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Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Gift of Accountability

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. (Proverbs 18:1)
It is a natural human tendency to avoid accountability.  We are rebellious at heart, we do not want to submit ourselves to others, and we do not want people examining our lives.  It could be said that it is the sinfully natural thing to desire spiritual autonomy. 
But this verse in Proverbs shows how unwise it is to isolate oneself from others.  It is completely self-centered – whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire – and it is foolish - …he breaks out against all sound judgment.
God gave the church to the church.  Ephesians 4:9-16 makes it clear that we are to be serving one another, building one another up in Christ, “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  V15 shows that a vital component of our assisting one another toward growth in Christlikeness is “speaking the truth in love.”  It would make sense that if we are exhorted to do this for one another, we also need others to do this for us.   
In the post from last week, we saw that one of the crucial tools the Lord has given us to help us deal with our sin and grow in the Lord is our relationships in the church.  We need others to hold us accountable and speak the truth in love.  The more people we have around us who will love us in that way, the less likely we are to sin.  Conversely, the fewer people we have around us who will love us enough to confront our sin, the more likely we are to sin. 
This seems to be one idea behind an exhortation at the climax of the book of Hebrews in 10:24-27.  After explaining the certainty of our salvation in Christ, the writer writes: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Why should we make it a priority to meet together? Because in the absence of stirring up one another to love and good works, there is the great danger of deliberately continuing in sin.  And therein lies a possible motive for those who shy away from any kind of accountability.  It may be that such a person wants to hide his sin so that it doesn’t have to be removed from his life.  It’s possible that such a person wants to continue in sin.
Another reason that someone may not seek accountability is that they think that accountability is only for the weak, “addicted,” or immature.  In other words, they consider accountability to be primarily for “serious” sin and “serious” sinners.  However, the New Testament would not support such a notion.  Of all the churches to which Paul wrote letters in the New Testament, the one considered the most mature was the one to which he made numerous calls for mutual accountability.  Indeed, it was to the Thessalonians that Paul wrote about such things.  Even though he acknowledged that they were already living lives pleasing to God, he exhorted them to “do so more and more” (4:1).  Toward that end, he wrote in 1 Thess 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.”  Three verses later, he gave the fuller exhortation, “admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 
We find another strong exhortation toward accountability written to – of all people – a pastor in 2 Timothy 2:22: So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. What a compact, yet complete picture of our responsibility in sanctification – put off sin, put on righteousness, and don’t try to do it alone. 
If such things were written to a pastor and to the godly believers in Thessalonica, should we think that we have no need to be admonished when we are idle, encouraged when we are fainthearted, and helped when we are weak?  Should we think we can effectively flee from sinful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace all by ourselves without the help and encouragement of other believers who are pursuing the same things?  Scripture is clear – we need one another.  And as Proverbs 18:1 indicates, only a fool would deny that.
But let me give one caveat here.  Accountability is only as effective as we are honest.  Some believers think that merely having an accountability partner is going to protect them from engaging in grievous sin.  The truth is that there is nothing magical about having an accountability partner.  Many people in accountability relationships have shipwrecked their faith by still engaging in wanton sinfulness.  When this happens it is usually the case that while the person was meeting with an accountability partner, he or she was not being completely honest about their struggles.  So consider this – if you are in an accountability relationship in which you are not totally honest, you are not really in an accountability relationship at all.  Rather, you are in a deception relationship.  What we need is true biblical accountability where we do not hide our sin, but we seek regular help from someone we trust and in whose life we can offer the same kind of help.
I have the blessing of having numerous people in my life who love me enough to confront my sin and hold me accountable.  It has been an invaluable part of my spiritual growth and I would encourage everyone to surround themselves with such loving believers.  If you do not have any kind of accountability relationship, please approach one of the elders.  We would be happy to connect you with someone.  If you already have someone in mind, please take the first step and ask them to consider such a relationship.  This is an essential part of our sanctification.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can do this on your own. 
Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.

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