Raise your hand if you've ever struggled with the same sin for an extended period of time.
Congratulations! If you raised your hand, this confirms that you're human!
I know some of us had doubts. 😉
Want to know how to stop committing the same sin over and over?
The answer: accountability.
We previously studied how GOD expects us to confess our sins to Him and to each other.
At times, though, we find ourselves caught up in a certain temptation that seems like it won't go away.
This can be very depressing. We want to do what's right, but it can just seem so hard to choose righteously in the moment.
In these situations, it seems like every time we turn around, we're back where we were, confessing the same sin to GOD.
During these struggles, I've felt about three inches tall, completely defeated and hopeless.
The root issue is a struggle within our heart, between good and evil.
In our spirit, we want to walk in the Spirit, but our flesh's desires can be so strong that we allow ourselves to temporarily be pulled into sin.
I'm comforted by the fact that the apostle Paul wrote about his own similar struggles, and yet he was accepted by GOD, and he overcame.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
(Rom. 7:21-25 NIV)
Why Accountability is the Answer
When we confess specific sins to someone else, we feel really bad to have to admit what we've done. (Afterward, we feel a strong sense of relief—which is fantastic—but in the moment we feel badly.) This is by design and is a sign of a healthy conscience.
If you want to stop sinning in the same way, find a Christian brother or sister and:
- Tell them specifically what you've done and why.
- Ask them to pray for and with you immediately while you're together.
- Ask them to continue praying for you to overcome this specific problem.
- Ask them to hold you accountable by asking you regularly how you're doing with that specific temptation.
The only thing that feels worse than confessing a specific sin to your friend is having them ask you about a specific behavior/speech/thought you've been struggling with and then having to admit that you failed.
We don't like to let other people down. We don't like to make people we love disappointed in us or hurt by our actions.
That's why accountability is so powerful.
If I know Jerry is going to ask me how I'm doing with my pornography problem, I'm far less likely to watch porn because I don't want to have to admit I sinned.
Accountability is always powerful, but is especially effective when dealing with reoccurring private sins—you know, the kind where we think nobody sees except for GOD.
As you continue to try your best and pray for GOD to take that temptation from you or diminish it's lure on your heart, you will find that, in time, it becomes easier to say no. The need for ongoing accountability often diminishes as you grow stronger.
When I first learned about the power of accountability, I was struggling with various temptations and private sins in my late teens and early 20s.
GOD provided me with a brother in Jesus that I didn't know before, but was quickly able to open up to.
In time, I came to trust this brother and realized he had been through similar struggles.
I confessed my sin to him and asked him to pray for me. He did, and GOD answered.
But he did more than just pray for me.
He held me accountable.
He asked me on a regular, yet unpredictable, basis how I was doing with my temptation.
In time, I overcame and no longer struggled with that sin.
There are 3 big benefits of accountability for Christians:
- Accountability forces us to be honest with ourselves and with others.
Sometimes we have a tendency to minimize or dismiss the ugliness or frequency of our sin.
When you know your brother or sister is going to ask you how you're doing, this has a way of changing that behavior.
- Accountability develops increased transparency.
People often put on their best outward appearance when they meet with other Christians.
In one of their songs, Casting Crowns refers to this as "the stained-glass masquerade," a beautiful and fitting term for the sad game we play.
We often hide our sins, flaws and ugliness because we don't want people to know how we really are, for fear that they might reject us, look down on us or "get in our business."
But confession combined with accountability forces us to grow past this fear.
- Accountability helps us become more like Jesus.
We don't want to disappoint our friend.
We already know that we don't want to disappoint GOD, but there is an added level of urgency when we have to physically look our friend in the eye and admit that we've sinned once again.
It just works.
I need to mention few concluding thoughts on accountability:
- Prayer should always be our first and most critical lifeline.
Nothing, including any relationship with someone on earth, is ever more important to our life than our communication with GOD.
I assume we all know this, but just in case, I wanted to note that accountability is a supplement and never a substitute to prayer.
- While your spouse can serve as a great accountability partner in many aspects of your life, I highly recommend finding an accountability partner of the same sex so that you can discuss those issues pertaining to gender and roles (unless your temptation involves homosexual desires).
There are some things that are just easier to talk about with a friend of the same gender than with your spouse.
Have you practiced spiritual accountability with someone? If so, what impact did it have on your life? If not, why not?