In my sermon last Sunday (June 15), I talked about the importance of gospel-centered accountability (GCA). Here’s a little more about what I mean and what it looks like practically. I’ll give you two ingredients, the “who, when, where, and what,” and then provide some simple questions to get you started. If you missed the sermon, I’d encourage you to listen to it here for an answer to the question, “Why GCA?”
First, GCA requires the confession of sin. GCA without a genuine confession leaves you unable to fully receive grace, since you’ve not actually confessed your sin. It’s like trying to take a breath when your mouth is full of water. It won’t work. Before the gospel can fully build you up, the honest confession must first strip you down and reveal who you really are. So, to begin with, confess your sin completely. You don’t have to be hyper-vigilant and worry that you haven’t systematically thought through every mixed motive ever. Rather, ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). Then, as the Holy Spirit reveals sin, confess.
The second ingredient for GCA is the application of the gospel. Here’s why this second ingredient is essential. Confession without a gospel-centered response either becomes a whipping post for the sinner (a response that leaves the person confessing full of guilt and shame), or a lazy Sunday afternoon conversation in a hammock (a response which leaves one not worrying too much about sin since it doesn’t seem like a big deal). One response maximizes God’s holiness at the cost of his love while the other maximizes his mercy at the cost of his holiness.
So, GCA is made up of genuine confession and an application of the gospel to the confessed sins. This allows the person confessing to have integrity in sharing their secrets, while also providing the context for their accountability partner to clearly apply the gospel to them. We all need to be reminded of God’s holiness and loving mercy. We need truth and love.
Who, When, Where, & What
Who should you meet with? Choose carefully. You want a safe person that you love and trust. You’ll be sharing your secrets with them, so be sure they understand what you’re asking from them (confidentiality, honesty, and gospel-centered responses). Could this person be your spouse? I suppose that for some sin, it very well ought to be your spouse. But for a regular GCA, I’ve found that meeting with guys (and gals with gals of course) provides a healthy context of friendship and honesty. I’ve also found there are some sin issues that are dealt with in a healthier manner in a same-gender context (e.g. purity issues).
When should you meet? I’d recommend weekly if you’re trying to figure this whole GCA thing out. Twice a month is doable for the uber-busy person (though one reschedule leaves you at a once a month frequency). Instead of planning to meet once a month, I’d reevaluate why you’re looking for GCA and then encourage you to increase your meeting frequency.
Where should you meet? Make it as simple as possible. You want a place you feel free to speak honestly. Are you a loud talker? I’d avoid the local coffee shop. It’s bad enough to share your sin with someone you love and trust. No need to give the baristas and patrons something to talk about when you leave.
What do you talk about? Well, here’s what GCA looks like for me and some guys. We get together over lunch. We just go around in a circle and ask: “How are you?” Each guy shares a little about what life has been like for the past week or two (depending on how long it’s been since we met). We share challenges, successes, struggles, and invite feedback. There are no questions “out of bounds.” Inevitably, each guy ends up near the end of their sharing to mention sin issues. How do we discover those? Well, I can only speak for myself, but it’s pretty easy. What is it that the Lord is convicting me of? One of my annual goals is to have a clear conscience and so I seek to identify whatever I need to get off my chest. Once that’s done, the guys are good about applying the gospel to me. This is the critical second step of GCA. After I’ve confessed my sin, one of them will look at me in the eyes and say something like: “Jeremy, that IS sin. But, because of Christ’s death on the cross, that sin can be washed white as snow. Know now, your sin has been paid for by Jesus’ precious blood. You aren’t defined by that sin. It is not your master. You are set free from sin, condemnation, and shame. Now, walk in his grace.”
Here are some simple questions I’ve integrated into my meetings. Use what’s helpful and ignore what isn’t. Feel free to invent your own. Whatever you do, I encourage you to be sure to identify the questions you need your friend to ask you. The point of GCA is honesty and application of the gospel, not shifty answers that avoid the heart of the problem. Here are some questions that have helped me:
- Have you spent time in God's Word and prayer this week (not to earn God’s love, but to know God)?
- What idols are battling for the center of your heart?
- Have you embraced a gospel-centered lifestyle by relating to believers (parents, siblings, and friends) in love, kindness, honesty, and humility?
- Have you related to non-believers with a gospel-centered lifestyle by listening well, sharing your faith, loving sacrificially, and serving with humility?
- Are you being discipled and are you making disciples? Who?
- Have you battled for purity and maintained your integrity by not allowing yourself to have sexually impure attitudes nor exposing yourself to anything explicit (internet, cell-phone, TV, movies, music, or physical relationship) that would not glorify God?
- Have you been faithful and done your 100% best in your job, school (not-cheating), and other responsibilities?
- Have you maintained peaceful relationships (resolving conflicts to the best of your ability and being quick to apologize for all conflicts and offenses you’ve created)?
- How can I pray for you?
- In what ways has God blessed you this week?
- What disappointments consumed your thoughts this week?
- Are the “visible” you and the "real" you consistent?
- Have you told any half-truths or outright lies, putting yourself in a better light to those around you?
- Have you kept your tongue in check this week (no cussing, gossip, making fun of someone, etc.)?
I’d love to hear how GCA ends up working for you. I’m praying for you.
Love, Pastor Jeremy