Are you finding it immensely difficult to keep up with the demands of this blog? Do you read and re-read each post and think, how in the word does he expect me to be able to do THAT? Your that might be emulating the person of Christ, or keeping your integrity, or obeying the commandments of God, or even praying 90 minutes a day (hey, I didn’t exactly ask you to do that one, ok?). You might also be trying to figure out what a duck and eagle has to do with integrity, but that’s understandable. Still, you’re looking at me (or your screen) like I think these are the easiest things in the world to accomplish. Good thing this is a blog, because you might even hit me if I were across from a table from you or behind a pulpit right now. Seriously, some of you could be so incredibly frustrated with me because of my so-called expectations that you would turn violent with a that-guy-is-wearing-an-osu-shirt kind of attitude (I might potentially be from Michigan…). So you ask, why would you just lay all this on us as if you expect us to be able to follow every last word we read?
Funny you should ask that, because I was wondering the same thing! In fact, as I read through Scripture, I feel like I just need to quit life, move to Chicago or something, and start over again. Especially when I read sections such as Colossians 3, which I quoted in the last post, I just feel like crying because of how wicked and wretched that my life looks in comparison. There is so much that we all have yet to grow in, so many areas that we all could use some help in.
Paul wrestled with a similar issue in Romans 7. In verses 15-25 he focuses in on the conflict that he sees in his own life between what he wants to do and what he actually does. He longs, like you do, to act on my past three blog posts (…because I’m sure he’s read them), and more importantly, to act on what he reads in Scripture and what he knows that the Lord wills for him to do:
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
– Romans 7:15-25, ESV
When reading this passage, I feel like every Christian who reads this is screaming inside WHOA, THIS IS ME! (I also find that at some point I have to go back and re-read a sentence or two because I just didn’t get it the first time.) Paul relates so well to us in this passage because every Christian who is growing at some point goes through this. In fact, many Christians continue in this state their entire lives. Still, this is not the life that the Lord intended for us to live. We are not supposed to feel like captives to sin, but free from sin. The very next passage in the book of Romans talks about the solution to this predicament. YES, there is a solution! You do not have to do all of this alone! You can stop sending me ferocious emails!
There is indeed a solution to the problem of feeling like you can never get over the hump of sin. Certainly, this solution does not leave you completely perfect in every way, all the time, for the rest of your life, but it does bring immense help to your situation and can encourage you when you feel overwhelmed like Paul did and as I often do, and as I’m sure you do as well. Verse 25 ends chapter 7, and in chapter 8 Paul introduces the impact that the Holy Spirit has on a person:
“You, however, are not in the flesh bit in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also live in your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
– Romans 8:9-11, ESV
The Holy Spirit is available to us as believers to help us solve our problem of sin. Because we now live in the Spirit, our flesh has died. It is gone; our old, sinful self has died and we have been raised with Christ into righteousness. Don’t feel like you have all of these things to do in order to be a great spiritual leader without also feeling comfort that the Holy Spirit dwells within you to aid you in every single step of it. He will assist you as you try to obey the commands of Scripture, and as you discipline yourself to pray, and as you attempt to keep your integrity, and later as you try your hand at discipleship and specifically learn how to lead well.
But don’t just be comforted by the presence of the Spirit in your life, use Him. He’s there for a reason. The Lord did not just give Him to you so that you could be comforted, but so that He could actively help you where you need help. You need to be accountable to the Spirit in your life. As a spiritual leader, you need to submit yourself to the will of the Spirit, both now and in the moment when you are surrounded by temptation. You’ve heard of accountability, and that’s exactly what this is. You need to stay accountable to the Holy Spirit every single day.
What does an accountability partner do? He is there for you when you are in the midst of temptation. He is willing to give you advice exactly when you need it. He is willing to meet with you where you are and speak into your life. He is there to encourage you when you are broken. He is ready to call you out when you mess up. He asks the hard questions and listens to your confessions of sin, then forgives you and moves to set you back on the path of righteousness. The Spirit of God is actively doing all of these things in the life of every Christian. However, you have to pursue him in some instances. Certainly, He will pursue you always, especially when you don’t want Him to. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). But, if we are not confessing our sins to Him and receiving His renewed grace and mercy as He lovingly shows us the way back to where we know that we ought to be in our relationship with Him and our obedience to His will, then He is not so much an accountability partner as He is our personal guilt machine. He ends up being a thorn to us because all we get from Him is guilt without ever experiencing the mercy and grace and love and forgiveness that He readily offers for those who run to Him. So, you must be accountable to the Holy Spirit.
Still, there is still a great need for accountability to other men or women of God. While the Holy Spirit is certainly enough to keep us on the path of His will, more accountability to those that He puts in our lives within the Church cannot hurt your cause. In fact, it is a must for every Spiritual leader. We can ignore the Spirit all too easily. It is much more difficult to ignore someone that we can see (and someone that can hit us in the mouth if need be… ok, maybe not that one). But still, Christian leaders definitely need accountability with more than just the Spirit, because it only continues to help us as we work to grow into men and women of God and as leaders in His ministry. If you are willing to do absolutely anything to grow closer to the Lord, then you should be willing to submit yourself to accountability partners beyond the Holy Spirit.
There are various ways of doing accountability with other people, but I have some general suggestions concerning the topic. My own experience with accountability, particularly spiritual accountability, is a continual blessing to me. I have five accountability partners, some pastors, others older men in the church, some my own peers at LU. These men are all great men of God that I respect and cherish. I learn so much from all of them, and am so grateful to them for how they have served me in the time that I have known them. I meet with at least two of them on separate occasions every week, usually for lunch. They keep me accountable for some of the main areas of sin that I struggle with, as well as how my growth in the Lord is going. We have systems set up for consequences for when I mess up, and on the reverse side of that rewards for when I don’t mess up. I’m not saying that that’s good for every situation, but there are a few situations that it helps in. It reminds me that there are real consequences for my sin, apart from just our system, but in my future, even my immediate future, sin always has its consequences. That, and if it prevents me from actually committing the sin, that’s not such a bad thing either. Still, even that reminds me that not sinning and seeking after righteousness has great rewards as well, especially from the Lord! These men hold me to what I tell them I am going to do, and keep up with me throughout the week apart from when we’re meeting to encourage me in the areas that I struggle and rejoice with me in the areas that I am thriving. Not having them would set me back so far that I don’t even what to think about where I’d be.
So, even though I do have the Spirit and am accountable to Him, I am also accountable to men of God in my life, to my benefit! I would encourage you, if you are not already, to first seek accountability with the Spirit every day, even throughout the day. In the moment that you sin, immediately go to the Spirit for accountability with Him. In addition to that, get some form of accountability with a strong Christian. This should be with someone who is older than you, who is more spiritually mature than you are, and definitely someone who is of you gender. If you are married or in a relationship with someone, you need people outside of that relationship for your accountability partner. While in any relationship it is a great idea to communicate with one another, and especially in a marriage relationship, where it is very important that you hold each other accountable, it is likewise important that you find someone else to keep you accountable as well. If you are not married, I know from experience that it is not a good idea to be held accountable by your girlfriend or boyfriend, or even someone from the opposite gender that you are not in a relationship with (unless you want to be in a relationship with that person AND you want that relationship to end horrifically).
So, are you being held accountable for your actions currently? Especially in leadership positions, this is of extreme importance, and is an irreplaceable benefit to you and your ministry. Bring it to the point that you ask yourself every time you are tempted to sin if you are willing to talk to both the Spirit and your accountability partners about your decision later. If so, ask yourself if you are willing to talk to both the Spirit and your accountability partners about your decision about your decision later. If so…never mind. Just make sure that you do have accountability, and do so quickly! If you’re like me, then you’ll probably sin within the next five minutes or so! But seriously, do make yourself accountable to the Spirit of God and to other people as well. This will be of immense help as you try to keep your integrity intact. This will also help you bridge your obedience to Scripture and your integrity, along with your connection to God. Thus, accountability is the structure that rests upon the foundation of obedience to the Word and supports the integrity that you so desperately desire. Build it up, and enjoy the results that it has on you and those you lead.