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  • « The Gospel According to Galatians, Pt. 8 by C. R. Biggs | Main | Images of the Savior (9 - His Healing of the Nobleman's Son) »

    The Gospel Versus Accountability Groups

    Let me begin by saying that your definition of "Accountability Groups" [from here on, AGs] may differ from what I'm talking about here, and that's okay. I'm just going to examine a particular aspect of AGs—one which much personal experience has led me to believe is pervasive in Evangelicalism today—but it may not be a part of your experience of AGs. So bear with me.

    I meet weekly with a small group of men from our church who struggle with sexual addiction. When I was introducing the new quarter, which saw the addition of a few fellows to the group, these were some comments I made:

    I am not interested in fighting one sin by using another sin. What good is it to strengthen our pride in order to overpower our lust? Why would we want to use guilt or the fear of man to make progress in freedom and holiness? Will feeding the flesh in one area to starve it in another really bring us closer to God and godliness? These methods are not The Gospel Method, and if we preached them to each other, we are not servants of Christ (Gal. 1:8-10).

    What in the world am I talking about, you ask? I'm talking about the tendency of people in AGs to prod each other toward apparent holiness by unbiblical, non-Christian, anti-Gospel methods. These methods are not just unhelpful, they're actually harmful to true holiness.

    For a common example, take an AG that appeals to Pride in order to subdue Lust (Fear of Man being the negative flipside of the Pride Coin). Someone in such an AG would feel pressure not to slip into lustful behavior, so that he wouldn't have to embarass himself in front of the others in the group. If the group meets on a Wednesday night, the only thing keeping him from looking at pornography on Tuesday night is the fear he has of telling his friends the next night. They'd obviously think less of him if he has something to say during confession time, and his Pride being stronger than his Lust, he controls his lustful behavior. [Hasn't this become the very definition of accountability??]

    Now, you run into a problem here. You haven't applied the Gospel to the situation, so the Flesh is getting stronger, not weaker. It's just one area of the Flesh that's been losing out to another, for a time. But after a while, the Pride can't control the Lust any more. The Lust leaps up, and overcomes the fellow, and he has to make a confession to his AG. The AG forgives him, and he goes home, and maybe his Lust overcomes him again in the next couple weeks. A few times he slips up, and a few times he confesses.

    But then (and this is the worst part), since the Gospel has never really been injected into the problem, the fellow's Pride overtakes him again. But this time it's not strong enough to subdue the Lust. He still slips up, and checks out the porn. But he's too afraid of the shame it would bring to confess it to his AG, so he doesn't tell them about it this time. Both Pride and Lust win out, and he withdraws into his shell of secrecy once again, into a massive downward spiral of hopelessness.

    Trust me, this happens.

    And it happens because we have a warped view of Christianity. We have a view that says, "Being a Christian is primarily about being a better person than most non-Christians. Anything that can help me be a better person must be good." But Christianity is not primarily about being a better person, and not all things are helpful when it comes to growing in holiness. Some things that seem helpful are actually "of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh" (Col. 2:23). Obviously, indulging the flesh in one area in order to stop it in another isn't really stopping it.

    When we participate in AGs driven by the Fear of Man or Pride, we testify that we believe that Christianity is simply about getting better. The most important thing becomes stopping sin and getting better. There's a feeling there, that someday I'll conquer this whole sin thing, and be good enough. If only I could get to a place where I could stand on my own two feet, not stumbling around all the time in sin! If only I could clean myself up just a little more, then I know I'd be all right with God and his people.

    Devilry!

    If you're part of an AG that employs pride, guilt, or fear tactics, you're confessing to the world that you want to be able to justify yourself before God and others. For you, it's about being "good enough." But the Gospel says that you'll never be "good enough." You're a sinner, and you'll always sin. Every day. More frequently than that, even.

    We all need to know that, in and of ourselves, there is no hope. We'll never be perfect, not even "good enough." This is helpful because then we won't set our hope in the wrong thing. Our hope for acceptance from God and others doesn't come from our being or actions. It comes only from God, through Jesus Christ, by grace, through faith. Christianity isn't about becoming a sinless person—it's about a sinner finding forgiveness and freedom in the grace of God in Christ.

    So what is the grace of God in Christ for us? It’s the truth of the Gospel. It’s the love of God. It’s the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It’s the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. It’s freedom from the penalty and power of sin—even though not fully realized in this life.

    What does this freedom look like? It looks dangerously close to antinomianism (thinking that Christians don’t “have to” obey the law of God). Historically speaking, those who “get” the Gospel have been accused by those who are more legalistic of being licentious. Martin Luther said, “Be a sinner, and sin boldly, but believe more boldly still. Sin shall not drag us away from Him….” He loved the law of God, but it was only the grace of God that let him love the law. Grace—the freedom to be a sinner found in Christ—is the foundation for keeping the law, which is what Christians want to do.

    What’s the best feeling in the world? For me, it’s coming to communion after hearing the Gospel proclaimed—Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for me, a sinner. When I hear the forgiveness and love and grace of God pronounced on me—a sinner!—a great and holy joy overwhelms me. This Gospel-driven sense of fellowship with God and his people is what conquers the desires to sin. At that moment, sin is the most repulsive thing in the world. We need to learn to cultivate that appreciation for the Gospel in our daily lives in order to cast off the shackles of evil desires from our hearts.

    So if your AG is about this Gospel, God bless you. Such groups can make good use of honest confession, to proclaim and demonstrate mercy toward one another. But if your AG preaches another Gospel, if it uses the fear of man or pride as motivation to try stop the indulgences of the flesh, watch out, because you've warped God's beautiful message of salvation and sanctification by the grace of Jesus Christ.

    Posted by Eric Costa on November 9, 2006 03:36 PM

    Comments

    Eric,

    I am very interested in your approach here as someone who thinks the Gospel is the way to salvation and sanctification, but I was hoping for more at the end from you. Can you expound more on how the Gospel works practically here? You're long on deconstruction and short on reconstruction, and I am really interested in what you might add.

    I agree with the above comment.

    I think this essay is very insightful, but I would also like to see more detail about what might replace a misguided AG.

    Christian: Thanks for the comment. I'm usually pretty fascinated with the anthropology of situations (i.e., what's wrong with the way people think/feel/act?), and I have a tendency to spend more time in diagnosis of the problem than in the solution.

    I think there's some general help available in what I've already written (the last few paragraphs):

    1) There's no hope in pursuing "being good enough" as the center of Christianity or AGs, which is what we do when we fight one sin with another.

    2) Our only hope is in the grace of God through Christ.

    3) God's grace comes to us in truth, love, sacrifice, fellowship, and freedom.

    4) God's grace comes to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    5) We experience this grace when forgiveness and freedom in Christ is proclaimed to us, when we remember it, dwell on it.

    6) Therefore (maybe not explicitly mentioned in the post), AGs ought to be about sharing and living the Gospel with each other—proclaiming and practicing the grace of God in Christ toward each other.

    This last point is the most "practical" of them all, when it comes to what you do in your AGs. Foster an atmosphere/environment of graciousness. Assure each other that you're not there to be perfect people, but to be sinners forgiven by Christ. Study books by authors who have a good understanding of the Gospel. Listen to sermons together. Read articles or sermons during the week. When you come to confession time, make sure people know that you're not surprised by their sins, because you're a sinner too. Make sure everyone understands that honesty and confession is a way to expose evil deeds to the light that destroys them. Be intentional and discerning about how you're fighting your sins together—don't use one aspect of the flesh to fight another! Trust that prayer works, and that God will change your hearts and minds after the pattern of Christ. Study the pattern of Christ and his merciful love for you!

    Thanks. I see those things and I agree with your diagnosis and the remedy. This actually sounds like much of what I have learned from Keller who I believe learned it from Edwards...I preach this way every Sunday.

    I think though that we need to get better at what seems to be a pretty abstract solution...For me I am wondering if Dallas Willard is on to something with the disciplines and wonder why more reformed folks don't see this connection.

    In other words, how do we pratice the reality of the Gospel? And shoudln't it lead to becoming the kind of people who, not by the flesh, do overcome sin though the power of the Gospel. Not "Good Enough" but transformed, transforming.......

    You are certainly headed in this direction I think with your numbered responses...I wonder if you would concede that practicing spirtual disciplines, not as righteousness, but as a dwelling on the Gospel might be a very physical response to those who are struggling with the reality of sin post-cross and pre-redemption.

    Excellent article, great insight.

    A great help for me is 2 Cor 10:5 - ... take every thought captive to obey Christ

    Christian: I agree with you. Unfortunately I haven't read Dallas Willard to be able to comment on your insight there. But I do like your ideas.

    Great article. This is very helpful. I can certainly see what you are saying operating in accountability groups. That whole attitude has lost sight of the Gospel impact on sanctification.

    Eric

    here are some parts I would "take" issue with:

    you wrote this:

    [[ Trust me, this happens. ]]

    No, Eric, I will not trust you!

    you wrote this:

    [[ This Gospel-driven sense of fellowship with God and his people is what conquers the desires to sin. ]]

    No, no it does not conquer the desires to sin, TRUST ME!

    You further wrote:

    [[ We need to learn to cultivate that appreciation for the Gospel in our daily lives in order to cast off the shackles of evil desires from our hearts. ]]

    Well again Eric, no, no, this is not what we need!

    Let me ask a question?

    Lazarus, that four day old dead man, what did he do to come alive?

    JESUS SAID, LAZARUS, COME FORTH.

    Now after thirty plus years of active service, I can say with confidence that nothing I have done or ever will do this side of HIS GLORY, welcomed into a Life with Christ, God and the Holy Ghost and countless other creatures, human and angelic, will bring me forth.

    It is Christ saying to me too:

    MICHAEL COME FORTH.

    As one wise Pastor said in an Accountability Group prayer meeting the other day: IF IT IS GOD'S WILL, IT'S GOD'S BILL. He does it all including PAY FOR HIS WILL BEING DONE by me.

    I just don't think now the way I thought years ago.

    Years ago, with much Bible study and preaching and teaching, I thought differently than now.

    Now I am just too weak to have any confidence in my self life.

    Now, fellowship with the Holy Ghost, Jesus and Our Heavenly Father and with believers the same means a whole lot more than when I was "actively" Serving the Lord!

    Two verses and a lot of verses between them, first, Hebrews 6:1 and second Hebrews 9:14, dead works, serving the Living God:

    ESV, Heb 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

    AND

    ESV, Heb 9:14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.


    And finally I leave off with one more idea, the IF THEN idea of Scripture:

    ESV, 1Ki 6:11 Now the word of the LORD came to Solomon,
    1Ki 6:12 "Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father.
    1Ki 6:13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel."

    Eternal Life is "knowing" the Only True God and Jesus Christ, who He sent. With this knowledge comes Life with the Holy Ghost now and forevermore, thanks to the equitable deeds of Their Own doing, so that I too as you and anyone who will, RECEIVE ACQUITTAL for sins, and a New Life in Christ.

    As a Minister and Priest, I too can administer absolution to the willing, penitent, but to those who are unwilling to RECEIVE ACQUITTAL, what am I to do?


    THE SOLUTION TO THE POLUTION IS NOT DILUTION, IT'S ABSOLUTION.

    michael

    Excellent article. I have had very similar discussions with friends about this very same thing. It must be Gospel driven, or it is replacing habits...

    "Both Pride and Lust win out, and he withdraws into his shell of secrecy once again, into a massive downward spiral of hopelessness.

    Trust me, this happens."

    I don't have to trust you. I've lived out this scenario ten thousand times. Thank you Jesus, that grace doesn't just stop at forgiveness.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! My friends and I are just now starting an AG. This article could not be more timely.

    What is the role of discipline in all this? It seems that discipline for sin should be abolished for the same reasons then.

    Just so you know, I'm not sure if I agree or disagree with you on this. I'm just probing.

    Thanks and God Bless!

    Eric,

    With most of the responders before me, I thank you for pointing us to the gospel. I share a concern for AGs to center themselves on the gospel.

    I think one practical way to make the gospel central is to challenge those in your AG to memorize God's promises. These are God-appointed means to escape immorality, for "he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire" (2 Pt 1:4).

    Promises remind us of God's future grace (a theme Piper picks up aptly in his book "Future Grace"). So in my AG, I try to steer my friends away from fearing my response to their self-disclosure and toward God's gracious provisions for him that were secured at the cross.

    Banking on the promises ensures that we are fighting sin by hope and faith versus the fear Eric describes.

    You've voiced an important thing I've been learning over the last few years. Absence of sin is not our goal...deeper love of Christ is our goal.

    What a thought-provoking article! Thanks for challenging the typical way "mature" Christians try to do things -- to wit, by their own power instead of relying on the power of the Gospel, which point I think Michael overlooked. Of course we can't do it on our own, but we still must work out our salvation, since it is God who is at work within us! Compatibilism!

    G-Zus: Discipline in the church is mainly for the purpose of restoring a sinner to repentance, not to punish sinners or make sure everybody lives a perfect life. If someone is unwilling to confess and repent of a known sin, discipline applies. If someone confesses and repents of a sin, like to an AG, discipline does not usually apply.

    I'm another member of Rong's AG and I was led to this site because of his reference to it on his blog.
    I have been in a mentoring situation with an older godly man who has led me to some of the giants of the faith from Christendoms glorious past, specifically John Owen and JC Ryle. John Owen's book "Indwelling Sin in the Believer" and JC Ryle's "Holiness" have such a different flavor with regard to the gospel than what I hear out of many moderns these days. The most difficult thing being what I call a kind of Gnostic evangelicalism with regards to their use of the term "Gospel". They talk about the Gospel as if somehow we were passive in the whole sanctification process. As if we are to do nothing but sit around and meditate on "the Gospel". What seems to be missing and what has left so many people weak and powerless and apathetic and hopeless and despairing is the presentation of the gospel that has as it's only purpose to justify us. So here we sit justified sinners. Read JC Ryles' chapter on the "Good fight of the faith" and he presents a very active Christianity in which as soldiers of the gospel we toil with blood sweat and tears against our inner corruptions. We buffet our bodies and make them our slaves. There is no stomach for this kind of talk in the modern evangelical grace movement. It's all over Paul's epistles however. Imperitive after imperative... the purpose of the gospel is not only our justification but our sanctification as well. On Tuesday night as a believer who wants to do what he does not want to do any help at all be it the fear of confession to an AG or a Draconian internet filter or chains and locks so be it... not so that my pride would be exercised but so that I can be who I am. I fully acknowledge that I am a sinner with no hope but the gospel. Nothing I do justifies me in his site.
    Here's a thought for you that you'll have to go back to Paul and the old puritans to find spoken of but that is that our progress in sanctification now influences our capacity for joy in heaven. John Owen wanted to know the glory of Christ NOW so that he'd not find him a stranger then....
    OK I'm rambling... I just wish some of these giants who've gone before would get a wider play and we be more skeptical of our own generations laziness in sanctification and scrutinize more of what we hear in that regard. I want to hear that Christianity is an easy chair I sit in and go safely to heaven. Please don't talk to me of self-denial and taking up crosses and participating in the fellowship of the sufferings of Chirst, etc. etc. etc.....

    Dear Unfettered

    All types of Antinomianism are unacceptable. What Eric is getting at I believe does not rule out the hard preaching of the law at all. But the law makes us conscious of our sin because no one loves God with all their heart and their neighbor as theirself. So we all need to continually be reminded of what God requires of us, and we are to obey it. But God uses this to remind us often of our failure which drives us back to Christ. I do not believe Eric is pushing for passivity and do nothing ... The preaching of God's law is paramount for we do not even understand God's grace unless we see our own moral inability in light of it.

    Excellent article. I have long felt the same things. It is the Gospel that should be our greatest weapon.

    A. Shepherd
    The Aspiring Theologian

    I was very encouraged to read this article. When I finished reading it, having wholly agreed, I was anticipating some of the responses I have read. Unfortunately, the anticipation was attended with a negative point of view.

    There is an evil tendency within us much akin to Luther's description as Orthodoxy being like a slippery saddle. He gave this picture to show us that as we see truth and we are not on the "saddle" of the truth, in our attempt to get there we have a tendency to slip off on to the other side of Orthodoxy. He reminds us that throughout Church history we see theologians and pastors rarely on the saddle, but comfortable being close to it.

    I see this in many of the responses I have read. With the accusations of antinomianism and in the question of "where is Church discipline?" I see a resonate slippage into a form of error based upon faulty grounds.

    Antinomianism is a repudiation of any law or standard. Church disicipline is reserved for hard hearted unrepentance in a person's heart.

    The concept of an AG is the exact opposite of everything inherent in antinomianism. Furthermore, participation in an AG, participation as opposed to a mere attendance, is a complete contradication to every ground of Church Discipline. To even pose those questions...to let them even come into the mind is a failure in two levels: 1. it is a failure to even care to understand the nature and point of an AG, and 2. it is an overreaction to perceived error as opposed to an analysis of a specific pursuit to not be antinomian coupled with a desire for purity in the Church.

    I would put forward that any Christian who does not have an accountability group where they confess their sins to their brethren and seek prayer and help in their pursuit of Christ by faith is one who is more liable to wear the pin of antinomian; one who is probably closer to the grounds for Church discipline.

    But, in the end neither situation can concede these conclusions.

    Costa's article is a humble and passionate attempt to communicate a fatal flaw in many AG's usage of inappropriate means to mortify the flesh. Costa has applied what John Owen so wisely taught in that great work on Moritification.

    In the end, any who would entertain any such notion of antinomianism or lack of concern for Church Disicipline from this discussion is simply acting the fool. I hope this can be seen for what it is...a humble attempt to glorify Christ by the mortification of the flesh and exalt his Lordship over all things.

    Having received some email regarding posting my comments hereon above, [which I am grateful to Eric for him doing so], I see that Laura may have missed my foolish little back and forth point about Trust and being guided by the Gospel.

    Do I trust fallable Eric Costa, no. Do I trust and account to his Godly authority, yes.

    Why? Well there are others here listed who he is accountable too and it is clear to me that if he were to slip off balance in any way with anything he posts hereon, they would be on him like white is on rice, if you permit me to use that saying?

    On the outset let me affirm Eric's article on Accountability Groups and his intended warning. Take heed if you think you can stand on your own.

    As one who is truly weak, and all of us are, I understand the importance of being ACCOUNTABLE to those "God", through the ADMINISTRATION OF THE LORD AND THE HOLY GHOST, have placed me with in this sojourning together before we pass to the other side.

    We cannot say we Love God and remain separated from God's ordained authorities when it comes to Christian life and disciplines and reproofs as a way of Life.

    In fact, I would say it as the Apostle Paul says it: submit one to another in the FEAR OF GOD.

    Some people, because of pride, only submit to those "they" perceive have something for them.

    Some people, because of pride, only submit to those not considered Church authorities in their Church but other Christians. Why? I don't understand why, seeing the subject of Accountability is the only way we are given to be safe and secure from the harm that will undoubtedly come upon us by evil forces if we are not accountable to Godly authorities within the Government of God's Church on earth. Ironically, it is these very evil forces that we are suppose to "manifest" the manifold Wisdom of God too, Eph 3:8-12. We would be stupid to do that alone and unaccountable!

    If we cannot submit one to another in the FEAR of God generally, why would we or anyone suppose we would be able to submit to Godly leaders or Godly people in areas where me need Godly discipline administered to us specifically?

    There is One God and Father of all. He has an established order, a system, a structure for Godly discipline in the Church. It is certainly different than in the general Civil realm where civilian discipline is administered by peace officers and court systems the Church dwells among.

    Accountability was never us submitting to Angels here on earth. The Holy Ghost sets human Authority in the Church as He Wills, Acts 13.

    Church discipline is ADMINISTERED by Godly Church [human beings] Ministries. What we bind is bound. What we loose is loosed.

    Do we all fail. Yes, continually and sometimes way to easily.

    Are we to account for the failure or just shake it off by faith trusting the Lord understands?

    We are to account for the failure.

    As several have observed, the sign, the test, the fruit of True Biblical maturity is found in Paul's understanding expressed in ROMANS SEVEN and the wretchedness of our beings. We would be a heretic if we did not agree with that. Paul also taught that after the first and second admonition, reject such, they being conceited and self willed.

    The Gospel has a childish nature about it. We must become as a child to start growing in Grace and the Knowledge of the Truth.

    The fruit of the Gospel comes from growth and maturity in the Faith once delivered to the Saints, the Grace and the Knowledge of the Truth.

    Growth and maturity this side of Heaven comes only from being honest and accountable to others; those Godly Authorities and Godly persons God places us with.

    Pride is the adversary here.

    So to address what appears is my fault in your conclusion Laura, I hope that you will indeed forgive me and understand clearly I am open to Eric or any of the others of the Administrators of this blog site for reproof, instruction, correction, and rebuke if necessary, and all in His Righteousness, done with His Wisdom, decently and in order.

    Do I believe God guides me to submit to fallable humans? Yes I do. It would only be a pride in me that would be unwilling to submit.

    I do also stand with the issues I raised in the earlier post above. Are they material issues? They could be. Are they great issues? No, not at all, but of course, if in any way that post became even the slightest bit of a stumbling block for any, I would be guilty of that and I do ask for forgiveness from anyone that my comments became a stumbling block too?

    michael

    Eric,
    I wish Ted Haggard could attend your AG. Good article!

    Eric,

    At some point I will want to read the comments here. But for now, I just want to let you know that your post was a real blessing to me.

    Actually, I read it to my accountability group yesterday, and we were all blessed by it. We all want to be driven by love for the Lord and a wonder over the Gospel rather than propped up by fear of man or love of self (pride).

    Know that at least one accountability group was greatly encouraged through your post today.

    God bless you richly in Christ Jesus,

    Bob Hayton

    Eric,

    Praise God for your clarion call to keep the Gospel primary and unspoiled in our pursuits of progressive sanctification! We are ever in danger leaving the Gospel on the backburner and failing to thoroughly apply its truth to our methods and strivings.

    But please allow me to remind some readers that you are not categorically against accountability groups, despite the catchy title. The issue is not that AG’s are a bad idea; but rather, without the Gospel as the foundation and lifeblood of such a gathering, an AG quickly degenerates into an anti-Christian enterprise.

    It is important to affirm that meeting together meaningfully, often, and for the purpose of “prodding each other on to love and good works” is a basic Biblical notion. That it can quickly become corrupted into a moralistic support group is no argument against its divine purpose and nobility.

    Furthermore, I am not quite certain that there is no kind of a sanctified “fear of man” that God employs in our sanctification process. The boundaries might be blurry and complicated at times, but what does it mean that we should work out our salvation in “fear and trembling” (would not such “fear” become pride according to your definition?), or that convicted elders should be rebuked “in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful” (is there absolutely no sense in which the congregation at large should fear the potential future “shame” if they continue in similar sins?).

    Doesn’t the evidence of the Scripture clearly indicate that beneath the umbrella of the Gospel there are multiple, legitimate and complimentary/simultaneous motivations with which to serve Christ? We obey out of joy (Psalm 100:2), duty (Luke 17:10), desire for reward (Matthew 6:20), earnestness to prove our election (2 Peter 1:10), knowledge of God’s love (2 Corinthians 5:14), knowledge of God’s wrath (2 Corinthians 5:11), fear of God’s disproval (Colossians 1:10), fear of quenching the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19), etc., and fear of disappointing (1 Corinthians 4:21) or harming (1 Corinthians 5:6) or being shamed by (1 Timothy 5:20) the wider Body of Christ.

    I am not denying that the Gospel is the only soil, nor joy in God as the only ultimate root; I just think that you need to provide better answers for certain texts before entirely dismissing any legitimacy for a man-ward fear in the process of our God-wrought sanctification. And please help me if you think I am misunderstanding things.

    Thank you for the powerful Gospel call!

    Dave H.

    Now just to let you all know I think I agree with the article, but I still have a few questions.
    Lets take the Ted Haggard scandal for example. Now if he was truly repentant, broken, etc. and he confessed his sin, should he not be removed from pastoral duty? Or to take this to a further extreme; murder. What if someone who committed murder is truly repentant, and confesses. Should he not be subjected to discipline or punishment?

    My questions are not being asked with a supposed answer in mind. I am really wondering these things.

    Thanks for all your answers to my previous question.

    God Bless!

    I read the article on accountability groups and some of the posts. I am not sure that people need accountability because of pride. In fact to say I am accountable to others can be humbling. There are plenty of scriptures that support accountability, such as the ones about bearing each other's burdens, confessing sins to one another. Habitual sins rob the believer of his assurance and can create a trap where he is unable to escape the sins in which he becomes entangled. If he isolates himself from other believers and sins in secret, his condition becomes worse. Light comes from accountability, and even though the gospel is "close to antinomian" the tenor of scripture, including Paul's epistles is to mortify sin, avoid it, help others to avoid and even to run from it if necessary. There are many instructions in the New Testament on restoring others and all this leads me to believe that these things are more complicated than we, who do not suffer from addictive or habitual sin, realize.

    Hey Eric.

    Thanks for the article. I am a college student in a leadership position in worship and am currently at odds with my subordinate about the nature of AGs.

    He pins them down to a singular relationship that a Christian should be able to pick out as if it were an item at the grocery store.

    Can you (or anyone) comment on these thoughts? I have replied to him that I believe that confession and so forth can only truly result (both safely and effectively) when a relationship (or group of relationships) is first built on Truth and prayer. What I was getting at is essentially what you wrote about. Unless with mortify with our Gospel weapons we are merely feeding one part of the flesh while we starve another. I feel like if people are spending time truly in the Word and in prayer, then the Spirit will convict and if it is an environment as described in scripture (love, grace, etc.) then confession MUST happen.

    Anyways, I am just curious what peoples thoughts are on another practical aspect of AGs...


    Thanks!
    ac

    Justice, mercy and faith is the antidote of legalism. I think churches(what many call fellowship but often is a bully pulpit) and accountability groups both tend to lend themselves to legalism. It's setting you up for failure. I've learned that everyday is a new day to get up and try again. Forget yesterday, it's gone. Forgive everyone their trespasses and forgive yourself. If you're taken in a fault, get to the root of it and confess the root to Christ. He'll remove the desire but only after you've allowed the Holy Spirit to detect the root in your heart. This is freedom from sin, when it is removed from the heart. Porn, drunkeness and other sins of the flesh are symptoms. Accountability will never free the heart from the root cause, only the blood of Christ can do that.

    Porn is evil because sex is sacred and we're blaspheming God's intended purpose when we engage in the selfish use of it. That's why there's so much shame involved. We're polluting a sacred institution and we know it. Still that doesn't give us power over the sin. Porn addiction is based in insecurity and immaturity and can only be broken by agreement of the believer that it is sin in the heart and they can't touch it. Ask Christ to reveal your heart to you and give you victory. Only he can remove this. No accountability group will ever cleanse your heart of the root problem. Ever.

    Fellowship is for fellowship. We can change the name of our accountability group to our mutual failure group and/or regard for our daily need of redemption group. Now that's fellowship.

    Eric,

    Excellent article. My personal experience in just such an AG led me to new discovery in John 13 which follows below:

    John 13:1-17 A MODEL FOR MEN'S ACCOUNTABILITY GROUPS

    Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet

    1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
    2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
    6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
    7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
    8“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
    Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
    9“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
    10Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
    12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

    THREE MONTHS LATER, PETER IS IN HIS ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP:

    PETER: “Fellas, I’ve got dirty feet again.”
    JAMES: “Shame on you! After all Jesus has done you treat him like this!?”
    PHILIP: “Okay guys. Peter can’t seem to shake this problem. What are we going to do to hold him accountable?”
    JAMES: “How’s your devotional life Peter? How much time are you spending in the word? Have you memorized any scripture lately?”
    JOHN: “Brothers! Stop! Which one of us doesn’t get dirty feet? Jesus just said to wash each others feet like He did. If He didn’t question us; if He didn’t rebuke us; if He didn’t shame us, how do we dare place ourselves above the Lord in this way? Which one of you is going to take responsibility to fix Peter? Fix yourself! God will take care of Peter. You sound like Job’s counselors! I tell you this, if we don’t wash each other’s feet as Jesus washed ours, then we have no part in Him.”
    ANDREW: “But John, Peter keeps coming here with dirty feet. How long should we put up with this?”
    JOHN: “Does seventy times seven ring a bell?”

    Then placing his hand on Peter’s dirty feet John prayed: “Father, Peter has acknowledged his sin before us and before you. And because he is our brother, his sin is our sin. Thank you that you are faithful and just to forgive us this sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Help us to continually walk in the light. Amen.”

    Eric,

    Excellent article. My personal experience in just such an AG led me to new discovery in John 13 which follows below:

    John 13:1-17 A MODEL FOR MEN'S ACCOUNTABILITY GROUPS

    Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet

    1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
    2The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
    6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
    7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
    8“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
    Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
    9“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
    10Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
    12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

    THREE MONTHS LATER, PETER IS IN HIS ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP:

    PETER: “Fellas, I’ve got dirty feet again.”
    JAMES: “Shame on you! After all Jesus has done you treat him like this!?”
    PHILIP: “Okay guys. Peter can’t seem to shake this problem. What are we going to do to hold him accountable?”
    JAMES: “How’s your devotional life Peter? How much time are you spending in the word? Have you memorized any scripture lately?”
    JOHN: “Brothers! Stop! Which one of us doesn’t get dirty feet? Jesus just said to wash each others feet like He did. If He didn’t question us; if He didn’t rebuke us; if He didn’t shame us, how do we dare place ourselves above the Lord in this way? Which one of you is going to take responsibility to fix Peter? Fix yourself! God will take care of Peter. You sound like Job’s counselors! I tell you this, if we don’t wash each other’s feet as Jesus washed ours, then we have no part in Him.”
    ANDREW: “But John, Peter keeps coming here with dirty feet. How long should we put up with this?”
    JOHN: “Does seventy times seven ring a bell?”

    Then placing his hand on Peter’s dirty feet John prayed: “Father, Peter has acknowledged his sin before us and before you. And because he is our brother, his sin is our sin. Thank you that you are faithful and just to forgive us this sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Help us to continually walk in the light. Amen.”

    Dear Eric,
    This is a wonderful sharing , I agree totally cause I'm in a Grace Ministry and this is the same preaching that we have every sunday. My pastor always do a statement " Everything you Focus Expand, Everything you Ignore , Fade'' Same as Sin , I let you guess if you focus on the sin more than the Grace, Do contact me on agapekersley@hotmail.com we can surely have a chat. Shalom and stay blessed

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