In a church, the sign that the wall of superficiality has been broken to pieces is when fellow Christians come together in humble confession (a goal that may take several years in some churches). Once the wall is broken down, another danger takes its place – the tendency to be blinded by personal sin.
Once we honestly look at our own hearts, we can quickly become overwhelmed in the dark cloud of our own remaining sin. The flesh and the spirit war on.
For some reason we naturally think that — while we are saved through no merits of our own — God’s acceptance of us as Christians is dependent upon our successes. And so under this legalism, the condemnation of our accuser and our own hearts becomes crippling.
In our repentance, Puritan Stephen Charnock reminds us to look beyond our sin to our Advocate in heaven (1 John 2:1). While we hate personal sin, and long for the moment we look Christ in the eye (1 John 3:2), “let us not be so dejected by them [sins], as cheered by the advocacy of our Savior.”
“Hence arises comfort against
all the attempts and accusations of Satan
and the Rebellion of our own corruptions.
He [Christ] foresees all the ambushes of Satan,
searches into his intention,
understands his strategies,
and is as ready to speak to the Father for us,
as He was to turn back and look Peter into a recovery at the crowing of the cock.
The Devil accuses us when we fall,
but he has not so much on his side as we have.
All his strength lies in our sinful acts,
but the strength of our Advocate lies in His own infinite merit.
Satan has no merit of his own to enter as plea for vengeance.
When he pleads against us with our sins,
Christ pleads for us by His sufferings,
and if our adversary never ceases to accuse us,
our Advocate never ceases to defend us.
How comfortable it is to have One,
day and night,
before the throne to
control the charge of our enemy,
and the despondencies of our souls,
that Satan can no sooner open his mouth,
but He has one to stop and rebuke him,
Who has more favor in the Court than that malicious spirit,
and employs all His life and glory for our spiritual advantage,
Who will not upon such occasions want [lack] a good word for us!
And as to our corruptions,
He is in Heaven to make up all breaches.
His blood has the same design in His plea,
that it had in the sacrifice,
which was to purify us (Titus 2:4).
The difficulty of the cause does not discourage Him,
but honors both His skill in bringing us off,
and the merit of His blood which is the cause of our restoration.
Upon every occasion He steps in
to plead with the holiness of God
and pacify the justice of God
for our greater as well as lighter crimes.
While therefore we feelingly groan under our spiritual burdens,
let us not be so dejected by them,
as cheered by the advocacy of our Savior.”
– Stephen Charnock
A Discourse of Christ’s Intercession
Works of Stephen Charnock [1684 ed.] pp. 2:1152-1153
It’s in this fog of self-condemnation that we help our brothers and sisters press closer to the Cross, and be “cheered by the advocacy of our Savior.”