James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
The other day I witnessed something that is very uncommon. A man within a group confessed to a sin that typically is kept secret. It took courage. It was also evident to all that the confession came about only at the careful yet persistent prompting of another member of the group. The end result? A great burden has been lifted from the man. He was able to conquer the sin and be done with it. He was able to truly worship God without all that hanging over his head.
Will that be the end of it? Probably not because it was one of those deep-seated sins (mine is gluttony) that seem to resurface in times of distress. We all have one, that sin that we find comfort in even though we know it is bad for us. However, it is dead for now. Furthermore, when killed enough times, it becomes easier and easier to kill when it does arise again. In due time, it may eventually be dead for good.
It is important to note that it took another person to call all this to attention. That person knew the history and recognized the potential for a problem – and pushed the button. I didn’t know any of this, so I was oblivious as I watched the whole thing unfold. It was pretty cool. Very cool.
Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
They say it is a rare thing to find a good friend. From what I see, there are many acquaintances in the world, but few good friends. I think it was a good friend who got into this guy’s business and made him face his sin. I’m not talking about a busy-body who is interested in the dirt but will not get dirty repairing lives. I’m talking about the person who really cares and is willing (and able) to help the person actually defeat the besetting sin. While some people may have a tendency for compassion, it is a characteristic that is developed. (besetting: (of a problem or difficulty) trouble or threaten persistently. Synonyms: plague, afflict, torment, torture, oppress)
Do you have a friend like that? Do you have someone in your life that will stop you and say, “Hey, friend, can we talk?” Do you have someone that will help you defeat a besetting sin? Better still, are you part of a small group of people that you trust with your life, a group with collective experience of a wide range of problems and a proven track record of victory over them? If you do, consider yourself very blessed because accountability partners are rare. And, yes, your spouse is an accountability partner, but we need more than that for many reasons.
Why are they so rare? Let me tell you where I have found them – outside of the church. That’s right, outside of what we consider church. Now, I would argue that the small accountability group is the church just as much as the group with a pastor and a big building, but let’s not confuse things with that. I have been to a lot of groups over the years and know a lot of people from lots of churches who have been to even more. In my experience, the couple of groups that I have been in that worked in terms of accountability and transformation have been with people who belong to different churches. In other words, they went OUTSIDE their normal church to find something that wasn’t available there.
That’s not to say that their churches didn’t have small groups. They do. However, these groups are usually short-term in nature. And, despite the desire of all involved to go deep, it is rare that sin is revealed (other than your typical, “I don’t pray as often as I should,” type of sin) – let alone conquered. People rarely say, “This is my sin, and I can’t stop it. I need help.” Rarer still is the group that will do anything more than “pray” for the person.
It makes me wonder about our churches. What really is our purpose? Thank God for providing groups outside church for the few who are actively seeking accountability partners. Yet, the question must be asked: Why aren’t our churches providing for this need? There is a need, isn’t there? I mean, seriously, what is our purpose if not to be holy? Yes, we are deemed holy in the eyes of God through our conversion, but we are also required to be holy in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Are we not?
1 Peter 1:14-19 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
“Build it and they will come.” Come for what? To be saved? Of course, but then what? We have a lot of people in our churches with lots of besetting sin, tough, entrenched sin. Are we hearing stories, regularly, about victory from these? If the cross-section of churches represented by the people in the small accountability groups are any indicator, we are not. That’s why they are seeking elsewhere.
Food for thought.
Father, thank you for stirring things. I pray that it motivates others to seek comradery in conquering sin. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers