In my last post I opened a door that might create a bit of controversy. It may appear that I am not in favor of Christian accountability. But this is not at all what I am suggesting. Rather, I‘m attempting to clarify the concept of grace in the battle against lust and rescue well-meaning Christians from the misuse of accountability. I think Peter helps us when he discusses grace and holiness in the same passage.
set your hope fully on grace (1Pe 1:13 ESV)
but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1Pe 1:15-16 ESV)
Here is how I think the two work together to create an awesome power in the battle against sin.
A common metaphor to describe the holiness of God is fire. The Bible describes God as a consuming fire, a fire that burns sin and sinners. Exodus 32 describes the wrath of God that burns against sinners so hot that it would consume them. When God judges Sodom and Gomorrah it is fire that rains down from heaven. Yet, at the same time, God is full of mercy, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103:8-9), a love that was demonstrated on the cross of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8). When we realize that God could consume us with fire – justly, according to what we deserve – but instead he reaches out to us in love and forgiveness, the power to defeat lust begins to work in our hearts. So, as we practice accountability, here is what we do.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24-25 ESV)
We stir up one another and encourage one other with the message of God’s grace and holiness. Here are some suggestions on how to have a healthy accountability group that helps us set our hope on grace.
So, how have you sinned this week? Here is how I have sinned this week. Let’s review 1 Cor 10:13 – No temptation has overcome you but such as is common to man. Now notice 1 John 1:8 – If you say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. When we start off our conversations like that – it establishes that we are safe with one another. There is no arbitrary or man-made standard that we pretend to live by. It establishes that we all are in the same boat, no one is better than anyone else. We are all here only because of God’s grace. Peter instructs us – set our hope on grace!
Isn’t the cross of Jesus incredible? God is so holy that he can’t just let sin slide. There must be justice when he is offended – and sin offends God. And to be consistent with who he is, he is obligated to burn with the fire of his wrath in the face of sin. But not only is God holy, he is love. At Passover, the angel of death passed over every house that had the blood of the lamb on its door post. Then he created the OT sacrificial system where we learn that God provides a substitute and a representative to deal with sin on our behalf. Jesus – the perfect lamb, met the terms of the holiness of God, he himself is God, and he himself willingly, for the joy that was before him, went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sin. And he did that as our representative – for us. Peter instructs us – set your hope on grace.
Now, in the midst of our struggle, when we come to Christ, we not only receive the grace of his salvation, we receive the grace of his sanctification. The Bible tells us:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Co 5:17 ESV)
Sin is not who we are in Christ. God no longer looks on us as failures. He looks on us as his beloved children, heirs to all the riches of heaven. Not because of anything we could ever do, but because of his grace. We need to combat the lies and accusations of our enemy who tells us that we are losers, that we are a scourge to the name Christian, that we are unfit to show up in church. We must set our minds on the hope of grace. The truth is, God is a holy fire. He could have just burned you up when you turned on that computer. In fact, if we all got what we deserved every time we sinned, nobody would be here. It is only because of his grace that we even have the opportunity to receive his forgiveness.
So when we fail him, as a loving father forgives his beloved children, God forgives us. Set your hope on his grace – receive his forgiveness.
Finally, help one another replace our acts of sin with acts of obedience, which come from our heart.
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, (Rom 6:17 ESV)
How easy and powerless is it to conform to the law, to conform our behavior in order to please men and not God. How much more powerful is it to live in gratitude for God’s grace. Here is a suggestion on how to help each other replace sin with grace. The internet is the cause of so much stumbling. But it can also be a tool for building each other up. How about if we send each other daily e-mails and devotionals or written prayers for each other, or testimonies of how we were about to plunge into sin and then how God rescued us when we focused on his grace.
With these kinds of questions and discussion, this is the kind of accountability group I would stand in line to join!!
The power that breaks the chains of lust is grace.