Are you ready to break free from excuses and live a life of authenticity? Join us this Sunday as we discuss the life-changing power of accountability, and how having the courage to be vulnerable can lead to meaningful growth and transformation.

Alright, we’re learning together how to live as followers of Jesus.

We surrender our wills and our lives to God.

Then, we ask God to renew our minds, especially as we fill them with his thoughts and words from Scripture.

Then, we pray regularly to God, primarily asking for knowledge to do his will and the power to carry it out from moment to moment.

Then, we leave isolated living and enter into fellowship together.


And remember, it’s not what we hear in the sermons. It’s what we do in between the sermons that really matters in this series.


I’m going to talk today about a wonderful word I used to not like but have come to love, and that’s the word —



Imagine you’re on the freeway and it’s chaos.

People are driving badly.
They’re speeding.
They’re weaving.
They’re cutting each other off.
They’re texting.
They’re talking on cell phones.
They’re getting distracted.
They’re getting angry.
They’re making non faith-based gestures at each other.

Then, a black and white car with red and blue lights pulls onto the freeway. What happens?

It’s like a miracle.

People slow down.
They hit their brakes.
Cell phones get put away.
Fingers get retracted.

What changed everything in a single word is — accountability.


Now, the reality is we’re always accountable for how we drive, but we forget, or we think no one will hold us accountable or no one will notice, so we make up excuses.


I have a friend named Steve who was a San Francisco police officer.

He was telling me the excuses people gave when they got pulled over.

The most common excuses he got were:

I have to go to the bathroom.
I need gas.
I’m late for work.


One time he pulled over a car for a possible DUI. And while he was talking with the driver he noticed a car pulled up behind his police car.

After giving the guy a ticket he walked back to the car behind his and asked, “Is there anything I can help you with.”

The guy said, “No I’m just waiting for the light to change.” He ended up having a 2.0 alcohol level.


I heard about a driver who got pulled over because he was on his cell phone.

His excuse was, “It just looked like I was on my phone. I was actually pulling hair out of my ear because I’m about to go on a date.”


Our capacity to generate excuses is staggering, and not just when it comes to driving.

I’m stressed because of my boss.
I drink because of my problems.
I yell because of the kids.
I’m late because of the traffic.
I’m in debt because…
I’m lonely because…
I’m bored because…
I’m angry because…


The life I could lead.
The character I could acquire.
The contributions I could make.
The books I could read.
The people I could serve.

Are all slipping away moment by moment, and I delude myself (I allow it to happen) by just making one excuse after another not thinking about it.

But the reality is I am accountable for my choices and for my life.


In Genesis, we’re told that in the beginning God creates human beings and says they’re not to eat from one tree, and the man and the woman violate this. They eat from the tree.

Then, there’s kind of a pause in the story, and we wonder, “What will happen next? Maybe God won’t notice. Maybe he’s too busy running the universe.”

But he does notice, and he asks them a few questions.

Why are you hiding?
Who told you you were naked?
Did you eat from the forbidden tree?

He’s inviting the man to be accountable.

And the man says, “It was the woman you gave me. Whose idea was the woman? It wasn’t my idea.”

God says to the woman, “What have you done?”

And the woman says, “It was the Serpent.”


Then God pronounces the consequences of their actions (judgment).

He still loves the man and the woman. He’ll actually make clothes to cover their nakedness and shame, but he holds them accountable.


Who else will God hold accountable?

The very consistent answer from the writers of Scripture is as clear as it is uncomfortable for many of us.

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. (Romans 14:12)


What if I’m really good at hiding?

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13)


Will this really happen?

This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. (Romans 2:16)


Will it be really thorough?

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. (Matthew 12:36)


In other words, all that we have done, all that we have said, and all that we have thought.


A famous American statesman, Daniel Webster, was asked one time — “What is the most profound thought that has ever entered your mind?”

And he replied simply, “My accountability to God.”


Now, I’m not accountable for a lot of stuff.

I’m not accountable for the suffering others inflict on me.
I’m not accountable for the family I was born into.
I’m not accountable for my genes.
I’m not accountable for the fact that on the first day of high school I was 5-feet-11 and weighed 120 pounds, and I had pimples and long bangs that hung in my face and earrings. I’m not accountable for that (I was just lucky).

But I am accountable for the choices I make today…

The life I lead.
How I spend my time.
How I spend my money.
What I feed my mind.
How I treat other people.
Who I notice and who I don’t.
The words I say and the words I don’t.
The honesty, joy, or love I do or don’t live with.

I am and you are accountable to God Almighty.


Now, we live in a largely therapeutic culture that tends to focus much more on outside forces that affect our behavior.

And one of the impacts of this is you don’t often hear people talk about this dimension of it.

You often hear people say, “I believe in a God of love.”

You don’t often hear people say, “I believe in a God of accountability.”

But we read about it a lot in Scripture.

In fact, it’s precisely because God loves us and values our personhood that he gives us the dignity of being accountable.

We often use this word accountability in a negative way. We think of holding someone accountable as getting them in trouble.

But from the perspective of Jesus and his community, of discipleship — of the Way, accountability to God and other people is actually a great gift.


God is not harsh. In fact, through Jesus, through his teaching, his life, his death on a cross, and his resurrection, God offers us forgiveness, and grace, and mercy, and a fresh start that we could never earn on our own.

And people who receive that value accountability.

They become transparent.
They get honest about their behavior.
They seek to take responsibility rather than looking for excuses.
They care about doing what is right more than doing what is comfortable.
They recognize mutual accountability as a fundamental requirement for human flourishing and spiritual growth.

It turns out that deliberately entering into accountability relationships with other people in a community of raw honesty has tremendous power for transformation.

This is all over the New Testament.


This entire message could easily have been just one statement after another after another from New Testament writers who were giving their readers the challenging gift of being accountable for practicing the way of Jesus.


That’s why this is the fifth practice.

First I surrender my life and will over to God — “God, your will be done.” I do this all of the time.

Then I seek to be changed from the inside. “God, fill my mind with great thoughts especially from your Word about who Jesus is.”

Then I pray, “God, give me the knowledge of your will in this moment (your will be done) and the power to carry it out.”

Then, I enter into fellowship. I engage in spiritual practices of care and worship with other followers of Jesus.

Now, this week, we enter into mutual accountability. Lean into accountability.

I invite another person to help me be accountable to my commitments, to my values, and to the life I want to live.


Declaring my key commitments to another person in a concrete way and courageously inviting their honest feedback into my life is indispensable for my spiritual growth and the well-being of our community.


In the time we have left in this message, I want to make a few key observations about how this step works.

I want to make this really concrete.

And remember, what matters is not what I say, but what you do.


Alright, the first observation is —

Accountability helps me do what I would not do by myself.


I have a friend that I’ve given permission to ask me anything about my life an commitments. I’m accountable to him. I’ve known him for many years. I love him. I enjoy our time together. I trust him.

He asks me tough questions:

Where were you tempted?
Where have you gotten things wrong lately?
Where have you gotten things right?
Where do you see God at work in your life?
What are you learning these days?
What challenges are you facing?
What do you need?

Why would anyone do this?

Why would you go through the pain of telling someone the most embarrassing parts of your life?

Paul is writing to Timothy to help hold him accountable to his calling and his commitments, and he puts it like this.

Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness

A great word that has become such a religious cliché. It doesn’t mean stiffness or a forced piety. It means becoming the kind of person God made me to be, having the kind of love, and joy, and integrity that characterizes the divine.

Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness
has value for all things,

holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. (1 Timothy 4:7-9)

Train yourself.

Now, if you’re the kind of person who’s serious about physical training, I promise you one thing. You’ll get a partner. You’ll get a coach. You’ll find accountability because of your vision of what physical training can do for you.


I was talking to a guy at the gym one time who was in incredible shape. He actually won body building contests. He had muscles in his hair. He looked like he belonged to another species.

I asked him how he’s able to accomplish what he does with his body.

He told me the secret weapon in training is having an accountability partner.

They know you.
They encourage you.
They push you beyond yourself.
When you don’t feel like pushing yourself, just their presence will be the motivation you need.

He said there’s a saying in training circles — “Your worst workout session with a partner is better than your best session by yourself.”

They push you.
They challenge you.
They encourage you.
They tell you to keep going.

The worst one with someone is better than your best one all by yourself.


Now, why would someone do this for a body, which is temporary, and not for their character, which is eternal?

It’s interesting that in our day we often think of friendships in such superficial ways as having a common interest, or people we work with, or people we have an affection for.

Aristotle in the ancient world said there are three kinds of friendships.

There are ones that are to your advantage, like networking in business.

Then, there are friendships that are based on common interests, like playing together, eating, drinking, or something like that.

He said the best and highest form of friendships are marked by what he called training in virtue — when you love someone so much that you want goodness to grow in them.

In the New Testament, friendships of accountability, mutual encouragement, confession, admonition, and joyful challenge are an indispensable vehicle for what Paul calls — training in godliness.

It’s quite amazing.


I’ll just tell you from experience. The more I don’t want to talk about something — the stronger my sense of embarrassment or shame and pain about something that makes me not want to talk about it, the stronger the sense of relief and healing and being known and loved I have after I talk about it.


If it’s something that makes me feel vulnerable, I’ll always have that sense of resistance ahead of time and, then, gratitude afterward.

It’s always that way. We never get past that resistance.


This is why James says in a community of mutual accountability where spiritual transformation and discipleship to Jesus is happening — confession is such an important practice.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

We’ll talk about confession more next week.

It’s not my past that makes me sick; it’s my secret past.
It’s not my faults that make me sick; it’s my secret faults.

It’s just true. You’re only as sick as your secrets.

Secrecy does this.


When you confess and when you step into the light before God, yourself, and another person, healing begins.


I had a conversation recently with a guy I know.

He’s been keeping a secret from his spouse.

It wasn’t an affair. It was more in the gray zone, but it involved deliberate deception, and he had someone speaking courageously into his life, and he made the courageous decision to come out of deception.

It was really scary, but the freedom that brought to his conscience and the healing it’s bringing to his marriage is like a little miracle.


I know, I know, I know. For some of you, your heart is pounding right now because you don’t know if you have the courage to come out of the darkness.

Well, I hope you do.

|| ||

Another observation is —

Accountability works when I invite it rather than when it’s forced.


The writer of Hebrews puts it like this:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)

In other words, I have a vision of love and good deeds (the person, the dad, the husband, the friend, the father, and the pastor I want to be), and I know what will derail me, so I will tell someone I trust, “Here are my commitments around finances, around prayer, around truth-telling, around my kids, around my ego, around my time, around my relationships.”


In accountability, when I violate a commitment I’ve made, a little voice inside me says, “You have to tell someone,” and it will nag at me until I do.

Not because I’m a spiritual or moral giant.

If I was a giant, I wouldn’t need this, but because the joy and vitality of that relationship have become stronger than the gravitational pull of secrecy and darkness.


Accountability is not a magic bullet. It doesn’t work that way.

People in churches sometimes think you can prevent anyone from straying by holding them accountable. — “Just make them accountable,” people will say.

If someone wants to do wrong, they will probably find a way to do wrong. We’re pretty good at sneaking around.


Accountability works when I invite it, not when it’s forced.


When I invite accountability, it’s because I have a genuine desire to grow in some area, but I know, because of my weakness or my habits or forgetting, I’m likely to drift, so I ask a friend —

Will you check in with me?
Will you give me feedback?
Will you be honest?
Will you ask me how it’s going?

And just the knowledge that I will have to talk about this area of my life with someone will help give me the strength to do the very thing God and my best self want me to do.


Honestly, it’s a little humbling to admit this. But sometimes I don’t do something wrong only because I know if I do I’m going to have to talk to a friend of mine about it, and that would be embarrassing.


There have been times when, just to make it stick, I’ve said to a friend, “If I don’t keep this commitment, I’ll pay $1,000 to whatever charity you name,” and I’ve kept those commitments every single time.

I’m turning my stinginess into a spiritual asset.


At the end of this series, we’re going to be doing baptisms.

That’s a great celebration. It’s also an act of corporate accountability.

Some of you are going to do this, and we’re going to celebrate with you.

A person will stand up in front of the church and say, “I am now declaring my ultimate commitment in front of my ultimate community (the family of God).”


Alright, the next observation is —

Accountability takes courage.


A great transforming church or community welcomes accountability.

A mediocre community avoids it no matter how great the buildings or the budget might look, because accountability is scary.

And I’ve known very formidable, great leaders where they were just not willing to enter into authentic accountability.


Holding each other accountable takes courage.

Paul talked about a time when Peter was guilty of legalism. Look at what he writes.

But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. (Galatians 2:11)

When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth,

have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions? (Galatians 2:14)

Can you imagine how much courage that took for Paul?


Here’s what Peter did not say — “Hey, Paul, mind your own business.”

That’s one verse you will never see in the Bible — “Mind your own business.”

Because in Jesus’ community, everyone’s welfare is everyone’s business.


Now, does that mean, according to the writers of Scripture, everyone is supposed to go around telling everyone else where they’ve gone wrong?


According to the writers of Scripture, that’s the pastor’s job.


It’s very interesting. Patrick Lencioni, a consultant and a devoted Jesus follower, famously says there are five dysfunctions in a team, or in any community or family.

Absence of trust.
Fear of conflict.
Lack of commitment.
Avoidance of accountability.
Inattention to results.

His organization says the number one problem teams have is avoidance of accountability.

They have more problem with that than they do all of the other four dysfunctions put together.

We’re just afraid of this. It takes courage.


So I’m asking you today, “Will you have the courage?”


Alright, the last observation is —

Accountability is more about pursuing good than avoiding bad.

A lot gets written in corporate circles in our day about workers who are accountable for their work.

That’s not a new idea. Paul taught followers of Jesus to be accountable to God in their work lives 2,000 years ago.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. (Colossians 3:23)


Another verse you’ll never see in the Bible is, “That’s not my job.”


I’m friends with other teaching pastors, and we get together periodically to ask questions like:

Where are you stuck?
What is God calling you to teach in the next year?
What wisdom do you need?
Where are the opportunities to challenge your church?
What are the possibilities in front of you?

I promise you, I am a better pastor and more energized than I would otherwise be because I have friends who help me to stay accountable to my work and to my calling.

Every follower of Jesus ought to remember we’re accountable for that.


Too often we think of accountability just in negative terms, like someone helping you to avoid gambling, or avoid drinking or overeating or looking at pornography or whatever.

But God’s calling on my life is not primarily to avoid doing bad things. God is much more interested in what you’re doing than what you’re avoiding.


One of Jesus’ most famous stories is all about this kind of accountability.

He says a generous master gives resources, possibility, and opportunities to three of his servants. Then, after a long time, the master of these servants returned to settle accounts with them.

God is the God of accountability — the God of settled accounts.

It’s part of the glory and dignity of being human.


One of the great accountability questions will be, “What did you do with what you’ve been given?”

The man who gets in trouble in this story didn’t do bad things; he just did nothing.

He buried his talent.
He just refused to live as a steward.
He refused to risk.
He refused to grow.

He had an excuse, and his excuse was, “I knew you were a hard man, and I was afraid, so I hid it.”


We all need accountability because we’re all good excuse makers.

And because we have such a remarkable life in the kingdom that lies before us.


This is part of how Paul holds young Timothy accountable. He says to Timothy:

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,

Apparently, Timothy was tempted to do that.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

You can just imagine young Timothy reading those words thinking, “Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah! That’s what I want to be. Thank you, Paul!”

It’s amazing how many excuses we come up with for why God could not use us.

If people in the Bible allowed excuses to keep them from being used by God the way we do, the Bible would never have gotten written.

Every character in the Bible had some reason why God could not use them.

Timothy was too young.
Abraham was too old.
Moses was too slow of speech.
Aaron was too glib.
Elijah was too depressed.
Gideon was too scared.
Esau was too hairy.
Jonah was a runaway.
Joseph was a convict.
Rahab was a prostitute.
Sarah laughed at God.
Noah got drunk.
Samson had an impulse control disorder.
Peter sank.
Jacob lied.
Thomas doubted.
Zacchaeus was greedy, corrupt, and vertically challenged.

What’s your excuse? What is it?


Starting with Jesus and his disciples, relationships of accountability have been part of transforming community ever since.

They’re in every 12-step group, and they must be here as well.


Now, we’ll talk about them more next week — How do I examine my life? How do I confess to other people and get on the road to making things right? — but I want to give you an assignment this week.

Again, this is just simple, practical practicing the way of Jesus, so this is an easy first step. Everyone can do this.


The assignment is not that you have to go find someone and tell them every deep, dark secret in your life.

You may already be a considerable way in living in accountability relationships, so you can take whatever the next step is, but this is a first step.

Find someone you know and trust and tell them about one commitment you’ve made (just one).

Maybe it’s to pray and ask God for his will throughout this series.
Maybe it’s to read Scripture each day throughout this series.
Maybe it’s a commitment to generosity, to give to God.
Maybe it’s a commitment to have a good attitude at work this week.
Maybe it’s to volunteer.
Maybe it’s a big one — to get into recovery or tell a truth that you’ve been hiding in shame.
Maybe it’s just, “I’m coming back next week, so look for me next week. Call me up if I don’t show up.”

Find one person you know and trust and tell them what you’re committing to do, and ask them to check back with you gently in love.


If you begin to do this and if you embrace God’s gift of accountable living —

You’ll have greater integrity.
You’ll have more humility.
You’ll have more self-awareness.
You’ll have stronger character.
You’ll have fewer regrets.
You’ll become a better friend.
You’ll become a better worker.
You’ll become a better family member.
You’ll become a better human being.

You’ll live in this life with greater transparency, and freedom, and have a better shot one day at hearing from God those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Because we’re all going to be accountable to God in eternity anyway. Let’s start now with each other.

Are you all in? Are you all in?

Let me pray for you.

Blue Oaks Church
Pleasanton, CA