Accountability is first and foremost one’s responsibility to measure personal standards of living by evaluating behaviors through a Biblical filter, then realigning oneself to expected standards of righteousness. This is accomplished in many ways. Too many people would rather forego accountability and live independent lives; this was not God’s intention from the beginning (Genesis 3:7-11 & 4:5-13). We are to live in community with God and others, affecting and challenging each other’s lives. The purpose of Christian accountability is to walk before God in holiness. There are many methods available to secure credibility and restore integrity, the following five cornerstones of Christian accountability do just that.
1. Conscience (Self-Awareness)
A speaker once asked the audience in a seminar I attended, “Where did you get your conscience?” Silence filled the room. When no brave soul responded, the speaker answered his own question, “You acquire your conscience from your parents?” He then explained himself, “Parents are the primary source of moral teaching.” Conscience is an aptitude, faculty, intuition, or judgment of the intellect that distinguishes right from wrong.[i] Do you remember being corrected for certain things you said or did as a child? You bet you can. We carry these moral bearings introduced first by our parents throughout life; they are very much part of what shapes our conscience. When we attempt something outside these moral teachings an internal code embedded within brings awareness to our poor decision-making.
2. Conviction (Spirit Awareness)
Another method of Christian accountability is the “conviction” of the Holy Spirit. Conviction is the quickening of your mind and spirit that something you are about to undertake is inappropriate. An interesting aspect of conviction is that you feel a strong impression within to do the right thing. The Spirit presents or reveals an exit sign directing you to do the right thing. Sometime ago I purchased one of my favorite High School albums (this is 30 years after High School). I just wanted to hear some music from the good ‘ol days. At the time of purchase I didn’t think much of it. When I heard a certain song lyric I felt a strong conviction override me. I was stricken and grieved within my spirit. As soon as I arrived to my house I threw the c.d. away, and asked God to forgive me. I came to understand this album represented my old life; the one I walked away from to follow Christ. The Holy Spirit was not pleased with a certain lyric, and made me aware of His sentiments.
3. Community (Saintly Love)
We cannot avoid a conversation about accountability without discussing community. You and I belong to many communities; family, ethnic group, the workplace, neighborhood, and other associations. The most important community, in my opinion, is the faith community; the house of worship you and I attend on a weekly basis. The loving and caring relationships within this community bring accountability to our lives.
One day as I shared this insight with a friend at church. At mid-stream he stopped me and shared a story with me. On the previous Sunday, for some reason, he decided to attend an earlier service, missing his usual service time at 11 a.m. The people he would usually connect with on a Sunday morning noticed his absence. So later on that afternoon he received a few phone calls from those church members asking about his whereabouts. The people he had come to know and love where simply concerned about him. Community is crucial for your wellbeing. In a community you have people who love and care about you and are willing to ask about your life, most importantly to align your life.
4. Communion (Sacramental Grace)
The Sacrament of communion is a personal confrontation of one’s life in the presence of Christ Himself; a sacred act of introspection, evaluation and confession. No one else is involved in this spiritual practice but you and God. According to Scripture, prior to receiving communion:
A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
This is a powerful and dreadful statement. The writer goes on to say,
That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [a metaphor for passing away]. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.”[ii]
Communion, therefore, starts by confronting self, by going into the private recesses of our mind and inner spirit, inviting Christ to probe deep inside for the purpose of revealing shortcomings in my personal walk with Him. Also in this process, we take a look back to remind ourselves of His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection; the price he paid for our sins to remind ourselves that we now belong to Him. We are also reminded of His return, which means that between His death and His second coming you and I must live holy lives, pleasing to Him.
5. Correction (Sages and Seers)
Correction is the final component of Christian accountability. This is where your pastors, the sages and seers, in your faith community come into play. The writer of Hebrews notes,
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account,” [iii]
Pastors, mentors and ministry leaders are “sages and seers” who are part of your spiritual development. You must allow them access to your pesonal life from time to time, because they impart wisdom and insights into your life bringing you to another level of spiritual order and operation. After all, faithful are the wounds of a friend, right?
With these five tools to bring accountability and realignment to our lives, we have no excuse when we stand before our Maker. He has provided you and I at least five accountability mechanisms so we can walk uprightly before Him each and every day.
Is there another form of Christian accountability? Are any of these five new to you?
[i] Wikipedia: Conscience, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscience, accessed 1.11.11. [ii] 1 Corinthians 11:28-31 (NIV). [iii] Hebrews 13:17 (NIV) [iv] Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)