Accountability- A Tool for Spiritual Growth

accountability-150x150Are you seeing spiritual growth in yourself? Your family? Your church?

If your answer to that question is…well…not what you’d like it to be, then consider that injecting accountability into relationships can make a big difference.
Accountability is a positive force for sanctification (and thus joy) in our lives
When it is important that something gets done there’s usually some form of accountability to make sure it actually does get done. We expect forms of accountability for filing our taxes, finishing a project at work, writing a report for school or even being at soccer practice. While we would certainly all agree that our spiritual growth is more important than these and many other things why isn’t there more accountability for doing it?

Accountability is just as vital for achieving spiritual goals as it is for other goals. It is ingrained in our nature as covenantal beings who are made in the image of a covenantal God. Consider that last statement again. To be accountable and to provide accountability is part of our identity and our life together as God’s family.
Accountability is woven into God’s design for his church and the home
Continuing with the covenant principle, God the Father has identified specific individuals who are accountable to Him to oversee the work of redemption in the lives of those under their charge in two institutions he has created: the church and the home. God the Son: Jesus Christ, is responsible for the entire universal Church (John 14:6, 1 Cor. 15:22). From Jesus, responsibility is vested in the elders who lead the local church (Heb. 13:17, 1 Pet. 5:5) and then the heads of household who lead in the home (Eph. 5:22-6:4, Col.3:19-21). All have responsibility and authority to oversee this redemptive work and are therefore, accountable to God to do it.

But God also expects there to be a level of accountability between members within the body of Christ. Consider that we are to instruct (Rom. 15:14), admonish (Col. 3:16), restore (Gal. 6:1), submit to (Eph. 5:21), and encourage (which here means “to come along side to help, to enable, to comfort, exhort and encourage”) one another (1 Thess. 5:11). These are all facets of accountability.
Accountability helps us live covanentally faithful lives
Perhaps you have experienced the blessings of having someone love you enough to offer some biblical counsel about a personal issue or situation you were facing, pray for you, and then come back a week later and ask about it. Knowing that the person praying was going to come back and ask probably helped you to do what you needed to do.
We are guilty of underestimating the power of deceitful desires
We are weak creatures and we often underestimate the power of the deceitful desires that lurk within our hearts (Jer. 17:9). Even if we, by ourselves, peg the real root of a struggle, we often need our families (home and in the church) to apply the remedy for the struggle that defeats sin. “Let him who stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). To think that we can grow without the help of our brothers and sisters is to not understand our condition as fallen creatures and to not understand “the exceeding sinfulness of sin” as Jeremiah Burroughs puts it. It is also not to understand the remedy for sin which is the work of the Holy Spirit applying the gospel through the ministry of God’s household “speaking the truth to one another in love”…which includes accountability.
Accountability requires relationships
Loving, gracious, patient, understanding accountability is not optional if we are going to see lives transformed. It is best accomplished as one facet of a relationship with a person where real life is shared and the motive for accountability is demonstrated in love. Otherwise, it comes off as legalism or as Paul would say, “a noisy gong or claiming cymbal”.
Accountability is vital
Accountability is to be a vital aspect of who we are and how we are to function as God’s covenant people. Yet, how much “coming along side” for the purpose of accountability is an intentional part of the ministry plan at your church or in your home?

Helping People with Their Unbelief

Helping People with Their Unbelief

unbeliefThe book of John is pregnant with the theme of belief. It’s palpable and yet it is often lost on the people to whom Jesus is ministering including at times his own disciples. Today, we share the same struggle with unbelief. Do we realize how great of a role “belief” (faith) plays in our daily choices and should play in our relationships?

In John 6, the disciples asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the works of God?” Jesus replied, “The work of God is that you believe in Him whom he has sent.”

Belief Is a Vital Tool For Life

Belief (faith) is not just the key that opens the door to reconciliation with God.

Belief is also the means by which we walk with God and become more conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  What we think, say, and do is always precipitated by belief, either in what God has said, or Satan’s lies. This is in fact what we see in Genesis 3 when Satan tempts Eve.

After we have acted on a belief in Satan’s lies (sin), belief is also the means by which we agree with God about our sin, confess it, repent of it and correct it.

Actions that glorify God are always preceded by belief in God (Rom. 6:11).

Our job in relationships (as fathers, mothers, spouses, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters or friends) is ultimately to help each other believe God; to believe the truth which is God’s view on any situation. Unfortunately this often gets lost when we focus too much on fixing outcomes.  Helping people think intentionally about how what they believe affects what they do involves helping each other discern where belief is centered in a given situation. Is it in God’s word or in Satan’s lies? It then involves helping each other believe what God says about the situation so that obedient, God-glorifying action can result.

Thinking this fundamentally—this simply—about our job in relationships is clarifying and helpful. It helps us understand and redemptively deal with the “why” behind what we do.

Belief Conquers Depression

Take for instance someone who is depressed. The “why” of their depression may be that they are facing a financial crisis. But why is the crisis causing them to respond in a sinful, i.e. depressed, way? The root cause could be that they do not believe that God is enough for them even when a real financial crisis looms (Pro. 18:10, 2 Cor. 12:9). It could be that they don’t believe that God can provide for them, even though it may come from sources they’d never expect (Matt. 6:33, Phil 4:19). Chances are, they are not thinking about the problem on this “belief” level.

Belief Conquers Sibling Rivalry

Let’s consider a regular case of two siblings fighting. (Something not unheard of in my house.) In some cases, the “why” of the fight is that a toy is not being shared. There is near bedlam. What is the belief that is directing the child’s selfish actions? Each child believes that in order to be happy, he/she must have that toy. Therefore, he/she fails to believe that Jesus provides enough happiness whether he/she has the toy or not (Ps. 16:11, John 10:10).

I realize that this may sound awkward or way too impractical. But herein lies the problem in the church and in the home. We are poor theologians. We think little about God and too much about ourselves.  We are all affected by a world that hates the glory of God and wants quick, painless answers to problems so that we can feel better about ourselves and get on with our own personal agendas.

The Challenge of Helping Unbelief

We need to get beyond platitudes, tips, good wishes, and techniques which often stop at behavioral change and bypass the heart and therefore do not transform. Only God transforms. For Him to transform us, we must see Him as he is revealed in Scripture. We must know Him…and believe him.

Done well, this requires much more than the typical lightweight garden-variety relationships that are so prevalent in churches and homes today. It requires depth and trust which is developed over time.

“Lord, Help My Unbelief” 

The request of the unnamed father in Mark 9:24 whose son Jesus freed from demonic possession should be our daily prayer, “[Lord] I believe, help my unbelief!”

Are your relationships deep enough that you can ask another person, “What does what you just did reveal about what you believe about God?” That’s a question that gets to the root of the issue rather quickly, doesn’t it?

Jesus’ example of helping people with unbelief is also a model for us. Are we following his example?