Then they said, "Come, let's build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world." - Genesis 11:4This is really our great problem, isn't it? Among all the world's religions (including the majority of supposed Christianity) is the basic idea that if we are good enough, we can achieve heaven. If our works are great enough, we can build our Tower of Babel high enough to get there on our own. This basic human idea even flows into, and possibly from, our American consumer mentality. 'If I can just get past that next hurdle, this next goal, that next big purchase, then I'll truly be happy. Then I can rest.' I believe this is the lie that permeates our culture so deeply that most people, even church going 'Christians', can go their entire lives without ever realizing they are caught in it.
The great news of the gospel is that we can't get to heaven on our own. We can't be good enough. We can't achieve a certain level that will make us acceptable to God. It says it explicitly throughout the scriptures so many times that I don't even feel that I need to address it here with reference. The great news is that what is impossible for us, has been achieved apart from us. Look at what Jesus says in John 1:51. This is right after Nathaniel has been impressed because Jesus knew about him before they ever met.
Then he said, "I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth."Do you see? He calls himself the stairway to heaven, and He certainly is. Not only is He A stairway, He is THE stairway. We don't have to build a tower, we can take the stairs. In fact, we MUST take the stairs because our tower, our work, can never get us anywhere.
The writer of Hebrews expresses dread for those of us still trying to work on the tower.
God's promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. - 4:1What could he be so worried about that he would 'tremble with fear' for those of us who won't experience it? It is this: That you have entered His rest is an essential proof that you are a Christian. When we see people in church who are in constant distress, we should truly fear for them. They have missed the stairway. They have missed His rest.
We worry about the stock market, our home equity, the government, foreign debt, terrorism, and everything else. We need to build the 401k back up, buy a new car, have the new gadget, get the kids in private school, buy the bigger house. We have to get back to church, join another book study, give more money, get the new Christian CD. I'm not saying that all of these things are bad. Some of them are necessary, even noble, but it's so easy to get caught up in this world, even in Christian things, and focus only on our own work. All the while we miss Jesus' work on the cross completely. We just continue to work on the tower, hoping that in our work, we will find rest. Don't be fooled, it is the same tower that muslims, hindus, humanists, and even atheists all work on, believing that they can achieve heaven, enlightenment, or peace on their own.
But for us, the true Church of Jesus Christ, there is rest waiting (Heb 4:9). We can't stay in this constant cycle of striving and consuming. Jesus has so much more for us than that. All we need to do is put down our labors and rest in His finished work for us (10). After all, we can't build the tower and take the stairs at the same time. So, let's put down our hammer and chisel, leave our bricks and mortar, and give our lives to climbing the stairs that are Jesus Christ (11). Let me close with a final quote from Jesus. It can be found in John 5:29
Jesus told them, "This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent."I pray that your life leads you to the stairs that are Jesus. That you would stop striving and give your life over to Him. Only then will you have the peace and rest that God alone gives. Only then can you begin to live the life He has for you.