If you want to grow in Christ, you need others

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thess 5:14)

It is our responsibility to care for one another. We are to admonish, encourage, and help one another with patience. We can’t and we won’t grow in our faith, hope, love, and holiness without another speaking into our lives.

There are no Lone Ranger Christians. We can’t grow into maturity by just getting alone with Jesus and our Bible. Of course, we need time in the Word and prayer, but we need more. We need one another.

As we move out into the world, we need to make sure we have other brothers and sisters who are willing to speak into our lives, holding us accountable and encouraging us in the faith. If we don’t, we will remain stagnant and even begin to regress. If you want to grow in Christ, you need others.

What does it mean that we aren’t willing to speak into another’s life?

When we are unwilling to speak into another’s life, in some sense we hate them as well.

We may not hate them as much as we hate a murderous ungodly regime. But we hate them nonetheless. We don’t love them as much as we love ourselves.

I believe the main reason we aren’t willing to speak into another’s life whether it be for correction or with the gospel is because we love ourselves more. We love our position, our comfort, our status, our life more than we love another. When we say things like,

“I know I should say something to my friend but I don’t want to ruin my friendship.”

OR

“I know I should seek to engage my neighbor with the gospel, but I don’t want to mess up the community we have. They are good neighbors and I don’t want to create any difficulty or uncomfortableness between us.”

When we say those things, we aren’t saying them out of love for our neighbors or our friends. We say them out of love for self.

When we prize self-comfort over speaking the truth, we don’t love our neighbors we actually hate our neighbors because we are leaving them to face God’s wrath.

God Works Through Others to Refine Us

God not only works through circumstances, but He also works through others to get our attention.

I distinctly remember one time when this happened in my life. It was when I was in college. When I moved off to the University of Georgia, I got involved in the party scene. One night in particular I was sitting at the bar with a friend and we were talking about religion. He was an atheist, so I was telling him why he should believe in Jesus. In the course of conversation, I remember him looking at me and saying,

“You know, you’re telling me about Jesus. How He is supposed to change your life and all, but I don’t see a difference between you and I. We pretty much do the same thing, live the same life.”

While I’d like to tell you things changed that night, I can’t. But what I can tell you is that God did get my attention with that conversation and it was the catalyst for future change in my life.

God may be speaking to you through someone else right now.

It might be a friend, it might be a spouse, it might be a church member or someone in the community.
God will use a number of different people to speak into our lives. We need others to speak into our lives. We need everyday relationships with other church members who can hold us accountable and are willing to speak to the truth of God’s Word into our life.

Listen when others speak

When others speak, we need to be willing to listen and then do the hard work of assessing whether what they are saying is right or not, and then make the necessary changes if it is.

When you are assessing whether the person is right or not, don’t do it in the moment of that conversation. Our first reaction to others confronting us with something we are doing against God’s will or loving more than God is almost always to be defensive, so don’t assess right then, unless you are convicted. Instead, assess later when you are out of the moment. Spend some time afterward in personal reflection and prayer. Maybe even ask others you know if they see that in you as well.

God will use others along with circumstances to convict and teach us.

Godly grief is healthy grief, it produces repentance and growth in Christlikeness

“As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.” (2 Cor 7:9)

One of the things wrong with today’s society is the desire not to offend or cause someone grief. We go out of our way to make others comfortable, even if making them uncomfortable for a time is what is best.

I believe these desires are birthed out of selfishness not love. We selfishly don’t want others to tell what we are doing wrong, nor do we want to deal with the difficultly that comes with telling others they are acting in the wrong. Conflict, even if it is good and healthy, is difficult. We have become a society, a people, who avoids conflict at all costs, even if it means not doing what is best for another.

Paul, however, didn’t avoid conflict. He spoke the truth in love to the Corinthians. It grieved them for a time, but Paul rejoices because it resulted in repentance and growth in Christlikeness. His words of love caused them to turn from their sin. They ultimately resulted in them living in community in unity with others in a way that builds others up rather than tears down.

I believe if we are going to grow as the church, we must get to a place where we are ok with causing others godly grief. Accountability, speaking the truth in love to others, is biblical, as well as it is necessary. We will never grow if others don’t tell us how we need to grow.

Godly grief is healthy grief, it produces repentance and growth in Christlikeness.

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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