. . . continued from previous post . . .
Accountability partnerships need to go deeper than a simple review of Internet reports. True accountability means helping others to walk in the light, coming alongside them in the process. We help each other to walk in the light by (1) giving each other the tools to dive deep into the hidden motives of our fractured hearts, (2) using our two greatest weapons in warfare together (the Word and prayer), and (3) challenging each other to eliminate all pretense that continually fools us and others to our true condition. Let’s look at these elements one at a time.
1. Diving Into Our Deep Hearts
Proverbs 20:5 states, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
We are most certainly responsible for our sins, but accountability partners are called to help someone else get to the root of their sin, diving deep into muddy waters. Accountability partners help find the underlying issues and belief systems that feed temptation.
The Lord grants us new hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Corinthians 3:3). It is one of the greatest promises of the New Covenant ratified by Christ. This new heart is the new inner man that is being transformed day by day to become like Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:16; Colossians 3:10). We are essentially new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17); we are the opening act of God’s renewal of the whole world (Isaiah 65:17; Acts 3:19-21; Romans 8:19-21). This new self is united with Christ: the same Christ who has freedom from sin’s tempting grip (Romans 6:10), because of His resurrection life. As we experience the power of His resurrection in our lives (Philippians 3:10), we experience freedom from sin’s grip. As we meditate on the glory of God in the person of Christ, our daily lives are transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:6).
Yet with all this newness, the oldness of our bodies remains. The physical members of our bodies remain the same. The outer self is the beachhead where sin can attack. It is where sin dwells (Romans 7:22-25). This outer self includes not just our visible extremities, but all the inner workings of our brain, our appetites, and our hormones. While the body can and should be used as an instrument of righteousness (Romans 6:13), because it is impulsive and indiscriminate in its responses, this is where sin grips us.
Our first and greatest line of defense is the mind. As temptation presents itself and the impulses of the body begin, before we act or react in any way, the temptation must first move through the thoughts in the mind. Renewing the mind in truth is the way we move from the old habits that make us look like people of the world and towards new habits that make us look like Christ (Romans 12:2).
For example, if a tempting email that promises sexual pleasure comes into my inbox, my body begins to react. The old neural connections in my brain begin to release certain hormones into my system and prepare my body for the sexual experience. As this process begins, the thoughts in my mind are tapped. The key term here is “belief”: what is my belief system at that time? If I believe the promised sexual experience will bring lasting fulfillment, then I will probably act out on that belief. On the other hand, if my mind is renewed in truth, then the sinful action or disposition will be rejected.
Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately the purposes in a man’s heart, the thought processes in the mind, are like deep water. We are like onions constantly being peeled to reveal new, never-before-seen layers of our personality and belief systems.
Accountability partners are good friends who help each other by being “men of understanding” (Proverbs 20:5). As they grow in their relationship, they can be of great help to each other in tapping the secret motives and hidden belief systems in the heart. Through open and honest dialog there can be more than confession of sin; there can be probing questions that will get to the bottom of why the sin is there. “What were you thinking when you fell to sin?” “What were you telling yourself when the temptation came along?” “What belief were you operating on when the sin was committed?” “What Biblical truth comes to mind that speaks to this problem?”
This is where the second part comes in.
2. The Word of God and Prayer
The words of God, the Scriptures, are the offensive weapons we use as we fight temptation (Ephesians 6:17). Speaking God’s words, coupled with prayer (v.18), is how accountability partnerships thrive and bring lasting change.
Jesus was a man whose mind was fresh with God’s written word. His first response to the devil’s temptations was “It is written . . .” (Matthew 4:4,7,10). Jesus speaks of Himself as the One the Father “consecrated,” “sanctified,” or “set apart” and sent into the world (John 10:36). Jesus uses the same wording when he speaks of setting us apart for God’s service: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:17-18). Just as Jesus’ mind was filled with God’s Word, so our minds, filled with God’s Word, will set us apart for Him.
The Bible is filled with the “oracles” of God. The word “oracle” means an utterance spoken out of great burden. God’s heart was overflowing with thoughts to share with His people. God gave His people prophets who carried these burdens and wrote them down for our instruction so that we might understand more of the mind of God. These men of God were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21) and today we have their treasured words to read over and over. Jesus said that these writings, “the Law and the Prophets,” would never pass away until they were fulfilled (Matthew 5:18). These words of truth would be the primary tool of our transformation (John 17:17).
However, the Word of God must be mixed with faith for it to have an effect on our consciences and hearts (Hebrews 4:2; Acts 26:18). We must brandish this sword, not leave it in its sheath. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Every argument in our minds not based on truth, every thought that is not based on reality, are the bricks used to build fortresses of false belief systems. As we take each thought captive we dismantle these fortresses and begin to live in harmony with the truth.
One of the best tools I’ve seen for equipping one another with the Word of God is the LTG format (Life Transformation Group). The Church Multiplication Association (CMA) has pamphlets explaining LTGs. Neil Cole’s book about LTGs is very informative.
A Life Transformation Group (LTG) is made up of two or three people of the same gender who meet weekly to discuss their daily Bible reading, to ask each other character-building questions and to pray for pre-Christian family and friends. Each week the members of the group challenge one another to dig deep into the Word of God. Using probing accountability questions, each person is challenged to live a life of integrity and holiness. The benefit of this format is that it is reproducible anywhere there are willing people. No curriculum is needed. The format also allows for easy multiplication of the group to encourage and disciple more people.
Over time, as the Word is directed more and more into our hearts and minds, real and lasting transformation happens. We go from simply managing our sinful problems to becoming sold-out disciples of Jesus.
3. Eliminating Pretenses
This final step of accountability is often overlooked. We need to challenge each other to eliminate all pretense that continually fools us and others to our true spiritual condition.
Take the apostle Paul as an example. As a Pharisee, his visible track record was “blameless” (Philippians 3:6). This was a pretense that covered his true spiritual condition: cut off from the Messiah and persecuting the people of God. Paul had an impressive spiritual pedigree. He was born in a devout Jewish family, knew the Hebrew Scriptures inside and out, and was at the top of his religious class (Philippians 3:5-6; Galatians 1:13). This was all pretense.
Often we prop up spiritual pretenses in our lives that attempt to make up for the spiritual deficit in our hearts. Pretense can be many things: leadership positions, marital status, knowledge of Scripture, role in the church, or visible lack of sinfulness. True accountability partners help us strip away the pretenses that blind us or others to the truth.
Covenant Eyes: A Tool of Accountability
Covenant Eyes software is merely a resource that helps us in our Internet age to maintain integrity and equip accountability partners to do their job well. Detailed reports of Internet activity allow partners to confront another’s sin in a more direct manner. Accountability partners can then help one another draw out the hidden issues of the heart, teach the Word to each other, and help strip away harmful pretenses that hide true spiritual conditions.