He’s Been There!

Have you ever wondered if God really hears your prayers, and if he really cares about what you’re going through, or if he even understands what you’re going through?

I’ve been in this place several times in my life, especially when I’ve struggled with particular sins that are especially difficult for me to deal with and remove from my life.  I would get frustrated to the point of wondering these very questions.  I know I’m not alone in this, from conversations I’ve had with just about every brother or sister in Christ that I know.

We spend a lot of time talking about the deity of Christ.  The fact that he is God, equal with the Father and Holy Spirit.  We spend a lot of time reasoning from scripture that Christ is God the Son who wrapped himself in flesh and presented himself as a sacrifice for the Father’s wrath so that we can be reconciled to Him.  We defend it tooth-and-nail, and put our hope of salvation in it.  Christ’s deity is where we draw assurance and confidence when going through life, knowing that we serve the almighty, all-powerful God who is in control of all things.  Paul spent much of his ministry, especially to the Jews in the synagogue, doing the same.  Paul almost always began his ministry in an area with the Jews, reasoning from Old Testament scripture, using facts, about how Christ fulfills the law and that the old covenant was completed with Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  We can read about this all through Acts and the Pauline Epistles.

Understanding the deity of Christ is extremely important for our sanctification and spiritual growth, but sometimes our focus on Christ’s deity can distort our view of him to the point that we think he can’t relate to us mere sinful people.  After all, he’s God, right?  How can he know what we’re going through, and what we suffer with?  Even the things he suffered with probably weren’t as hard on him as it would have been on us because he’s God, right? 

This is why it’s also extremely important we understand that Christ is human, too.  We’ll look at why in a little bit, but first, let’s look at scriptural evidence of Christ’s humanity 

The Gospels, and especially Luke, are great resources about Christ’s humanity.  In Luke chapter 2 we see that Christ was born, like we’re born (his conception was different, but the birth experience was the same).  We also see that he grew physically and mentally from childhood to adulthood, as he increased in wisdom and physical strength, just as we increase in these things as we grow, and see it as we watch our kids and grandkids grow.  Also in Luke we see that Jesus experienced physical weakness and experienced death, just as humans do (Ch 23).

In John we see that Jesus experienced exhaustion after a prolonged physical activity, just like we do (Ch 4).  We also see that Jesus experienced deep emotional feelings, to the point of crying (Ch 11). 

In Matthew we see that Jesus got hungry (Ch 4), he marveled at another man’s faith (Ch 8), and he experienced sorrow (Ch 26).

Going deeper, we see that Jesus not only has the same physical and mental attributes as us, but he also has his own will and desires.  John chapter 6 tells about Jesus saying he’s come, not to do his own will, but the will of the one who sent him.  This tells us that he struggled with choices, just like us.  Matthew chapter 26 also quotes Jesus as saying “Not as I will, but as you will” (ESV), when asking God the Father to let the cup of his wrath pass from him in the garden before being crucified.

Christ was also tempted with all the same temptations that we face today.  This is probably the most crucial point to understand about Christ’s humanity, and this is where His humanity and our humanity part ways.  Christ was tempted in all the same ways that we are, but he never gave in to that temptation, not even once.  His deity did not make these temptations any less appealing than they do to us, nor his struggles any less real, or hard.  Yet he always kept the will of God the Father, perfectly.

Think about this for a minute.  We know what temptation feels like, and how hard it is to resist some temptations to commit sin.  But we have no idea what the full strength of that temptation feels like.  We only know the difficulty of that temptation up to the point that we give in.  Once we give in, we’ve failed to choose God over that sin and are relieved of that weight.  The sin process then starts over again, leaving us feeling shamed and emptied.  Think of it like being hungry.  The longer we wait to eat, the hungrier we get, until we finally get something to eat.  Some of us have gone days without eating.  For those, the weight of hunger got very heavy.  Others can barely go a few hours.  For them, the weight of hunger never gets very heavy.  Jesus never gave in to temptation, so it would be like him never eating, no matter how hungry he got!  In that respect, he’s faced temptation to levels that we couldn’t even dream of, yet he kept the will of God the Father and never gave in.  Christ Jesus is God, but he did not use his deity independently of the Father, so that he could experience all of humanity.  He never forsook his deity, just used it per his father’s will for his mission to save his people.

So why is this important for us to understand?  Well, there’s bad news and good news.

The Bad News:

We have NO EXCUSE for our sin.  Jesus’ example proves that it is not the temptation that causes us to sin.  It’s our own selfish desires that cause us to sin by wanting the temptation more than we want God.  Sin penetrates us to the very core of the systems that determine our thought processes.  In essence, we don’t just sin, we ARE sin.  And God hates sin, and will judge and punish sin severely at some point.   

The Good News:

God is willing to forgive us of our sins because of Christ’s humanity.  Hebrews 2:17 says “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (ESV).  Christ limited his deity, and came to us, so that he could live the perfect life that we can’t live, then take the punishment that we deserve.  All so he can have the right, the justification, to say “I paid their penalty in full, they’re mine”.

Because Christ has experienced everything we have experienced, and has faced every temptation and struggle that we have faced, we can go to him in confidence. Hebrews 2:18 says “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (ESV). 

This is just absolutely amazing and mind-blowing to think about.  I can barely do it without breaking down into tears.  We can literally pour out our heart to him with the issues we are facing.  We can spill our guts about the temptations we are feeling and the sin we are struggling with, and he can, very literally, help us get through those things, because he has experienced those temptations too!  I equate to the difference between going to a counselor versus going to a close friend.  A counselor will listen to your problem and sympathize with you.  They’ll then offer some general solutions or therapies that you can try and will ask you to come back after a time to see if it’s working.  But they will never relate to you on that personal level with what you’re dealing with.  A close friend will take you by the hand, pull you into a warm hug, and say “I know what you’re going through, I’ve been there myself.  You’re not alone in this and I promise I will walk through it with you.  I love you.”  What an amazing claim we can make about the one true God, our God!

So as you go through the struggles and trials that are promised to you as a Christian, and as you continue to struggle with sin, trying not to give in because you love Christ, yet falling hopelessly short minute after minute, remember Hebrews 4:14-16.  “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (ESV).

He’s been there!