This article is part of the Gentle and Lowly: A 14-Day Devotional series.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.—1 John 1:8–2:1
Intercession is something Christ is always doing, while advocacy is something he does as occasion calls for it. He intercedes for us given our general sinfulness, but he advocates for us in the case of specific sins.
Note the personal nature of Christ’s advocacy. It is not a static part of his work. His advocacy rears up when occasion requires it. The Bible nowhere teaches that once we have been savingly united with Christ, we will find grievous sins to be a thing of the past.
On the contrary, it is our regenerate state that has more deeply sensitized us to the impropriety of our sins. Our sins feel far more sinful after we have become believers than before. And it’s not only our felt perception of our sinfulness; we do indeed continue to sin after becoming believers. Sometimes we sin big sins. And that’s what Christ’s advocacy is for.
It’s God’s way of encouraging us not to throw in the towel. Yes, we fail Christ as his disciples. But his advocacy on our behalf rises higher than our sins. His advocacy speaks louder than our failures. All is taken care of.
When you sin, remember your legal standing before God because of the work of Christ; but remember also your advocate before God because of the heart of Christ. He rises up and defends your cause, based on the merits of his own sufferings and death.
Your salvation is not merely a matter of a saving formula, but of a saving person. When you sin, his strength of resolve rises all the higher. When his brothers and sisters fail and stumble, he advocates on their behalf because it is who he is. He cannot bear to leave us alone to fend for ourselves.
Yes, we fail Christ as his disciples. But his advocacy on our behalf rises higher than our sins.
Who is Jesus, in our moments of spiritual blankness? Not: Who is he once you conquer that sin, but who is he in the midst of it? The apostle John says: he stands up and defies all accusers.
Jesus is our Paraclete, our comforting defender, the one nearer than we know, and his heart is such that he stands and speaks in our defense when we sin, not after we get over it. In that sense his advocacy is itself our conquering of it.
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.
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.
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