There is something alluring about a ladder. The better you perform, the higher you climb. The higher you climb, the more you get. If you want more from your job, work harder. If you work harder, you get better and if you get better, you get more rewards.
The problem with the ladder is many of us have made this a way of thinking about God.
The ladder is so engrained in how we think about the world that we’ve turned our relationship with God into the same ladder-based system: the better I perform, the more I get from God. The better I behave, the more God will be happy, and the happier I make God, the more he will bless me.
We wouldn't say we are trying to climb the ladder to achieve our own salvation, yet we turn Jesus into a rung on the ladder that we can move beyond. Jesus gets us onto the ladder and our own efforts help us climb the ladder. Salvation becomes the first step and our obedience becomes the next. God gets us onto the ladder, we get ourself closer and closer to God.
In Galatians 3, Paul is addressed this same problem with the Galatians:
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” - Galatians 3:1-2
The Galatians did what we all do. They believed a system that made sense to them. They trusted in their own performance - the rules, the rituals, and the behaviors. They were good with grace on the first rung, but after that it was all on their obedience.
The ladder made sense.
It fit within the systems that they were used to, and they adopted it into their relationship with God.
But The cross knocks down the ladder.
The moment we believe our efforts determine how far up we can climb to God, Jesus knocks us off our ladders in order to give us something better. Grace gives you what you couldn’t climb up to by coming down to you. This offends the logic of the ladder.
Grace isn’t what gets you onto the ladder. Ladder-based spirituality doesn’t work. @@In a world full of ladder-based religion, Jesus offers a better alternative.@@ Jesus isn't waiting for us to climb the ladder. Jesus climbs down the ladder. The son of God descends from the throne, taking on human flesh to live, to suffer, to die. Jesus climbs down the ladder into your sin, into your suffering, and he climbs down right into the middle of it.
@@God is not waiting for you to climb up to him, he climbs down.@@
“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” - Galatians 3:11
In other words, cursed is everyone who lives by the ladder because if you do, you will never do enough. No one is justified before God by the ladder.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” - Galatians 3:13-14
Christ rescued us by climbing down the ladder. Jesus isn't waiting for you to get yourself together; he climbs down the ladder. Jesus gives all of himself to you. He is not holding something back for when you climb higher. He gives all the grace, all of his forgiveness, all of his mercy to you right now. He’s not shouting at you from above, yelling, “Climb higher!” He’s at the bottom saying, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-burdened and I will give you rest.”