The Source: Accountability

ACCOUNTABILITY

The Source: Lesson 5

Make a list of… Which one is longer? Why do you think that is the case?

–          Bible teachings or messages that impacted you.

–          Friendships in your Christian life that impacted you positively.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one because they receive good payment for their struggles. For if one falls, his companion can help him up. But woe to the one who falls alone with no one to help him up.”

God created us as relational beings. It was “not good” for Adam to be alone, nor is it so for us today. The Scriptures often refer to God’s people as a family (brothers & sisters with the Father) and offer multiple “one another” commands.[1] Life and our spiritual growth are meant to be lived out in community with others; this is the essence of accountability.

Accountability is a common buzz word, not just in Christian circles but also in the secular arena. Consider employers who expect their employees to have standard work ethic, or teachers who want students to perform better academically, or coaches seeking increased performance, or simply parents setting boundaries for their children, or standing before a holy God and Eternal Judge – these are all forms of accountability in various areas. This teaching will explore the importance and application of accountability in the Christian life.

Definition & Introduction

Accountability implies the necessity to explain, defend or confess one’s actions to a specific standard. The Scriptures reveal a vertical accountability before God (Genesis 2:16; Exodus 20:1-11; Deuteronomy; Romans 1:20, 2 – 3; 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10) and a horizontal accountability with mankind (Genesis 2:23, 3 – 4 esp. 4:9; Exodus 20:12-17; Deuteronomy; “one another” passages[2]). It is answering for your life’s identity and actions, being open and transparent to another.

Many Christians and churches emphasize having an accountability partner(s)[3]. This is often someone whom you have developed a close and trusting relationship with over time. It is also someone whom you allow and is not afraid to ask the hard questions to bring about God’s refinement in your life. An accountability partner can be a mentor, a peer or a trainee; depending on the purpose and level of accountability.

Purpose & Practice

µ      Accountability brings about God’s refinement and spiritual growth. All of us are imperfect, broken sinners standing in need of salvation and healing. Ultimately, this comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, God has chosen the context of His church and relationships to help us move toward Christ-likeness.
The purpose of Christian accountability is not psychotherapy or venting feelings for its own sake. Its purpose is to reorient persons toward God. So, questions and discussion should lead in this direction.[4]

µ      Accountability often equals advancement (though not automatic); likewise, the lack of it often equals alarm. However, accountability is only successful if it is authentic. In other words, it must have the right motivation of pleasing God and be centered around the gospel for it to achieve desired results of spiritual growth. Therefore, both grace and truth must be central to relational accountability. Without grace accountability becomes legalistic, condemning not correcting, mean-spirited and immobilizing. Without truth accountability becomes license, vain moralism, and impotent. To be effective, accountability must be gospel-centered; fighting sin not with do better but believe and love in the Someone greater. Jesus Christ is our substitute for both sin’s consequences and also as the source of satisfaction (Psalm 16).

Ephesians 4; Colossians 3:1-17 (note the put off, put on strategy in the gospel)

 

Titus 2:11-15 “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

 

1John 3:2-3 “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

µ      Accountability reminds us life is not only about me. Many times friendships can become one-sided; only receiving and never giving. True and godly friendships work both ways and complement each other toward spiritual growth. The graphic below illustrates this principle. Each person who seeks growth toward each other must grow individually toward God. Movement away from God will result in distance in the relationship.

Galatians 6:1-10

ð      Principles of selecting an accountability partner/group.

Find those who will encourage and put wind in your spiritual sails. These should be people you enjoy being around. They are not meant to be religious nuts whom you can’t stand to be around. But people who will lovingly nudge you towards the fear of the Lord and growing in Christ.

Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

Proverbs 11:12, 26 “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent… Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”

Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

Jesus has the words of life (John 6:68).

Value wisdom and maturity which comes in multi-generations. Wisdom and maturity come from various life experiences. The beauty of God’s church is multiple generations sharing life with one another to learn from past mistakes and offer varying perspectives.

Proverbs 13:20 “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” 

Proverbs 16:31 “Gray hair is a crown of glory, it is gained in a righteous life.”

Jesus has all wisdom (Romans 16:27; Hebrews 2:18; Jude 1:25).

True friends are constant when it’s not convenient. This is discovering friends who care about you not just benefits they receive in your friendship. This is also the example of Jesus, persevering in love through word and deed. They should be godly, dependable, loyal, and trustworthy.

Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Proverbs 18:24b “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Jesus is faithful (Hebrews 2:17, 4:14-16). 

True friends are honest when it’s hard. Everyone has blind-spots. We all need others to speak into our lives and ask us probing questions and offer constructive criticism.

Proverbs 24:26 “Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.”

Proverbs 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

Jesus reveals and cleanses us from sin (1John 1:5 – 2:2)

True friends are sensitive to situations. Accountability partners do not necessarily have carte blanche. There must be discernment and certain boundaries; though if these relationships are not able to share openly and authentically they will lack the depth and intimacy often required for effectiveness.

Proverbs 25:17 “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, let he have his fill of you and hate you.”

Proverbs 27:14 “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.”

Jesus invites us to a relationship without pretense (Matthew 11:28-30).

Each of these principles and characteristics are fulfilled in Jesus. Accountability partners/groups will not meet our every need. Only the gospel gives sustaining grace and growth. This is why the gospel must be central in every relationship. And… what a friend we have in Jesus (John 14:15-21, 15:1-17, 16:7-33)!

 

ð      Practices for ministry with an accountability partner/group

–          Read & Memorize Scripture together (have a plan; review handouts ROAD to Bible Study/The Source #3)

–          Share High (praises) / Low (struggles) of week, month 

–          Confront with truth and love through a series of specific questions. The Puritan Pastor John Owen said, “be killing sin lest it be killing you.” In other words, fight sin with the gospel – confession, repentance, cleansing through the gospel promises in Scripture and applying gospel obedience. Remember, this is not about confession to feel guilty and re-earning (achieving) grace.

–          Pray for and with each other

 

—        —        —        —        —        —        —        —        —        —        —        —        —        —        —        —  

ð      Principles of when & how to confront others (Galatians 2:11-14)

Confront others when the truth is compromised.

Paul’s reason for confronting Peter was that he was “not in step with the truth of the gospel” and others were being led astray (many Jews and even Barnabas). It was crucial for Paul to confront Peter’s hypocritical behavior or the truth of the gospel would have been distorted.

Likewise, believers should confront others when the issue concerns the truth of the gospel. When you protect the truth you are also protecting the unity of the body (only separation for doctrinal reasons). This does not mean searching for every wrong that others commit but it does mean holding others accountable (Matthew 7:1-5).

James 5:19-20 “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

Confront others in love.

Paul confronted Peter face to face. This was done in person and the background of the language used suggests it was done in public. Paul wanted to set the record straight and he wanted everyone to know the truth. Likewise, believers should go to the source and avoid gossip when confronting others. At times, confronting issues may need a public presentation, but more often than not it can be handled in a small group of individuals.

Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen…Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

 

ð      Principles for when being confronted by others (Matthew 18:15-17)

When confronted by others avoid pride.

Pride says: “I am not what you say” or “Who are you to confront me?”

God says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” James 4:6

When confronted by others listen sincerely.

Ignorance says: “I cannot be wrong”

God says: “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

When confronted by others invite accountability.

Individualism says: “I do not need others help”

God says: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:12-13

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

 

One Another Passages

Judges 20:22 But the men of Israel encouraged one another and again took up their positions where they had stationed themselves the first day.

 

Psalm 145:4 One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.

 

Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

 

John 13:14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another‘s feet.

 

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

 

John 15:12, 17 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. These things I command you, that you love one another.

 

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

 

Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

 

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

 

Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

 

Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

 

Romans 16:16 (1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Peter 5:14) Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

 

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

 

Galatians 5:13 serve one another in love.

 

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

 

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

Ephesians 5:19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

 

Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

 

Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds,

 

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

 

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

 

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

 

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

James 4:11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

 

James 5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

 

1 Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

 

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

 

1 Peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

 

1 Peter 5:5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

 

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

 

1 John 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

 

1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

 

1 John 4:7, 11 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

 

2 John 1:5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another.


[1] See end of this handout for a list of “one another” Scriptures.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Some suggest that having an accountability group is better than a single person bearing another’s burdens. This helps remove isolation and aids in employing the various gifts in the body of Christ. Though, some warning about group member selection needs considered. See further in teaching handout.

[4] Good resources with this basic premise are David Powlison, Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture; esp. ch.7 X-Ray Questions; Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand: People In Need Of Change Helping People In Need Of Change; Jonathan Dodson’s article “Mere Accountability” accessed: http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001353.cfm

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