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If the end doesn’t justify the means, what does?

If the end doesn’t justify the means, what does?

AUGUST 24, 2023

/ Programs / Key Life / If the end doesn’t justify the means, what does?

Steve Brown:
If the end doesn’t justify the means, what does? Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.

Matthew Porter:
This is Key Life with our host, author, and seminary professor, Steve Brown. He’s nobody’s guru. He’s just one beggar telling other beggars where he found bread. If you’re hungry for God, the real God behind all the lies, you’ve come to the right place.

Steve Brown:
Thank you Matthew. If you have your Bible, open it to the 23rd chapter of Acts, and we’re looking at a sermon I would preach to some people who did some really bad things, if I had been there. If you’ve been with us this week, you’re aware that there are 40 religious people who have taken a vow to kill the apostle Paul. Now, unless you’re smoking something, something’s wrong with that. And so, I suggested that if I lived in Jerusalem at that time and had an opportunity, I would have preached a sermon to those guys. And I would have told them some things that were very important. First, I would have told them, if I got an opportunity, that they had not considered the fact that all which is done in the name of God is not of God.And then secondly, I would say that sometimes, motives that are not so impure are masked as religion. In other words, we wear a religious mask and it covers some motives that are not God’s motives. You want to find out, and I’m not going to go there, but if you want to ruin your day, read the 23rd chapter of Matthew.That’s where Jesus goes after the scribes and the Pharisees. And he is not nice. He says some really bad things about them. Now, you’ve got to know that he said those things, but later on he stood and looked out over the city and he wept over it. And when you read the 23rd chapter of Matthew, you’ve got to remember that the Pharisees are probably the closest to evangelicals that you get in the Bible. The other religious groupings didn’t believe in heaven or angels or the supernatural. But the Pharisees believed in all of that and Jesus said these horrible things about them. So, don’t read it for your devotions in the evening, read it in the morning, and then think you know that could be me. He called them whitewashed tombs. He said that they would go a million miles to win one convert, and then make that convert more a child of the devil than he or she was before they found him. So, you’ve got to be really careful. And sometimes our motives are not that pure. Then, if I were preaching that sermon to those 40 guys, I would have told them, that they had a problem, and that contrary to proper revolutionary thought, the ends are more often not so different than the means that are used to arrive at those ends. My late mentor, Fred Smith used to say, if the end doesn’t justify the means, what does justify the means? And then he would go into a long lecture on what did justify the end, what would justify the means if the end doesn’t do it. That’s what I would say to these 40 people. Let me give you some Scripture. Matthew 11:12.

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.

Acts 23, Matthew 26:52. Peter had just drawn the sword, then Jesus said to him.

Put your sword back into its place, or all who take the sword will perish by the sword.

Acts 23, Romans 12:17-21.

Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all beloved. Never avenge yourself, but leave it to the wrath of God. For it is written, vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord. No, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him drink. For by so doing you will heap burning coal upon his head. And do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

If I had been there that day in Jerusalem and those 40 guys had given them their vow that they were going to kill the apostle Paul, I would have used as my text, as a guest preacher, Romans 12:17 through 21. Take for instance, let’s talk about means and ends, the French Revolution. The high ideals were there, liberty and fraternity and equality. The result was a bloodbath, and no one escaped without horrible things happening. Began in 1789 with the overthrow of the king, and ended with Napoleon, who was just as bad. Take for instance, the Russian Revolution. It was created to free the proletariat from oppression. It ended in the most oppressive political system the world has ever known. And we could go on and on and on. What am I saying? The ends that you use to justify the goal that you have set will often end up being just like the goal that you have set. Now, of course, things are not always that black and white. I remember the time that Corrie Ten Boom hugged the man who had overseen the death camp where her sister and her had suffered so much. However, things are a lot more black and white than most of us would believe. And the principle is still the same. No means to any end is justified, unless the means justify the ends. Now, let’s see how this works out in our lives. Many of us are living our lives for the goal of tomorrow, which will never come. For instance, I realize that I must not be, I should not be as selfish as I am now. But someday, when I get all that I need, I’m going be generous. No, you won’t be. Or, I know that I don’t have time to show love to my family now. But later, when I’ve reached a better position, and I have more time, I will devote more time to my family. No you won’t. I have time, I don’t have time for God now, but I’m working on it. And someday I’m going to go back to church and be involved in church. No, you won’t. A man told me that all his life he had worked to give his children what he never had, so that they might be free of being what he was, to give it to them. He said, I don’t like what I’ve become, but I don’t like what they have become either. And then one other thing, if I’d been in Jerusalem preaching that sermon on the day when those 40 men were preparing their vow, I would have told them that God always calls in every one of his accounts, Galatians 6:7.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap life.

Anne of Austria said to the French cardinal and statesman.

My Lord Cardinal, God does not pay at the end of every week, but in the end, He does pay.

And you say, Steve, you don’t sound like a grace teacher. Oh, I’m just telling you the things as they are, because we all fall under the teaching that I would give those 40 men in Jerusalem who were going to kill the apostle Paul. And then I would have given them the most important message that they needed to hear.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Even you. Even with what you’ve done. Even with your spurious religious vow. You think about that. Amen.

Matthew Porter:
And with that, we wrap up our week of teaching here in Acts. Thank you Steve. And do remember to join us tomorrow for Friday Q&A when Steve and our good friend Pete Alwinson will tackle the challenging questions that you’ve sent in. Well, if you enjoy the articles and shows we produce here at Key Life, I think you’re going to be interested in this, the digital edition of Key Life Magazine. It comes out every summer and this issue features articles from Steve, David Johnson, Alex Early, and Matthew Porter. I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly. Check that out for free at and if you haven’t read our 2023 print magazine yet, that’s a whole different lineup of articles, it’s not too late to claim your copy. Just call us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800=539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for the magazine. And if you’d like to mail your request, go to to find our mailing addresses. Again, just ask for your free copy of the 2023 edition of Key Life Magazine. And finally, a question for you. Do you value the work of Key Life? Well, if so, would you consider supporting that work through your giving? You can charge a gift on your credit card. You can include a gift in your envelope. Or you can now give safely and securely through text. It’s easy, just pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.

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