“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” Romans 6:1,2
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” Mark 8:36
Dear Sisters and Brothers if you go no further than this point, understand I believe that our Heavenly Father, throughout His word to us as well as Jesus Christ, in His teachings as well as the way He lived His life taught us and proved to us that values matter. In fact values not only matter but they are of primary importance. Thus in the question of means versus ends; which is more important which should we focus on? Is a good ends all that matters and always justifies the means by which it was accomplished? Jesus Christ is very clear that it is the means which is the how and where the blessed life, the fulfilled life resides.
Paul makes this point in his letter to the Romans. Yes, we are redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Yes, we did not earn that redemption but it was given to us by grace. Yes, our sins are washed away by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial blood. Thus there was (and sadly in some ways still is) an argument that says, how I live my life, whether I refrain from sin doesn’t matter. In fact, the more that I sin, the more I am forgiven, the more that grace abounds so why shouldn’t I willfully continue to sin to receive more and more grace? Paul points out in his rebuke of this thinking that in our proclamation of faith and baptism into Jesus Christ, we are united in His death to sin and resurrection into righteousness. That to live in Christ is to live a life free from the slavery of sin and the desire to sin. Later in Paul’s exclamation “O wretched man that I am” he freely confesses that the law of the flesh still tempts him and us and though, we proclaim in faith our love and allegiance to Jesus Christ; we still act at times by the law of the flesh in sin. When that happens, by grace we are forgiven but that is not the desired way in which we long to live.
Jesus is speaking with His disciples and talking to them about following Him. He speaks of them denying themselves; that is, rejecting their worldly self, their earthly judgements and desires for what the world calls success, to lose that life of earthly ends and instead, to gain the life of righteous means in Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ is very clear, a life or earthly ends, ends in death.
Ends or means; which is more important, which is more blessed? We need to look no further than Jesus’ sermon on the mount and the beatitudes to see from whence blessings come. For Blessed are:
- Those who mourn
- Who are meek
- Who hunger and thirst for righteousness
- Are the merciful
- Are the pure in heart
These are all characteristics of values, of how you go about doing things. There are a couple of beatitudes that deal more with ends; they are the peacemakers plus those who live these types of values are likely to find themselves persecuted and both those will be blessed as well.
Please understand that I realize for any of us, this is not the way of the world and seemingly more and more is an anathema to the way in which the world wants to operate. This world judges on the ends. This world rewards ends of earthly success. This world greatly overlooks the means of achieving success as long as the success seems to help or enrich the world.
Ends dependent thinking and action has been the process of the enemy from the very beginning. When Satan tempted Adam and Eve, he did so by promising them an end where they will not die but be like God. To achieve that end all they would have to do, the means to achieving being like God was to disobey Him. All Satan’s temptation of Christ were ends related temptations; Christ would no longer be hungry, Christ would not be hurt, Christ would be in charge of all the earthly kingdoms right now. The means for obtaining those ends would mean turning His back on His Heavenly Father.
Dear Sisters and Brothers please understand this as well. So we determine to that we will live a means based life. We decide that we will pick virtuous values and be determined to carry them out. That is all well and good but should we attempt to do so based only on our own strength of will and determination; we will fail. Jesus Christ was blunt in that assessment when He said: “..for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
The wondrous and glorious news is that we were not left to fend for ourselves. God did not breath His Spirit into us and then stand back and leave us alone to see what we would do with it. No Jesus Christ promised us a Comforter, a Helper. That Helper is the Holy Spirit who will come and reside with and in us, strengthening us who will help us in our weakness. We are both promised by Christ and proclaimed by Paul to be “we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.”
Thus let us go out as conquerors. Using the means of mercy, meekness, forgiveness, faith, striving to be pure in heart and bringing peace to wherever we can. Let us leave the “ends” to Our Heavenly Father, knowing in our love for Him and for our fellow creation on this earth, that He is all powerful and will, by His grace, strengthen our means to match His will and see that our ends are blessed.
Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, we live in a world where what people value and the fact that they have values at all is becoming of lessor importance than whatever outcome, whatever end they can achieve. Forgive us Most Merciful Father when we are tempted to chase after earthly ends at all costs forgetting about what You truly value. Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we may see the wisdom of valuing and striving after the values of righteousness which You have laid out before us. Through Your Son Jesus Christ grant that we would be victorious over the temptations of this world and by living out our God given values; will bring peace, blessings and praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.