Series intro

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.

Lets pray.


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”.

Be Teachable

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

God is God

Father, teach us something new, give us a new revelation of yourself.

Early when Sara and I started dating, she asked me, “Why do you love me?” And I paused. The gears in my head start turning, and you start thinking “this is a trick question…” and then she continues, “Will you still love me if I had a car crash and was disfigured? If I couldn’t move my body? What if I was a vegetable?” and now, I start panicking because I knew surely this is a trick question. If I name any one physical attribute of hers, I would be shallow. If it wasn’t physical, she wasn’t pretty enough. See, to me, it was a trick question, to Sara it was serious. She was assessing my credibility as a present boyfriend and future husband. There is an idea in her head of why she ought to be (deserves) loved and she is assessing if I meet that idea in her head. 

Why do I love?
One day, I thought about this and asked myself, “Why do I love God?” We all know the Greatest Commandment, “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” But why? Is there a difference between why I love God and why God deserves to be loved.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:28-34

Jesus said: “The most important one is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord…” This is a scripture from Duet 6:4-6. So what is so special about this statement?

Shema Yisrael
This verse is the Jewish Shema (Yisrael).

  • The core prayer of the Jews, the most important part of their prayer service.
  • They recite it when preparing to read the Torah on festivals and feasts and on the most holy days.
  • It is the first thing that is taught to children, the pray that is said when they wake up and before they sleep.
  • They would recite it just before they die – the ultimate manifestation of faith in the gravest situations.
  • When they recite it, they mention each word very carefully and intentionally.
  • The first word Shema means listen/hear and do.

Shema Significance
The Shema is loaded with meaning and tells us much about God. It asserts that:

  • That the God we serve is Jehovah God – an infinite, eternal, perfect, self-existent and self-sufficient God.
    That God as such an all-powerful, big and mighty God! God is God, He is NOT:

    • God is not just a santa-claus and gives me gifts
    • God is not just a miracle doctor and heals me
    • God is not just a divine destiny planner and gives me a hope and future
    • He is not just a marriage counsellor and fixes my marriage up

    I’m not saying that He doesn’t promise these things or that He doesn’t want to give them to us. He does because His nature is good and loving. But He is still God. He retains the right to do as He pleases.

  • He is the only living and true God, only He is God and He alone – no other God.
    When you understand that God is ultimately powerful. There is no equal. There is only one Jehovah and He is God.
  • God is singular, He is one – Not a two faced God – Hindu. Not a number of Gods – Greeks/Taoist. Not an impersonal/neutral God – Buddha.
    • He is not good one day and evil the next or half-half, He is singular in nature; He does not change.
    • Even if the circumstance in my life changes, God does not. He is still good. He is still in control. If my illness doesn’t get healed, if death is knocking at my door, God is still God.

    Note that the word one (ehad) can mean unity in diversity, not unique singular one – yachid. E.g. Genesis2:24 – one flesh (basar echad).

So when a Jew says “the Lord our God, the Lord is one”, it is an extremely high view of God. He is fixing his whole being on the all-powerful, all-mighty, all-knowing, all-everything! When a Jew recites the Shema, he is a living witness testifying to the sovereignty of God / God’s kingship in every circumstance. No matter what our circumstance – our God is still the only one true God, and He is my God.

When they recite the Shema, their focus is not on what they can get from God, it’s about God. They take their eyes away from their circumstance and look at God who is God.

Tie back
So back to the question of why do we love God? I think we have something to learn from the original context of the Greatest Commandment in the Shema.

We love God because we have a high view of God’s being – God is God. And this huge all-powerful great God, humbled himself for us and has an intimate personal relationship with me! We can love God because of His being, not because of the circumstances in our lives. Not because one day God seems to be good and the next day bad. God deserves to be loved simply because He is God.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Its easy to love God when He is God.

“Love your neighbour as yourself”
How does this understanding affect our love for others? Well we love God for His being. We love others that way as well. I love my mother because she is my mother, not because she can cook well or help me look after my future children. I love my son because he is my son, not because he is obedient or does well in school. And that’s how God loves us! He loved us while we were still sinners! We can even love our enemies because right at the core of their being is still the image of God (not their nature)!

Thank you that you are God. That you are sovereign over everything. Sovereign over every circumstance. Thank you most of all that we can know you in an intimate and personal way. Thank you for showing us how to love and for loving us in that way, give us your heart that we can love as you love.


I find it difficult to sit through sermons I don’t agree with although I do try to accept what is being said, take something home from the Word and respect the preacher. But like eating a fish with a gazillion bones, I sit through some sermons bone picking left and right. The end result sometimes is that I go home with little bits of mashed up meat and don’t enjoy the meal much. Especially when the entire message is built upon things I don’t agree with. I reserve my right to be wrong, because I’m not perfect. But sometimes its just really hard, like listening to really bad music.

This week was particularly difficult because the message was built on certain assumptions that I don’t agree with. The assumption is that: God has an individual will for my life (and yours) and we need to be in the center of that will. That teaching is unbiblical and impractical to me. I did pick out some good things from the message but a majority of it was thrown out the window along with the obvious confusion between the “individual” and moral will (and perhaps even sovereign will).

It is a fine balance to receive the preacher’s word with openess and eagerness and not to leave our brains at the church door.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Acts 17:11

The Bereans did it. So can I.

The exiled Jews

Atfer this verse was mentioned on Sunday, I was keen to study it again.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

Regarding prophetic literature, it is important to understand that all biblical prophesy has a view of God’s ongoing redemptive purpose, it always unveils God’s sovereign plan and intentions. Most importantly, it always points us toward God. In historical prophesy (regarding events already past), it is important to look at the environmental context of the verse – religious, military and political history of past, current and future events and timelines.

Just a short time line:

  • 609BC. Judah was under the Egytpian rule (2 Kings 23:34-35)
  • 605BC. Nebuchadnezzer defeated Egytpians
  • 605BC. Jeremiah prophesied of the attack of the Babylonians and 70 years of exile
  • 605BC. Nebuchadnezzar attacked Judah (2 Kings 24:1)
  • 605BC. King of Judah (Jehoiakim) paid tribute to Nebuchadnezzar and act as vassal king
  • 605BC. Nebuchadnezzar took hostages/exiles to Babylon (Daniel 1:1-6, Jeremiah 24:1)
  • 601BC. Egypt defeated Babylonians
  • 601BC. Jehoiakim switched back to loyalty with Egypt (2 Kings 24:1)
  • 598BC. Babylonia attacked Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:10)
  • 597BC. Jehoiakim’s death (succeeded by Jehoiachin) and surrendered to Babylonians (2 Kings 24:11-12)
  • 597BC. Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah as vassal king, looted Jerusalem and deported Jehoiachin and 10,000 others to Babylon (2 Kings 24:13-15)
  • 588BC. Zedekiah revolts against Babylon against the advise of Jeremiah (2 Kings 25:1-7, Jeremiah 32:1-5)
  • 586BC. Jerusalem destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar due to revolt (2 Kings 25:8-20, Jeremiah 32:26-35)

Jeremiah’s purpose was to exhort Judah to repentance and to obedience to God’s word. He warns of (and eventually predicts) judgement in response to Judah’s disobedience. He also historically records the nation’s rise and fall and his life (imprisonment, advice to the king and dealings with false prophets).

Jeremiah 29:11 was written in 594BC, 10 years after the first prophesied 70 years of exile, where false prophests have been saying that their captivity would be very short (Jeremiah 28). Jeremiah replies, debunking the false prophets and tells the people to settle in exile (Jeremiah 29:1-9). Jeremiah 29:11 was written with a sense of looking to the future, it is sandwiched by v11 and v14 that talks about the end of the exile. It was written as a sense of hope that even through the 70 years of exile (and after), that God is sovereign and His plans will endure.

Does this passage mean that God has an individual plan for our lives? Probably not, it would be more correct to say that his actions have a good purpose and that it means his purpose cannot be hindered. Also, this passage was addressed to a group of people, namely the exiles in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:16, Jeremiah 29:19). There is no inclination of individuality. The “plans” that God has for us is obviously not referring to an individual life plan, but a plan for redemption. A very similar verse in the New Testament is Ephesians 1:11.

The Hebrew word used for prosperity is Shalom (שָׁלוֹם), which is normally translated as safety or can figuratively mean well, happy, friendly. But this word can mean different things abstractly as welfare, such as wholeness, harmony, health, peace (between people and between man and God). It is opposed to harm or ra’ (רָע), which means bad or evil. I would imagine that prosper might be a little far fetched at this stage, the readers probably imagined safety and well being. Similarly used in Jeremiah 38:4.

His words are one of comfort to a people who probably think that they are being thrown and tossed around like a ball. After being battered multiple times by opposing nations and conquered, they might think that God hates them and is out to kill them. Life in exile certainly isn’t easy (read Daniel). But through it all, God assures that his thoughts toward them are only good and he is not out to kill them but to restore them to Himself (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

Seeing it from New Testament eyes, we as believers are all in exile (1 Peter 1:1, 1 Peter 1:17, 1 Peter 2:11). Our dwelling is in heaven (Psalm 119:19, Hebrews 11:13) and our present sufferings and struggles on earth will eventually pass (John 16:33). We can be assured that even through our present difficulties whatever they may be, God has a brilliant redemption plan, one that only wants our good (John 17). It is not an escape route from this life, but one that brings us through both the good and bad days, all of our days. His plan and purpose of redemption through Jesus Christ, the prince of peace (shalom; Isaiah 9:6-7) has already stood and He is good indeed!