Charles Spurgeon once said, “the only qualification for salvation is that you be a sinner.” How true. Yet, I have met so many people over the years who tell me they struggle with believing this foundational Gospel truth. Whether it be because of legalistic traditions or a dark past that just seems to be unredeemable, the invitation for them to come to Jesus has been paralleled with a paralyzing fear. Allow me to state Mr. Spurgeon’s truth in another way: You don’t have to clean yourself up to come to Jesus. Cleansing is His job and yours is to just come as you are.
The preacher in Hebrews gives this type of exhortation in the final thoughts in the fourth chapter.
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. (Hebrews 4:16)
What a wonderful invitation to the sinner, receive mercy. What a comforting invitation to the struggling Christian, find grace to help in time of need. But what gives the preacher of Hebrews the theological basis for such a glorious invitation. On what doctrinal grounds can the throne of the Living God be called the throne of grace? I think the answer, as always, is in the text. Look at the preceding verse.
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. (Hebrews 4:15)
Here’s why that verse ought to make you shout for joy. Our great high priest, the One who represents those who believe to God is Jesus, the Son of God. The One who did more than just merely pass through a temple veil, for He passed through the heavens. But His supremacy in no way impairs His ability to sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus is not some distant deity who is uninformed of the human struggle with temptations. He knows your struggle. He knows your trouble. And He even knows them better than you do because He has in every respect has been tempted as we are. But how can that be true? Jesus was on earth 2,000 years ago. Circumstances have changed. Maybe so, but I don’t think you need identical circumstances for this to be true nor do I think that is the authors intention. B. F. Westcott in his work on the book of Hebrews offers some helpful insight here…
Sympathy with the sinner in his trial does not depend on the experience of sin but on the experience of the strength of the temptation to sin which only the sinless can know in its full intensity. He who falls yields before the last strain. (Westcott, B. F., The Epistle to the Hebrews, 1892)
Here’s what that means. Have you ever faced temptation? Of course you have. Have you ever fought with that temptation? I’m certain you have. Have you fallen to that temptation? Certainly you have. Everyone has a breaking point. Everyone except for one person, that is Jesus who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. What the verse is teaching us is that Jesus stands at your breaking point and He continues standing past your breaking point! Where you fall, He stands. Jesus has ventured into unknown human territory for He withstood temptation to the very end–AND WON. So when He says He knows your struggle, He really does.
And here is where the truth of Hebrews 4:16 sets our heart on fire. Jesus doesn’t hold that victory over your head. He doesn’t laugh at your fall, He doesn’t just tell you to work harder. You’re not getting struck down for coming to Him with your weaknesses. Quite the opposite. Jesus says with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. There is obviously so many points I could preach here but here is the one point that weighs heavy upon me: don’t be afraid of coming to Jesus because of your failings, your struggles, and your weaknesses. Instead come needy to Jesus. Come needy, just as you are and receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.