If you want to prioritize Jesus, get other people around you.
This is part five of a five part series on what a Christian spouse needs to prioritize above all else: Jesus. If you haven’t read the previous posts, please do so now:
For the Christian, meditation on God’s word leads to life change. A Christian so changed will be seeking after God in all things and their heart will be naturally drawn to prayer. The heart that prays will inevitably worship. All of these things cause us to become more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, and humble. By acting in this way, we put our focus on Jesus making Him our priority, and preparing ourselves to respond like spiritual heroes with the hard days ahead.
This is where we want to be, but it’s so hard to get there. It can feel like attempting to climb a mountain as a paraplegic. It can feel like fighting a war without the benefit of training, resources, or weapons. So how do we get to the top of the mountain? How do we learn to fight properly? This is where Christian community comes in to play. Community gives us a place to use our gifts (Romans 12:6-8, 1 Cor. 12:8-10, and 1 Peter 4:11) to stir one another on to good works (Heb. 10:24-25), and sharpen each other through accountability. Without it we miss out on many blessings.
In community, we should seek fellow Christians to help keep us accountable. We need people in our lives who have the permission to be blunt and honest with us, to tell us what we have kept hidden from ourselves (Jer. 17:9). Our hearts are so wicked, we’ve deceived ourselves into believing our motives are good, even when they couldn’t be more selfish. We need people to examine our lives and tell us when we’re in sin. We need them to point out that we are never too busy to make Jesus the priority He ought to be. After all, as master of the universe, He found time to come and die for us. He found time to humble Himself before us, taking on sin and death, to save us from our sins. How can we say work is too busy, our kids happiness to important, or time with friends too necessary for us to have time for God? When we make excuses for not meditating, praying, and worshipping, we tell God we don’t care about His sacrifice on the cross. We tell Him that we don’t need Him.
This is where accountability in Christian community comes in. When we lament our busyness and tell our friends that we’re just too busy right now to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind, it is their job to say: “Stop. Jesus didn’t make you so that you could focus on your job above your family. Jesus didn’t make you so you can focus on your job above Him. He didn’t make you to focus on your family above Him. Those are blessings He has bestowed on you, not your number one priority. Make time for Jesus today and everyday.” We need people to point out the secrets we keep from ourselves but are so obvious to those around us. We need people to help encourage and build us up. We need solid accountability.
Accountability is essential. The Bible calls us to go to our Christian brothers and sisters who are in sin and gently point it out (Gal 6:1). By doing so we hope that they will renounce their sin and return to Jesus. If that fails to bring them back, Jesus has outlined a path to make their sins clear to them (Matt 18:15-20). Our goal as Christians should be to make Jesus our priority and in so doing, prayerfully, we should respond to any accusations of our own sin with grace. Unfortunately, there’s a very human tendency to get riled up and defensive when we are accused of sin. “I’m sinning? Look at you!” “It’s not me, it’s the woman you put here.” Our first parents gave us a shameful example of how to deal with sin. Our goal should be to respond humbly to accusations, not blameshift or make excuses.
While we would hope we’d be as quick to repent as King David was when confronted by the prophet Nathan, we’re often too quick to follow Adam & Eve’s reply to their confrontation. We deflect and attack, rather than receive and accept with gracious hearts. I knew a believer who worked hard to not reply defensively. Whenever he was accused of sin, he would calmly say, “Let me pray about that.” His hope was to take time to examine his own deceiving heart, determine if he was deceiving himself, and allow the Spirit of God to work on him. He would often take a week to mull over the accusation and then come back humbly and repent of his sin. What a noble example! When you feel yourself getting defensive, take a step back and pray.
If we’re truly seeking God in prayer and meditation, we would hope that we would be even more forthright with our own sins. That we would go to our brothers and sisters and confess our sins (James 5:16), enlisting their help via prayer and accountability. Jesus encourages us to be proactive in talking to our accusers and making peace (Matt 5:23-25).
We need to make our lives an open book to our accountability team so that they can look at us honestly and point out our sins. There must be trust that none of what is said between you will get used against you, to malign you. And there must be honesty in holding no sins back. By providing an atmosphere of trust and honesty it will make it easier to be open with each other. This allows you to open up and confess as well as allowing others to call you out. There is also a give and take in accountability that is designed to keep us humble. Eventually, you will need to call others out on their sin too. And when you do you’ll be able to do so humbly and graciously, knowing you’ll be confronted of your own sin soon enough.
Confronting other’s sins is a command of God to protect the body of Christ, and it is a command from God to protect yourself from sin. Time and time again, when the Israelites stood by and watched their fellow countrymen fall into sin, and did nothing about it, God brought judgement down on them. That’s the whole point of the book of Judges. It’s a cyclical cycle. If you let others fall into sin around you, you prepare yourself to fall into the same sins. There’s a war raging for the community of God; a battle for the purity of His people. That battle is waged within our own personal walks with God: deep meditation, constant prayer, and praise filled worship. But that battle is won through the hardship of calling out each other’s sin and helping each other stay pure.
The Christian life is a life at war. We fight spiritual battles every day. Do I click through to this inappropriate site? Do I fudge my time clock? Do I talk negatively about my spouse to a friend? Do I speak unkindly to my spouse? There are a myriad of temptations that we face daily, and we must prepare ourselves to battle them. Certainly the steps we’ve talked about for these last few weeks are useful and necessary for fighting temptation, but alone they are likely to fail. The Bible regularly calls us to community (Psalm 133:1 & Col. 3:13). The writer of Hebrews calls us to consider how to stir each other up to love and good works and to not neglect to meet together (Hebrews 10:24-25). We are called to meet together, in person, to encourage one another and to bear with one another through our struggles. We are called to wage war in community with each other.
Inviting a community to be involved in your life can be hard. If you’ve experienced betrayal in the past, you’ll be naturally more fearful to be hurt like that again. If your marriage is in shambles, asking others to come down into the pit with you may feel overwhelming. I sympathize with your pain, and hurt, and fear. And I want to remind you that the pain, and hurt, and fear you feel pales in comparison to the joy, and hope, and life you could be experiencing. The devil is not as powerful as God, and the pits he drags us down into are shallow when compared to the heights God wants to take us to. So to those of you who are hesitant to step out and bring in others into your woes, I encourage you: the body of Christ is here to help and serve you. Let us take joy in sharing Jesus’ love with you where you are now.
It is our duty to self evaluate, find our strengths and weaknesses, and invite other to weigh in. Through prayer and constant vigilance we are to grow in those weaknesses as we aim to be like Jesus. But that is not enough, constant vigilance is wearying. We can’t keep ourselves undefiled from sin on our own. When we learn of our temptations we should alert our accountability partners so that they (in trust and honesty) can work along side us to help keep us unblemished from sin. We must ask good accountability questions of our partners, to help them evaluate their own hearts and break through the self deceit we’re all prone to. We ought to be in a community that seeks to keep us accountable without us even having to ask. As married men and women, we can and should find accountability with our spouses as well. It’s important that those closest to us are able to be honest with us when they see us heading down a sinful path.
Ask Good Questions
- What have you been meditating on this week?
- What has God been teaching you and how are you changing because of it?
- What have you been praying about?
- What sins are you working on eliminating in your life right now?
- What has God shown you in your private worship this week?
- How are you doing at being a Christ-like example to your spouse, kids, co-workers, and friends?
- How have you sinned this week? What are you doing to fix it and prevent it from happening again?
Each of these questions forces us to think about how we’re currently doing at making God a priority in our lives. These questions strive to make you examine yourself in a more detailed way than just looking to check the box. If you’re not meditating on His word, praying, and worshipping consistently your answers to these questions will become bland, repetitive, dull, and deceptive. If, however, you prioritize Jesus, your answers to these questions will be new, vibrant, and full of joy. You’ll be bursting at the seams to tell your friends and family the truths God’s been stirring up in your heart.
I’ve been reading A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 recently, reading a chapter every night. The things Philip Keller points out in the chapters have my mind churning for days. For instance, did you know that a rod was a shepherd’s weapon and a tool to guide the sheep where they ought to go? A skilled shepherd would throw his staff great distances with surprising accuracy to scare off would be attackers or scare his wandering sheep back to the fold. He would also use the staff to bring a newborn to its mother without contaminating it with his smell, rescue sheep from brambles or from drowning, and guide the sheep down the right path. When Scripture says, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” it’s saying that God is both protector and compassionate caregiver. He is both a loving laborer and a watchful sentry. He is fierce warrior-protector and dedicated savior. As I’ve meditated on this truth, I can’t help but want to share it with my wife and with any one who will listen.
Friends, isn’t that true for you too? The infinite depths of our Lord drive us to awe. Awe inspires us to share what we’ve seen to anyone who will listen. This is why our accountability questions should focus on our hearts and if they are responding to God’s truth or if they are stagnant. The answers to these questions will tell you who has been in communion with God and who has not. And they similarly reveal your heart to your accountability partners.
I pray that you’ve been encouraged by this series, and that you’ve begun to seek the Lord in daily meditation, prayer, and worship. I pray too that you’ll go to your Bible Study, Life Group, or Accountability Group refreshed by a deepening devotion to God. Practicing these things with daily regularity will help change your behavior to be more like Jesus. Hopefully through your new routine, the next time you feel like life is trying to drown you, you’ll be able to smile and give thanks to God.
I pray that you’d be moved to not only be completely honest about your own sins, but that you’d work harder to ask solid questions to probe the depths of the hearts of your brothers and sisters in Christ. If you’ve sinned against anyone, go to them now and seek reconciliation, that you might return to God’s good graces and experience true joy in Him.