Who Keeps Us Spiritually Accountable?

Who Keeps Us Spiritually Accountable?

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Is there a foolproof accountability system to keep believers, including ourselves, on the straight and narrow?

Let’s review Christian living as outlined in the New Testament. The first and most important task is to spread the gospel and bring people into the kingdom. When that happens, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside the new believers. Ultimately, only the power of the indwelling Spirit can produce victorious Christian living. That is why Paul declared, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). The flesh, or sinful nature, means Jim Cymbala apart from God’s Spirit. If we can encourage and help people to walk with the Lord and yield to the Spirit daily and hourly, what will be the result? The “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-­control” (Gal. 5:22–23) that the Spirit produces. Yielding to the Spirit is the only antidote to the selfish, sinful nature. In fact, God never works with the “old Jim Cymbala.” Improvement and reformation are impossible for that self-­centered person. Only living by the indwelling Spirit will give us victory. Teaching alone, no matter how biblical, can never be a substitute.

So what’s the benefit of “accountability systems”? They’re helpful but never foolproof. We’ve probably all dealt with sincere people who get ensnared by sin that holds them captive. Isn’t it true that if a person really wants to go backward and indulge the flesh, no human control system will stop them? If they’re part of an accountability group, they’ll either hide their behavior or lie about it. It’s that obvious and simple. Remember Paul’s catalog of the works of the flesh: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Gal. 5:19–21). Let’s be real. If a believer gets involved in these kinds of things, why would they hesitate to lie about it? No, only the power of the Holy Spirit working daily in a humble, believing heart can keep a person from going backward.

The same goes for the idea that personal discipleship by a mature believer will automatically produce a steadfast faith in others. Let’s consider the example of Jesus Christ himself. He called twelve men to be his disciples. They lived with him and traveled with him for more than three years. He was the ultimate teacher and discipler. What lessons he must have taught them, and what an example he set. But even all that couldn’t stop them from forsaking him on the night he was arrested. Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, and all of them ran away when he was arrested and nailed to the cross.

Paul had assistants in the ministry—­some of whom he had probably led to the Lord. Some traveled with him and sat under his powerful ministry. Timothy was a prime example. He was placed as a leader in the church at Ephesus, but Paul must have heard of Timothy’s problem with fear. He had to admonish him with 2 Timothy 1:6–7: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-­discipline.” Paul’s past teaching and his personal letter couldn’t solve Timothy’s problem. It was only the fire of the Spirit that would give power, love, and self-­discipline.

On the other hand, Demas, another worker, was with Paul when Paul was imprisoned in Rome for two years (Col. 4:14; Philem. 1:24). But Paul later sadly reported that “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica” (2 Tim. 4:10). How could someone sit under the apostle Paul and travel with him yet desert the cause of Christ? This is doubly alarming, since John declares, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them” (1 John 2:15). What could have happened to Demas?

These examples remind us that Christianity is not primarily a teaching religion like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. All they can do is drill erroneous doctrine into the heads of their followers. True Christianity is about the supernatural power of God, delivering us and keeping us on a daily basis. Teaching, preaching, and discipleship have their place, but they can never replace God himself.

Are you interested in learning how a small group of people whose “curriculum” is the lives of the enjoined and who gather together in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit? A discipleship band is a group of three to five people who read together, pray together, and meet together to become the love of God for one another and the world. Learn more about this program and free digital platform here.

What if we modeled our churches after what Jesus intended His church to look like? What if our hope for our ministries rested not on human wisdom but on God’s power?  In his newest book, Fan the Flame, Jim Cymbala urges Christian leaders to remember the deep roots of their ministry calling—and the One who called them.

Over the past few years, we’ve all seen how quickly circumstances can change, and many of us have experienced firsthand how church growth trends and popular models fail us. Churches across the country are struggling, and many pastors are deeply discouraged. We work hard and with great sincerity, but our efforts don’t seem to be helping our churches flourish.

Jim Cymbala—New York Times best-selling author and long-time pastor of The Brooklyn Tabernacle—has been watching the pressing need for back-to-the-basics spiritual leadership among Christians, and he’s seen so many churches come to defeat because so many leaders forget this one truth: Your church is not your church. It’s Christ’s church. In order for his church to flourish, we have to minister his way.

In these pages you’ll:

  • Identifies the many pitfalls that church leaders can fall into.
  • Reasserts the need for total confidence in the Gospel.
  • Preaches complete dependence on the Holy Spirit, while showing you how to see the new things that the Spirit can do through your work.
  • Offers practical guidance on inevitable leadership challenges, such as money, division, and priorities.

Get Fan the Flame from our store here.


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