What is a true coming to Christ? There are three things involved:
i) Coming to Christ always involves an awareness of my spiritual need of him. That is the only reason to come from where you are to be where he is. That is why he left his Father, became incarnate, lived a holy life, taught us what to believe and how to live. He came to make atonement for our sins by his death on the cross as the Lamb of God. It was only thus that manís spiritual need could be met. Salvation cannot be found anywhere else and it is futile to look for it in anyone else or anywhere else. So we go to him when we are conscious of our need of him. You might remember his great invitation, 'Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.' Here are a people who are distinguished from every single unbeliever by a conviction that they have a felt spiritual need they know canít be met in anyone or anywhere else. They must have Christ.
So someone who comes to Christ is a person distinguished by this fact that his most conscious moral and religious need is his guilt. The tax collector in the temple was a cheating, deceiving, thieving, greedy son of a gun and he knew it. He was so aware of it that he couldnít raise his head to talk to God. He looked down to the dust beating his breast and asking God for mercy because he was a Ďsinner.í When in John Bunyanís Pilgrimís Progress the man sets off on his journey from the City of Destruction he discovers that he is carrying on his back a great burden which seems heavier and heavier with every step. He is heavy-laden, and only Christ can remove that burden. It is when he comes to the hill of Calvary that it falls off and tumbles down and down the slope and disappears into the open sepulchre never to be seen again.
Here is someone who feels the weight of his guilt. He knows that there is chargeable to his account a mountain of iniquity and God will punish him for his every defection from his holy law. He is brought to that conscious need, and then he runs to Christ. The Pharisees in our Lordís day didnít have that need, and so they wouldnít come to him. They werenít heavy-laden sinners burdened by the weight of their guilt; they werenít wounded sinners looking for a balm for their wounds; they werenít convicted sinners looking for a refuge; they werenít aware of their inner deadness and their total dependence on Christ for life. When Jesus said that those who sin are the slaves of sin they replied, 'Not us; we are free men.' They didnít need to find liberty in Christ. The only one who could make them free was standing in their midst, but they wouldnít come to him because they werenít conscious that they had any need of anything he could do for them. There was no service he could render to them. They were not ignorant sinners looking for wisdom, or guilty sinners looking for mercy, or helpless sinners looking for heavenly power. They were determined to go on living their lives without ever coming to Christ.
And you? I am saying that youíve never come to Christ in the biblical sense if youíve not been made consciously aware of your need of him. Have you known what it is to spend even one hour with the thought that a holy God who sees and knows everything you have ever thought and said and done, who has recorded your every deviation from his holy law, is actually going to hold you accountable for how youíve lived in the Day of Judgment? I tell you, men and women, that when that thought begins to get under your skin, and it penetrates your conscience and your affections, then you know have great needs. Then you start to ask, 'What shall I do? To whom can I turn? Where can I find relief from this burden?' To plead for God to take my life just hastens the time when I must stand before him. To seek to run from God I cannot. Where can I escape from the omnipresent God? Where can I hide? Do you know what it is to experience this? Iím not asking you if youíve heard preachers talking about it, but do you know what it is to experience it? If you have ears to hear then listen! If youíve not been made consciously aware of a spiritual need that only Jesus Christ can meet you have never come to him.
ii) Coming to Christ is a conviction that he is the only one suitable to meet my needs. No one comes to Christ who has not seen his need of him, and no one comes to him who isnít shown by the Holy Spirit how perfectly the Lord Jesus meets his need. He sees that Christ is the Word made flesh, the great prophet sent from God who tells us who we are, why we are here on earth, what is manís chief end, who God is, what is wrong with us, how that can be put right, how we can get to heaven, what we must do to be saved, how we should live. There actually are answers to such questions. You need not live your life defiantly crying, 'Nobody knows' or 'There are no answers.' The Lord Jesus Christ has come from God and given us mighty answers to such questions. We go in our ignorance to him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and he informs us and educates us. He gives us true knowledge. He meets those needs of ours that have been created by our ignorance. He also meets our need for guidance and protection throughout our lives. He will keep me in my weakness; when I am lying in the I.C. ward after that major operation, only able to whisper to him, 'Help me, Jesus, help me . . .' then he is there. In my loneliness and fears I can turn to him. When I have said good-night to my spouse in the hospital and walked into the car park knowing she is facing a major operation early next morning and I am driving home alone then I can pray to God in the name of Jesus knowing that he hears. He is able to help and protect her and me. When I am ashamed of my wretched life, the hurt I have caused to people I respect and love, then I learn that by his royal atonement there is forgiveness for all my blame and shame. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He is perfectly suited to meet our needs.
iii) Coming to Christ involves a resignation and commitment of myself to him to meet my needs. I come to him, just me in the totality of my being, with my history, my body, soul, affections and mind Ė I come to him, Godís great Prophet, Priest and King, Son of God and Son of Man, wholly human and wholly divine, two natures in one indivisible person. I simply put all of myself into his hands, under his control, beneath his rule. I entrust myself to him, to the glory of his person and to the perfection of his finished work. When I know my ignorance he says, 'I am the truth;' when I am lost he says, 'I am the way;' when I feel dead, he says, 'I am the life.' I say to him, 'There is no one else I can turn to. There is no other name I can plead.' I commit myself to him in all his offices. I resign myself to him.
'Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.' I start there where Frances Ridley Havergal ended. Then I go through all the details; 'Take my life . . . my moments and my days . . . my hands . . . my feet . . . my voice . . . . my lips . . . my silver and my gold . . . my intellect . . . my will . . . my heart . . . my love. I commit all that I am as the one in need to this great One who can meet my every need. I commit myself entirely, without reservation, body, soul, mind and affection, for time and eternity to him who makes the invitation; "Come unto me."' That is coming to Christ. It is seeing your need, and seeing how Jesus Christ meets that need, and it is a full yielding of yourself to him the Son of God, the Lord of glory, your Judge and Saviour in order that he meet that need.
That I say is what Jesus means when he talks of anyone coming to him. So have you come to him? In other words, have you been made consciously aware of your spiritual need? Has the Holy Spirit shown you the perfect suitability of Jesus Christ to meet that need? Have you abandoned yourself to him and to him alone? If not, you have not come to Christ, and if you havenít come to him you are living a life apart from him. You are not joined to him. His life is not being lived in and through you. His teaching and sacrifice and intercession profit you nothing. But if you come to him, just as you are now, then he says, 'I will in no wise cast you out.'
So now that you understand this I may invite you to come. With whatever authority God has given to me when he called and gifted me to preach his Word I must exhort you and command you to come to him. I must urge you to come. Yes, I must plead with you to come to him. Yes, I must beseech you to come. You thieves, you adulterers, you drug addicts, you perverts, you violent abusers, you liars, you drunkards, you cheats, you tax dodgers, you blasphemers, you Sabbath breakers, you TV addicts, you swearers, you mockers of religion, you proud, vain men and women Ė you come to him just as you are, all of you. You come to him now. If you wait until you are better you will never come. He is speaking to you now, and he is saying to you, 'You come to me now.'