Gregory E. Reynolds
You need a lawyer! "How can that be?" you ask. "I haven't committed a crime. I haven't been contacted by the IRS or been sued by anyone. And you don't even know me. What do you mean, I need a lawyer?"
Well, of course, people need lawyers for many reasons. Sometimes lawyers are needed to write a will or to help with a real estate transaction. In other cases, they may be needed to defend a person against an unjust accusation. And, of course, a person may actually be guilty of a crime and need a lawyer to help him through the legal system. In an imperfect world, where justice is not always done, skillful lawyers can sometimes get a guilty person acquitted.
But I want to warn you that the ultimate reason you need a lawyer is that you are guilty of things for which you will be indicted, though not by the human justice system. And there is no possibility that you will be acquittedunless, that is, you engage the lawyer that I am about to recommend to you. And he will not subvert justice in order to defend you. No other lawyer in the universe can defend you against these charges.
"What charges?" you ask. The Bible, God's infallible word, teaches that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). "There is none who does good, not even one" (Ps. 14:3). In case you do not believe in God and do not think that the Bible is his word, listen to what he says: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God' " (Ps. 14:1). The whole creation, including your own existence, reveals that the God of the Bible is the true and living God. "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made" (Rom. 1:19-20). If you look at yourself closely, you will have to admit that you have spent your whole life suppressing this truth, because you know that it condemns you.
God's law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, teaches that "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength," and "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30-31). Furthermore, you have an innate sense of right and wrong, because you are made in God's image. Romans 2:15 teaches that your conscience carries on a running debate about whether what you are doing, or not doing, is right or wrong. There is no escaping this.
Meanwhile, "man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). God, through his word, is "discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 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" (Heb. 4:12-13). So none of the pride, lust, or hatred in your heart escapes God's notice. He knows you inside and out. He is aware of every one of your selfish thoughts, words, and deeds. You cannot do enough good to make up for your guilt. And even the good that you do is not done out of love for God. God's law is the standard of love and righteousness. It was given so that "every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God" (Rom. 3:19). And on the Day of Judgment, "when ... God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus" (Rom. 2:16), you will not have any excuses, because you know what God expects and you have refused to obey him.
But because God is perfectly loving in his awesome holiness, he has not abandoned humanity in this desperate situation. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). The Bible teaches that God the Father has provided a lawyer for all who turn from their sin, confess their guilt, and beg for mercy. In 1 John 2:1-2 we are told: "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins."
The word "advocate" in this passage means "pleader" or "counselor." Each of these words is a synonym for lawyer. What makes Jesus Christ a unique lawyer is that he himself, as our "propitiation," has actually paid the penalty for the crimes of each of his clients. Indeed, the Judge appointed him to do this in order to maintain the demands of divine justice. Not even a righteous lawyer would do this for a client. What a magnificent display of God's love! The eternal Son took to himself a complete human nature, yet without sin, and came into this world to live a perfect life of love and truth, and he died to satisfy the justice of God. It is mind-boggling, but true.
Will you be a fool and try to defend yourself before Almighty God on the Day of Judgment, or will you accept the Advocate that God has appointed to plead the cause of sinners? No other advocate will be sufficient on that dreadful day. You can obtain the services of this wonderful advocate today, without cost to you (!), by turning from your sins, confessing them honestly to God, and putting your trust in Jesus Christ.
Simply pray, "Lord, I am a sinner. I need an advocate. Please, forgive me for my sins, change my heart, and be my Lord and Savior."
If this is your prayer and you mean it, then you have been forgiven and you have become a follower of Jesus Christ. This means that you need to associate with his other followers in his church, where his infallible word, the Bible, is faithfully preached and practiced. Jesus says, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matt. 16:24).
The author is pastor of Amoskeag Presbyterian Church in Manchester, N.H. He quotes the ESV. Reprinted from New Horizons, February 2004.