We’re on a series about reboot. Sometimes the computer/handbag is just too messed up to fix, we need to uninstall everything and reinstall the essentials. So we’re talking here about the essentials. Last week we looked at servanthood. In this last week, we’ll be installing accountability.
There is one slogan that this generation lives by. Its been shouted out in the 90s, in pretty much
every other movie and cartoon. That is “Be true to yourself”.
- Mean girls – don’t try to be someone else and lose your true friends in the process
- Brave – Merida’s life was all planned out for her, boring princess life, but she needs to be herself
- Ratatouille – doesn’t matter if you are a rat, you need to be true to yourself
- The little mermaid – Ariel, don’t care about what anyone says, be true to your heart
- Aladdin – be yourself, not pretend to be a prince
- Elsa should have just “been herself” and embraced her powers rather than fear them
Its in pop culture:
“Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way”
– Lady Gaga, Born this way
“Be who you are and say what you feel.”
– Dr Seuss, Cat in the Hat
The idea behind this slogan is the thought that you know yourself better than others and your opinion trumps everyone else’s opinion about you. Don’t listen to the negative things other people say about you, just chase your desires and dreams and you’ll have a happily ever after. Do your own thing, be your own boss. You are only accountable to your own desires and who you are, not to anyone else. Self-fulfilment is highest goal.
In fact, sometimes we bring that into the church. The church is accountable to you to have a nice environment, music you enjoy, preaching that doesn’t put you to sleep. Church is about religious self-fulfilment.
So whats so wrong about that? The problem is that it is entirely self-centred. In fact, it is disgustingly self-centred.
Christianity on the other hand is Christ-centred. We are accountable to Christ – He is boss. Then to each other. Finally, we come last. Today we’re talking about this accountability – specifically accountability to each other. This is not a natural topic in our individualistic society where “me” comes before “we” but its a basic building block in our walk with God.
What is it about? Accountability is about relationships that lead us to Christ. When we are accountable to each other, we have a vested interest in teaching, supporting, encouraging each other toward Christ. Thats the vision – the end goal. Thats the kind of community I want. Thats the community we are building here at Anchor church.
Its about openness, but thats just part of it and thats not all. Submission is part of it but thats not all. Obedience is part of it but thats not all. Humility, respect, teachability, kindness… it covers such a wide range that its difficult to cover everything. Its not about invasion of privacy, being dominating or manipulating. Its about relationships that allow growth in Christ to happen naturally and organically.
So we will look at an example of a church who did
accountability really well: 1 Thessalonians 5:9-15.
Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the
Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in
peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid,
help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but
always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-15
3 things they were doing well:
- Living a holy life (4:1-8)
- Thessalonians were practicing what Paul taught them because they received it as if it were from the Lord (1 Thess 4:1-2)
- It is about pleasing God (1 Thess 4:1) by being more like Christ / sanctification (1 Thess 4:3)
- They were respectful towards each other’s bodies (v5-7)
- Practicing brotherly love (4:9-12)
- Not being a burden to each other whether by our words (not busybody/gossiping) and work (not being idle) (4:11)
- Encouraging one another to continue in the Lord knowing that you are saved!
- Encourage each other by pointing forward to Christ coming (4:13-5:11)
- They were doing a great job at it (1 Thess 4:1, 9-10, 13)
By and large, we’re doing a great job at it as well!
If the Thessalonians were already so good at being accountable, what else could Paul encourage them in?
Honour your local leaders
v12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in
the Lord and who admonish you.
v13a Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.
Paul points them towards their own leaders. Earlier he commends them to listening to the big name leaders, Paul and gang, but here he says, our local leaders are just as worthy of respect. Because of their work – the work that they do. Paul describes our leaders in 3 ways: (1) they work hard, (2) they are over us in the Lord (been placed in a position of authority), (3) they admonish (correct/advise) us.
The Thessalonians have done well in listening to the big name leaders but do they give the same honour to their local leaders?
This applies to us as well. We listen to the big name pastors/leaders: John Piper, Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, John Maxwell, Judah Smith… Its easy for us to listen to a famous pastor’s message, we read their articles, listen to their podcast, buy their books. Do we give the same weight to our local leaders?
Holding our leaders in “the highest regard in love” is to let their words have weight, to consider their opinions and advice, to listen to them with respect. When pastor Daryl speaks on Sunday, when our Anchor groups leader shares something at meetings.
Let me use an illustration to explain why this makes sense: wives, don’t look at your husband. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever had the experience of telling your husband something and it just goes over his head, but a few weeks later, someone else tells him the exact same thing and he comes and tells you what a great idea it was? Ok, just nod slowly, don’t nod too vigorously. Its the same here, we tend to take those who are close to us for granted. We tend to overlook them. Their words tend to go in one ear and come out the other.
But we should care about the words of the people we love and respect. Your spouse’s words matter, your parent’s words matter, your best friend’s words matter, your children’s words matter. What they say ought to be weightier than a stranger’s/acquaintances’ words. We need to respect and honour our leaders – the people that God has ordained to be “over us”.
Paul also tells us something about teachability. If my leader’s words matter, they should teach us something, they should transform us. If we’re not teachable, we will ignore it. We will make up excuses. Or worse still, we’ll start getting defensive.
When i think of teachability, I think of one quote that a previous pastor said:
“If you are not teachable, you are the best you will ever be. You’ve reached your limit.”
Ps Dan Sheikh
If you are unteachable, you are currently the best that you will ever be. Look at what you’ve achieved now as a person, the character you have, the skills you have, the knowledge you have… thats all you’ll ever have. Thats the best you’ll ever be. But if yo are a teachable person, you have no limit. There is no limit to how excellent your character can be. Theres is no limit to how well you can perform. There is no limit to anything he wants to do. Every time we open our heart to be teachable, we’re pushing our limit. We become a better version of ourselves.
So “Be true to yourself” is a great motto for people who never want to grow or improve.
Grow each other and be the light
v13b Live in peace with each other.
v14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle [and disruptive, NIV], encourage the timid
[disheartened, NIV], help the weak, be patient with everyone.
v15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and
to everyone else.
2 key ways we can grow each other:
- Warn those who are idle
Living at peace with each other doesn’t mean avoiding conflict or closing an eye to sin. Paul goes from “live at peace” straight into “warn those who are idle”. If you’ve ever tried to warn someone, you know that there’s going to be conflict sometimes.
The word “idle and disruptive” is taken from a military term to mean unruly/uncontrolled/unsubmissive. The situation back then was people were quitting their jobs and stopping work because they expected Christ to return soon. And they were just sitting around doing nothing and instead causing trouble. While Paul commends them not to be lazy and don’t be a busybody (self focused). Here Paul says be a busybody and tell others not to be lazy (others focused).
Have you ever tried pointing something like that out to anyone? Its the hardest thing in the word. Its like telling your colleague that he has a body odour issue or telling your wife to cook better. How do we “warn those who are idle”? Warning someone calls for honesty with each other. We need to pick our battles, talking about what is important and letting go of whats not. We should consider the desired outcome – does it fulfil the other person’s interest or your own interest? We need to examine our motives. Pick the timing- talk at a time when both parties have time to listen and are relaxed. Be kind and sensitive in our words. It calls for love and sensitivity on the part of the warner and humility and openness on the other party. Its not easy for either party but it builds us up.
- Encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone and be kind to each other
Timid is in some versions disheartened. Its easier for us to reject the discouraged/weak than to help them. Its easier for us to give up on people who don’t change and its easier to be unkind to each other. Being encouraging, helpful, patient and kind requires time and effort. Often, time and effort that we’re not ready to sacrifice. Its really tiring to be the giver. Because in our natural broken human state, we tend to be selfish. This is where we need a mindset change. One that says “your problem is my problem”. One that puts others ahead of ourselves.
How do we do that? Do what the Thessalonians have been doing – look at Christ coming.
When we consider that Christ is coming and we’re all going to be with Him, what becomes important is preparing ourselves for eternity with Christ. This means we gear each other up to be with Christ and like Christ. There are many things we can’t bring with us when we meet Christ – our money, our house, our car, my drum stuff. But there are things we can bring with us – our character. There is no secret to being kind, patient, encouraging or helpful. The answer is simply Christ. The more time we spend with Him, the more we enjoy Him, the more we allow Him to work in us, the more we take on His character.
Me vs We
Accountability is not easy, it requires us to submit to leaders, to be teachable, to be correctable, to be open, to be patient and kind. It requires us to put ourselves aside. This is where we need to prioritise our lives – me or we. Am I building my own kingdom or His kingdom? Am I supporting myself to my own desires and goals or am I supporting and encouraging others toward Christ?
Remember: Its not about resolutions. Its about priorities.