Dear Friends,

As we begin the New Year with resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, be
better husbands, fathers, wives, etc., let’s heed the saying that an ounce
of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s like the story of two men
who were fishing and noticed that a nearby bridge was falling apart piece by
piece each time a vehicle passed over it. Finally one of the men said, “The
bridge is going to collapse and somebody is going to get hurt. We’ve got
to do something. What would be the Christian thing to do?” “Build
a hospital,” his friend replied.

We tend to deal with things after the fact rather than warning others of the
dangers ahead and their need to take some preventive action before they really
hurt themselves. The Bible is filled with these warnings both in words and in
the bad examples of fellow believers who didn’t heed God’s warnings
and hurt themselves and others because of their unwillingness to change their
ways. The basic problem for our stubbornness is that “There is no
fear of God
” (Romans 3:18), i.e., there is no fear of consequences
(temporal or eternal) for our actions. When we compare Ecclesiastes 8:11 to
2 Corinthians 5:7,9-10, we see the difference that living by faith in light
of judgment day can make: “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly
carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.

(Ecclesiastes 8:11) When we think we are getting away with our sin because God
doesn’t zap us every time we disobey Him, we deceive ourselves. "Do
not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians
6:7) Simply put, the fear of the Lord is when we know that all of our choices
and actions have consequences, good or bad, both for this life and especially
for eternity. "We live by faith, not by sight. So we make it our goal
(ambition) to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may
receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good
or bad.
" (2 Corinthians 5:7, 9-10)

Why do we need this accountability? "The heart is deceitful above
all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
" (Jeremiah 17:9)
“We can live the whole of our life as one long defense against the reality
of our condition, one restless effort to convince ourselves of our virtuousness.”
(Henri Nouwen) As the Puritan writer John Owen explains, the power of indwelling
sin in a believer’s life results in self-deception, i.e., we can’t
see our sins. (See Romans 7:14-25) Rationalization, projection and denial keep
us blaming others and defending ourselves. Thus we must have outside help, primarily
from God’s Word and His Spirit who indwells us in the deepest part of
our being, our inner man. (Romans 7:22) But we also need people with whom we
can be authentic and share the struggles we have with besetting sins. "Therefore
confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

(James 5:16) Jesus came to help honest, repentant sinners not those blinded
with self- righteousness. (Matthew 9:13)

We all need 360-degree honesty as employers, fathers, husbands and ministers.
Effective Christian leaders are open to feedback (accountability) from those
who work above them (bosses), beside them (peers) and from those who work for
them (subordinates) for how they spend both their private and professional time.
Peter, though a leader in the early church, called himself a “fellow elder”
thus being accountable to other elders in the church. (See 1 Peter 5:1-4) It’s
a dangerous thing to say, “I’m accountable to no one but God”
as some fallen pastors have said and some business leaders, fathers and husbands
act when they ignore the feedback from their “flock”.

King David is a bad example of a leader not open to 360-degree honesty. (See
2 Samuel 11:1-5, 27.) “When kings go off to war” (v. 1)
Why didn’t King David “go off to war” and why didn’t
anyone question his decision to stay home. He had no accountability. After he
committed adultery with Bathsheba, David “hid” his sin for almost
a year from everyone but God. (Numbers 32:23) When confronted by Nathan, He
genuinely repented and the “joy of God’s salvation” was restored
to him. Yet he suffered the consequences of his sin the rest of his life. David’s
slide into sexual sin began with “multiplying wives” (7 wives) which
was strictly forbidden (Deuteronomy 17:17) and having his own harem and this
all eventually led to him breaking three of the Ten Commandments – coveting
another man’s wife, adultery and the murder of Uriah, a personal friend
(2 Samuel 23:39). What can we learn from this? Seek out your “Nathans”
before you fall. “Be accountable” to someone who will help you obey
the Lord. Accountability relationships cannot be imposed; they must be invited;
i.e., no person can hold us accountable. But we can choose to be accountable
by regularly sharing our weaknesses and besetting sins with a close friend and
asking for their prayer support to help us breakthrough in these difficult areas.

Honesty is the key to accountability. Accountability without full disclosure
is a waste of time. "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but
whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
" (Proverbs 28:13)
Elisha’s servant Gehazi lied to Naaman the Syrian and misrepresented Elisha
and then lied to Elisha to cover his sin. (See 2 Kings 5:20-27) Even if his
lies had deceived Elisha, God is never deceived and we deceive ourselves if
we think otherwise. Ideally, we need a circle of friends who know us and each
other versus being accountable to several different people who don’t know
each other. This helps us with personal consistency and integrity.

God is accountable to no one (see Romans 11:33-36, Job 41:11) but everyone
is accountable to God. "So then, each of us will give an account of himself
to God." (Romans 14:12) In what areas of your life do you sense the greatest
need for accountability? If you have the book, The Man in the Mirror by Pat
Morley read the letter from a man who needs accountability in Chapter twenty-three
and also the helpful accountability questions.

The anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing counsels us to pray
every prayer with the knowledge of the fact that we might die even as we say
“Amen”. This would make us get gut-level honest with God in confession
and repentance if we imagined that we are about to go before Him at the judgment
seat of Christ. Moses exhorts us in a similar way. "Teach us to number
our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

Let us pray for the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:31), for a friend or two to be
accountable to and that each day of this new year we will have a holy ambition
to please our God. As the title to Oswald Chambers’ devotional puts it:
“My Utmost for His Highest.”

Until He comes,
Len and Kristen

*From The Leadership Bible

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