Friday, July 7, 2017

Is There a Difference Between Judging and Accountability? Part 2

In part one, I talked about the difference between judging and accountability. Today, my goal is to paint a picture of how accountability is supposed to work. It’s God’s plan for His people to work interdependently to make each individual stronger.

Accountability is wonderful and painful. I have two girlfriends I’m accountable to, as well as my Mom and two sisters, and of course my husband. Why all this accountability?

The number one reason is we need someone outside ourselves who can give us a more objective view. We tend to either be too hard or too easy on ourselves. When we’re beating ourselves up, we need someone to give us a hug and encouraging word. When I got discouraged in my dieting efforts and felt deprived, I devoured a bunch of forbidden desserts. My husband didn’t scold me (like I was doing to myself), but encouraged me to get back on track.

On the other hand, when we rationalize our behavior and give excuses for why our sin is okay with God (when we convince ourselves we have extenuating circumstances and somehow get a free pass), our accountability partners can set us straight. That’s what Nathan did for King David (see 2 Samuel 12:1-13). He used a word picture he knew would touch King David’s heart and break through his defenses. We all need someone who loves us enough to tell us the hard stuff and keep us soft and repentant before God.

And now, for the meat. Here’s what the Bible says about accountability in the Body of Christ—the Church:

Examine yourself first:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips… Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Col. 3:5-8, 16

Be humble, love deeply, and lift up:
Paul’s teaching in Gal. 6:1-2: Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

From Jesus’ half-brother: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective…My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:16, 19-20

From the writer of Hebrews in Heb. 3:12-13: See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Heb. 10:24-25

Speak to them privately at first:
Jesus’ said:  “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matt. 18:15-17

Jesus’ words in Luke 17:3: “So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.”

Don’t hang out with unrepentant “believers”:
Paul’s instructions in 1 Cor. 5:9-12: I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

Things to Think About
There is a fine line between judging and accountability. Have you accused others of judging you who warned you of the consequences of your choices? Regardless of whether they hurt your feelings, or how the words were spoken, your job is to ask God if you need to change. 

Have you overstepped your role and begun to judge others, or spoken harsh words? 

Are you accountable to other believers, or do you live your spiritual life in secret? Who knows how you’re really doing and encourages you to stay on track? Are you approachable and submissive? If not, you will be held accountable, but by the time you’re standing before the judgment throne it will be too late to change. Now is the time to walk with others who seek God in this faith journey.

#Christiansarejudgmental #donotjudge #whatisaccountability #judgingandaccountability #beingaccountable #whatdidJesussayaboutjudging

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Is There a Difference Between Judging and Accountability? Part 1

I’ve heard it said Christians are judgmental. People don’t want to go to church because they think others are examining everything they do and condemning their choices. And sometimes they’re right. Some who call themselves Christians feel it’s their job to pick others apart. 

I am saddened by those picketing street corners and even churches and Christian concerts, with signs declaring others are going to hell for the specific sins they choose to list. Their hateful speeches yelled through a bullhorn add to the image many have of Christianity.

All of us are guilty of sin and destined for hell—if it weren’t for Christ’s sacrifice for us. But Jesus himself said it’s not our job to judge others. Only Jesus Christ has authority to judge the thoughts, attitudes, and deeds of men and women (John 5:22-30). And He will do that at the end of the age—when all are gathered and stand before His throne. 

He said: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-5 and Luke 6:37-42).

So why then do preachers preach, and teachers teach, and Christians caution others of the consequences of sin? When we do it right, the purpose is not to judge, but to warn. Ezekiel chapters 3 and 33 make it clear God wants us to warn others so they don’t go to hell. A warning is by definition:

1. To inform someone in advance of an impending or possible danger, problem, or other unpleasant situation.
2. To give someone forceful or cautionary advice about their actions or conduct.

It’s our job to tell unbelievers who God is and the Good News that He loves them and wants to rescue them from sin; but also about the impending judgment of all. This news should be delivered with hope, with gentleness and respect, making sure we are living what we proclaim (1 Pet. 3:15-16).

On the other hand, we also have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters who claim to walk in the Way. It’s called accountability. 

How is accountability different from judging? I’m glad you asked.

Judgment pronounces a verdict—either a reward or punishment for the actions of another. It is the finger of authority pointing to one under law. In this case: God’s perfect law that can only be satisfied by the perfect sacrifice—Jesus Christ. And Christ is the only Judge.

Accountability involves a relationship. It’s putting an arm around the shoulder of an equal. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ has agreed to do life His way; to love and obey Him. And we, as believers, are called to keep each other accountable—not with a pointing finger, but out of concern for the other’s welfare, their witness, and the detrimental effects of sin in the Church.

If we don’t address sinful behavior for fear of being “judgmental,” we are acting in disobedience to God. Sin will go unchecked and spread. Unbelievers will see no difference between the behaviors and attitudes of those who claim to be Christians, and the world, and feel no need to be saved.

Words such as rebuke, exhort, and admonish are key throughout the New Testament—but so are submission, obedience, and confession. Accountability is a two-way street. The Body of Christ is a family—encouraging, nurturing, reproving, and warning when one of us is flirting with danger.

The question to ask before speaking (or responding to rebuke) is—what is the fruit of this behavior, attitude, thought pattern? Where will it lead? What do I need to do?

Check back later this week for part two of this post. I’ll address the why’s and how’s—why God calls us to be accountable, and how to go about it in healthy ways. 

#Christiansarejudgmental #donotjudge #whatisaccountability #judgingandaccountability #beingaccountable #whatdidJesussayaboutjudging

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Walk of the Free

Free people walk differently than captives do. Free people hold their heads up, backs straight, and look into the eyes of others as equals. Prisoners, defeated by addictions, painful circumstances, illness, political oppression, or walls and bars, have a different gait. There is no eye contact. Heads down and slumping posture reveal hopelessness and chains weighing them down. Often invisible ones.
Those who walk in Christ have freedom no matter where they are. No one can take away the relationship we have with Jesus. It is deep within our heart where no man, jail, evil, or disappointment can reach. 

God followers through all of history have understood this—even in hunger, persecution, captivity, and defeat. I like the vivid word picture in the Message version:

I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces
as I look for your truth and your wisdom.
Psa. 119:45

Freedom is spacious. Room enough to move and breathe. God gives us that room. He gives us freedom from guilt and shame, freedom to be ourselves, freedom to love without an agenda; freedom to grow, learn, succeed, rejoice, and dance. Plus so much more!

Funny enough, the more we obey His commands, the more room we have. My friend Roy equates that with how we act as parents. When our kids are disobedient and disrespectful they’re going to lose freedoms. But when they’re obedient and cheerful, we generously give them more freedom. They can be trusted with it.

I can’t help but wonder: are we carrying ourselves like free people? Or do we needlessly slump under a load of care? I know all too often I pick up those old shackles and put them on, from the prison cell where Christ set me free.

Freedom can be lost if we don’t appreciate what we have. Jesus said it this way:

‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…’

 ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed’” (John 8:31-36).

Are you striding through life with confidence, free in Jesus? If not, seek Him and ask Him to release you from what holds you captive. 

Hold to Jesus’ teaching.

Have you gone back to your prison cell because of old habits, temptations, shame, or a desire to “earn” His approval by punishing yourself? He’s already unlocked the door. Come out into the open and celebrate your freedom!

Know the truth, and refuse to be enslaved again to sin once He has set you free.

Walk with your head held high and experience the spaciousness of God’s great love for you. Rejoice in the spiritual freedom of having your sins forgiven. And if you live in America, rejoice in a land where we can worship freely, share our testimony and the Bible with others, vote, move about freely, and work, learn, grow, and create! 

Happy 4th of July!

#fourthofJuly #freedom #confidenceinChrist #walkingtall #nomorechains

Friday, June 16, 2017

Sometimes You Have to Fight When You’re a Man

“Coward of the County” was playing in the store the other day and I got caught up in the storyline. The “coward” was caught between his father’s hard won wisdom and what to do about the gang rape of his beloved Becky. Ecclesiastes says, there’s a time to fight and a time to abstain from fighting. But which is which?
Compare this to the violence we see every day in our world. Blows and bloodshed erupt over trivial issues. This is not manhood, but hatred, pride, immaturity, and a lack of self-control.

The kind of men who deserve honor on Father’s Day, or any day, are the ones who can distinguish between a just and unjust cause. Jesus is described as meek. He wasn’t passive, but a man of passion and power. In fact, the true meaning of the word meek is “power under control.” He knew His real enemy and when to fight. He didn’t fight when falsely accused, spat on, and nailed to a cross. He suffered everything so He could conquer Satan once for all.

Real men fight: 
For the Weak and Oppressed
Scripture tells the people of God to fight for those who, for one reason or another, can’t fight for themselves—orphans, widows, captives, the elderly—anyone unable to stand up for themselves. “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Psa. 82:3-4). 

This means testifying on their behalf, providing for their needs, showing compassion and hospitality, righting wrongs, and showing them honor and respect as fellow human beings.

For What is Right
This requires a pause for discernment. Is this right according to me, or according to God? Right is eternal and brings ultimate good even if momentary discomfort, but so many times we get embroiled in battles for short-term solutions or selfish gain. 

Paul’s words to his young protégé Timothy are, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim. 6:11-12). What is right honors God, His people, and the commands He has given us to walk in passion and integrity.

In Prayer
Men who are able to stand when things get tough are the ones who spend time on their knees. It may not be their literal position of prayer, but the attitude of their hearts—knowing their own limitations and humbly seeking help from the One who has none. Spiritual warfare is only for the strongest of men, who fight to serve their Commander and not for their own glory or comfort.

“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:18). Real men pray for: 

·         Strength to resist temptation
·         Courage to speak truth
·         Passion to share God with others
·         Forgiveness for those who hate or mistreat them
·         Holy Spirit power to overcome demonic forces

Against Their Own Demons
Every one of us has demons, thorns in our flesh, that trouble and tempt; distract and discourage us. Whether it’s chemical addiction, lust, depression, greed, pride, workaholism, or selfishness, it is a battle each man must fight himself. No one can fight his demons for him, apart from Christ.

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart  who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” Luke 8:14-15). Seeds are sown in fields. Real men seek out other men who are fighting the good fight. They encourage one another with honest and sincere hearts and keep each other accountable. 

I bless and honor all Fathers who know how to fight. So many battles are unseen, but reap eternal rewards. To my dad, my husband, my sons, and the godly men I know, I applaud you. You are the real men in our world.

Happy Father’s Day!

#fathersday #whenisitoktofight #bullies #meeknessispower #sometimesyouhavetofightwhen #menofcourage