God As A Means To An End?

Written by gregdenham on October 18th, 2010

Stephanie and I have had an ongoing conversation for nearly ten years now. After September 11, 2001 we wondered if the adversity of terrorism would have a purifying impact upon Christians rebooting their priorities and values and to help bring a renewal to the reality that the “Gospel is the power of God to salvation!” We wondered if the church, the hands and feet of Jesus in this generation, would emerge stronger than ever, knowing Christ and making Him known in this generation. A major reason for thinking in this way is that adversity, trial and persecution have proved pro-growth catalysts for Christian’s in history. Paul experienced this saying, “God’s strength is perfected in weakness”. Our conversation really picked up as economic challenges worsened over the last few years.

What I am beginning to wonder is, if such challenges are revealing “Older Brothers”– who saw Christianity as a means to an end. I’m beginning to wonder that a purifying has in fact taken place, but “the crowd is gathering on the outside!?”

Here’s what I mean …

Luke 15:11-32 records the story commonly known as the “Prodigal Son” but the story is not just about one son, it’s about two sons and a father. While the focus is more often on the lil brother who wasted his resources on materialism and sensualness, never finding what he was looking for. In truth, both sons were lost, the core of which was an absence of relationship with their Dad a type of the Heavenly Father. They saw their Dad as merely a means to an end. When the younger brother returned home from his long journey his father ran out to meet him calling for a feast, while “Older Brother” refused to enter the party, remaining on the outside, despite his father’s persistent plea’s.

The “Older brother” was bitter! His expectations were not being met. The “Older Brother” believed that a moral performance(or religious) would result in more favorable realities aligning for him. After all, in his mind, he deserved them! When the lil brother repented and returned home and his father gave him what he did not deserve, to the “Older brother” it was just not fair.

A friend of mine told me of a business partner who was attending church and naming the name of Christ but when the business went sour he remarked, “Why would God do this?” and walked away from his faith. But did he really walk away from genuine Christianity? Christianity is not a means to an end. Jesus didn’t say, “I am the way the truth and the life and no man comes to “Money” or “Materialism” or “Convenience” or “the American Dream” but by me!” No, He said, “…no one comes to the FATHER but by me!”

Has this decade revealed “big brothers?” Has it revealed that many merely saw Christianity or the evangelical church as a “means to an end” (i.e. namely material and circumstantial) and because their expectations have not been met, their on the outside looking in? Has it revealed that they never really had a relationship with the Father?

The “feast” is a metaphor for relationship with the Father through the Son. That’s what Christianity is. Christianity is stepping into the feast of God’s love and grace in Christ. C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

The Heavenly Father is pleading for an intimate and beautiful relationship with you! 🙂

3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jim Mc Farland says:

    The word relationship means different things to different people.
    Just like the word peace has a wide range of meanings.
    In the Bible, one of the words for peace basically includes the ideas of wholeness, well-being, prosperity, and security, all associated with God’s presence with His people.
    The Hebrew word shalom is translated peace over 200 times.
    Sometimes it is simply a form of greeting (Ge 29:6, 2Ki 4:26), but more often it describes relationships — individual to individual (Ge 34:21NKJV), nation to nation (Dt 2:26, Josh 10:21JKJV, 1Ki 4:24, 5:12) or God to humans (Ps 85:8, Jer 16:5NKJV). (Donald Campbell, Wendell Johnson, John Walvoord, John Witmer – Theological Wordbook)

    Shalom implies a state of mind that is satisfied and has relationships which are characterized by harmony (a tuneful sound [Great picture! — Does that describe your/my marriage/family/church relationships?
    Sometimes yes, sometimes NO!
    Help me Lord!!
    Or would a better word be cacophony {discordant sounds, harshness in the sound of one’s speech}?!]
    Keep in mind as you study shalom, that the specific meaning is “multi-colored” as indicated by the fact that one modern translation (NIV) renders shalom some seventy different ways!

    Here are several of the many nuances of shalom (Note: Which nuance is intended in a particular passage must be determined from the context: absence of strife or war (cp Lv 26:6, Jdg 4:17, 1Ki 2:5), harmony, fulfillment, completeness, friendly, satisfied condition, sense of well being, state of peacefulness, a harmonious state of one’s soul and mind externally and internally (cp Ps 4:8), security (cp Job 21:9), offering terms of peace (Dt 20:10; Jdg 21:13), accepting terms of peace (Dt 20:11), making peace with someone (Jos 9:15; Isa 27:5), a peaceful man (Ps 37:37), words of peace (Dt 2:26), salutation of departure (1Sa1:17; 20:42; 2Sa15:9), sound of body and mind (Ge 43:27; 1Sa25:6 = also a greeting from David to Nabal)

    In the KJV Dictionary; Shalom or peace can mean – 1) completeness, soundness, welfare, peace 1a) completeness (in number) 1b) safety, soundness (in body) 1c) welfare, health, prosperity 1d) peace, quiet, tranquility, contentment 1e) peace, friendship 1e1) of human relationships 1e2) with God especially in covenant relationship 1f) peace (from war) 1g) peace (as adjective)

    Vine dictionary notes that shalom speaks of…
    The relationship as one of harmony and wholeness, which is the opposite of the state of strife and war: “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war” (Psa. 120:7).

    Shālôm as a harmonious state of the soul and mind encourages the development of the faculties and powers.
    The state of being at ease is experienced both externally and internally.

    In Hebrew it finds expression in the phrase beshālôm (“in peace”) (This Hebrew expression “beshālôm” is found in – Ge 15:15; 26:29, 31; Josh 10:21; Jdg 11:13; 1Sa 29:7; 2Sa 3:21, 22, 23; 15:9, 27; 2Sa 19:30KJV; 1Ki 22:17, 1Ki 22:28KJV; 2Ki 22:20; 2Chr 18:16, 2Chr 18:27KJV; 2Chr 19:1KJV; 2Chr 34:28; Ps 4:8; Je 34:5; Je 43:12KJV; Mal 2:6)

    With that idea as an understanding, it gives deeper meaning to verses that have the Hebrew word for peace- for instance —-
    Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

    Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep [him] in perfect peace, [whose] mind [is] stayed [on thee]: because he trusteth in thee.

    The God of peace[ think relationships] wants you and me to have peace [think relationship] and the BEST relationships, create a peaceful easy feeling!!!

    Is God great, wonderful, more than we could ever imagine or think!?!!?!?!?!?!.
    And a relationship with the god of the universe; well; it creates peace—— maybe that’s what Paul was after when he wrote about the peace of God in Philippians 4:7, and Colossians 3:15 !?!?!?!?!

  2. Barbara Reed says:

    Pastor Greg, I have gotten so much new knowledge from your teaching on the prodical son. I’ve never sat under any teaching that talked about the second son. What you said makes perfect sense and it’s something that I will NEVER forget! You are a very wise and wonderful Pastor, and it is with pleasure that I am able to attend your Sunday Morning Services. I grow so much each week. It’s almost like I’m mesmorized by the messages that you bring to us. It’s like God is in my head, and knows exactly what I need to hear. I will be at the outreach this coming Saturday night, and by the grace of God, my husband will be there with me! I saw the videos you put on the website and think that your kids should cut some records so the congregations can purchase them. I go to sleep each night listening to Christian music and so God is the last thing I think of. God bless your Ministry and you and your family. You are surely doing God’s work. Sincerely, Barbara Reed

  3. Marsha L. Gallup says:

    Likewise, Jesus is THE way to a new beginning that lasts forever and ever. Alleluja! Eternity with HIM is VERY comforting to me!
    So whom do you identify with ? the righteous law keeper dude or his pathetic brother that obviously took the downward spiral and obviously needed a Savior. The righteous dude is so in need too and is so blinded by his own importance in “Now go and do the right thing”.
    I am both! Jesus identified me as a sinner too and I feel so comforted in knowing we are all in the same boat. BUT better yet-my sinful nature has been crucified with Jesus on the cross and now I am alive in HIM FOREVER .Only God Himself can save us from this plight that we are in. He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to save us from hell. Jesus wants to put all of us in this position of total grace. Let’s get out of this stink’n boat and BELIEVE what JESUS DID on the cross is enough. Feast in that.

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