Here’s another wonderful excerpt from Dane Ortlund’s book Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, this one focusing on Jesus as our advocate. “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). How does it make you feel to know that Jesus is your advocate, your defense attorney? Can you imagine Jesus standing between you and your accuser, Satan (see Revelation 12:10)? Furthermore, your all-knowing and absolutely just advocate, who has seen you at your worst and still loved you enough to die for you, argues your case before a Judge who is His loving Father…and yours! The thought makes me smile, rejoice, and praise God.
We are indeed called to forsake our sins, and no healthy Christian would suggest otherwise. When we choose to sin, we forsake our true identity as a child of God, we invite misery into our lives, and we displease our heavenly Father. We are called to mature into deeper levels of personal holiness as we walk with the Lord, truer consecration, new vistas of obedience. But when we don’t—when we choose to sin—though we forsake our true identity, our Savior does not forsake us. These are the very moments when his heart erupts on our behalf in renewed advocacy in heaven with a resounding defense that silences all accusations, astonishes the angels, and celebrates the Father’s embrace of us in spite of all our messiness.
What kind of Christians does this doctrine create?
Fallen humans are natural self-advocates. It flows out of us. Self-exonerating, self-defending. We do not need to teach young children to make excuses when they are caught misbehaving. There is a natural built-in mechanism that immediately kicks into gear to explain why it wasn’t really their fault. Our fallen hearts intuitively manufacture reasons that our case is not really that bad. The fall manifested not only in our sinning but in our response to our sinning. We minimize, we excuse, we explain away. In short, we speak, even if only in our hearts, in our defense. We advocate for ourselves.
What if we never needed to advocate for ourselves because another had undertaken to do so? What if that advocate knew exhaustively just how fallen we are, and yet at the same time was able to make a better defense for us than we ever could? No blame shifting or excuses, the way our self-advocacies tend to operate, but perfectly just, pointing to his all-sufficient sacrifice and suffering on the cross in our place? We would be free. Free of the need to defend ourselves, to bolster our sense of worth through self-contribution, to quietly parade before others our virtues in painful subconscious awareness of our inferiorities and weaknesses. We can leave our case to be made by Christ, the only righteous one.
Bunyan puts it best:
Christ gave for us the price of blood; but that is not all; Christ as a Captain has conquered death and the grave for us, but that is not all; Christ as a Priest intercedes for us in heave; but that is not all. Sin is still in us, and with us, and mixes itself with whatever we do, whether what we do be religious or civil; for not only our prayers and our sermons, our hearings and preaching; but our houses, our shops, our trades, and our beds, are all polluted with sin.
Nor does the devil, our night and day adversary, forbear to tell our bad deeds to our Father, urging that we might be forever be disinherited for this.
But what should we now do, if we had not an Advocate; yes, if we had not one who would plead; yes, if we had not one that could prevail, and that would faithfully execute that office for us? Why, we must die.
But since we are rescued by him, let us, as to ourselves, lay out hand upon our mouth, and be silent.
Do not minimize your sin or excuse it away. Raise no defense. Simply take it to the one who is already at the right hand of the Father, advocating for you on the basis of his own wounds. Let your own unrighteousness, in all your darkness and despair, drive you to Jesus Christ, the righteous, in all his brightness and sufficiency.