Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
Is there anything in your life this morning that causes you to feel heavy? That causes you to be overloaded? Are you spiritually, emotionally, or physically sluggish? Is there something that you want to remove from your life, but feel powerless to get rid of? Is it possible that all of us could leave here a little lighter by letting someone else help pick up part of our load through prayer, an encouraging word or a promise to ask us the hard questions? What role could Christian accountability play in helping us lay aside the things that weigh us down and how could Christian accountability help pull us out of the traps of sin the devil prepares for us?
I believe you and I were made for accountability. Maybe when you hear the word “accountability” you think of confrontation. That’s not really it. True, Christian accountability helps us avoid situations that would later lead to confrontation. It’s a checks and balances system. It is having each other’s backs. We are not only accountable to God, but in a Christian community we are also accountable to one another. I Corinthians 12 highlights the fact that though we are many, we form one body. You need me, and I need you, and we all need each other, and one of the reasons we need each other is for accountability.
Maybe the weight you have been trying to push off of you and out of your life or the sin that keeps tripping you up will take some accountability in order to gain victory in your life. Let’s look at the ways we can get weighted down and trapped by temptation when we try to do life on our own.
1. Sin and heavy stuff can ensnare us when we face temptation on our own.
A famous poster of the comic strip character, Charlie Brown says, “I can resist everything except temptation.”
Perhaps there have been times when you have heard about someone messing up, sinning terribly, and even walking away from their faith and said to yourself, “I can’t believe he or she did that. I would never do that.” As soon as we are sure we could never do something we can be sure Satan will give it his best shot to see that we fall. Let me remind you of the famous words of the 16th century man, John Bradford. “There but for the grace of God go I.” Don’t be so sure of yourself, ma’am. Don’t be so sure of yourself, sir. Each one of us is just one choice away from disaster.
Self-confidence and self-preservation are very attractive to Satan. He loves to target people who think “It could never happen to them.” Look at this passage from Galatians 6:1-3 1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Watch yourself, or you could also be tempted. None of us is above temptation. The last part of this verse speaks even more clearly to my point. “If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”
We can be easily deceived by our own selves. We can think we are stronger than we are. We can think we are more spiritual than we are. We can think we are more mature than we are. We can think we are more together than we are, and we can naively think we are beyond falling into Satan’s trap and into a life of sin. And when we try to walk life alone and handle temptation on our own and when we don’t let godly, mature people into our lives, at least one or two, to help hold us accountable to God’s standard of living, it’s easy to fail and fall.
God knows how fiercely independent we can be, how prideful we can be, not wanting to let people in to our secret struggles. He knows many will fall prey to Satan’s traps. He is sympathetic to our human frailty and weakness, so He has provided a strategy for us to help us when we do sin. Interestingly it involves accountability with another human being. Look at James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
“Isn’t my sin between me and God?” “Why does someone else need to know what I have done?” Perhaps we struggle being accountable to a God we can’t see, and God knows it will be easier for us to tow the line so to speak, if we are also accountable to someone we can see.
It is also interesting that the person to whom we confess or become accountable has a responsibility toward us, and that is to pray for us. You know when we are steeped in a mess of our own making it is difficult for us to truly pray with a pure and sincere heart. It is difficult for us to pray without inserting our own will and agenda. It often takes the prayers of another person to help us overcome our blind spots. You get the sense that this verse says the person to whom we become accountable prays for us out loud, in our presence. Since the confession was out loud between the two people, so the prayer that would follow.
In addition to that prayer on the spot which should happen any time someone tells you they are in trouble and have sinned, there is an ongoing responsibility to pray for that person so that they will have the strength to stop whatever it is they have been doing. Notice something else, it’s not just any person to whom you should make yourself accountable, but to a righteous person. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” You should only disclose your sin and struggle to people who want you to succeed as much as God wants you to succeed. They also need to be people who desire what God wants for you and they need to be people who are also trying to live to please God. When you confess sin, don’t confess it to someone who will keep you down or drag you further down, but confess to someone who is capable, by God’s grace, to help you up.
Before I leave this point, let me say that letting someone know about your sin and asking for them to pray for you will ensure that there is a level of humility at work in your life. Humility is so important for us as imperfect people because it is through humility, through submission, through vulnerability that God’s grace is distributed to us. For “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). And when God’s grace comes to us, it transforms us. It gives us power to release and receive the things of God.
But often our pride is what keeps us trapped in our sin. A lot of people stay in dark places a lot longer than necessary and make their situations even messier than they needed to be all because of pride and not wanting anyone else to know what they have done. Although we are good at getting ourselves into messes on our own, we aren’t as adept at getting ourselves out of them on our own. Often, we need help if we are truly going to escape, but rather than seek help we become award-winning actors. We become good pretenders. We find ways to cover sin which include lying and faking our way through the Christian motions.
Pride is really a form of lying. I’m not talking about a sense of accomplishment or a healthy self-esteem or being proud of something you have worked hard for, but a spirit of pride is really a form of lying. For when we let a spirit of pride take root in our lives we act as if we are something we really aren’t. What does Colossians 3:9-10 say? 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
You cannot become renewed, you cannot become like Jesus if you continue to lie about your sin and pretend you are ok. Here is the truth. We all face temptation. We need to let someone know what we are struggling about so they can pray for us and ask us how we are doing from time to time. We also all sin. We need to let someone know what has happened so that they will pray for strength for us to move on. You know sometimes when you sin and you know you have sinned you can tell God you are sorry and ask for forgiveness and receive it, and never do that same sin again. But you can also continue to beat yourself up for decades because of that thing that you are forgiven for and that you aren’t even doing anymore! Sometimes we need to tell someone what happened even though we are forgiven for it so they can pray that we will be internally healed and released from the guilt, condemnation and shame and Satan our we ourselves are trying to saddle us with. Oh, the benefits of accountability!
2. Sin and heavy stuff can ensnare us when we face trials on our own.
One of my favorite secular songs is “Lean on Me.” Here are some of the lyrics:
Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow
Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
Please, swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show
You just call on me, brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you’ll understand
We all need somebody to lean on
Lean on me when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on
If there is a load
You have to bear that you can’t carry
I’m right up the road, I’ll share your load
If you just call me
Even if you are successful at overcoming temptation and avoiding sin all the days of your life, you are still going to face tough times in life which can weigh you down, get you down, and cause you to feel defeated. Letting people into those moments makes you accountable to them for how you will process the tough times, how you will exercise faith in God and in His Word, and what you will and won’t turn to for comfort.
Life’s trials can cause us to lose our dreams. The accountability of a friend can give us courage to keep dreaming. Life’s trials can cause us to shut people out and quit living in the sense that we no longer find meaning and purpose in the things that once gave us joy. The accountability of a friend can give us the strength we need to push through those heavy feelings and with the Lord, the support of a friend, and the passing of time, we will see reasons to endure. Life’s trials can cause us to quit caring about ourselves and others. They can cause us to resort to things like television and computer games which aren’t bad or evil, but that can waste our time, turn our minds to mush, and cause us to lose parts of our identity.
Godly friends will offer practical support and will teach us how to more effectively lean on the Lord in times of trouble. One of the reasons you and I are put on this earth is so that someone can lean on us. Galatians 6:2 tells us to bear someone’s burden, and when we do we fulfill the law of Christ. The law of Christ is that we love the Lord our God with our heart, soul, mind and strength and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. There will be times when you will be the “leaner” and other times when you will be the “leanee.” It’s all good because that is all by God’s design.
Even Jesus didn’t live life on His own. He walked with at least the twelve disciples and others who were present in the company of the disciples from time to time. He let Mary and Martha take care of Him in their home. He shared parts of His emotional journey with them and the disciples. Jesus invited them into His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked them to pray for Him and to watch out for Him. Though they didn’t prove to be the most faithful of “leanees,” He made Himself vulnerable in their presence. And who knows how John’s presence along with His mother, Mary, at the foot of the cross, helped Jesus to endure the cross?
I Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build each other up.” When you are in the fiery trials of life, when you are in the throes of depression, when you are in need whether physical, emotional or spiritual, please turn to God, but also turn to a godly person for some encouragement and help.
We all live very busy lives. You may be someone I see weekly at a convenience store. I may also be friends with you on FB. Our kids may even know each other. And although we are “connected” I may never know you are hurting, struggling, feeling alone or in need of help unless you risk letting me know what is going on. You don’t have to suffer in silence. There are Christian brothers and sisters who will put their arms around you and prop you up for a while.
Pray, and ask God to help you be led to the person who has empathy for your situation. Maybe it will be someone who has gone through what you are also experiencing. God gives us special opportunities to comfort others after we have gone through something that helps us identify with their pain (II Cor. 1:4). Do you see it’s all good because it is all by God’s design?
3. Sin and heavy stuff can entangle us when we rely only on our own perspective.
Proverbs 15:22tells us, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
Sometimes the role accountability plays in our lives is that it assists us in finding freedom from our own faulty thinking. Sometimes we need someone to say to us, “That sounds crazy! What in the world? What are you thinking?”
1 Timothy 4:1 reads: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” More than ever during my lifetime, I am witnessing a twisting of Scripture to fit people’s personal experience. Rather than starting with God and the Bible and truth as God defines it, people are starting with themselves and are twisting God’s word to make it fit their personal experience. For this reason, we couldn’t need each other more! Each one of us is capable of being deceived. There is safety in Christian numbers. We all need people to help reel us in from time to time. We need people who ask questions that help us think through conclusions we have come to that need to be rethought. We need people to say to us, “Have you thought about it this way?” We need people to say to us, “Are you sure that is the best approach?” We need people to say, “Can I tell you about a time when I was in a similar situation?” We need people to say, “Can I share my opinion?”
I don’t think anyone correctly know themselves without the help of other people. It is through relationship that we form our identity and understand why we were created, and it is in the context of Christian community that I believe our highest good can be achieved. Remember, it’s all good because it is all by God’s design. Again, accountability is not so much about confrontation as it is consultation. Getting other godly people’s input and advice can help us become our best for God.
Let me just pause and say that if you have a serious question about life, and you want the perspective of others, Facebook isn’t the place to find that. Now if you want to know if Wal-mart has pork chops on sale, by all means, toss the question to the masses. But if you want real answers to deep questions you need to seek out godly people one on one to help you work through your questions.
What about the role of the Holy Spirit? Isn’t He the person of the Trinity that will guide us into all truth? Yes, and He often does that through people like you and me. Since the Holy Spirit dwells in believers, we are used to be truth-telling, comfort-giving, perspective-offering vessels through which God works.
Let me go back to our main text for today. Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” I don’t know what area of your life could be benefitted by some accountability, but I know for me, it is actually getting rid of extra weight in a physical sense. I literally need to lay aside some weight, and no matter what I have tried to do on my own, I haven’t been successful. I maintained a certain weight for about five years and since last summer, I have gained about six pounds that I haven’t been able to take off. It’s just been an extra stressful year, or I am just getting extra old and the passing of time is making it harder to accomplish. Now, I need to lose about thirty pounds in all, but I would love to start with the six that have crept on this past year. So, to practice what I preach and to encourage you to find someone to whom you can be accountable, I am going to ask for some accountability this morning.
(I weigh in front of the congregation.)
Brenda Kraft would you come up and bring some scales? Hannah said I should make this a carnival game where you all get to guess my weight and write it on your blue cards, and the person who comes closest (without going over) wins! J That is NOT happening. Brenda is going to weigh me. She is going to help me download an app to my phone that will help me track what I am eating. I also want her to ask me about how my exercise is going. We’re going to do this for at least four weeks and weekly report the progress to you as well so I can highlight the power of accountability. We can call this the “Biggest Loser, clergy addition.”
I believe one way you can take responsibility for yourself and your life both now and in the future is to create some more accountability in your life. Whether you want to lose a few pounds, you want to spend more time reading the Bible and praying, you need freed from sin or self, or you just want to be nicer to your spouse and kids, I invite you to submit to accountability. It can start today by coming to an altar and letting someone pray over that which you feel needs to be laid aside in your life. I believe this is a moment “made for accountability.”