So, as we've seen, God does not treat the world as a tool to be used. He's not in the whole creation-salvation thing for what He can get out of it. He's in it in order to pour Himself out. This is His glory - it is His eternal nature to love the other. That's what it means to say He creates for His glory. i.e. He creates that He might sacrifice and give of Himself (Revelation 13:8). In other words God is for us. Really and utterly and to the depths of His being, the living God is for us. This isn't just window-dressing for a more fundamental narcissism. It is God's uncreated and eternal glory to live for the other.
Once we've grasped this, we've learnt the secret of life. Kant wasn't so far off really. Treating people as ends in themselves is absolutely right and good. If even God does it, then it must be the good life. But such living is the fruit of the gospel. It's the good life that comes about with this good God.
Yet it runs counter to all the ways we're tempted to think and act in the world. Here are some of my temptations to treat things as means rather than ends in themselves...
Like a gold-digging wife, I eye up Jesus in terms of the heavenly blessings He has to His name. I conceive of salvation as "escape from hell, forgiveness of sins, feelings of love, assurance and purpose..." and I think of Christ crucified as the mechanism that secures these ultimate benefits. I use Jesus to serve myself. But I forget that He serves me. And that He is salvation Himself!
I can use godliness as a means - and not just for "financial gain" (1 Timothy 6:5). I have all sorts of motivations for "being godly" - salvation, self-righteousness, status, self-protection. And so, I don't do good "for righteousness' sake" (Matthew 5:10), I do it for my sake. Yet in all this I forget that godliness with contentment is itself great gain (1 Timothy 6:6). There's much truth to the saying "a good deed is it's own reward."
I move out into the world to "gain converts". Every friend has a target on their back. Every act and engagement is calculated according to its evangelistic potential. I love unbelievers only to the degree that they are winnable to the gospel. Essentially I conceive of mission as "gaining converts" rather than "offering Christ." Much of this stems from the delusion that I can "give the growth" when all I'm called to is "scattering the seed."
I enter into ministry for "shameful gain" (1 Peter 5:2-3). Perhaps for money. Perhaps to seem like a big-shot. Perhaps to exercise authority over others. Perhaps to escape into a nice little ecclesiastical life. But Paul had it right when he identified his flock as his crown (Phil 4:1; 2 Thes 2:19). The people to whom he ministered were his joy. They were the gain which he saw in all his ministry.
I preach the gospel in order to give people law. I use the gospel as a spoonful of sugar. It helps the medicine of arduous "discipleship" go down. "We mustn't forget grace..." I say at the start of the sermon. And then lay down the law. But in doing so I'm essentially saying that Jesus is a means towards something more vital - moral rectitude. What would pastoring look like if my ultimate goal was to give away Christ for free? (1 Corinthians 9:18)
Can you think of other realms in which we live conditionally and suffer for it? How does the self-giving life of the Trinity release us into living free?