Ephesians 4:25"Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another."
Have you ever been in a conversation with a professing Christian who claims he does not need to go to church anywhere? Typically, the discussion does not center around the need for salvation; instead, you spend time giving him reasons that he should regularly meet with other Christians, including the verse that says “do not forsake the assembling . . “. Perhaps a more compelling reason for church involvement you may have given is that of accountability. I know that I have heard the word "accountability" quite a bit in different churches of which I have had membership, including my current one.
We talk about Accountability, but do we really practice it?Even though we toss around the word accountability, we Christians do not truly practice or even understand how the Lord wants us to keep one another on track. We are afraid to say some tough things out of fear that we will hurt someone’s feelings, or that the hearer might become defensive or even hostile toward us. The sad truth is, those fears may be well-founded. Often, I myself have resented a friend who spoke the truth to me out of love, only to realize later that he was right in bringing these things to my attention.
God’s word tells us that not only do we have a right, but we have an obligation to hold each other accountable for our actions, especially when we observe a fellow believer acting in a way that does not reflect God's will. That is one reason why should attend church. As a matter of fact, that is as good a reason as any that He gave us the Church in the first place: because we are a relational people. We need relationships with others to maintain our spiritual health. It is how He designed us. This is why the verse in Ephesians at the top of this page ends with the phrase “for we are members of one another.”
In fact, Scripture gives us many other examples of this kind of relationships among His people. Example: At the beginning of the Church Age, Jesus sent disciples out in pairs; among other things, they kept each other honest and on track. When you read Paul use the analogy of the Christian walk as a battle, you can see the benefits of Jesus sending them out in two: in war, you don't go out into combat alone. One man who was all alone in his walk with God was David. As king, he didn't have people in his life who would even question him, let alone hold him accountable. It is pure speculation, but if he had had a men’s group filled with men who would ask him the tough questions, it is very possible he wouldn’t have fallen into an illicit relationship with Bathsheba.
How does God speak to us today?There is not enough space here to discuss the realities of God speaking to us. I am one who believes that He does. Don't get me wrong; I have never heard an audible voice or seen a burning bush, yet there have been times when I have known it was Him, making an impression on my heart to do or say a particular thing. God can speak to His people in different ways, including through His word. Second Timothy 3:16 tells us: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."
Other passages worth noting
Acts 11:22"they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith, and much people was added unto the Lord."
Proverbs 12:15"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel."
Colossians 3:16 NIV"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."
Now here's an interesting point made by Paul: the 2nd book of Timothy was, as you may know, actually a letter written near the end of Paul’s life. Many have supposed that Timothy was a pastor of a young church. Actually, the Word doesn’t say that, but it does say that he was in a position to teach his fellow church members. Please take a look at a passage in chapter 4 of 2nd Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:2"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."
Paul is telling Timothy to tell the believers what they NEED to hear, rather than what they WANT to hear. It is important to note that this verse does not apply only to Timothy, and it does not apply only to those in teaching positions in our churches. The warning in verse 3 tells us that our Christian friends may very well want to hear ear candy. In fact, some translations say that "they want their ears tickled." If you are a true friend, you will allow the Lord to speak some tough things when necessary, and you will not hold back for fear of losing that person’s friendship.
We do not have a choiceIf the thought of helping your fellow believers stay on the straight and narrow seems uncomfortable, so . . . un-American, you need to get over it. God makes it very clear through His word that this is not optional:
Proverbs 24:24-25"Whoever says to the guilty, 'you are innocent'—peoples will curse him and nations denounce him. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come upon them."
In fact, if we fail in this area and don’t tell our brother what he needs to hear, as opposed to what he wants to hear, his blood falls on us! Don’t believe me? Read this:
Ezekiel 3:18-19"When I [God} say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.
Fear of ManIn the preceding section, I half-joked about how holding each other accountable seemed un-American. In truth, why do we have such a hard time practicing this clear command of God? I am afraid that for most of us, our hesitation is a direct result of our fear of what others think; rather, what we think they will think. The best way for us to combat this is to realize that we are all sinners, and some of us have been saved by grace. Better yet, we need to establish accountability relationships with others who understand this basic truth. Anyone who has a handle on the fact that we all need a savior is not likely to condemn us when we confess that we have failed.
It is my recommendation that all believers should find someone of their own sex for accountability purposes. It should be someone who can be trusted to keep things confidential, and an agreement should be made right up front that both partners will not refrain from asking tough questions. Dr. James Dobson has a set of accountability questions for men that we can and should use on each other on a weekly basis. This list below is a slightly modified version of those questions:
1. Have you been with a person of the opposite sex during the past week in a way that could be viewed as compromising?
2. Have all your financial dealings been filled with integrity?
3. Have you viewed or read inappropriate material this week?
4. Have you reached the goals you set for Bible Study and prayer?
5. Have you spent quantity time and given priority to your family?
6. Are you fulfilling the mandate of your calling?
7. Have you just lied to me?
If you find that a particular study has been helpful, I'd love to hear from you. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.