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Accountability Groups: The Tyranny of Do More, Try Harder

Remembrance vs. Spiritual Surveillance

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in “accountability groups” where there has been little to no attention given to the Gospel whatsoever. There’s no reminder of what Christ has done for our sin—“cleansing us from its guilt and power”—and the resources that are already ours by virtue of our union with Him. These groups produce a “do more, try harder” moralism that robs us of the joy and freedom Jesus paid dearly to secure for us. 

When the goal becomes conquering our sin instead of soaking in the conquest of our Savior, we actually begin to shrink spiritually. Sinclair Ferguson rightly points this out:

Those who have almost forgotten about their own spirituality because their focus is so exclusively on their union with Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished are those who are growing and exhibiting fruitfulness. Historically speaking, whenever the piety of a particular group is focused on OUR spirituality, that piety will eventually exhaust itself on its own resources. Only when our piety forgets about us and focuses on Jesus Christ will our piety be nourished by the ongoing resources the Spirit brings to us from the source of all true piety, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sin: An Identity Crisis

The Puritans used to say far too many Christians live beneath the level of their privileges. Therefore, I need to be told by those around me that every time I sin I’m momentarily suffering from an identity crisis: forgetting whom I actually belong to, what I really want at my remade core and all that is already mine in Christ. The only way to deal with remaining sin long-term is to develop a distaste for it in light of the glorious riches we already possess in Christ. I need my real friends to remind me of this—every day. Please tell me again and again that God doesn’t love me more when I obey or less when I disobey. Knowing this actually enlarges my heart for God and therefore shrinks my hunger for sin. So don’t let me forget it. My life depends on it!

The only way to deal with remaining sin long-term is to develop a distaste for it in light of the glorious riches we already possess in Christ.

Believing Deeper, Not Behaving Better

Christian growth, in other words, does not happen first by behaving better, but believing better—believing in bigger, deeper, brighter ways what Christ has already secured for sinners. I need my family and friends to remind me of this all the time.

The bottom line is this, Christian: Because of Christ’s work on your behalf, God does not dwell on your sin the way you do. So relax and rejoice … and you’ll actually start to get better. The irony, of course, is it’s only when we stop obsessing over our own need to be holy and focus instead on the beauty of Christ’s holiness that we actually become more holy! Not to mention, we start to become a lot easier to live with!

Will someone please keep reminding me of this?  

This post was originally featured on TheResurgence.com. Used by permission.

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Tullian is a graduate of Columbia International University, where he received a degree in Philosophy, and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, where he earned his Master of Divinity. A grandson of (Evangelist) Billy and Ruth Graham, Tullian was the Founding Pastor of the former New City Church (in Fort Lauderdale, Florida) which merged with the historic Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in 2009. He served there as Senior Pastor until June 2015.