Read the Bible in the New Year

Bible

Happy New Year! 2014 is here. With a new year comes a new set of resolutions. One popular resolution Christians make is to read the Bible all the way through in a year.

Reading Plans

If you are looking for a reading plan to help you get through the Bible this year, I would recommend you take a look at Justin Taylor’s recent blog post. He offers an extensive list.

Some Advice

For years, I have been trying to finish a yearly reading plan, but haven’t had any success. I have read the entire Bible, but I have never done it in a systematic fashion like one would do with a reading plan.

Even though I haven’t finished a plan, this year I am still jumping on the read the Bible in a year bandwagon. I am, however, not jumping on alone. I have an accountability partner – my wife. We are tackling the Bible together this year.

I would encourage you to do the same. Grab an accountability partner, decide on a reading plan (ours is Table Talk Magazine), and get reading.

Question for Reflection

  1. What has helped you stick to a yearly reading plan in the past?

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Christian Accountability

Church

What do you think about Christian accountability? Do you think it is abused? Do you think it is negative? Do you think we should hold each other accountability? Beyond what you think, what does the Bible say? What does it tell us we should do? How does it tell us we should exercise accountability in the body? 1 Samuel 15 provides us with an excellent model.

Background

Saul has disobeyed God by not completing the mission God gave him. Instead of completely destroying the Amalekites, he spared king Agag’s life and allowed his people to keep the best cattle to sacrifice to the Lord. As well as he setup a monument to himself in Carmel.

Samuel received word from the Lord regarding Saul’s actions, goes and confronts him, calling him to repent while also delivering bad news. The Lord has rejected him as king over Israel.

Samuel’s actions both tell us accountability is biblical as well as they provide us with a model to follow. Let’s look at the model Samuel gives us.

Model for Accountability

(1) We should grieve over others sins because they have offended a holy God.

The first action we should take when we learn of another brother or sister’s sin is to grieve. Sin is an affront to God. It’s rebellion against Him. Knowing another brother or sister is in sin, should cause us to grieve.

(2) We should go to the person and confront them with their sin.

After grieving, prayer for wisdom, and checking our own heart’s motives, we should confront the sinning brother or sister, bringing their sin to light and calling them to repent. Of course, we must not do this in a high-handed, judgmental, or self-promoting way, but in a loving and wise manner.

(3) We must confront them with God’s Word.

Samuel doesn’t come to Saul with his own word. He comes with God’s Word. When we go to another brother or sister in sin, we must go with God’s Word as well. Allowing Scripture to point out their sin is important because it is what is judging them, not us. All we are doing is pronouncing God’s judgment on them via Scripture. In this way, we are acting as God’s messenger, not their judge.

(4) We must call them to repent. 

Confrontation should not occur for confrontations sake. Rather, its purpose is that the confronted sinner will repent of their sin and enjoy restored fellowship with the Lord. Calling the wayward to repent is an important step of accountability. One we must not neglect because it is what the whole process is driving toward.

Motivation for Accountability

For some, accountability is an uneasy topic. It is something they would never dream of doing. For that reason, let me provide you with motivation to hold others accountable and to seek it out yourself.

(1) As God’s people we should reflect His character to the world for His glory.

If we are in sin, we cannot reflect God’s character to the world. Instead, we are actually misrepresenting God, especially if we call ourselves Christians. By holding each other accountable, we are fighting for the purity of Jesus’ bride – the church – and for God’s glory. We should do this and desire this because the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

(2) Unrepentant sinners hinder the church’s witness to the world.

This is why the world sees many Christians as hypocrites. If we want to regain our name in the world, we have to start calling people to repent of their sin and to follow God. Accountable then becomes a way for the church to fight for its witness in the world.

(3) Accountability is for your joy.

When we live in obedience to God, we experience the most joy. Think about a time when you were living in rebellion to God. Were you joyful then? I know that when I am in rebellion to God, I am not joyful. Now think about a time, when you were living in line with God’s commands, were you joyful then? I know that is the time when I am the most joyful.

Accountable, confronting others with their sin, and calling them to repentance is far from negative, rather it is a way for us to fight for other’s joy.

(4) Accountability helps us finish the race.

Salvation is pictured both as a definitive historical event that happens in our life and as something to be attained at the end of our life. By holding others accountability, we help them to finish the race. We help them to obtain salvation.

James 5:19-20 says,

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Conclusion

For those reasons and more, we should hold others accountable. It is a grace – gift – God has given us. It is not something negative. It actually is something positive, and something we should desire.

 Questions for Reflection

  1. How do you view accountability?
  2. Do you seek out accountability?
  3. How does your church, small group, etc, promote accountability among its members?
  4. Are there any other motivations you would add to the list?

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Human Depravity Leads to Accountability

Last week, David Brooks wrote an opinion piece in the NY Times entitled: The Age of Innocence. He opens his column by saying the following:

“The people who pioneered democracy in Europe and the United States had a low but pretty accurate view of human nature. They knew that if we get the chance, most of us will try to get something for nothing. They knew that people generally prize short-term goodies over long-term prosperity. So, in centuries past, the democratic pioneers built a series of checks to make sure their nations wouldn’t be ruined by their own frailties.”

In America, we decentralized power building checks and balances that served “to frustrate and detain the popular will.” In Europe, they did exactly the opposite. They centralized power, which “was held by small coteries of administrators and statesmen, many of whom had attended the same elite academies where they were supposed to learn the art and responsibilities of stewardship.”

Even though the checks instituted in America and Europe where different, Brooks says, they “were based on a similar carefully balanced view of human nature: People are naturally selfish and need watching.” He then goes on to quote James Madison, who essentially says the reason we are naturally selfish is because we are depraved.

After setting the scene, Brooks then addresses the problem, which is that people no longer believe they are depraved. “They think depravity is nonexistent and they take self-government for granted.” Leaders no longer “believe their job is to restrain popular will.” Rather, they believe they are to “flatter and satisfy it,” which has caused many of today’s voters “to regard their desires as entitlements.

This has caused massive problems in today’s society. Governments have made promises they cannot afford to keep, as well as it’s people believe they are entitled to benefits for which they are not willing to pay.

The reason this has occurred is because people no longer believe they are depraved. Their worldview has no room in it for human depravity. Causing themselves to believe they are capable of self-policing. But this is simple not true.

We are depraved and we will always be depraved.

In Romans 3:10 Paul says, “None is righteous, no, not one.” Even as Christians, unrighteousness lives in our flesh and wars within us, never leaving us. Speaking of the unrighteousness that lives in his flesh Paul says in Romans 7:21-25:

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

So, yes, as believers in Jesus Christ, we are Overcomers (1 Jn 2:13; 5:4-5), but we still are at war with our flesh, and, at times, will succumb to our flesh, as Paul makes evident in Romans 7.

So What are We to Do?

I think David Brooks’ column has a lot of insight for us here, not on a political level, but on an individual level. In his piece, he tells us that we as a nation have forgotten our depravity. I think we as a church from time to time forget that as well. While we live on this earth, we still dwell within a sinful tent; our flesh is still warring with our spirit. As a result, we too need a system of checks and balances.

This system has to exist outside of ourselves, for we cannot police ourselves anymore than our governments can police themselves. So what I want to challenge you to do is to find another person, preferably of the same sex, and someone other than your spouse, and form an accountability relationship.

Who to Look For?

When looking for someone to form this relationship with, you should pick a person who you can trust and who will hold you accountable. Someone to whom you can confess your sins and pray with about those sins. Someone who will check up on you throughout the week, as you do the same with them.

What to Do?

Once you find someone, start meeting with them once a week, or once every two weeks, whatever your schedule allows. These meetings do not have to be elaborate, they can be simple. To give you an idea of what a meeting would look like, you could read a passage of Scripture together, discuss it, talk about any sins that may be present in your life that the biblical writer brings out, and pray with one another. It is that simple! And a simple act like that can, and will, reap huge dividends in your spiritual growth.

My Challenge

So, I challenge you to begin praying this week for God to provide you with an accountability partner. If you already have someone in mind, I challenge you to get started.