Is Jesus a means to an end…or the end?

Erik Raymond —  February 1, 2008

There are a lot of ‘reasons’ that people come to Christ, but there is really only one reason that people truly come to Christ. The issue comes down to what you do with Jesus.

Some folks see Jesus as a means to an end; he can help you in life, improve your broken marriage, inject some much needed morality, provide a new set of friends, give hope, make you feel better, and perhaps even give you a purpose statement to enjoy your best life now. So in this case we have Jesus as the salvation ferry that brings the sinner to enjoy the island of amusements and self-fullment. Jesus is a means to bring about a seriously selfish, and dare I say, idolatrous end.

On the other hand, some come to Jesus not as a means to an end but as the end itself. Jesus is not a vehicle to anything other than the enjoyment of his own perfection. We don’t come to Jesus as a connecting flight to our own exaltation but rather the final destination in the unmitigated divine exaltation. It is that simple.

In fact, the first taste buds of the new Christian are to see Jesus as the sufficient and peerless last stop in the pursuit of worship. Prior to conversion our eyes are blinded to his greatness (2 Cor. 4.3-4). We do not see his glory, greatness, and beauty; we are blind to it. However, upon the gracious and sovereign work of the God who causes “light to shine out of darkness” we actually see Christ. God gives “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (4.6). We actually see him, value him, love him, enjoy him, and worship him. This is the first posture of the Christian and the default posture thereafter.

These new eyes have seen and are indeed satisfied. They do not see Christ as a mediator of other functional saviors or delights but rather the chief end. He is preeminent.

It is good and healthy to ask yourself what you truly see Jesus as, either the end or a means to an end. For in reality the difference is substantial, and as grave as life or death.

Erik Raymond

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Erik has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond

13 responses to Is Jesus a means to an end…or the end?

  1. My wife and I have benefited much from John Piper teaching about “being satisfied in Christ” because I believe it caused us to see Him more as the “end” and not the “means to an end”. Kudos on articulating out some similar thoughts.

  2. I’m just going to assume that you’ve read Edwards’ “The End for Which God Created the World?”

    Thanks for the great challenge.

  3. Absolutely Anthony. Piper beating this drum for the last 30 or so years is invaluable. I am thankful that his ministry is so widely distributed.

  4. Jeff, your comment slipped by as I responded to Anthony..

    Yes, Edwards’ work is awesome. I really, really, really like what Piper did with it in “God’s Passion for his Glory”.

  5. Agreed. “God’s Passion for His Glory” is incredibly profound. I thank God for John Piper who has reintroduced many to the theology of Edwards. As I read almost any of Piper’s works, I can sense the spirit of Edwards “haunting” the pages.

  6. Erik, I’ve been a long time reader of your blog and I just wanted to thank you for always re-directing my thoughts to the beauty of Jesus Christ. I know with your blog I’m just a click away from words of grace which I need so much everyday. SO thank you for encouraging me in the fight to keep Jesus the beginning, center, and end of everything.

  7. Jeff L. — thanks that is encouraging. I like the subtitle for your blog…we are indeed all ‘needy men’. Good stuff.

  8. First, yes, yes, yes, and yes again. Trumpet Jesus from every corner! Every tongue will confess, every knee will bow. Second, yes and yes. Jesus is the End and Jesus is the Means. He is the Means because he is the End, but he is still the Means. Piper addresses this in “having the ticket but missing the point.” We need both truths, that Jesus is our End and he is our Means. The question evangelicalism today leads me to ask is what kind of Means is Jesus if he is not the End?

  9. Good point. Some people answer this question with a call for ultimate and final self-denial, i.e., don’t come to Jesus for any of your own benefit because that is self-centered; only come to Jesus to glorify Him. But when we look at the observations of varied Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, C.S. Lewis, John Piper, Sam Storms, etc., and more importantly the Bible itself, it becomes abundantly clear that to glorify Christ IS to take consummate joy in His Person and fellowship.

    Coming to Christ isn’t about forsaking all self-interest, as some would have us to believe. It is about seeking our greatest interest, our deepest need: the joyful fellowship of the Lord. We don’t worship to have our human needs met, but rather we seek to have our human needs met to the extent that they bring us to our greatest, final joy and God’s greatest honor from His Church: worship. Piper writes:

    “There are millions of Christians who have absorbed a popular ethic that says it is morally defective to seek our happiness, even in God. This is absolutely deadly for authentic worship. To the degree that this ethic flourishes, to that degree worship dies. Because the inner essence of worship is satisfaction in God, experiencing God as gain. Therefore I say to you that the basic attitude of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with your hands full to give to God, but with your hands empty, to receive from God. And what you receive in worship is God, not entertainment. You ought to come hungry for God.”
    From http://www.desiringGod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1997/1017_The_Inner_Essence_of_Worship/

    So saying that Jesus is the end and not a mean doesn’t imply we don’t seek any benefit from Christ; rather, it implies we seek our ultimate good which is found in worshipping Him alone as the eternal God. You’ve done a good job summarizing that point here. Blessings.

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