Q: #22. What is Biblical accountability?
By: Steve Shirley
A: Biblical accountability is a vital aspect of a Christian's walk with the Lord. Accountability means that we have anywhere from 1 to 3 people that hold us responsible for our actions in areas of our lives in which we consistently struggle with sin, or fail to live up to God's standards. Accountability is meant to help us overcome these sinful strongholds in our lives.
I don't personally know of any person that doesn't struggle with at least one (or more) particular sin in their life. However, if you ask them "Who are you accountable to?" they will reply "No one" or "What is accountability?"
People fail to realize that if sin is kept in the darkness, it is nearly impossible to overcome. Sin thrives and grows in the darkness. It must be brought into the light if it is to die (Eph 5:11-14). So many people think they can walk the Christian walk alone... These "Lone Ranger" Christians don't feel they need other believers to come along side of them. They don't want to depend on others, but would rather be independent. Many see dependence as a sign of weakness. Some have abuse in their past, and don't trust anyone. Others don't want anyone to judge their behavior, nor do they want to judge anyone else's behavior. These obstacles must be overcome. They are the opposite of God's will for our lives.
Accountability means finding that person, or better yet several persons, who love Christ, will love you unconditionally, and want to see you come up higher. They should be people you respect, people you trust, people who will support and encourage you, people who will not condemn you no matter what sins you struggle with. Most importantly, they should also be people that you can confide in, and know without a doubt that what is said to them will be kept confidential, and not shared with anyone else. Breaking confidentiality will destroy an accountability relationship.
Building these relationships often takes time. It is not easy, especially for those who are very independent or who have trust issues. There is nothing wrong with starting slow. Possibly, start with a smaller issue, that you would like help with that isn't so hard to discuss, and begin to build that trust and bond. As time goes on, you should be able to deal with deeper issues. You will also find yourself built up as you are able to be there for your accountability partners, and know that they are depending on you. Brothers and sisters in Christ depending on each other; this is a Biblical concept.
(James 5:16) Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed.
(Gal 6:1-2) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (2) Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
(Eccl 4:9-10) Two are better than one... (10) For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow (friend): but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
(Heb 3:13) But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
(1 Th 5:11) Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another...
(Prov 27:17) Iron sharpeneth iron; So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
(2 Tim 4:2) reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (Also see: Rom 15:14, Heb 10:25)
(2 Cor 1:3-4) ... the God of all comfort; (4) who comforts us in all tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God.
The Bible clearly shows us that God never meant for us to walk alone. Even Jesus had His group of 12 to support Him, and of that 12, He also had a smaller group of 3 that He shared even more deeply with. When Jesus sent out the 70 men to go ahead of Him to the places he Himself would later go, He sent them out in twos (Lk 10:1). When the apostles went to proclaim the Gospel all through the New Testament, they went in twos. They needed each other. WE need each other.
We need each other as a body of believers that form the church in general (large group).
We also need to support and be supported in a local church (Heb 10:25) (a smaller group).
We need to form even closer bonds in such places as small groups, Bible study groups, and Sunday school (an even smaller group).
And, we need to go even further in forming an accountability group (the smallest and most intimate group).
The larger groups are certainly important and vital to a believer, but they are not meant to bear the most intimate details of your personal life. We must go deeper.
How do we do this? We must allow these accountability partners TOTAL access to our lives. We must be willing to openly share our sins and struggles, and they need to be willing and able to ask some tough questions. Questions about our relationship with God, our spouses, and our children. Questions about our temptations, and the sins we have committed when we gave into the temptations. Questions in areas such as: sex and pornography, alcohol and drugs, gambling, finances, temper, unhealthy relationships, how we use our time, what we watch or listen to, pride, etc...
This can be VERY uncomfortable. It is meant to be so. This is how we overcome. When sin is brought into the light, it helps set us free. There are few things more difficult in life than to openly confess your faults and hidden secrets to another person. It can be embarrassing, scary, and humiliating. However, one thing you will come to find out, is that you don't want to keep confessing the same sins over and over. We want to come up higher.
*** Note: Let me add here that accountability partners should be the same sex. For married people this is a MUST. Married people should NOT be sharing intimate details of their lives with the opposite sex. This is a dangerous road to travel. However, even for those not married, you need same sex accountability. The old adage is true, men will never understand women, nor will women understand men. We have different thought processes, desires, and needs, and will never fully understand these in the opposite sex, nor can we fully give them the help they need.
Accountability groups should meet at LEAST once a week. Accountability partners should readily be available if you need them during the week as well. They should be available to support, encourage, and pray with you, if you are struggling to avoid sinning, or if you have given into temptation and sinned and you need help. Meeting once a week is great, but what if you struggle during the week? You need someone who can help you through right then, not later. That is important.
Make every effort to meet when you are scheduled to do so. I think it is safe to say that Satan and his demons hate accountability groups, and will do anything they can to hinder or break them apart. If you don't meet on a regular basis, and frequently, the group will likely be ineffective, and neither you, nor your partners will overcome. Each person in the group must be COMMITTED! They must be in it for the long haul.
Always make sure whenever you meet, that prayer surrounds your meetings. Open with prayer, and close with prayer specifically for the needs and problems discussed. Cover with prayer those who are struggling.
Let me add here, one other aspect of accountability. That is accountability to an individual or individuals that you have harmed, and you need to make things right. This is not the same thing as an accountability partner or group, and it doesn't have the same function, but it is important in the process to help us overcome sin in our life. Have you hurt someone? Have you caused someone pain because of your sin? Do you have a secret sin that you haven't confessed to a loved one? If this applies to you, accountability may well force you to confess that sin to whomever you have hurt, whether they are aware you have done it or not. You will need to apologize and seek forgiveness. I can guarantee that you won't want to have to do that again at a later time. If there is a secret sin, the person may be hurt and angry. Restoration of the relationship may take time. Trust may have to be rebuilt. Healing will have to occur. It will take effort, and may even require outside help, such as counseling, to restore the relationship. However, rest assured that if you are wholeheartedly seeking to follow and do God's will, He WILL take care of you and will work all things for your good (Rom 8:28). Our accountability group can also be there to support and encourage us during this time.
Friend, please keep in mind that some accountability relationships don't work out for one reason or another. Do NOT stop trying! There are plenty of men and women out there who are lonely and hurting and struggling with sin, that need someone to come along side of them, and who would love to help you too. They are just waiting for someone to ask.
Also, it is important to understand that accountability alone will not help us to get free from the sinful strongholds in our lives. There are things only WE can do. We must take steps to "flee" when opportunities to sin appear (1 Cor 6:18)(1 Cor 10:14)(1 Tim 6:11)(2 Tim 2:22). We must avoid putting ourselves in situations that we know will tempt us, or cause us to sin. We must remove things in our lives that are associated with the sin (i.e. If you struggle with alcohol, don't keep it in your house. If you are addicted to internet pornography or internet chat, get rid of the internet.) We must make a covenant with our eyes (Job 31:1), set no wicked thing before our eyes (Ps 101:3), and should not let our eyes wander (Prov 4:24). We must make no provision for the flesh (Rom 13:14).
Through these actions, accountability, and prayer, God WILL work in your life and you can be set FREE!