Accountability groups and partners are not magic pills. While accountability plays a crucial role in personal growth and holiness, there are many accountability pitfalls.
Here are five ways accountability often goes bad:
Problem #1. When accountability partners are absent
Accountability relationships need to be fostered through time together. It is hard to hold one another accountable when partners meet infrequently or sporadically (or not at all).
Often both parties are at fault. We might commit to “holding one another accountable,” but this is something vague, elusive, and undefined. Accountability partners need to have a very clear picture in their minds about what accountability really entails: face-to- face, voice-to-voice conversation.
When accountability partners do not meet in some fashion, the accountability relationship has no foundation. This means confession, prayer, and encouragement are erratic and shaky, at best.
Problem #2. When accountability groups are programmatic
When we read through the one-anothers of the New Testament, one cannot help but see the organic, family dynamic that is meant to exist in the church. We are called to an earnest love for one another (1 Peter 1:22), brotherly affection (Romans 12:10), single-minded unity (Romans 15:5), eating together (1 Corinthians 11:33), bearing each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and having the same care for each other (1 Corinthians 12:25).
But often our approach to accountability is programmatic. We simply don’t have the quality of friendships that are close and spiritually meaningful, so we search for it in forced and sometimes awkward settings.
The church, of course, should offer support groups and discipleship models. “Program” is not a four-letter word. But these programs should aim toward something rich and natural.
If meeting together, prayer, confession, and encouragement are the building blocks of accountability, then many of the other one-anothers in the New Testament are the “atmosphere” of the relationship. This should not be an empty, austere structure, but filled with the air of Christian love and friendship. You may be “doing everything right” but it still feels empty and cold.
Problem #3. When accountability partners are sincerity-centered
Confession is the central pillar of accountability, but there are a few ways this pillar can be constructed poorly.
The first way confession of sin can go wrong is when it becomes an end in and of itself. This is when we believe confession is the only point of accountability, something we do to put to rest our uneasy consciences and get something off our chests. These kinds of accountability relationships make “getting the secret out” the whole point.
As therapeutic as this might feel—and it is therapeutic—we need to be careful that in our confession of sin we don’t trivialize sin as something that resolves itself with mere sincerity. Jonathan Dodson, pastor of Austin City Life church, says that one surefire way to ruin your accountability relationship is by making it “a circle of cheap confession by which you obtain cheap peace for your troubled conscience.”
Christians do not believe that pardon from sin comes from merely being honest about sin. Your sincerity wasn’t nailed to a Roman cross for your sins; Christ was. Peace with God comes only by leaning on what Christ has done for us (Romans 5:1). We often mistake the relief of unleashing our secrets with true peace.
Conversation must not stop at confession. The outermost pillars of the accountability relationship call us to prayer and encouragement. After humble confession, we should encourage one another with the assurance of forgiveness promised in the gospel, and we should approach God’s throne of grace in prayer together.
In this way we not only hold one another accountable for our behavior, but we also hold one another accountable for trusting in the gospel for our complete forgiveness.
Problem #4. When accountability partners are obedience-centered
The first way the pillar of confession can be built poorly is when we aim at cheap peace. The second way the pillar of confession can be constructed poorly is when the focus is on moral performance.
Some Christian accountability groups are militant about sin—a healthy attitude in its own right. Members want to see others grow in holiness, so this becomes the focus of the group: questions and answers that deal with obedience.
The problem is, mere rule keeping does not itself get to the heart of sin. This is one of the great lessons Paul teaches again and again. Merely knowing the law only aggravates our lusts (Romans 7:7-12), and following rigid ascetic regulations—don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle—is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).
What we need is a kind of accountability that corrects our natural tendency to focus on ourselves—own own performance or lack of performance—and instead focus on Christ and His obedience in our place.
Don’t turn the pillar of confession into a pedestal—a place where we can prop up the idol of our own obedience. Don’t turn accountability into a narcissistic program of self-improvement. Accountability relationships like this either center our thoughts on a few benchmarks of success that we might happen to be reaching, or force us into hiding because we don’t want to admit how much we are failing to hit the mark.
Problem #5. When accountability partners forget the gospel
Whether you slide toward being sincerity-centered or obedience-centered, both tendencies have ignored that the gospel is the capstone of accountability.
When we make our groups all about sincere confession with no expectation of change, we trivialize the very sins that were nailed to Jesus on the cross. When we confess the same sins week after week, say a quick prayer, and go home, we merely highlight the cheap peace we feel from refreshing honesty, and we forget to comfort each other with a testimony of God’s grace of forgiveness. We forget to challenge each other to fight sin in light of the motivations God provides in His Word.
When we make our groups all about obedience, we only reinforce our tendency to center our identity on our performance. This either drives us to rigid moralism or hiding the evil that lurks in us from others and ourselves. Either way, these kinds of accountability relationships only reinforce legalism and self-absorption. This robs us of the joy of building our identity on Christ’s obedience, and we lose an opportunity to speak about the grace of God that trains us to be godly.
This is why the gospel is the capstone of good accountability. Our confessions, prayers, and encouragement should all be done under the canopy of what the gospel promises God’s children.
- Confess your sins in light of the gospel. One aspect of repentance is agreeing with what God says about your sin, labeling your sin as truly sinful, as an affront to His holiness, something that cost Christ his life. Confess your sins to God and others knowing He is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).
- Pray together in light of the gospel. The gospel promises both grace to cover our sins (Romans 5:1-2) and grace to empower our obedience (Titus 2:11-14). Approach Christ together asking for this grace (Hebrews 4:16).
- Encourage one another in light of the gospel. Knowing that true internal change happens in our lives as we set our minds and affections on things above—the complete redemption that is coming to us (Colossians 3:1-4)—we should help one another do this. Mining the Scriptures together, we can teach and admonish one another in wisdom (v.16). We can strive together to have more of a foretaste of the holiness we are promised in the age to come.
Full article can be found Here
Because Christ Expects it of Christians
Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:16-18 are not words of a command. He does not tell us that we have to fast. However, He expects that we will. He said, “when you fast…” He was making an assumption that a Christian would fast. Moreover, when He said these words He followed it with a bit of explanation that a fast should be personal and private. Your focus should be on your relationship with God and not on letting the world know you are fasting.
In Matthew 9 Jesus is talking with the Pharisees and tells them that the disciples, while not fasting at that time, would fast once the bridegroom (Jesus) was no longer with them. Jesus expected His disciples to participate in fasting.
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23)
We see in the above verse that Paul fasted about some decisions he made in leading the churches he started. The Israelites sought the Lord through fasting when they had been defeated in battle by the tribe of Benjamin. They were asking for guidance on what they should do and how to proceed (Judges 20:26-28).
For Intensity in Prayer
David fasted and prayed for the child that he fathered with Bathsheba. David knew he had sinned, but his fast was not to restore fellowship with God. Apparently restoration was already taken care of. His prayer in 2 Samuel 12 was for the life of the child. Though God did not grant his request, David was satisfied and content after his season of prayer and fasting. He had moved past the point of blaming God to a place of trusting God for the outcome.
Ezra prayed for God’s protection over his countrymen as they journeyed back to Jerusalem. He could have entreated the king for soldiers and cavalrymen, but he had already proclaimed that God would care for them. Now he was asking God to show Himself strong on behalf of the Israelites and to help raise a good testimony before the enemy (Ezra 8:21-23).
As a Sign of Mourning
Nehemiah heard about the destruction of Jerusalem and was moved to fast and weep for his beloved city. This fasting was because of grief over the sin of his people before the Lord. He knew that God was punishing Israel for their sins. Nehemiah mourned and confessed before the Lord. Sin had caused a pain that prayer alone could not express. Fasting was a natural result of his grief:
And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. (Nehemiah 1:4-6)
To Show Humility in the Presence of God
The man after God’s own heart, King David, said that he fasted for the purpose of humbling himself before God (Psalm 35:13). He certainly seems to be the person who could have walked into the throne room of God and made his request boldly as we are invited to do in Hebrews 4:16. There is a difference between boldness and arrogance. David knew how to humble himself in prayer through fasting.
Along with humility before God, fasting can be a way to worship God. David said in Psalm 51 that God is more interested in a humble and contrite heart than He is in fasting and sacrifices. This is not saying that we don’t need to fast; rather, it is saying that fasting without the right attitude does not touch the heart of God.
Along with humility before God, fasting can be a way to worship God. David said in Psalm 51 that God is more interested in a humble and contrite heart than He is in fasting and sacrifices. This is not saying that we don’t need to fast; rather, it is saying that fasting without the right attitude does not touch the heart of God.
For Spiritual Strength
While Jesus faced the temptation of Satan, He fasted for 40 days. There is a principle of spiritual strength that is demonstrated in fasting in the life of Christ (Luke 4:1-11).
Mark 9:29 shows that the disciples needed a power from God that comes only through fasting. Matthew 17:20 and 21 say that fasting and prayer coupled with faith in God can work spiritual miracles.
Full article can be seen Here
Why Do We Find It So Hard to Forgive?
One reason we resist forgiving is that we don’t really understand what forgiveness is or how it works. We think we do, but we don’t.
Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scot-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We also may think that we have to be friendly with them again, or go back to the old relationship. While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us.
The first step to understanding forgiveness is learning what it is and isn’t. The next step is giving yourself permission to forgive and forget, letting go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries.
- Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.
- Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice. By refusing to transfer the right to exact punishment or revenge, we are telling God we don’t trust him to take care of matters.
- Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again. We don’t have to tolerate, nor should we keep ourselves open to, lack of respect or any form of abuse.
- Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, “What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me.” Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.
- Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with him again.
- Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. As soon as we can, we should decide to forgive, but it probably is not going to happen right after a tragic divorce. That’s okay.
- We have to forgive every time. If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person that sets us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused.
- Forgetting does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses. Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, apathetic, or unreliable. They never will change. We need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.
- Forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life. We either can look outward at them or stay stuck and angry, or we can begin to keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good.
- If they don’t repent, we still have to forgive. Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. We should memorize and repeat over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
- We don’t always have to tell them we have forgiven them. Self-righteously announcing our gracious forgiveness to someone who has not asked to be forgiven may be a manipulation to make them feel guilty. It also is a form of pride.
- Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.
- We might have to forgive more than the divorce. Post-divorce problems related to money, the kids, and schedules might result in the need to forgive again and to seek forgiveness ourselves.
- We might forgive too quickly to avoid pain or to manipulate the situation. Forgiveness releases pain and frees us from focusing on the other person. Too often when we’re in the midst of the turmoil after a divorce, we desperately look for a quick fix to make it all go away. Some women want to “hurry up” and forgive so the pain will end, or so they can get along with the other person. We have to be careful not to simply cover our wounds and retard the healing process.
- We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it’s not true forgiveness — it’s a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, “I want to forgive you, but right now I’m struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it.”
- Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurts occur, it’s what we do with them that counts. When we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we can learn to say, “Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is.”
- Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive.
Full Article can be found here
Is ministry a place to drink?
A question has come up quite a bit lately. People want to know if there is a standard for pastoral leadership within the church that would include abstinence from alcohol. It is not my intention to look at the first miracle of Jesus turning water into wine or to build a case for the water-to-wine ratio or any such thing. I am not attempting to dissect every angle of this matter but simply want to take a practical look at the subject and share a perspective. I am not saying every person must agree with my perspective; however, I am hopeful that a fresh view may encourage someone in pastoral ministry to think about their decisions and how such choices could potentially affect others. All that said, let’s consider what the Word of God says on the matter.
Drunkenness: There is absolutely no doubt that the Bible forbids drunkenness. Read the following passages to name a few: Isa.5:11, Prov.23:20, Rom.13:13, Gal.5:19, Eph.5:18. My question is how do you know if you’re actually inebriated and have crossed the line? I love what I heard Pastor Greg Laurie say on this: “You’ll never have to be concerned about falling into the sin of drunkenness if you never have a drink.” So, why take the chance?
In the Old Testament we find those who would take a Nazarite vow. According to Numbers 6, during the time of this vow people would refrain from wine. In Leviticus 10:9, we find priests refraining from wine when ministering in the tabernacle as the Lord did not want their judgment to be clouded in any way. In fact, the prophet Amos rebuked the nation when he said, “I raised up some of your sons as prophets, and some of your young men as Nazarites. Is it not so ‘O you children of Israel, says the Lord? But you gave the Nazarites wine to drink, and commanded the prophets saying, ‘Do not prophesy,’” Amos 2:11-12. How tragic that these young men had a calling upon their lives, yet were encouraged to drink wine, ultimately hindering their calling to prophecy.
In the New Testament some of the debate over pastoral liberties comes from the meaning of Apostle Paul’s reference in 1 Timothy 3 where he lists the qualifications for a Bishop (overseer, elder, pastor). Paul writes that a man should be blameless or above reproach in the way he lives his life. Paul states in 1 Timothy 3:3: A bishop is not to be given to wine. Upon close examination of the original Greek word paroinos, we find various scholars and commentators on the subject splitting grammatical hairs of what the word actually means and does not mean. But the question is then raised, Was Paul saying we should abstain completely or was he saying a pastor has liberty as long as he is not given over to it? Again, I am not one to debate the finer points of the Greek language, but rather share why I believe it could be a danger and hindrance to a pastor’s ministry. Thus, the reason I personally choose to refrain from the consumption of alcohol.
The Old Life: When I think of alcohol, whether that means one drink or many, the idea represents the old life before I knew Jesus. But when I came to Jesus I put away drinking because to me it was representative of the old man I once was. Why would I want to go back? I wouldn’t and I don’t.
The Observation of Devastation: In all the years I have pastored I can tell you I have never once seen anything good come from alcohol. Rather, I have seen violence, divorce, loss, devastation, drug abuse, abortions, unwed mothers, tragic accidents and death, all a result of intoxication. A recent survey I read stated that one of seven people who drink become alcoholics. Their spiral may have started with one drink, which led to the next and so forth. Most people I have counseled who are given over to alcohol never thought about a downward spiral. They never expected that first drink would lead to a divorce, child support, rehab, DUIs and more.
Let me pose a question: “Would you keep a dog in your house that severely bit one of seven people who came into your house?” Did you know that 1,700 college students die every year from alcohol poisoning? I am certain most thought they could handle it. To put this into perspective, 1,700 college students is equivalent to four jumbo jets full of people.
The Potential to Stumble Others: As a pastor, I realize my calling has a great amount of influence within the lives of people. That responsibility is something I take very seriously and seek to walk in the fear of the Lord in how I live my life before my God and people. For example, if I was a social drinker and say seven people decided to follow my example with one of seven becoming an alcoholic ending their life in total destruction, is that a risk I am willing to take? NO WAY! I find it troubling today that the oft-used phrase, “in the privacy of your own home,” is used to justify drinking, even for pastors It’s all good as long as it’s in the “privacy of your own home.” But how far is that reasoning carried? What else could potentially fall under that category? To shed light on this subject, first of all, it’s not my home; it’s Jesus’ home. Furthermore, as a father I have always considered my children within our home. Forget for the moment that I am a pastor; I am also a husband and father. I don’t want to go down the road of justifying what I do at home versus what I do when I’m outside the home. I know me; I could easily fall into that trap.
Not Legalism but Wisdom: Undoubtedly, there are people on the other side of this discussion who may even go so far as to call me the “weaker brother or legalist.” That is something I am willing to live with. As I personally weigh the consequences of a decision on this subject “for me” it is clear; I don’t want alcohol and a lot of other things to be part of my life and ministry. Furthermore, as pastor of Calvary Chapel SJC I encourage all our young men in leadership who have a desire to become pastors to take the same stance. Also, I encourage our congregation in the same way. Although the flock may have the liberty, I urge them to be careful that the liberty does not become a cloak for sin. A little leaven can potentially spoil the whole lump. Or worse, that we would stumble someone with our liberty, whether in the privacy of our own home or in the public eye.
Galatians 5:13: For you brethren have been called to liberty, only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
5 Practices to Resist Temptation and Grow Stronger
- Recognize Your Tendency to Sin
James 1:14 explains that we are tempted when we become enticed by our own natural desires. The first step toward overcoming temptation is to recognize the human tendency to be seduced by our own fleshly desires.
Temptation to sin is a given, so don’t be surprised by it. Expect to be tempted daily, and be prepared for it.
- Flee From Temptation
The New Living Translation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 is easy to understand and apply:
But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.
When you come face to face with temptation, look for the way out—the way of escape—that God has promised. Then skedaddle. Flee. Run as fast as you can.
3. Resist Temptation With the Word of Truth
Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s Word is living and active. Did you know you can carry a weapon that will make your thoughts obey Jesus Christ? If you don’t believe me, read 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 One of these weapons is the Word of God.
Jesus overcame the devil’s temptations in the wilderness with the Word of God. If it worked for him, it will work for us. And because Jesus was fully human, he is able to identify with our struggles and give us the exact help we need to resist temptation.
While it can be helpful to read God’s Word when you’re being tempted, sometimes that’s not practical. Even better is to practice reading the Bible daily so that eventually you have so much of it on the inside, you are ready whenever temptation comes.
4. Refocus Your Mind and Heart With Praise
How often have you been tempted to sin when your heart and mind were fully concentrated on worshiping the Lord? I’m guessing your answer is never.
Praising God takes our focus off of self and puts it on God. You may not be strong enough to resist temptation on your own, but as you focus on God, he will inhabit your praises. He will give you the strength to resist and walk away from the temptation.
May I suggest Psalm 147 as a good place to start?
5. Repent Quickly When You Fail
In several places, the Bible tells us the best way to resist temptation is to flee from it (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). Yet still we fall from time to time. When we fail to flee from temptation, inevitably we fall.
Trust and obey
The story is told of an old man who lived on a farm in the mountains of eastern Kentucky with his young grandson. Each morning, Grandpa was up early sitting at the kitchen table reading from his old worn-out Bible. His grandson who wanted to be just like him tried to imitate him in any way he could.
One day the grandson asked, “Grandpa, I try to read the Bible just like you but I don’t understand it, and what I do understand I forget as soon as I close the book. What good does reading the Bible do?”
The Grandfather quietly turned from putting coal in the stove and said, “Take this coal basket down to the river and bring back a basket of water.” The boy did as he was told, even though all the water leaked out before he could get back to the house. The grandfather laughed and said, “You will have to move a little faster next time,” and sent him back to the river with the basket to try again. This time the boy ran faster, but again the basket was empty before he returned home. Out of breath, he told his grandfather that it was impossible to carry water in a basket,” and he went to get a bucket instead. The old man said, “I don’t want a bucket of water; I want a basket of water. You can do this. You’re just not trying hard enough,” and he went out the door to watch the boy try again.
At this point, the boy knew it was impossible, but he wanted to show his grandfather that even if he ran as fast as he could, the water would leak out before he got very far. The boy scooped the water and ran hard, but when he reached his grandfather the basket was again empty. Out of breath, he said, “See Grandpa, it’s useless!” “So you think it is useless?”
The old man said, “Look at the basket.” The boy looked at the basket and for the first time he realized that the basket looked different. Instead of a dirty old coal basket, it was clean. “Son, that’s what happens when you read the Bible. You might not understand or remember everything, but when you read it, it will change you from the inside out. That is the work of God in our lives; to change us from the inside out and to slowly transform us into the image of His son.”
Have I committed unpardonable sin or blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
Always take the scriptures in context and keep in mind history. This is called the historical-grammatical method of interpretation.
Matthew 12:31-32 (NKJV)
31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.
32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
Some people can read this and come away with the understanding that they can be damned for any sin against the Spirit of God. Some would say if you call a miracle by the Holy Spirit as a work of Satan then you have committed the unpardonable sin.
These are not entirely true. We need a complete view or history and Scripture to come to a right understanding of the Matt. 12 passages.
Remember that the work of the Holy Spirit is to testify that Jesus is the savior (John 15:26) and convict the world of sin (John 16:8). Blaspheming the Spirit means rejecting His testimony and conviction that Jesus is the savior. If someone rejects Jesus they are rejecting the only way to be saved and for that reason cannot be forgiven (Acts 4:12).
These are Scribes from Jerusalem whose job is to tell Israel if this is the messiah or not (Mark 3:22). As the people looked to them they pronounced that Jesus was not the savior but did the miracle by the work of Satan not the Holy Spirit. Therefore rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit they rejected Jesus as savior. If someone remains in the sin of rejecting Jesus then there is no hope of salvation for them.
Notice in the Matt 12 passages that Jesus did not say that a person could not repent of this sin just that anyone remaining in the sin could not be forgiven. Even after denying Jesus someone could repent and be forgiven. Look at Peter, he confessed Christ (Matt. 16:16) then denied Him three times (Luke 22:56-62). Jesus allowed Peter to repent and return to Him (Luke 22:32; 62).
You never have to worry if you have committed this sin if you believe that Jesus is Lord and died for your sins.
Pastor Scott Thom
Exodus 20:4-6 (NKJV)
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,
6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
It is typically taught from Exodus 20, which is the Ten Commandments. Someone teaches that “the sins of the fathers are visited on the children to the third and fourth generation.” What this is commonly said to mean is that you may have ancestral curses because of the activities of your fathers, your ancestors. Usually, these activities have to do with extreme sin or occult involvement, but it may also be having an abortion. This then results in something bad happening to an individual because of this other person’s sinful activity.
The application of this is that someone is going through something really hard and has a besetting sin or problem that they can’t get rid of, and it is suggested to them that there is a spiritual dynamic that is tied to the teaching of this verse. There is a generational sin and curse that then must be broken. It is qualified that through some spiritual exercise or prayer the person can be free from this curse. Some have gone to great extent, written whole books, on how to unwind this spiritual oppression coming from past generations. They step you through all these little exercises. However they are mistaken.
Let’s look at the Scripture again
Who is doing the visiting?
Let’s break down the scripture to get a proper interpretation. The visiting of the sins of the father on the children, who is the active agent? It is God, right? God is doing the visiting. So, if you have a technique to undo this activity, who are you fighting against? You would be fighting against God.
Visiting the iniquity is not causing a person to sin
Visiting the iniquity cannot mean a curse or sin that is passed down from generation to generation. That would make God the cause of that person’s sin. God does not cause people to sin nor does He tempt them.
James 1:13-14 (NKJV)
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
This could not be a curse on Christians. Look at the qualifier. This punishment is on those who “hate me”. Do Christians fall into the category of people who hate God? No, of course not. Think about it. Would God cause a Christian or even a non-Christian to sin? Would He punish a person for what their parent or grand parent did?
God does not punish children for the sins of the parents
Deuteronomy 24:16 (NKJV)
16 “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.
God addresses this false notion in Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 18:20 (NKJV)
20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
What then does visiting the iniquity mean in this context and the rest of the Bible? It means that God is punishing someone. Who does He punish? He punishes those who hate Him. God punishes those who continually break the second commandment that one should not worship any other god especially an idol.
Remember in context these are the commandments that God is giving to Israel. In context this is a covenant with the Jews.
Therefore God is punishing a nation.
He is not perpetuating a sin from one generation to the next. God even gives them an example in this very book of visiting
Deuteronomy 11:16-17 (NKJV)
16 Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them,
17 lest the Lord’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.
When a nation is punished every living generation is affected from the father to the great grandson.
We have other Scripture confirming our interpretation of this verse. Look at Ex. 32:34.
Exodus 32:34 (NKJV)
34 Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.”
Look at the preceding verse. God does visit punishment on people but for their sin not another’s sin.
Deuteronomy 23:1-8 (NKJV)
1 “He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the Lord.
2 “One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord.
3 “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord forever,
4 because they did not meet you with bread and water on the road when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.
5 Nevertheless the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loves you.
6 You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever.
7 “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land.
8 The children of the third generation born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord.
When God visits the sin it means God will punish not perpetuate a sin on innocent Christians. What does God do to Christians or those who love Him?
He will show lovingkindness to thousands to those who love Him and keep His commandments. He’s emphasizing His longsuffering and His mercy over and against His justice and wrath.
Pastor Scott Thom