Have you ever had a moment in time when you realized you were doing or thinking about something that you had never intended on doing or thinking about?
As a highly hypothetical example, imagine that I was on a diet. A diet where I ate things that were good for me, or at least healthier than a fast food burger or fries. (Remember, this is hypothetical) Then imagine that some sweet lady in our congregation sent a batch of cookies up to our church offices (again – purely hypothetical). It would almost be wrong of me not to eat one, or even five of them, wouldn’t it? I mean – it might get back to her if I didn’t eat them, and then her feelings could be hurt. She might even walk away from the Lord..and suddenly – even though I woke up that morning on fire for my diet, committed to my diet,, sharing it on social media #Bestdietever, telling everyone how awesome I feel because of my diet and they should be on one too… I might just leave my diet behind and eat two dozen cookies, completely justifying my actions to those around me.
I use this story to illustrate how quickly and easily we can turn away from a commitment or value, and even be able to justify ourselves for doing so. There are commitments and values that we hold that should be important enough to us to safeguard. I believe we should set up guard rails in our lives while we are strong, to help protect us in those times when we are weak.
No matter how close our walk with God is, we all have the possibility of moving away from him. Which is one of the reasons it is addressed in the book of Hebrews.
“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” Hebrews 3:12
If turning away from God was not a risk, it would not have been addressed. Fortunately, there is also a guardrail to this danger suggested in the verses that come next.
“See to it, brothers and sisters, 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.” Heb 3:12-13
According to this scripture – one way to help us keep from developing a sinful, unbelieving heart – is to be encouraged by each other daily. Another translation uses the word warn. The Greek word used here has a double meaning, it can mean encourage, but it can mean warn as well. This gives it a different spin. We don’t always feel ‘encouraged‘ when we are ‘warned’ – but maybe we should. This passage says that having another believer that we speak with on a daily basis, can help us not be caught up in the deceit of sin. This needs to be someone that knows you well enough to see through the mask you might put on for the world when you are struggling. Someone who will be persistent with you when you are avoiding conversation. Someone who is not afraid to get in your face and ask you hard questions.
We need to make room in our lives for friends like this. And we need to put them in place our lives while we are strong, before we are struggling. I have a few of these friends in my life. Friends who keep me accountable. Friends who aren’t afraid to speak truth to my face. And they have been invaluable.
If you don’t have this kind of friendship – pray for it. Ask God to send you wise counsel. And He will.
Jim is one of the speakers at this year’s National Disciple Making Forum. Learn more and register here.
There are four things you need to look for when you are seeking out a friend like this:
Four Key Components of Accountability
- Know the Word well enough to recognize it, and be sure your friend also knows God and His word.
You need to be able to match up what someone says with what God says. “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world” 1 John 4:1
It is equally important that you make certain the person you choose to speak into your life is a committed follower of Jesus. Someone who exhibits the fruit of the Spirit in their life. Someone who is allowing themselves to be renewed by spending time with God and in his Word.
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. Psalm 1:1
- Be honest
This is such a crucial component. Unless you are transparent with your friend, they may not have all the information they need to warn you when you are going off the road. The seed of sin always begins in the mind – by sharing your thoughts with your friend, you may be able to stop something before it ever reaches the point of sin. It takes some time to build up the trust that is required for this kind of friendship, but once you have a friend like this it can be life-changing, hold on to them!
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
- Be humble and submissive
One thing I value highly is being a lifelong learner. I never want to reach a point where I believe I know everything there is to know about something. That is a very prideful attitude. The truth is God is able to teach me things through others, and he does so all the time. So when someone I care about tells me they are concerned about something in my life, I swallow that instinctive fleshly emotion that says “Who do you think you are??”, humble myself and listen to them. I will say there have been times when I have not responded this way, but it is the desire of my heart to do so.
He who separates himself seeks his own desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom. Proverbs 18:1
- Carry one another’s burdens
If you find yourself in the position of having to speak some truth into your friends’ life and hold them accountable, be sure you are ready to help them carry the burden. We don’t just love each other in word, but in deed and in truth. We are doing life together, helping each other through struggles, carrying each others’ burdens.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
I can’t stress enough the importance of having an accountability relationship, or wise counsel in your life. I have seen this make a difference in my own life, and in the lives of more people than you would imagine. I have also seen the lack of this kind of relationship ruin the lives of more than one person. If you have some of these relationships around you then be thankful for them! If you don’t, then be praying for God to send you some.
Written by Jim Putman
This was originally posted on Jim Putman’s blog here. Used with permission.
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