This post continues Peter Adam’s advice to ministers on fighting secret sins (See part 1 here)
3. Make Yourself Accountable to Others
Other believers are God’s gifts to us to teach and admonish us, to correct us, and to rescue us from the hardness of our hearts.
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Heb 3:12,13).
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom … (Col 3:16).
The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. (Prov 12:15).
Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear. (Prov 25:12).
Other believers are God’s gifts to us to teach and admonish us, to correct us, and to rescue us from the hardness of our hearts and the deceitfulness of our hearts and our sins. An isolated Christian life is liable to self-deception
Make yourself accountable for your life and ministry. This can be to one person, such as a mentor, a Christian counsellor; a leader in your church or ministry: or it can be mutual accountability with three or four friends in ministry.
Have the following agreement in place:
- That you meet regularly for accountability.
- That you tell them what are your greatest current temptations and dangers in your private life and in your ministry.
- That you give them permission to point out those sins of yours which are invisible to you.
- That you give them permission to ask you how you are getting on in these areas as often as they want to.
- That you inform them when you have fallen into serious sin.
- That you ask them to pray for you regularly and keep them informed of your personal and ministry-related prayer needs.
And in your meetings tackle these issues:
- What are current plans to improve and enrich your relationship with God, and what progress are you making?
- What are current plans to improve and enrich your relationship with your spouse and family? (When relevant).
- What are current plans to improve and enrich the way you do your ministry?
- What are current plans to improve and achieve your goals in ministry?
- What personal sins are you currently putting to death?
- What sins of ministry are you currently putting to death?
- What growth in godliness are you praying for and working on in your personal life?
- What growth in godliness are you praying for and working on in your ministry?
- What have you learnt and implemented from your Bible reading?
- Have you taken seriously any criticisms or rebukes or suggestions others have made about you and your ministry? (90% might be inaccurate or irrelevant, but 10% might be very relevant!)
- How is your prayer life?
- How is your evangelism?
- What are your current worries, frustrations, illnesses, and how are you coping with them?
- Are you getting sufficient time off work? Are you working hard enough? What about diet, exercise, fitness?
You could also use this list for your own personal monthly or annual life and ministry health check.
And please remember that we are also accountable to ‘outsiders’ the ordinary members of our society. We read of the requirements of an overseer in 1 Timothy, which include this remarkable instruction:
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap (3:7).
We should test our actions by what unbelievers would think … by the reasonable moral standards of our society.
We should test our actions by what unbelievers would think of how we are living, and what we are doing. Our lives and actions should not be able to be criticised by the reasonable moral standards of our society. They may not agree with our beliefs, but our lives should have credibility, and we should avoid actions which could cause public misunderstanding or scandal.
Remember that the Christian life is not designed to be lived by loners. Every believer would benefit from some kind of mutual accountability, and it is a sad sign of the fragility and superficiality of so many Christian friendships that we are so reluctant to be accountable to others, to admonish or warn each other, or to receive admonishment of warnings from others. All Christians would benefit from more accountability, and should build it into their lives!
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb 3:13).
4. Other Suggestions
Here are some other ways to resist secret sin:
Ensure your spouse, colleagues, supervisor, and or elders know what you are doing day by day so that there is less room and time for inappropriate behaviour.
- Make yourself accountable to your spouse.
- Send out a regular general honest and open prayer letter.
- Ensure that your life is as open as possible to others: that your spouse, colleagues, supervisor, and/or elders know what you are doing day by day in your life and ministry so that there is less room and time for inappropriate behaviour.
- In your preaching, teaching and counselling ministry, be open about yourself, your struggles, your vulnerabilities, when it is pastorally appropriate.
- Praise and thank God for faithful and godly fellow-workers in gospel ministry.
- Remember that your heart is deceitful, and that sin deceives and blinds us: be constantly open to challenge, correction, admonition, and rebuke. When this happens assess the feedback carefully and prayerfully, and perhaps test it with others who know you.
- Remember that you must be doubly careful, because other people may try to entrap you, and because Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
- Don’t let your gifts blind you to your need for Christian character and self-discipline.
- If you think of yourself primarily as a sinner, with no great personal expectation of any growth in holiness, repent! Remember that God has sanctified you by the blood of Christ, is sanctifying you day by day, and expect to see some progress in sanctification.
- If you think of yourself primarily as a saint, and so do not worry about your sins, repent! Remember that you are still sinful and a sinner, though also saved by God’s grace. Ask God to show you your sins and repent of them, and receive God’s forgiveness in Christ.
5. Create safe work practices and work places.
When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof (Deut 22:8).
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Matt 18:6).
- Only do ministry in situations and places that are safe for you, and safe for others. Safeguards include: visibility, having other people around, having other people present, and limiting the time spent with people to that which is necessary
- Keep two or three responsible people informed about your work plans and how you spend your time.
- Have a publicly known complaint system in place in your ministry and your church and your workplace, in which people are able to make complaints and receive a fair and independent hearing.
- Ensure that you separate your own finances from church finances, and only claim legitimate expenses. Do not have authorisation for expenditure from church finances. Ensure that church finances are in good order, and are audited annually.
- Keep your church elders or council informed about what you are doing in ministry, and how you spend your time.
Keep a long-term ministry diary, so that you are able to remember what you were doing on a particular day if you are required to give an account of your activities.
Deception is deadly.
There is nothing that is certain to be effective if you are a deceitful person
In all these suggestions, there is nothing that is certain to be effective if you are a deceitful person, deceiving yourself and intentionally deceiving others, or if you are unaware of your sins, or unaware of ways in which your ministry may be damaging others. Your only hope lies in God. Pray fervently and constantly that God will sanctify you, root out your sins, and transform your life, and pursue holiness in life and ministry, whatever the cost to yourself.
An issue for every believer.
Please remember that actually every believer is called to a life of vigilance in these areas. We are all called to take up our cross and follow Christ, we are all called to put sin to death and to live by the power of Christ’s resurrection, we are all called to be transformed into the likeness of Christ from one degree of glory to another. I have focused on what this looks like for those in gospel and Bible ministry; because there are special pressures and opportunities for sin in ministry; because when such people fall into sin there are greater effects on other people; because the results of hypocrisy exposed among people in ministry gets greater publicity and causes greater public scandal and; because God holds people in ministry to higher standards.
Always trust God’s power.
Please remember that we can all trust in God’s power to keep all believers to the end, even people in ministry!
To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ …
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life …
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! (Jude 1, 20,21,24,25).
Trust him and praise him! Praise him and trust him! Pray to him, trust him, and praise him!
 Bible refs NIV11.