Thursday, June 2, 2011

The End Defines the Means

There is an age-old debate in philosophy that has been entwined in Christianity for a very long time.  That idea is one of the end justifying the means.  It was an argument for Christians owning slaves in that the Gospel was preached to them.  It was an argument for conquest in that missionaries were part of the conquering armies.  Even today it is used to justify some pretty bad things.  I have heard some churches use is as part of their justification for the Iraq war.  I am not going to get into the debate of the morality of the Iraqi war except to say that using the spreading of our faith as part of that argument is not only ignorant but also just plain wrong.  The fact is that Christianity was legal under Saddam Hussein.  I am not defending that man in any way, but the reality is that Christians were safer under his regime than they are now.  But getting past things that are glaringly wrong, I want to look at how this way of thinking makes its way to our pulpits and even our way of life.  I have heard pastors tell "little" lies in an attempt to embellish or even make up a story in their lives as a vehicle for the Gospel.  I have heard people try to give God the glory for something they obtained through cheating or dishonesty. 

I think one of the biggest reasons this has made its way into the church is a misunderstanding of just what the ends and means are of the Christian life.  Many think that preaching the Gospel is the ends and anything we do to get the Gospel out to others is justifiable.  That is incorrect.  The end is not the Gospel.  Then end of the glorification of God and the means are spreading the Gospel with our testimony both in words and in actions. 
By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.  John 15:8 NKJV
When you change your perspective to the glorification of God being the end, that changes everything.  If the end is the glorification of God then the means have to be things that result in God being glorified.  That does not give us much wiggle room.  It makes us ask the question for everything we do "Will this glorify God?"  The end now defines the means and it severely limits if not eliminates what compromises we can make to that end.  For the pastor who lies, does lying glorify God?  Is God glorified through cheating or "bending" the rules to reach some accomplishment?  Does dating a nonbeliever glorify God?  The answer of course is that they do not.  If God is glorified by our fruit, that fruit can not be rotten.  I think we should look then at what this "fruit" is that glorifies God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV
If our ends are for God to be glorified and God is glorified by fruit produced through our lives, then this verse represents the means.  If we want to glorify God, we need to express these virtues in our lives.  These virtues are expressed by the Holy Spirit working through our lives.  We must exercise these attributes in our lives if we want God to be glorified through our lives. 

Conversely, there are things that will never glorify God and those are works of the flesh. 
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told [you] in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV
None of these things will ever glorify God.  You can not do any of these as a means to glorify God.  In fact, if any of these are done by followers of Jesus they bring shame to God. 

Another kind of fruit by which we glorify God are souls saved.  Again, we must look at this as a means and not an end.  We can not justify any behavior so that souls are saved.  I referenced that earlier, but I want to explain it in more detail now.  I see pastors who have this well-intended but unscriptural notion that we can compromise our values in order to share the Gospel.  We have seeker-sensitive churches that deny God to make themselves less offensive.  I know of a church that actually keeps a cult in business under the justification of "people needing to hear the Gospel."  Sadly, people do, but those people are not going to come in this church door any more than the last and the prison of that cult has the means to keep its people in bondage. These are but a few examples of many.  This is what happens, though, then your ends are people hearing the Gospel. And what is wrong with that end?  I mean the Gospel is a noble thing.  We are all called to preach the Gospel. We are call called to produce the fruit of souls saved.  What can be wrong with the end being the Gospel preached?  The problem is that your eyes are on the unsaved.  I know it almost does not seem wrong.  It is, though, because when your eyes are on the unsaved they are not on God.  If the glory of God is our end then our eyes will be on Him.  If our driving force is to glorify God then we will express those fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives and the result will be souls saved.  The idea is that while preaching the Gospel is a noble thing, it is living the Gospel that truly brings glory to God.  The power of the testimony of God working in our lives is stronger than anything else we can do. If we glorify God with our lives, we will draw people to God.  Even in the Gospel, our goal should be to glorify God.  In fact, that is the end of the Gospel.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:9-11 NKJV
We see here clearly that the Gospel is a means to the end of glorifying God.  Just as winning a sports game by bending rules does not glorify God, just as filling a church with the false gospel of prosperity does not glorify God, just as preaching the truth by using lies does not glorify God, compromising our values to preach the Gospel does not glorify God.  In fact, the witness of our compromised values will do more to harm your testimony then to enhance it. 

And so we must recognize that our end, our driving force, our goal should be the glorification of God.  We must also recognize that the only way to reach that end is to do things that glorify God.  In other words, all we do must be with the purpose of glorifying God.  In so doing, our witness will go forth, the testimony of our lives will be seen and heard by others, and souls will be saved.  When souls are saved, God is glorified all the more.  He is glorified in the changed life through Jesus.  He is glorified in the testimony of that newborn babe in Christ.  Others are saved through that testimony and God is gloried all the more.  Do you see what I am getting at?  It is a chain reaction better than any Gospel message preached in church on Sunday morning and it all begins with living to glorify God.  
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV

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