If one successfully arrives at a destination, does it matter how he or she got there? This is another way of asking “does the end really justify the means?” One’s perspective will often fall into one of two camps: a belief that the destination is not as important as the journey; and the view that one must do whatever it takes to achieve his or her personal definition of success.
Scripture, however, suggests that the end motivates the means, the methods by which Christians live life, and the purpose, which is so counter-cultural.
How Is the Christian Perspective Countercultural?
Firstly, the Christian already knows his end and knows that he cannot write his own end. Christ has done that for him at the cross.
Secondly, he measures success not in terms of his own accomplishments but in terms of that same work. His life is not about achievement. He boasts in the cross of Christ and the resurrection, not in an earthly version of success. (Galatians 6:14)
The Path to the End
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). There is only one road to God, to victory, and that is through Jesus Christ. Many spiritual people believe that many roads lead to God, but that is not true. Numerous individuals will say that the life we lead determines where we go (or what we come back as) when we die.
In reality, one can choose to follow Christ, the only path to the Lord, at any stage in his or her life. One can fall off, repent, and return again, but there is no secondary route.
God tells us in Isaiah 43:19 that he “will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
The Psalmist begs, “Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” and praises the Lord: “You make known to me the path of life” (Psalms 5:8; 16:11).
There is a specific and straight path to God, a road, which will take his people through suffering as a means of testing their faith, of causing them to lean on him fully, and as a way to refine their character.
Like that Red Sea trail, which opened up for Moses and the Israelites, the road God carves for his people pays no attention to hurdles, but he uses them, instead, to refine his people. The most direct path is not the easiest one, but it is the Lord’s choice for his people.
In this sense alone, the phrase “the end justifies the means” makes sense to the Christian: eternal reward awaits the believer, and God wants his people to make their way home.
His method or means of drawing people to himself are justified by the fact that he is Lord and does whatever he pleases, but even methods, which seem most cruel are always purposeful and loving.
What Waits at the End?
John 14:6 begins with the end: coming to the Father. This is the purpose of life, that one would obey and love the Father just as the Son did. Believers know that those who love God will go to be with him in heaven.
Those who reject the cross and do not worship the triune God will perish in hell. Both of these realities are eternal. The end is written, and there is no third option.
The end for Christians is life with the Lord forever, serving and praising him. Jason Soroski, referring to Revelation 5:11-12, asserts that “it is clear that we will be singing the praises of God for eternity in heaven.”
At the end of their days of not worshiping the Lord on earth, unbelievers will also enter eternity. God will judge them, saying “depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” He will have nothing to do with them forever.
Do the Means Justify?
According to Philip Eveson, justification means that “guilty sinners, who turn in self-despairing trust to Jesus Christ, [are] forgiven, acquitted of all charges and declared morally upright in God’s sight.”
Every part of justification is done by God for the individual who turns to him, through his Son. The only part the Christian has done is to turn and confess his or her need.
The means of man, meaning their route to self-justification, include a list of sins they do not commit (murder, adultery, stealing) and also the good works they perform (giving money to charities, rescuing animals, serving in a soup kitchen).
They hope to earn a place in heaven or to leave a positive legacy or, if they believe in reincarnation, not return as a cockroach. No good deeds justify a person or improve their eternal reality. It is impossible to save oneself or to please God by one’s actions.
Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6)
Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1)
Does it Matter What We Do?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer described cheap grace as “grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
A life without boundaries or accountability to God and to one another fosters this cheap grace, in which Christ’s sacrifice is held loosely and treated like a dollar-store trinket rather than a priceless treasure.
When one chooses not to love his neighbor, this person declares that he does not, in fact, realize his fallen state or wish to be like his Savior, whom he does not believe he needs.
Actions matter, not as far as getting into heaven is concerned, but as an outward expression of obedience to God and love for the Son.
We are commanded to love others. Jesus assured his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). Behavior reflects what one believes about the end and the One who is Sovereign over it.
The Truth at Any Cost?
Is it possible that, for some Christians, the end appears to justify a bullying means of winning souls for Christ? This is the most important end result: eternity. Doing what one is capable of to attract disciples to Jesus is of critical importance, but not every means of doing that is justifiable.
For instance, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). There is a right way to talk about the gospel, one which is respectful and loving.
The most redemptive and gracious means emerge from the indwelling Holy Spirit. People will not be bullied into faith, nor will they come to faith because of the believer’s efforts. This is a work of God’s.
Each person is free to choose a direction: cooperation with the Lord is a demonstration of faith that it is good to submit one’s earthly methods of living to the Lord and trust that his methods of leading us to his throne are meaningful and loving, right to the end.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
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