I love biblical accountability and the experience of being in a relationship that is committed to helping one another in the quest for holiness. The Christian brotherhood found in standing shoulder to shoulder with someone who is committed to helping us overcome our personal battles with sin removes the feeling of struggling alone. The concept of choosing to be totally honest with one person who will be totally honest in return is extremely powerful. The relationship in which an authority or a stronger brother or sister in Christ is Holding Me Accountable is truly a treasure.
The relationships formed are extremely beneficial, however I’ve never seen a great deal of measurable success from traditional accountability methods. They mostly consist of asking questions about sins or struggles after they have already occurred and caused some damage. The accountability question lists I’ve used in the past have the possibility of offering immediate walls of debilitating guilt when answered truthfully. The pain of this guilt and desire to avoid it also offers the opportunity to lie and break the trust of someone who really cares about you.
This form of accountability seems to lean heavily on the person who is already in the midst of the temptation being able to think ahead to some time in the future when his or her “accountability partner” will ask the dreaded questions. This is a high bar to achieve for many who struggle with temptations that are filled with intense and fleshly pleasure. They feel overwhelmed and overpowered by their own desires. The problem is that once the temptation has begun, the person being tempted has to want to stop. Most don’t.
The one exact moment when self-control is possible seems to fly by at the speed of light. Acting in opposition to ingrained urges this strong before it is too late feels like trying to hit a shot glass with a water pistol inside the window of a bullet train speeding past you at 3000 yards. The proposition of having to answer guilty questions later or lie simply isn’t enough deterrent to stop most people before the fact. This is such a scary, self-destructive, and out-of-control place to be. The person experiences horror-movie-like flashes of watching themselves destroy the people and things they know they hold most dear. No wonder sin seems so often to prevail.
I have come to two conclusions: (1) The accountability process needs to start much earlier, and (2) we need a better list.
I have recently come across such a list. I thank God for the work of people like Luke Gilkerson who is the author and manager of the Covenant Eyes blog. (www.covenanteyes.com) Each question opens a door to living out Hebrews 10:24, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”
- Since relationships are hard and temptations offer an easy way out. Ask: “Has there been a relationship in your life recently that has been unusually difficult?” The goal is to help others see how they are looking to a particular relationship to make them feel pleasure or fulfillment (thus, a relationship that is always letting them down). We can then point them to the fullness of joy and satisfaction that comes from Christ and other healthy relationships (John 15:1-11; 16:16-24; Romans 15:13).
- Since life is stressful and temptations offer immediate comfort. Ask: “Have there been any stresses in your life recently which have brought on a feeling of pressure or strain?” The goal is to help them see that they are using their preferred sin as an escape from life. We can then point them to the psalmists who saw God as their refuge (Psalms 46; 59:16-17; 61:1-3; 62:5-8; 91; 142). Instead of escaping from reality, we can escape into divine reality.
- Since life can be boring and temptations offer excitement. Ask: “Have you found yourself bored or itching for excitement? Do you feel like your life is mundane?” The goal is to help others see if they have been settling for a life of amusement over a life of amazement. We can then point them to the excitement of knowing God and obeying him (Matthew 13:44; 2 Corinthians 8:1-2; Philippians 1:3-4;Colossians 1:9-14; 1 Peter 1:3-9; 3 John 1:3-4).
- Since life can make us feel powerless and temptations make us feel powerful. Ask: “Have you been in any situations recently that made you feel belittled, unimportant, or disrespected?” The goal is to help them see they crave power, importance, and esteem from men more than they crave the favor of God. Jesus asked, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44). We can point them to the eternal glory the Father gives to Christ, and that as Christians we share Christ’s glory because He lives in us (John 17:20-24; Romans 2:6-10; Colossians 1:24-29).
With the help of better accountability questions that helps us hit the target of emotions before they turn into behavior, we can all effectively pray the prayer Jesus taught the disciples in Matthew 6:13. “Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From The Evil One!”