Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Craig Gross' book, Open: What Happens When You Get Real, Get Honest, and Get Accountable (Thomas Nelson, 2013).

Everyone struggles with sin in this fallen world – from gossiping about others or spending money irresponsibly to addictive behavior with pornography or alcohol. No matter what type of sins you struggle with, however, you don’t have to let those sins control your life.

Our society is full of people who try to cover up their sins and spend valuable time and energy worrying about what will happen when the truth about their behavior eventually comes to light. That’s an exhausting and destructive way to live. God offers a much better way to deal with sin: accountability.

When you live an open life before God and a few other Christians whom you trust, you can enjoy freedom from sin’s power over you and the confidence that you’re growing more powerful over sin. Here’s how you can pursue accountability:

Approach accountability from an accurate perspective. Accountability shouldn’t be harsh, with people admonishing you to follow rules and judging you when you fall short of their expectations. Instead, accountability involves deep relationships with people who care about you and will encourage and challenge you in ways that lead you to God’s best for your life. Also, accountability shouldn’t involve broadcasting your private information to the whole world. Instead, accountability involves simply opening up with a few people you know, love, and trust who want the best for you and will treat the information you share with respect and grace.

Understand why accountability is necessary and important. Keep in mind that participating in an accountability group gives you valuable opportunities to explore your personal issues and grow as a person in a safe and supportive atmosphere. It also gives you the benefit of deep relationships with others, which will motivate you to make good choices when facing temptations to sin.

Find a few good accountability partners. Pray for the wisdom to know who you should choose to assemble for a team of accountability partners in which you’ll participate. Choose a few people of your same gender whom you know well and can trust. Make sure that these people won’t just be “yes” men and women who will only tell you what you want to hear; instead, include people who have the courage to confront you about sin and the insight to present you with fresh perspectives on the issues you’re dealing with in life. Close friends are likely to work best as accountability partners, but some family members (such as your spouse or a sibling) could possibly work, as well.

Plan how to meet together. Schedule an accountability group meeting every week for at least a half hour at a specific place (or via conference call, if you can’t all meet in person) to discuss what’s really going on in each of your lives and help hold each other accountable to deal with sin and keep growing closer to God. Set a format for each meeting that includes just a small amount of time for chatting and focuses mostly on asking each other questions about your lives, listening, discussing, and praying. In between meetings, nurture your friendships with each other in less formal ways, such as by eating meals together or joining each other for fun outings.

Ask each other helpful questions. Some questions you may choose to ask each other during weekly meetings include: “How was your week?” “Did the things you said and did this week make your life better? Did they represent you well to the rest of the world?” “How have you treated those who are important to you this week? Did you honor them and treat them with grace and generosity?” “Did you use any of your words as weapons this week, either to someone’s face or behind their backs?” “What about anger? Are you angry or resentful toward someone? Are you holding on to that anger or letting it go?” What about your stuff? Have you been trustworthy with your money and belongings this week?” “Have you indulged in lusts or anything of a sexual nature, whether physically or mentally?” “Have you caved into any of your addictions or weaknesses this week?” “Were you honest and truthful in all you did?” “Did you take at least one full day off from work this week?” “Have you encountered any new triggers to sin, and if so, how you can you avoid them next time?” “What lies have you told  someone in the past week?” “What secret are you keeping from someone else or the group?” “How are you feeling emotionally right now?”,and “Did you lie to me in your answers to any of these questions?”

Be completely honest with each other. Partial honesty isn’t enough; only 100 percent honesty will do. Keep in mind that, if you can’t be completely honest with your accountability partners, then who can you be honest with? Also, if you aren’t being honest with your accountability group, are you really being honest with yourself?

Listen carefully to each other. When others in your group are sharing their thoughts and feelings, give them your full attention, listening carefully to them. Afterward, don’t judge or criticize them, but instead challenge them – with love and respect – to put their faith into action to deal with the issues they’ve shared. Let them know that they can count on your support as they try to grow in those areas.

Keep information confidential. Protect the privacy of the people in your group who share sensitive information with you by keeping it absolutely confidential. Ask God to help you make sure that you keep your promises not to reveal private information to people outside your accountability group. Remember that even one breach of confidentiality can break the crucial bonds of trust between you that are necessary for your accountability group to function.

Courageously consider the reasons why you’re struggling with various issues. Ask God to give you the courage to investigate why you’re driven to act in certain ways that trouble you, and to figure out how to pursue healing and make better choices moving forward.

Motivate and help each other achieve goals. Encourage and support each other to set and take specific steps to reach specific goals – from losing a certain amount of weight to overcoming an addiction to pornography. Use the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in your group to complement each other as you spur each other on to live better lives. Learn from mistakes and celebrate successes together.

Adapted from Open: What Happens When You Get Real, Get Honest, and Get Accountable, copyright 2013 by Craig William Gross. Published by Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.      

Craig Gross is an author, speaker, pastor, and revolutionary. He shot to prominence in 2002 when he founded the website www.XXXchurch.com. Craig is the author of nine books. He currently resides in Los Angeles, Ca., with his wife, Jeanette, and their two children, Nolan and Elise.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.

Publication date: September 30, 2013