bad. The early church was tribal to some degree and they caught derision from the culture at large. The early church was also impacted by the culture at large to their detriment, and we’d be foolish to think that we’re unaffected.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.1 Corinthians 12:12-14
Community’s Effect on the Believer
Community allows us to bring together the full body for the work of the ministry. The Bible’s picture of ministry is one where the body functions together to complete the work. Even when the Lord sent people out to minister and spread the Gospel message, all went out to do it. When the body works together, the body grows together, just like a human body. Community allows us to encourage one another to good works.
The Necessity of Accountability
As a believer, you’re already accountable. You see, Christianity is not a flat hierarchy.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:27
Many will cite the Priesthood of the Believer right after I make a statement like that. It’s true, before God we will each be responsible for our actions. God is not a respecter of persons in the sense that only some are allowed to come to Him.
That being said, accountability, responsibility and authority are given to people at different levels.
- Hebrews 9:27 – We are all accountable to God
- Hebrews 13:17 – We are accountable to spiritual leaders
- Proverbs 27:17 – We are accountable to each other
- 1 Timothy 3:12 – Parents are accountable for their children in the home
It is part of the curse to believe that we can sin and not take responsibility. The serpent basically said to Eve, you can eat, gain the rewards, and you will not have to accept the responsibility. Without practicing accountability, we miss the structure put into place to help us grow in our spiritual life and miss God’s design.
Accountability is the forgotten key to real growth, but we boil down spiritual growth into the twin pillars of Bible reading and prayer, which are indispensable in Christian growth…
James 1:22-25 teaches us that reading or hearing God’s word proves to be a mirror into our life and John 14:14 instructs us that there is power with God in prayer. Which means that these are things that we should be doing daily. Just as you wouldn’t go a day without eating or without talking with someone that you really cared about, you shouldn’t go a day without hearing from and praying to God.
Wisdom builds accountability
We know that we are accountable to God
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.Psalm 139:7ff
God is everywhere and knows everything– nothing escapes His gaze. We know that our actions have consequences at some point in time. God will hold those that do not believe to account and they will pay for their sins. God will hold believers to account for what they did for his glory on the Earth.
Modern secular culture has attempted to explain away consequences as natural processes. While we may mentally ascent to God’s discipline as a possibility, we have a hard time connecting God’s judgement to our activity—especially when it seems as if it’s delayed.
This is why God has a plan to compensate for this disconnect. Throughout the New Testament we read of people investing their lives in growing other people. In Titus 2, Paul teaches Titus about how to live to give a good testimony which includes older men mentoring younger men and older women mentoring younger women. This wasn’t just a Bible Study that was held weekly or monthly, but people were to actually get involved in the lives of others. They were to teach godliness and godly living to the next generation, and they used the household to do it because it is at the key to the war for the cosmos.
Other passages of scripture encourage us to be a part of the lives of one another and instruct for accountability:
- James 5:16 – Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another
- Galatians 6:1 – Bear one another’s burdens
- Philippians 2:3-4 – Look out after one another
The Keys to Accountability
First and foremost, accountability requires confidentiality. If we are going to be accountable to someone, we need to be able to know that we can say what is going on in our lives and be able to trust the hearer to do right by us. True intimacy and vulnerability requires trust.
In order to be one that fulfills the commands we just talked about, we must be found trustworthy. In order for us to expect people to share, we need to also know that the people that we are talking to can keep that which we share secret.
God warns us multiple times in the Scripture about the being the opposite. In 2 Corinthians 12:20, Paul feared that the Corinthian church would not be faithful and unified, but fractured and boastful. We remember that they had an issue in 1 Corinthians 1 that a member of the body was a sinning and instead of correcting the man, they boasted in the fact that they were tolerant of his sin!
In 1 Timothy 5:13, Paul wants the younger widows to remarry, as they may be prone to be gossips and busybodies. With nothing else to do with their time, they sought to get information about others and use it to boost themselves, and Paul instructed that they should get married and keep to their own families rather than flitting about being gossips.
In this “information age” we have a new form of busybody, with people shaming others for their opinions, doxxing others because they don’t like their views, pushing people out of jobs– in fact, the whole “cancel culture” has at its root the idea of meddling in the affairs of others– sometimes for righteous reasons and other times not.
The goal of accountability is not the goal of the gossip. The goal of accountability is to help correct sinful behavior to the good of the person wanting that accountability. The goal of the gossip is to destroy the person for the goal of pushing up the one sharing it. This means that if you want to be a person with whom someone trusts to hold them to account, you need to be a person that does not share the person’s failings, but does confront them.
Accountability Requires Confrontation
Accountability requires confrontation in order to keep the person to account. Unlike many churches, confrontation is part of the Christian life.
The initial salvation experience is brought about when we are confronted about our position before a Holy God! We were confronted with our sinful nature and our need for a Savior/
Jesus confronted those in spiritual error. In John 3, He confronted Nicodemus about his understanding of the Messiah and told him that unless he was born again he wouldn’t see the kingdom of God. In John 2, Jesus confronted the money changers, telling them that his Father’s house was a house of prayer, not of profit. In Matthew 16:23, He confronted Peter’s comment about Jesus not dying, calling out the Devil’s influence in Peter’s thinking.
Jesus was a living confrontation with the status quo!
Jesus commands us to confront one another
In Matthew 18, Jesus lays out the principles of confronting those that have sinned against you. He tells you to go to the person and tell them that they have offended you and try to get it right. If that doesn’t work, we are to bring another witness, and then take them before the church.
In 1 Timothy 5:20, Paul tells Timothy to rebuke those that persist in sin. Not that Timothy should run around looking for people caught in sin to rebuke them, but that when he sees someone caught in sin, the answer is confrontation– they are to be told, not kept quiet. Paul emphasizes this calling by putting rebuking the believers right up there with preaching to them in his commands for what Timothy is to do in the church in 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
Calling people out for their sin was something that was supposed to be done while guarding against the caller’s sin.
Confrontation needs to be done correctly. Many people do not want to confront. That’s why we have gossips. It’s much easier to talk about someone behind their back about issues you have then to confront them openly to their face.
Confrontation is also awkward because our society has done a lot of work to come up with a baseline standard for what is acceptable (which is constantly being defined downward) and to call someone to a higher standard is deemed wrong, it gives off the “holier than thou” vibe.
Let’s keep in mind that confrontation is never meant to shame, and never about the confronter’s reputation. Anyone who is eager or excited about confrontation has the wrong spirit. Confrontation should be about grace, love, and deep concern
Accountability Requires Confession
Confessing our sins before God restores our authenticity with Christ.
“The goal of confession isn’t to cleanse ourselves before God, because we can’t…. And it isn’t to forgive ourselves because our sin isn’t ultimately against self, it’s against God…. Therefore, confession isn’t to be viewed as a ritual bargaining chip we cash in to obtain a clear conscience. Our forgiveness has already been bought in Jesus; we simply procure His purchased forgiveness through confession…. Perhaps it would be helpful to think of confession in terms of authenticity. Confession is a verbal way of spiritually recovering our authenticity in Christ”Jonathan Dodson
Confession means saying the same thing about your sin– that it’s a wrong against God. It results in a change in action. This may mean that you need help in this change, which is where James 5:16 and Galatians 6:1 comes into play.
Accountability Required Compassion
Galatians 6:1 tells us that we need to be careful how we confront. One way to look at it is that we could be tempted with the sin that we’re confronting, but another way to look at it is that while we may be the one confronting this time, it might be our turn to be confronted next
We need to be careful that we do not put ourselves in a position where we believe we cannot be tempted or fall into sin, because we are all frail.1 Corinthians 10:12 warns us of the same thing.
We show Christ’s love for others when we show compassion for others. Matthew 18 parable talks about how the great debt was resolved
How should the lesser debt been resolved?
Oftentimes we wonder as believers how some people fall into such harmful sin. We marvel because we didn’t hear of the struggles, and wonder what we could have done to change it, how we could know ahead of time, and what could be done in the future.
The truth is that if we would depend on one another and be accountable, if we’d forge stronger bonds with believers, we could see terrific growth in our spiritual life.
Sin and temptation often require privacy and the feeling that we could get away with something. Having someone that you can be accountable with and that will ask you the tough questions means that you can be held to account, loved with compassion, prayed for and encouraged to good works.
Let’s use this tool spelled out in Scripture to challenge and break us of our sins and to help us to grow closer to Christ.