God Replaces our Ladder with His Cross‏

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confusedthe language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. – Genesis 11:1-9

The story of the Tower of Babel makes one thing perfectly clear: none of our best attempts and none of our self-righteous strivings (and that is exactly what they are) can get us up to God. In fact, as the tower builders are making their tower that is supposed to reach the heavens, God has to come down to even see what they’re doing. All that work, and they’re not even close!

But can’t you understand the desire to build the tower in the first place? We are like the tower builders—addicted to a ladder-climbing life. We think that a life of ladder climbing is a life of freedom—free to move at our own pace, up or down depending on our decisions, responsible for our own progress. We climb our ladders for the same reasons that the people of the world built their tower—to make a name for ourselves, to ensure our own legacy, to secure our own value. We love to imagine that we’re on a higher rung than someone else, a better father than someone else, a more accomplished follower of Christ than someone else. But ladder climbing actually and inevitably leads to slavery.

But there is good news: our towers of Babel don’t remain standing.

God loves us too much to leave us in the hell of unhappiness that comes from trying to do His job. Into the slavish misery of our ladder-defined lives, God condescends. His first act with the builders of the Tower of Babel is an act of judgment. He scatters and disorganizes them, literally. God takes away their faith in themselves, the very misplaced faith that enslaves them. When everyone in the world spoke the same language, God came down in judgment, breaking the world apart. But at just the right time, He descended the ladder again, this time to reconcile that sinful world to Himself. He replaces our ladder with His cross. His final descent was to save us, and to set us free.

God is not at the top of a ladder shouting, “Climb!” He is at the bottom on a cross whispering, “It is finished.”

– This devotional is taken from Tullian Tchividjian’s book It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News.

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My Joy…Your Joy

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. – John 15:9-15

What was the joy that Jesus had? Joy should not be confused with happiness. In fact, it is an insult to Jesus Christ to use the word happiness in connection with Him. The joy of Jesus was His absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice to His Father— the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do— “…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2). “I delight to do Your will, O my God…” (Psalm 40:8). Jesus prayed that our joy might continue fulfilling itself until it becomes the same joy as His. Have I allowed Jesus Christ to introduce His joy to me?

Living a full and overflowing life does not rest in bodily health, in circumstances, nor even in seeing God’s work succeed, but in the perfect understanding of God, and in the same fellowship and oneness with Him that Jesus Himself enjoyed. But the first thing that will hinder this joy is the subtle irritability caused by giving too much thought to our circumstances. Jesus said, “…the cares of this world,…choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). And before we even realize what has happened, we are caught up in our cares. All that God has done for us is merely the threshold— He wants us to come to the place where we will be His witnesses and proclaim who Jesus is.

Have the right relationship with God, finding your joy there, and out of you “will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Be a fountain through which Jesus can pour His “living water.” Stop being hypocritical and proud, aware only of yourself, and live “your life…hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). A person who has the right relationship with God lives a life as natural as breathing wherever he goes. The lives that have been the greatest blessing to you are the lives of those people who themselves were unaware of having been a blessing.

– Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest

Christ didn’t Just Die for You‏

The urge to pick one aspect of Christ’s life—namely, His death—as more important than the others is understandable. We certainly see in the New Testament how everything seems to turn on the cross. We could accurately say that the cross is the crossroads of history, the moment at which our sin was laid on Christ’s shoulders and His righteousness was transferred to us. It’s easy to see why Christ’s death might overshadow anything else about Him. But to talk about “cross-centeredness” as if the death of Christ (His passive obedience) is more important than the life of Christ (His active obedience) is to miss other incredibly important things about Jesus.

The truth is, our redemption depends not only on Christ’s substitutionary death, but His substitutionary life as well. J. Gresham Machen’s last recorded words (sent by telegram to fellow theologian and friend John Murray) were, “I’m so thankful for [the] active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.” He understood that apart from Christ’s law-fulfilling life, there is no righteousness to impute. We are, therefore, left dressed in our own filthy rags.

Murray wrote: “The real use and purpose of the formula (active and passive obedience) is to emphasize the two distinct aspects of our Lord’s vicarious obedience. The truth expressed rests upon the recognition that the law of God has both penal sanctions and positive demands. It demands not only the full discharge of its precepts but also the infliction of penalty for all infractions and shortcomings. It is this twofold demand of the law of God which is taken into account when we speak of the active and passive obedience of Christ.”

Christ’s life, in other words, is just as central to our rescue as His death. As I’ve said before, we are not saved apart from the law. Rather, we are saved in Christ who perfectly kept the law on our behalf.

So Christ’s death is not the center of the gospel any more than Christ’s life is the center of the gospel. One without the other fails to bring about redemption. It’s much more theologically accurate to say that Christ Himself is the center of the gospel. He didn’t just die for you; He lived for you too.

– taken from Tullian Tchividjian’s book It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News.

Put On…

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts,kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

– Colossians 3:12-17

A Pure Gospel

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

– Galatians 1:6-10

Young People’s Greatest Problem Is…

….Pride.

At least, according to Matthew Henry. In his little book, Sober-Mindedness Pressed Upon Young People, Henry says, “I have seen more young people ruined by pride than perhaps by any one lust whatsoever.”

Henry’s book is based upon the text “Exhort the young men to be sober-minded” (Titus 2:6), but in this section he also expounds Romans 12v3:

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

Henry says that the Greek is literally, “think unto sobriety,” or “think yourself into a sober mind.”

But how do we do that?

Practical as ever, Henry advises:

“Keep up low thoughts of yourselves, of your endowments, both outward and inward; of your attainments and improvements, and all your performances, and all the things you call merits and excellencies.”

Sounds just like Facebook, doesn’t it?

Not.

Henry calls us to make as little of our attainments as most do of their faults, and instead to make much of others’ attainments and little of their faults. He notes how Moses didn’t know that his face shone, and when he realized it, he veiled it.

If Matthew Henry had designed Facebook instead of Mark Zuckerberg, we would be posting status updates on our failings, our faults, and our bad-hair days. And we’d be posting photos of others’ victories, achievements, and successes.

So how about this for a counter-cultural social media strategy:

“Dwell much upon humbling considerations, and those that tend to take down your high opinion of yourselves.” 

But Henry doesn’t end there; he doesn’t see sober-mindedness as an end in itself, but as a means to another wonderful end:

“And keep up a humble sense of your necessary and constant dependence upon Christ and His grace, without which you are nothing, and will soon be worse than nothing.”

– David Murray,
HeadHeartHands Blog