What is the biggest problem that we face? The biggest problem that a person seeking after godliness is concerned about is overcoming the temptation to sin.
In Hebrews 4:15, we read that Jesus “was tempted in all points exactly as we are.” That is why He can sympathise with us. He felt the pull of every temptation, in exactly the same way as we feel it. Otherwise it would not be written here that He was tempted “as we are, in every point”. When Satan tempted Him He felt the pull of temptation, but He said, “No.” If He didn’t feel that pull, it would not have been a temptation. Temptation is like a tug-of-war. Two teams hold the rope and pull against each other. When you are trying to hold on to a holy life, you feel a pull in the other direction. That is temptation. If nobody is pulling the rope on the other side, there is no tug-of-war. If Jesus did not feel any pull, then we will have to say that He was not tempted like us. Then we will have to say the Bible is telling lies when it says in Matthew 4:1–10 that the devil tempted Him and when it says in Hebrews 4:15, that He was tempted in all points just as we are.
The word “temptation” in the Bible always refers to the temptation to commit sin. Normal desires like the desire to sleep when we are tired, are not temptation. That is not the meaning here when it says that Jesus was tempted like us. He was tempted like we are, to sin – and He did not sin. Is He an Example in that area for us? He certainly is. We see in Hebrews 2:17 that He was made like us in all things. He was not like an angel with wings trying to teach us to swim. No. He came to earth without His “wings” so that He could teach us to swim. When Jesus walked on the water, He overcame the law of gravity. If an angel had skimmed over the water, that would not have been a miracle. But this was a miracle because Jesus overcame gravity. When He told Peter that he could also walk on the water, He was actually telling him that he could do the same as Jesus did, if he trusted Him. Our Father in heaven is not partial to His eldest Son, Jesus. What He did for Jesus, He will do for us too, if we trust Him.
Jesus was tempted in all points as we are but He did not sin. And in this He is our Example. Whenever we are tempted we can tell the Lord, “Lord, at some time in Your earthly life in Nazareth You too were tempted as I am being tempted now. Help me to react exactly as You did then.” Are you being tempted to be discouraged or to react in sinful anger? Jesus too was tempted in those areas. But He did not sin. So you can look at His example and say, “Lord, I want to follow You.” He lived like that through the power of the Holy Spirit. So we too must seek for the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to live like Him. And that is why it says in Hebrews 4:16, “Therefore let us (also) go to the throne of grace…”. The word “Therefore…” refers to the previous verse about Jesus being tempted like us and not sinning. Therefore, we can also go to the throne of grace as He went in His earthly days and receive the same grace that can enable us also to overcome sin.
Hebrews 4:16 speaks of mercy and grace. There is a difference between mercy and grace. Mercy deals with our past, whereas grace is for the future. We need mercy for the sins we have committed. Then we need grace to help us overcome sin in the future. They had only mercy under the old covenant. Grace came through Jesus Christ in the new covenant (John 1:17). Jesus did not need mercy because He never sinned. But we need both mercy and grace.
What is “the time of need” spoken of in Hebrews 4:16? It is when you are tempted. Suppose you were climbing a mountain and you slipped and were hanging on a cliff by your fingers. You can’t hold on and you fall and break your bones. Then you cry for help. Then the ambulance comes and picks you up, takes you to the hospital, fixes your bones. That is mercy. But if you cry for help before you fall, and someone pulls you up and makes you stand on the rock, that is grace. Your real time of need is before you fall. To cry for help after falling is the second best. The best is to ask for help before you fall. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of grace and He is called the Helper. He can help you when you are slipping (tempted), before you fall. Most Christians keep on falling and keep on asking for mercy. They fall and then ask God to forgive them. They start climbing again, fall again and ask for the ambulance of mercy once again. Mercifully, the ambulance does come each time. But that is not the way God wants you to live.
The next time you are tempted, when you are tempted to be angry, or to think sexually dirty thoughts, and you find yourself slipping, cry out, “Lord, give me grace now.” You will be surprised to find that you do not fall. God’s grace will hold you up. Romans 6:14 says, “Sin shall not rule over you because you are under grace.”
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon