When I was a kid, the climax of my week was Saturday mornings. I’ve always been an early riser, and my parents liked to sleep in on Saturday mornings. I can remember waking up early on Saturday mornings and finding the Pop-Tart my mom had left for me on the kitchen table, the juice in the fridge and the channel set to the right station for cartoons. Now, unfortunately, my three kids don’t have a clue about the “real” cartoons that I and many of you grew up on.
There is a familiar scene in many of the cartoons that we watched growing up. The main character had a moral decision to make and was torn between choosing between good and bad. While he was debating the right thing to do, a little red devil would pop up on one shoulder trying to convince him to choose the bad while a little angel would pop up on the other shoulder trying to convince him to choose the good.
Now, we know that’s silly, but the reality is that, as men, we have two voices constantly waging war within us. Those two voices, as I’ll call them, are “the Accuser” and “the Advocate.” The Accuser is constantly speaking doubt, fear and reminders of our failures and shortcomings. The Accuser’s voice roars loudly to tell us that because of our past, our inconsistencies and our weaknesses, we can’t be the husband, father or leader God expects us to be. The Accuser’s voice resounds in our heads because we know our sin and the things no one else knows about us, and he is good at reminding us of that. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:18-24 (ESV):
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am!”
Now, I believe we need to constantly hold before ourselves the truth that we cannot live a life of faithfulness and obedience to God in our own strength. We are prone to sin because of our sin nature. But the Accuser wants to hold before us the lie that God is done with us – that there’s no use in trying because we’re just going to fail again and again. He wants us to believe that there’s a limit to God’s grace and patience with us. The Accuser wants us to stop with Romans 7:24: “Wretched man that I am!”
And that’s when we need – and receive – the voice of the Advocate. You see, the good news is that the Advocate speaks a more powerful and authoritative word than the Accuser. The Advocate, Jesus, stands eternally before the throne of the Father pleading His blood on our behalf every second of the day. The Advocate’s voice keeps us reading past Romans 7 and into Romans 8.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4, ESV)
Romans 8:1 contains, I believe, the most powerful words of the Gospel: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If you have been united to Christ by grace through faith, you have no fear of condemnation. His blood speaks a better word. Our sin deserves judgment, but Christ’s blood gives us mercy. Only through Jesus can we be the men God has saved us to be. The Accuser has no power over you. Let the Advocate remind you of this truth: Whom the Son sets free is free indeed!
Daniel Atkins is an Alabama native and is senior pastor at Taylor Road Baptist Church in Montgomery. He and his wife, Kristy, have three children.