Tuesday, April 1, 2014


When it comes to our struggles with sin, lonely defeats will one day bring lonely victories, and God is not glorified in a lonely, hidden victory. “Why would the victory be hidden?,” you might ask. Because, for someone who has hidden their defeats, telling of a victory would be a tacit confession to the “shameful” battles they have been fighting. It would be like discovering that your house was infested with rats. If this was embarrassing to you it is unlikely that you would announce proudly to your friends, “This morning when I opened the cupboards I found two rats dead in the traps I had set there!” Although you are glad to have exterminated two rats, you know that the first thing your friends would probably think is, “Disgusting! I didn’t know he had rats in his cupboards,” so you keep that bit of news to yourself. The prelude to most every sin is “No one will ever know,” and its epilogue, “No one must ever know.” But when we resolve to let no one know about the rat-infested nature of our hearts a perverse thing will inevitably happen- for when, by God’s grace, we are given victory in a moment of temptation, that story of God’s strength, provision and faithfulness in delivering us from sin must necessarily be hidden away because of its shameful association with the very acts of wickedness from which we were delivered. This denies man his highest good, for we were made for the very purpose of worship that the glory of the Creator might be revealed in His creatures, and, perversely, it denies God the praise and glory which are His due. This is the first and most compelling reason for entering an accountability relationship. God spoke the world into being, and created man in His image, that His glory might be revealed through them, and if we have no one in our lives who we have invited into the reality of our struggles we will, by implication, also have no one with whom to share the stories of His goodness. God desires man to experience victory over sin, yes, but primarily He wants to give us such victories that He might be glorified in them.  If we have bundled our defeats and victories together into one shameful package we will never know the kind of practical sanctification that we long to see in our lives, for it reveals that we are not properly motivated by a high concern for God’s glory to be revealed in and through our lives.

A concern for God’s glory should be the first and most significant motivation for entering an accountability relationship. However, if we continue the analogy of the rat infested house I think we will see some additional ways that accountability relationships can be a very practical help in our struggles against sin.

When you confess to a close friend (one who has proven himself faithful, and who you trust to handle the information you share about yourself with grace and discretion) that your house is infested with rats, your friend might surprise you with his response. For example, he might say, “Me too!” This can be very encouraging, and it has often been my experience that in sharing my "big ugly" that I have learned I am not alone. Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 10:13, says that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” One of Satan’s tricks is to make you think you’re the only one with rats in the attic, but Paul makes it plain that those areas where we struggle are “common to man.” In other words, you’re not alone. However, as long as you labor under the impression that yours is the only rat-infested heart in the neighborhood Satan will continue to draw you into a double life where the sin you habitually harbor and act upon is hidden away in a secret place. Over time the gulf between who you are in reality and who you are trying to appear to be will widen to into a shocking and unsustainable chasm. Much of the power of sin is broken when it is spoken out loud to a brother or sister who will receive that confession with love and grace. Satan’s modus operandi is always to get you alone with your sin, and God’s strategy is to draw that struggle out to be shared within the context of loving community (1 John 1:7-8).

So your friend might say, “me too,” and if he does you will be greatly encouraged. Or he might say, “I know exactly what you’re going through. I used to have rats.” And that is even more encouraging for now you know a more enduring victory can be achieved. As you listen to his story, you will gain some hard-won perspective and expertise in the matter at hand which you can bring to bear in your own efforts to kill rats. Or perhaps your friend knows nothing of rats and has no personal experience with them, but he is a true friend who loves you sincerely. If that is so, he will most likely respond compassionately by offering to come over after work, and with flashlight in hand go up into the attic with you to see what can be done about this problem, and by this you will have gained some much needed support and help. Every time I have shared sin with a carefully chosen accountability partner I have received one of these three responses- “Me too,” “I used to struggle with that,” or “how can I help?” And each time it was a blessing and a help to me in my efforts to fight sin.