Beware the Typical Distortion of the Biblical Doctrine of Accountability

Heb 4:13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

1Pe 4:4-5 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; (5) but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

The Bible plainly teaches that all of us are accountable. Ultimately of course this accountability is to God, but He has commissioned certain overseers in this world such as the civil authorities (see Romans 13). Pastors and elders in local churches are to watch over the souls of the flock, remembering that THEY must one day give an account to the Chief Shepherd as to their faithfulness or unfaithfulness in this oversight. Woe to those who abuse His sheep!

So it is not my point in this article to throw the infant out with the dirty bath water and cast away any and all sort of accountability. We are accountable. Children to parents. Citizens to the law. Employees to employers. And Christians, understood the right way, to one another. It is this latter example of accountability I want to focus on here.

Twenty or thirty years ago it seemed that the evangelical church was all abuzz with this thing called “accountability.” Every church had “accountability groups” to which every member was assigned, like it or not. You had to meet regularly and “give account” of how good or bad you were doing in you Christian life. This “accounting” process was taught as a biblical doctrine and verses like this were thrown out there as proof:

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.

Christians are indeed accountable to the body of Christ. There is a proper, biblical authority given to the local church for the healthy oversight of the flock. The man in Corinth who claimed to be a Christian but who was sleeping with his stepmother was it? – well, he was to be immediately booted from the church. We are accountable to the Lord for how we live, and thus we are accountable to our brothers and sisters in Christ in this regard as well.

But this truth about accountability is very typically perverted and used by false shepherds and other evil people to gain power and control over others that the Lord has never given them. This malignant form of “accountability” does great harm.

For example, let’s say you are a member of a local church and Fred, a fellow in the church who is regarded by the masses as a “pillar,” comes up to you and offers to “disciple” you. “We all need accountability you know,” Fred tells you. “If we are going to grow in Christ then we need to be accountable to one another.” And so it begins. Fred gets his hooks in. It sounds so believable, but in fact the Lord has never called us to be accountable TO FRED! To the true church, yes. To the Lord, yes. But I don’t recall seeing Fred’s name in the list.

If you have read my books and blog posts over the years you have probably heard me tell of one experience I had with just such a “Fred” who used to be in a leadership position in our church. My wife and I were able to finally purchase our own home rather than live in the church parsonage as we had for years. We looked and looked and finally found the place we live in now (this was nearly 20 years ago).

Well, this “Fred” didn’t like it. He saw this as a challenge to the control he wanted to have over “the pastor.” And he also saw it as an opportunity for him to put on his typical “super-saint” act in front of others. So, at the next church board meeting, Fred said “Pastor, you are moving 16 miles away from the church building. You are distancing yourself from the congregation. And now you are going to be ‘down there’ with no accountability. Why, you will have the internet there and no one to hold you accountable.”

If I had the wisdom I have now, I would have stopped the meeting right there, put a spotlight on Fred, and challenged all the other board members to think carefully about what Fred had just said and what his motive was in saying those things and he would have been reproved in front of everyone. But I didn’t fully understand Fred at that time. I thought he was just another one of those too typical “difficult people.” He wasn’t. He was an evil man out to enslave and control others for his own self-glory, in the name of “accountability.”

Wicked people (some are women as well) love to use this accountability business as a tool for enslaving others. And as you think it through biblically, you begin to see that the Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, taught by the Lord Jesus, his way illumined by the Word, does not need some other human being in a weekly meeting running him through a checklist of questions, in order to walk in holiness. Yes, we meet together as a church to encourage one another to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10), but the spirit of fear has been cast out when we came to know Christ and instead we experience the Spirit of adoption as sons.

At best, these accountability gurus are rank legalists who do not know the grace of God in Christ. At worst they are out and out wolves prowling around looking for sheep to devour, agents of the evil one.

So beware. Beware this accountability business. As far as I can see, the large majority of it is false, unbiblical, and harmful teaching parading as Scripture but in fact is the mere creation of man.

 

Just STOP Saying “We Are All Sinners” – STOP IT!!

1Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I cannot fully convey to you how absolutely sick and tired I am of hearing this line from people who claim they are Christians. “Well, you know, we are all sinners.” Let me explain why this not only nauseates me, it makes me boiling mad.

I detest false piety. It’s what the hypocrite does. A showy disguise of “godliness” – or so they would have us think. And that is exactly what this motto is. It is a lie, disguised as humble, saintly, biblical, godliness and worse – it is a lie that is used to:

  • Minimize the sin of the wicked (like an abuser)
  • Guilt and shame the righteous who are the target of the wicked
  • Justify doing absolutely nothing in the face of evil

Let me illustrate. I will try to disguise the culprits, though I don’t really know why I should. Here is Janet. You probably already know her story. Janet has been married for 30 years. She is a true Christian, but she has been soooo confused not only by the deceiving tactics of her abuser husband (who claims to be a Christian and loves to quote Scriptures to her) but also by the false teachings of her church. As Janet begins to sort through the confusing fog of all this, she finally approaches her “friend” Margaret (you know, the kind of “friend” who it turns out you need to steer clear of).

“Margaret,” my husband is not who you and everyone thinks he is. He is not the saintly, serving, godly man he appears to be. Let me tell you what he is really like and what it is like to live with him.” And so Janet shares part of her story.

Now, Margaret, for numbers of reasons (none of which are good) begins to churn inside as she works to process what she is hearing. Her world is threatened and she doesn’t want her world rocked. Too costly to her. So, when Janet is finished, Margaret gives her some “Christian words of wisdom” – “Well, Janet, none of us are perfect. We are all sinners. You need to be patient and loving all the more.” Margaret feels so warm and fuzzy inside. She has been a fine Christian in all this you know.

What is the reality however? The truth is that what Margaret has just done is right out of the pit. It is a conniving, evil tidbit of distorted doctrine invented by man, never taught by God’s Word. Margaret has just blamed and shamed Janet, the victim, and enabled and protected the wicked. Margaret is an ally of evil.

The Bible NEVER teaches us that Christians are sinners. Never. We were. We used to be. We were born into this world fallen in Adam. By nature:

Eph 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins (2) in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– (3) among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

BUT…. BUT GOD!!!

Eph 2:4-6 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, (5) even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– (6) and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

The Christian is a child of God, a saint, a holy one, beloved of God, a new creation, and on and on the titles for us go. We are still battling our fallen flesh, but that is not who we are anymore.

Gal 5:16-17 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (17) For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Notice the “you” very carefully (boldfaced). Who are YOU, Christian?  YOU are the one who wants to walk in the Spirit. Those are the things YOU want to do. YOU are not defined as a person any longer by the flesh. The Bible says this over and over again:

Rom 8:4-9 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (5) For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (6) For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (7) For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (8) Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (9) You, however, are not in the flesh but 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.

Therefore, when some supposed Christian like Margaret says “Well, we are all sinners you know. You need to forgive him. You are just as bad as him in God’s sight…” they are denying Christ. They are denying and rejecting the gospel. They are saying that a true Christian walks in the flesh but is still on his way to heaven. They are saying that the Christian is just as evil as the wicked abuser, deceiver, liar, child of Satan.

So if you are using this line, repent of it! Go to the person you shamed and guilted with it and ask their forgiveness. Get your head screwed on straight and start thinking biblically.

And perhaps be reminded of this:

Isa 5:20-21 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (21) Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

Shame, Inferiority Thinking, and Victims

1Co 12:20-25 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (21) The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (22) On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, (23) and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, (24) which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, (25) that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.

Over the years as I have worked with victims of abuse – the majority of whom are Christians – I have seen a very damaging dynamic at work with some frequency. Victims of domestic or sexual or some other brand of evil we call abuse often find themselves loaded down with shame. They regard themselves as damaged goods, inferior to other people who have never known abuse.

  • As a Christian, my marriage was supposed to last a lifetime and be a model to others. It was in fact a horror of horrors
  • Perhaps some of the accusations my abuser made toward me contain some truth
  • Unlike others, I was foolish and allowed myself to be duped by evil
  • My children were harmed and, unlike other people’s kids, still bear the scars

This is how the thinking goes. I am sure that abuse survivors could easily add to this list, but you get the idea. Shame. Guilt. Seeing yourself as inferior to others and therefore, generally, unwanted.

I think that the Apostle Paul had this kind of thing in mind when he wrote the Scripture above. There were people in the church who did not possess the more visible spiritual gifts others had and who (perhaps helped along by the sinful arrogance of others) were tempted to regard themselves as unneeded, inferior, and unwanted. This kind of thinking, says Paul, is entirely false.

Using the human body as an analogy of the church, Paul reminds us that every real Christian is indwelt by the SAME Spirit, and that all spiritual gifts are given for the very same purpose – the building up of the church to the glory of Christ. No one is inferior. No one is to be ashamed or feel as if they are not needed. Consider, for instance (as Paul reasons) the little finger, or little toe. Small parts in comparison to say the nose or eyes or hand and yet without them, the body would not be complete. And when any part is hurting – well, have you ever smashed your little toe? The whole body suffers.

And there are body parts that are not seen (at least where there is proper modesty, something increasingly lacking in our day). But are those members that are out of sight therefore unimportant and unneeded? Let’s see, without them there would be no human reproduction – and you can think of other examples yourself.

When an abuse survivor is weighted down with guilt and shame and sees themselves as rather worthless in comparison to others, relationship problems crop up. How long, for instance, are we going to last in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ if we are overcome with these kinds of false ideas?

  • She thinks she is better than me, and maybe she is
  • No one wants me
  • My presence causes people to think about what happened to me and they really don’t want to
  • This church would be better off without me

These thoughts are not from Him who called us! They are from the enemy. They are based on the false notion that anyone who is targeted and victimized by an evil person is weak, foolish, marred, and broken. But Christ Himself had all kinds of evil abuse hurled His way. So did all the Apostles and in fact the Bible makes it plain that ANY true Christian is most certainly going to be abused by the enemy. Really then, we are ALL in the same boat.

  • So perhaps we have our thinking all turned around on this thing. While not all of us are going to be targeted by a full-blown sociopath abuser, anyone who stands for Christ in this evil world is going to be abused. And if we are thinking that a person who is so abused is somehow second rate or inferior, then we need to get our heads screwed on 180 degrees opposite to what they are!

Mat 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.