I was 16 years old and given the keys to drive our brand new 1987 Ford, Fox-Body Mustang…what could go wrong? This little car was just sporty enough, with just enough pep to make me want to show it off. Somehow, soon after receiving my driver’s license, I convinced my parents to let me drive myself to high school with the prospect of giving a few of my classmates a ride home. On that fateful day, at the end of school, several of us loaded into the Stang, parked in a neighborhood where the other kids without a parking pass parked, and we prepared for takeoff.
I say, “takeoff” because that is exactly what I did. Quoting one of the teenagers in the backseat, “So, what can this thing do?” gives sure context for where my headspace was at the time. I quick-shifted into gear and in a few seconds reached a whopping 42 miles per hour… in a 25 mile per hour zone. Without fully registering what was happening, a loud “bloop” from a siren with blue lights brought me to a full stop. Moments later I was being peered down upon by an appropriately stern-faced police officer. To say the least, I was totally busted and correctly cited for reckless driving.
After the shock began to wear off from this life-event, along with my painful admission to my parents for what I had done, I still had something else to face. The dreadful prospect of appearing in court. I can clearly remember standing nervously in the crowded lobby amongst 20 or 30 other teenagers who had been ticketed that same day, doubtless for committing the same violation. Scanning the room, I recognized a few from my high school, all with eyes lowered, like me, embarrassed with downcast expressions, next to their parent.
Finally, when I was summoned inside the courtroom, my heart rate began to rise and my previous state of mind that had left was returning. I found my way to the desk where I was designated to stand before the judge. The gravity of this moment made the judge, in fact, the only person my eyes could focus on, him seated high up on his bench. As he spoke, the shock that had worn off was again, in full force. Throat dry, I looked up and suddenly the judge had grown in black robed stature by ten feet. To say the least, I felt small. Looking down into my face he asked a simple question: “So, do you have anything to say for yourself?” In response, I stumbled for the words to make my defense saying, “I didn’t realize how fast I was going and what the speed limit actually was…” Both statements were true, but I was unconvincing and saying what I said caused me to feel even more guilty for what I had done.
My case was weak, and I assumed I was going down, set to receive the full penalty. Then in the brief pause between what I said and what the judge was about to say, someone stepped in. My dad. He had made a plan to take on the role of advocate on my behalf. Dressed in his business suit with leather briefcase in hand, he spoke respectfully and pulled out a record to show he had had our car’s speedometer tested by a mechanic, registering that the calibration was off by a few miles per hour. This was a negligible amount, but at least proved some due diligence had been done on our part. However, his next statement is what made the difference. He said, “My son has been put on restriction from use of the car for what he has done, and he is being punished at home.” I presume it was not what my exact punishment was that affected the judge as much as the fact that action had been taken by my father. The judge knew, we understood the significance of this moment. What I remember is that my dad, as my advocate, put himself out there on my behalf to lesson my charge. All of this must have moved the judge because my violation was significantly reduced, classified as non-reckless and probably marked down under faulty equipment.
I am sharing this personal story considering a far greater courtroom to which we will all one day be summoned. The courtroom of heaven where all our sins committed against the God of the universe will be adjudicated. Like my experience as a teenager, the outcome in heaven’s courtroom will come down to this one question: Do you have an advocate? 1 John 2:1 is the quintessential New Testament passage on Christ being the believer’s advocate.
ESV 1 John 2:1 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.
The Apostle John, in his later years sent a letter of encouragement to small churches spread throughout Asia Minor. 1 John, though written to encourage, is likewise cautionary in nature meant to warn young believers from slipping into lifestyles of unrepentant sin. In fact, this letter can be read as one big preventative message to keep people from losing their assurance of salvation. Put more positively, John wants these young believers to have and keep the assurance of their salvation (cf. 1 John 5:13 “…that you may know you have eternal life.”).
Nothing undermines someone’s assurance of salvation more than guilt caused from sin left undealt with in a person’s life. This is why John says, “…if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father…” (1 John. 2:1). John is writing this with empathy as he first says, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin…” and then follows with, “…But if anyone does sin…” (1 Jn. 2:1) meaning he knows Christians will inevitably fall into sin and will need to know how to deal with it before God. John is teaching a path for dealing with personal guilt and an answer for who to lean on, knowing God will hold you accountable for your sin. He is teaching how to stand before God who is our Judge, when we know we are busted! Simply put, John exhorts Christians to remember you have, “an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn. 1:2).
The Greek word for advocate is “paraclete” - a word defined as comforter but more accurately as “someone called alongside” to help. An advocate is someone standing beside you in the courtroom when you are at your lowest moment, feeling your deepest guilt for the sins you cannot get rid of. Not to mention the dread of the consequences you know you deserve.
Back to the courtroom. Just as God’s gavel of guilt pounds on his bench, your advocate, Jesus, steps in on your behalf and says, “Not him, Me!” Jesus Christ steps in front of you to absorb the full pain and penalty of your sin. The crosshairs God had trained on you were in an instant diverted to His Son because 2,000 years before, on a Cross, He paid the full penalty you owed for your sin. He and He alone was righteous to make this immeasurable payment on your behalf. You have been forgiven if you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior. What He did for you in the past assures you are forgiven today and for all eternity. Call to mind today that the Lord Jesus is standing by your side and that “You are declared, not guilty!” Jesus being our advocate is such an inestimable comfort and when you come to appreciate fully His role in your life, you will begin to live in new levels of joy and freedom from your sin (see Zechariah 3:5 “…and the angel of the LORD [Jesus] was standing by”).