Summary: We are to order our priorities around those of Jesus and arrange our lives in the example of Jesus. The challenge of doing this in the face of the world is monumental to say the least. The answer to living the life Jesus calls us to live in small groups
When I graduated from seminary and moved back to New Orleans, my best friend from college called me and invited me to go to a restaurant on Old Metairie Road where they had installed a sand volleyball court. I had never played sand volleyball and so we got there and she began teaching me the game. A few weeks later, I met her friend Craig who began working with me and one night when we were working on spiking the ball, he came up to me after we finished and said, “Tim, if you really work at this game, you could become a real force out there.” That was all I needed to hear. It wasn’t long after that we joined a team out at Coconut Beach out on West End Boulevard. We played on the court of the second highest skilled players. The first league, we placed third. The second league, we placed second and by the third league, we were vying for first. One night, a friend asked me if I wanted to play in the Louisiana State Volleyball Doubles Championships. I told him I’d never played doubles before but I was definitely in. So over the next few weeks, we began working on the court together against other doubles teams. After about three weeks, I asked him what level we were going to sign up. Should we sign up for A League?” He said, “No.” I said, “The ‘B’ league?” He said, “No.” “The C League?” He said, “Yes. Tim what you don’t understand is that this is the first time we’ve played together. Let sign up for the ‘C’ League and see how we do.” I have to tell you, I was so disappointed but I gave in and we signed up. The day of the tournament came. It was an all day event. We easily won our first two matches. I was feeling pretty good and questioning his advice to sign up for this skill level. In our third match, we got soundly trounced. We began to get frustrated. We now found ourselves in the loser’s brackets. Well, long story short, we scratched and clawed our way to the finals and lost in the third game on the last point to place second in the state. At the end of the day, with our trophies in our hands, he said, “Aren’t you glad we signed up for the ‘C’ league?”
I learned two things that day. First, we often over estimate our skills and abilities. And second, we need someone to speak truth in our lives and sometimes readjust our vision and self-understanding to be closer to reality. I’ve also found that we often do the same thing in our spiritual lives. We often overestimate where we are spiritually. A Pew research poll asked Americans if they go to worship every week. 45% said they did. Now if 45% of the nation was in church each Sunday, every church in America would be packed. Further research shows less than 25% of Americans are in church every week. We can’t even honestly evaluate our own worship attendance! We overestimate where we are spiritually! We think we know and understand more about God and the Bible than we really do. We think we have a deeper and stronger relationship with Jesus than we really do. We believe we are more spiritually mature than we really are. Second, we need others willing to speak truth in our lives, to let us know where we really are in our spiritual journey, to challenge the view of our rose colored glasses we use to look at ourselves and evaluate our spiritual status and our spiritual growth.
Today, we’re talking about the fourth Means of Grace: accountability. The Means of Grace are the practices of a Methodist which develop our personal relationship with Jesus Christ and grow us in our faith. Thus far, we have talked about receiving weekly communion, reading scripture daily, personal prayer and fasting. Today, we’re talking about accountability.
John Wesley’s best friend was the Billy Graham of his day. His name was George Whitfield. He would hold revivals out in the fields of the country where very few people lived but there was plenty of land. Amazingly, thousands and thousands of people would come to hear the Gospel and every time 100’s would come forward to profess their faith and be baptized as a follower of Jesus. He would then just go on to the next revival. John Wesley preached all over Eng as well and also impacted tens of thousands of people but he admitted that Whitfield was a much better preacher. Whitfield and Wesley were considered to be the most significant spiritual leaders of the 18th century in England. But as George Whitfield neared death and began to assess his life and ministry, he realized he had nothing to show for it. People had come to hear him preach and were baptized into the faith but then left and went on their merry way. Wesley on the other hand preached, baptized and then discipled the people spiritually through weekly gatherings. The purpose was to hold in balance the disciplines of seeking God and serving neighbor through mutual accountability. John Wesley called these gathering class meetings and their purpose was threefold: to inquire of one’s relationship with Christ; to advise, reprove, comfort or exhort; to receive an offering for the poor. By Wesley’s death, one-third of England was Methodist!