Sin can be incredibly isolating. Sometimes we feel like no one else could possibly understand the pain and struggle that certain temptations inflict on our souls. When we find ourselves drowning in the depths of our depravity we can feel alone, isolated, and uniquely depraved. Depraved in ways no one else has ever been. I remember those feelings. Thinking I’m the only one. No one else understands, no one else could possibly understand.
I was a teen, and the issue was lust. Big surprise right? A young, hormonally imbalanced mind being filled with sexual desire, and illicit fantasy. Today I look back and almost laugh when I consider how alone and isolated I felt in the struggle. I laugh now, because I know every young man struggles with the same things. Yet, I wasn’t laughing then. I was drowning in guilt, shame, and embarrassment. I wasn’t even actively fornicating, but my mind and body were finding other avenues for release. I felt alone. Praise God I was in a good Church, and a good youth group, surrounded by good Christian friends who showed me I could be honest and open without fear of shame. An openness that brought relief, because I quickly discovered I wasn’t alone in this. Whatever sins I struggled with were in fact, “common to man.” (1 Cor. 10:13).
As thankful as I was in discovering that others could relate. There was one person, a man who could relate to my struggle with temptation better than anyone else I knew. Not only that, he faced and battled temptations my flesh had never considered, things that seem appalling to me, yet he faced them, was barraged with them, and by God’s power came through all of them without ever once giving in. That man I came to know quite well, and he’s still the one I rely on the most. He’s the first one I can always turn to for help, comfort, strength and understanding. He, of course, is Jesus.
It’s natural for us to think, “since Christ was divine, sure, his wilderness temptation must have been a pain, and other things he faced might have been annoying, but come on! It couldn’t have been that bad. He is God after all.” The more theologically astute Christian might even turn to James 1:13, “…God cannot be tempted by evil.” And from that deduce that whatever Christ faced, it couldn’t compare to what we face. It had to be easier. Yet, the author of Hebrews goes to great lengths to give us a different perspective of our Lord. A beautiful glimpse into how much Christ had to face in order to relate to us as a fellow flesh and blood person.
The author of Hebrews says this about Christ, “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God… For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” (Heb. 2:17a-18 NASB)
Notice what he emphasizes about Christ:
Had to be made like his brethren (like a normal human being)
Merciful and faithful High Priest (not condemning, flippant or untrustworthy)
Tempted in that which he suffered (Note the translations)
“since he himself suffered when he was tempted” (NET)
“He Himself [in His humanity] has suffered in being tempted” (AMP)
“he himself has suffered when tempted” (ESV)
“he himself suffered when he was tempted” (NIV)
His temptations were not some easy task to overcome, but they actually caused Him suffering as he fought against them. Suffering that any of us when tempted can relate to.
He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted (He endured this, so that, by relating to us in our sins he could come and assist us in our sufferings under temptation)
What kind of temptations did Christ endure? Let’s let the author of Hebrews explain: “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) Notice the underlined portion? Tempted in all things as we are. As a good pastor let me emphasize, all means all! Not some temptations. All temptations. Not different than how we are tempted, but in all things as we are. This is where I could start rattling off a list of sins that would quickly offend you. Somethings you’d be ashamed to even think about being tempted by. Things you would be afraid to utter might have tempted Christ. Yet, if the scriptures are true, and I believe they are, then yes that would even include “those” sins.
The important thing to note is not the extent of the temptations, but that in light of everything He faced, it was all, “without sin.” Though the sirens call of temptation played loudly in his ears, bringing great distress and suffering to His soul, he never once sinned. Period. Not once. One might now object, “but if Christ never sinned, could his temptations have really been as bad as mine? A man who is prone to sin. I don’t see how he could really relate to my struggle then.” C.S. Lewis does a masterful job answering that objection:
“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is… A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in… Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means-the only complete realist.” – C.S. Lewis
So, if Christ is the only man who knows fullest the incredible weight of temptation, without ever sinning, what should that encourage us to do? The author of Hebrews says, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16). We should go to him for help! One of the greatest lies of the enemy is that if I bare all my sin and temptations before Christ he’ll reject me. He’ll be sickened by me. He’ll condemn me. Some of us may have these ideas, because that’s how we’ve been treated in the past by other Christians. Yet, Christ will never do that. He won’t be disgusted by us and our temptations. Instead, He’ll show us mercy. He won’t cast us out to battle sin on our own. Instead, He’ll give us grace to help in our time of need.
As a young man, this truth was like a life raft in a storm of temptation. The waves broke against me, but as long as I clung tight, my little vessel never sank. As an older, more seasoned Christian, I’ve never gotten past this incredible grace. Even in the darkest nights of my soul, and the deepest most depraved thoughts my flesh could ever imagine, I have hope knowing that Christ endured what I’m going through and more. He’ll always give me every bit of grace I need to endure and come out on the other side. Victorious against sin, as He was. This is just as true for me, as it is for you.