Pragmatism seems to rule the world. If it feels good, do it. If it works, do it again.
Christians have adopted this mentality and christened it for the work of the church. Less and less frequently we ask, "Is it biblical?" Instead, we've replaced that concern with, "Did it work?"
If we can gather a large crowd, who cares what brought them?
If one lost spouse comes to Christ, being unequally yoked wasn't a problem, right?
So long as they were baptized, who cares how we did it?
Well … God cares. While God can and does use our failed and flawed efforts to his glory and our benefit (Philippians 1:15-18), that doesn't mean what was done was right. It just means that God's grace is greater than our sins.
Consider the example of Uzzah. As David was bringing the Ark of the Covenant to
Think about the case of King Saul. Upon winning a decisive battle, Saul grew weary of waiting on Samuel and proceeded to offer up sacrifices of thanksgiving to God. He did a good thing in acknowledging God's grace. Yet, he broke God's commands about who was authorized to make sacrifices. For his indiscretion, doing something good in the wrong way, Saul's kingdom was stripped from him.
Lastly, look to Moses' case. The people were thirsty. Moses gave them water as God had commanded. The problem is, Moses didn't do it the way God commanded. Again, something good was accomplished. God met the needs of the people in a miraculous manner. But, Moses' action was sinful in God's eyes and it kept from entering the land of promise.
In every one of these examples and others just like them in the Bible, in church history, and in real life, positive outcomes were the goal and oftentimes positive outcomes were the end result. However, the ends never justify the means. God determines the means and judges us by our faithfulness to them. "Why did they do it?" and "How did they do it?" are questions that God asks, not "Did it work?"
In the end, we can't control the ends. The end results belong to God. He graces our flawed, human efforts with success or failure as he sees fit. He does so according to his good pleasure. Thus, the ends are not our concern. What is? Our faithfulness to God's commands and to that end we will be held accountable.
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About Peter Beck
Peter serves as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University where he teaches church history and theology. While serving as senior pastor in Louisville, Ky., he completed his PhD in historic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards's Theology of Prayer, is soon to be published. He, his wife Melanie, and their two kids, Alex (12) and Karis (7), live near Charleston, SC. Peter's goal for his teaching and writing ministries is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5).
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