The new and better questions the cross compels us to ask.
"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” — 2 Timothy 2:1
Accountability is a popular word in Christian discipleship circles and small group ministries. The idea is that, since fully redeemed believers continue to struggle with their remaining sin nature, we need others to regularly challenge us in our commitment to follow Jesus in obedience as Lord. Therefore, believers meet to hold each other to account for their actions.
Each accountability group will have their own questions they ask each other regularly.
Have you read your Bible this week?
Have you prayed regularly this week?
Have you looked at pornography this week or detected lust in your heart?
Have you lied, cheated, or stolen?
Have you coveted?
Have you shared your faith this week?
Is there anyone to whom you need to repent for sinning against them?
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is an important place for analyzing the tree for spiritual fruit and for areas of disease. If you remember from a previous devotion, sin isn’t only condemnable, it’s also painful. It’s not only wrong; it’s harmful.
So, yes, we need to be honest about areas of disease growing on the branch, and deal with it.
Yet if we deal with sin by throwing the law at it, by simply revealing sin as sin with accountability questions, it is unlikely we’ll see any real healing and change take place.
Because we can’t kill sin with law accountability.
We kill sin with gospel accountability.
You see, if the common denominator with Christian accountability focuses on what we do or what we don’t do, we are missing something vital in the full-orbed process of discipleship. In that case, we are no better than first-century Pharisees, creating a holy club of whitewashed tombs that learn to fake spiritual maturity by managing the public exposure of their sin—those who pray in public and sin in private.
If someone leaves an accountability group with a perfect score, they’re lying. Gospel accountability assumes the deceitful, powerful, sin-inducing presence of the flesh. It assumes we need more than self-determination, commitment, and resolve.
We need grace.
We need Jesus.
We need the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to do what only he can do, empowering us to avoid the shiny bait of sinful desire as we abide in the justifying grace of Christ.
In the war against the flesh, gospel accountability focuses not on what we do but on what Jesus has done and what he has the power to do in and through us.
Gospel accountability knows our only hope for change is if we are, according to Paul’s admonition to Timothy, “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1, NIV).
Consequently, the cross compels us to ask new and better questions.
Do you believe yourself, in the flesh, to be spiritually impotent, unable to do any good apart from the life transforming power of God (John 15:4-5)?
Do you believe Jesus has born the full weight of your sin debt, and that by faith in his substitutionary sacrifice, you are forgiven of all unrighteousness, not just most or a lot, but all of it—that there is not a drop of judgment left for you to drink?
Do you believe in this moment that by faith in his blood, Jesus has credited to your moral record his own perfect obedience before the law—that in Christ, you are now as beautiful in the Father’s eyes as Jesus himself (2 Corinthians 5:21)?
Do you believe that now, in Christ as fully forgiven and “without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22, NIV), you also are the object of the Father’s most intense and unrelenting affection—that he loves you perfectly as a dearly loved child whom he will never love less, nor can he love more.
Do you believe the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is able to produce his fruit of love for God and neighbor in and through you, for your good and unto his glory?
In view of his grace, mercies, and immeasurable love, what idols of the flesh are visible that need to be confessed? [Need a list of contemporary heart idols? Just go here.]
In view of his grace, mercies, and immeasurable love, what areas of your life do you want to see him change (Romans 12:1-2)?
How can we help you with this deep desire to honor Jesus and bless you and your family?
This is the heart of gospel accountability.
If you’re able to use these questions in your own discipleship group, I’d love to hear what a difference this makes in your lives.
Even if you’re not in a formal group, why not ask these questions yourself, or with a friend, or maybe after dinner with your family?
What questions would you add? How would you rephrase them?
Also, if you find any typos in this piece or any others, will you please let me know in the comments below or by replying to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks! 🙂
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