Accountability may seem to go against our self-sufficient, individualistic mindsets and fear of conviction. Most cultures and individuals like to be "my own person," and thus do "my own thing." Most people do not like being told what to do or how to do it. But, we need godly people in our lives to do just that-with love and care. Thus, we have to learn to overcome our barriers of conviction so we can grow more in Christ and with one another.
Many Christians see accountability as meaningless because conviction is the role of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Acts 1:8; 4:31; 10:45; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 3:16-17; Heb. 13:5-6). Yes, they are correct about the conviction part, and wrong to say that it does not matter. Why? Galatians tells us to carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). The meaning refers to moral issues and guarding weakness (Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Cor. 9:21).Take heed, we are also responsible and answerable for our actions in life to God and to other key Christians. Thus, we need to be held to our beliefs and kept in line about what we believe so it does not distract us from God's path for us or discourage others from their own path.
The other typical objection believers give is that we are not under any kind of law, and now we have liberty and Grace, so it does not matter. A prominent Christian leader a few years back asked me, after I had done a workshop on accountability, Why is this important? Can't I just live my Christian life as I please? After all, I have liberty in Christ! I answered him to the best of my ability, but he just would not get it; shortly thereafter, he fell and fell hard. It turned out he did not like accountability because he has been having a long-term affair. He did not want to be convicted! Our liberation is not to protect us from conviction; it is to enjoy our Lord so we can pursue His precepts as we realize our indebtedness to Him.
Liberation simply means Christ has set us free (John 8:32-36; Rom. 6:3-23; Gal. 5:1). Paul was overcome by his liberation in and by Christ (Mark 7:18-19). He stressed that we must behave and be responsible in the correct manner. We many enjoy our freedom, but freedom does not entitle one to do anything one wants, just as living in a "free" county like the U.S. does not, as we cannot steal or murder or not pay taxes. What about free will? Yes, we have "free will;" Calvin spent most of his writings discussing this fact. He taught that we have responsibility, and duty to faith and prayer, three areas that require free will. We are still to allow His work to continue in us; the Holy Spirit will lift our sin and our will out of the way. If you truly give up your will to God, will you be liberated or would you be obligated as a servant/slave with no real life as you would see it? The fact is that you are free in Christ! The question is how will you live your life of freedom?
The liberty of the Christian life is by surrender. It gives us:
1. Freedom from law. (Rom. 3:19; 6:14; -15; Gal. 2:20-21; 3:23-25)
2. Forgiveness, acceptance, and access to His presence. (Rom. 5:1-2)
3. Freedom from having to base our acceptance on our performance. (Rom. 7: 7-11; 10:3)
4. Freedom from sin, and declared cleaned! (John 8:34-36; Rom 3:19; 6: 3-23; 1 Cor.15: 16; Gal. 3:10-20; 4:21-31)
5. Freedom from our own faulty thinking and superstitions. (1 Cor. 6:12-13; 8:7-13; 1 Tim. 4:1-5)
Because of these five reasons, we respond with obedience-not out of obligation (as a slave does), but out of gratitude and love. This new obedience is because of a changed heart and will. We are enabled to respond and continue in our new life by the Holy Spirit. Accountability helps us in our freedom in Christ, because we give up on our self will and focus on His. Like driving a car in a strange unfamiliar area and making Christ a passenger, we, as human beings, spend most of the time arguing, complaining, and debating the destination. Yet, we do not have a clue to where we are going. If we would allow Christ to get into the driver's seat, He would be able to take us where we could never have gone before. In addition, if we sign over the "pink slip" to our Lord Jesus Christ, then He will take us to places that, even in our wildest imaginations, we could never fathom. Then, perhaps the love we are to receive and exhibit will flow ever so much more freely! The bottom line is: accountability is letting Christ drive! Accountability becomes the map to keep us moving on His road to His destination; if we throw away the map, then we go in the wrong direction; we will never get to the destination, and perhaps, even crash. It begins when we stop to ask for directions, His Directions!
We are not to allow our liberation and freedom in Grace to cause people to stumble by our actions or inactions. Our faith and actions are monitored closely by God as well as by other people, and we must realize that our actions are more influential than our words. We will either lift people up or bring them down! Hypocrisy is perhaps the most deadly threat to new or weak Christians who fall victim to it, and is a heinous sin against Christ and His children by those who cause it! We, as a body of Christ, must seek to show right actions to one another, to be cautious, and to act with charity, humility, and self-denial within our Christian liberty.We are still called to be responsible in the correct manner. We may enjoy our freedom, but freedom does not entitle us to do anything we want.A true Christian will never destroy another person's faith so he can have his own way! Our freedom must not bring dishonor, division, or disrepute to the church.
The first two objections are from theological standpoints, but what most of us struggle with is emotional-our fears and cultural hesitations. Connecting with others and exposing our feelings may be much easier for most women; but, for men, this is sometimes a seemingly impenetrable barrier. It can be a scary business to share your feelings and be open and introspective, as people may betray us, belittle us, or ignore or step on our heart. And to tell you the truth, yes, that can happen. It has happed to me several times, as close accountability partners have betrayed confidences and spread rumors. However, the benefits have far outweighed the few times I have been wronged.
Women tend to be better at opening up than men, especially generations born before 1965. We were brought up to think that a man is to show no emotion or share feelings-the John Wayne type. This makes a good movie character but is not good biblical character. So, we become fearful of sharing our lives with our spouse, coworkers, or even a trusted friend. These fears debilitate relational connections and the support we need in life and in ministry as well as hamper trust (Rom. 8:15). Another factor that ties in with this is shame. We feel embarrassed or that we are the only one going though this. We may feel they will reject me when they get to know me. Or, we feel no one will understand or they will think less of me. The fact is, as growing Christians in Christ, when we get to know one another, we get to know ourselves as well; love supercedes judgment and care overpowers fear. This leads to forgiveness and openness. If we let our shame and fear rule our emotions and ability to be held accountable, we will not be able to share or receive godly instruction. Thus, sin will rain upon us. When we start to realize that the love and care we send and receive is far better than the isolation we build, it will allow us to grow more in maturity and faith because we will be open and honest. As a result, all of our relationships and our ministry will vastly improve.
We need to realize we are already accepted by Christ. He no longer condemns us, as, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus… nothing can separate me from the love of God (Rom. 8). Thus, to be in a Christian accountability group, you are in a group with sinners who all have been wounded, all who fear, all who are saved by grace, and who all are together exercising the faith. We are all in the same boat here. We learn of one another's battles which helps us with ours, and ours helps with theirs. Insights are gained and shared, and the transformation from fear to maturity commences. Together, we are not to be ashamed of who we are in Christ, living out our faith with passion and conviction. The real shame is a Christian who does not seek help from God and others. Being accountable will promote healing and growth in all aspects of your life!
Remember, people will hurt you, because people who hurt are usually hurting themselves and they do not know how to relate (which an accountability group can help with). What can we do to overcome this obstacle? Be vulnerable, yet discerning. Only allow people whom you already know and trust to be a part of your support group, and advance slowly. Start off with a few of the simple questions and prayer; as you get to know one another, you will build the trust. (I did not do this with the people who betrayed me!) When we feel safe, we are more apt to share; this goes for both men and women. When we feel safe, we better receive essential positive feedback, listen to constructive criticism, and have a longer and deeper prayer time.
Do not allow accountability in your Christian life or in your church to become a forgotten call!