by Mike Ratliff

7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.” (Psalm 95:7-11 ESV)

Preaching or teaching from God’s Word is nothing to trifle with. The responsibility that goes with each is eternal. Those who minister through the Word will be held accountable. We must ask each time we preach or teach, “Did I treat what is Holy as it deserved? Have I fallen into doing my ministry perfunctorily?” Those of us who teach must never do so in way that is in any way motivated by anything other than our love and devotion for our Lord. Yes, there will be circumstances that we respond to and use as inspiration or input, but, even in that, we do a tremendous disservice to our Lord if we don’t go to Him in prayer first before we respond, write, preach, or teach. While the leader has a huge responsibility to minister by the Spirit, those who hear the truth from God’s Word will also be held accountable.

Hebrews 4:11-13 is an exposition of Psalm 95:7-11, which I placed at the top of this post. The writer of Hebrews, in these 3 verses, emphasizes the accountability which comes to those who have heard the Word of God.

11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:11-13 ESV)

The books of the Old Testament are replete with examples of those who heard the truth from God and obeyed it while others, who heard the truth as well, did not obey it. The Israelites who refused to obey God in the wilderness were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. They did not enter into God’s rest because of their disobedience. The writer of Hebrews brings these truths and warnings to the Church. He lays it out there in plain language. We must not do as those who came before that did not obey the Word of God. The Word of God must be believed and obeyed and it will also judge the disobedient. (1 Corinthians 10:5-13)

While the Word of God is a comfort and a nourishment to those who believe, it becomes a tool of judgment and execution for those who have not committed themselves to Jesus Christ. What does it mean to commit to Jesus Christ. Christians love their Lord and Saviour. However, they are also to love and obey His Word. There are many these days who claim to be Christians who love Jesus. They even claim to love His Word. However, they also see no reason to obey it. In fact, they will become enraged with those who teach otherwise. They claim that preaching obedience is causing disunity in the Body of Christ. In their arguments, they claim that the need for unity far outweighs the need for obedience to God’s Word. This is a lie and a teaching from the pit of Hell. Unity at the cost of the compromise of the truth of God’s Word is something we must fight, resist, rebuke, and curse.

In v12 above we see that the Word of God is living and active. It is God’s Word that has been Spirit breathed to those who wrote it down. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. It cuts right through our fleshly arguments, our false assumptions, and our deeply hidden secrets. God uses it to discern the very thoughts and intentions of our hearts. When we tell the truth to those who refuse to obey it, they are actually building up wrath against their rebellion. When they are judged, these acts of rebellion will be used against them. This is why we must rebuke them via the Word of God, not our emotions, not our intellect, not our learning. Instead, we must exegetically show the truth to them. If they repent then praise God! If they don’t then they are actually building the case against themselves in God’s court. They have become accountable to the truth they have heard. When we obey God it is costly to those who observe us or hear us or read what we have written. Why? God’s truth always forces a decision on our part. Either we believe and obey or we disbelieve and disobey. Fortunately, God is gracious.

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32 ESV)

The words of our Lord are all centered around this point of contention. Either we believe and obey or we don’t. Those who believe and obey are those who are on the narrow way that leads to life. Those who refuse to obey are those on the way to destruction. Obedience is a key marker of a regenerate heart. If a Christian teacher or preacher or writer says otherwise then we must rebuke them. They are deceivers. This passage from Matthew tells us that many are religious believers, but they don’t really believe because they don’t obey despite that they look real. Then there are those who hear, but don’t obey because they are in their sins. However they repent and obey later. That would be those who God found and called from their sin. They may not be anyone the Christian elite would have anything to do with, but God has drawn them from darkness into light, therefore they love and obey their Lord.

What will it be then? You have heard the truth from God’s Word. You are accountable to that truth. I don’t care what “Christian” writer, preacher, or leader has told you that obedience to God’s Word is not required. They will be held accountable for their own disobedience. You, however, have a choice. God is telling you that you must repent, turn from your rebellion, draw near unto Him, seek His face, and come into the light as He cleanses you of your uncleanness, which is your rebellion. What will it be then?

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6 thoughts on “Accountability

  1. Mike,

    Your post really stirred up some old memories for me. One in particular brought back the reaffirmation of our dependence upon the Holy Spirit. Back in the mid 80’s my oldest daughter was in the fifth grade. She had always been an A&B student. All of a sudden her grades began to plummet. I assessed the situation as being some rebellion in her heart and proceeded to deal with it according to the Word of God. Discipline included the rod but was only a part of my attempt to deal with her attitude. However, things only worsened including classroom behavior. Two days before a big test I worked with my daughter and grilled her on what she needed to know to make at least a B. She knew the material cold and I was sure she would do well. My wife called the afternoon of the test after picking up our daughter from school. I was stunned when she told me that Fran had failed her test. In anger I told my wife to tell Fran I would deal with her when I got home from work. I was angry but at a loss as to how she could have failed that test especially after all the discipline I had been administering to her. All of a sudden the Lord clearly and firmly spoke these words in my spirit, “Well, Loddie, are you now ready to do it my way.” I was shocked and replied “but I thought I was doing it your way.” So then I decided to quote the Lord’s word back to Him. I said, “Does not your word say if you spare the rod you hate your son, does it not say foolishness is in the heart of a child but the rod of correction will drive it far from them and to not withhold the rod of correction from a child for they will not die.” It was then the Lord interrupted and said, “No Loddie, what you are doing is using my word devoid of my Spirit, and when you do that you administer death and not life. For my word does say the letter of the law kills but the Spirit gives life. What you have been doing with Fran is making performance the basis of your acceptance. AND THAT IS NEVER MY WAY!” All of a sudden it was like scales fell off my eyes and I clearly saw what the Lord was telling me. My actions and words to my daughter were in fact making it seem like my acceptance of her was based on her performing at a high level in school. I knew I had to correct that right away. When I got home my wife said Fran was in our bedroom waiting on me. I walked into the bedroom and there was my little girl sitting on the edge of the bed, bent over and looking down at the floor with tears rolling down her cheeks. It is hard to describe the pain that shot through my heart when I saw her. I felt so ashamed for what I had done to bring her to this fearful and condemned state. I walked over and sat down beside her and put my arm around her. I told that the Lord had revealed to me that the problem at school was not with her but with me. She was my daughter and for that reason alone she was loved and accepted. We both set there for awhile embracing one another and sharing what was on our hearts. Condemnation never improves a soul but love and acceptance surely will. By the end of the semester her grades were back up to Bs and As. When Paul told the Corinthians that he was with them in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling, I thought he was referring to his speaking before them such as stage fright. But now I think he was referring to bringing them the word of God devoid of God’s Spirit which would only end up administering death and not life. Paul greatly feared misusing the Word of God. God’s Word is powerful and we should not be to quick or glib in our use of it but be totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Those who are called to administer the word of God, to be His voice today, like you Mike, must always be listening to the Holy Spirit. May your spiritual ears be ever attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit so that you administer life and not death.



  2. Loddie,

    Thanks for sharing that. When I was young I went through something very similar to your daughter. My dad acted pretty much you did initially. It didn’t work for me either except that I tried to do better out of fear. It put a wedge between us that, in many ways, is still there. I am much closer to my mother than my dad. I am sure he regrets all of that now and I don’t hold anything against him because I have forgiven him, but we are not that close. I never treated my children like that so I suppose, in a way, it did produce something good in that. My children are grown and are both doing great and I am very close with both of them. When we love others with God’s love it is amazing how that obedience in us flows into them and they also become obedient. However, when we are forceful and blunt we do not get that response.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  3. Mike, this is another excellent post. You have brought a bold voice with gentleness to CRN (that is how I got here).Thank you for continuing to be submissive to our Lord and Savior through your writing. There is much to think about when I read your posts and I am especially thankful for your referencing of Scriptures to back up your statements.
    To me, obedience is one of the main fruits of regeneration.


  4. Thank you Faye. God always seems to send encouragers to me at just the right time. Thank you for being available and usable for God’s purposes.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


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