Recovering the God-Centeredness of God

Most believers are more me-centered than we care to admit, even when it comes to the necessity of God’s God-centeredness. We are sympathetic with the notion that God should get ‘all the glory’ so long as God is all about us and our glory in His actions and attitudes. Shouldn’t God use His great glory and power on our behalf and to our benefit? Aren’t we the ‘apple of His eye?’ Aren’t we special, unique, and cherished in His sight? I suppose there is a degree of truth to each of these statements. Yet, how humbling it is to come to terms with the fact that God is first and foremost God-centered before He is anything else and that His main goal is to glorify and enjoy Himself forever, a glory and enjoyment we are allowed to be caught up in as a benefit of His magnificent grace and mercy.

As a result of downplaying the God-centeredness of God, we have turned salvation into a ‘me-centered’ enterprise. God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and life-giving power are there to show-case how valuable we are to God. What arrogance, what hubris we must own up to when the clay says to the master potter, ‘It’s all about me!’ Let us remember that God does not love us because we are valuable; we are valuable only to the degree that God made us and loves us as image bearers and reflections of our creative and great God.

Our me-centered theology has morphed the church into a self-serving enterprise, as well. Think about it. The church these days, in large part, has become a place where mini-gods rub elbows with each other as we make much of ourselves, our skills, our blessings, and our lives. Instead of making sure God remains at the center of the marriage event between the bridegroom (Jesus) and the bride (the Church), we have made the church out to be a place of performance and self-actualization. The church has become the prostitute that serves our self-interests, pimped by a clergy who help perpetuate the me-centeredness of her members. This is why the main questions in some churches are: Are my needs being met? Am I being fed? Where are the people like me? Why do people not make much of me and my talents? Churches would be massively transformed if we constantly pointed people away from self and to the Savior. Instead of preaching the doctrine of self-fulfillment and self-actualization, let us preach the doctrines of self-abandonment and self-denial, for it is in the abandoning of ourselves to God that He saves us.

Our me-centered theology has transformed missions into a series of neat little excursions into ‘another context’ so that we won’t feel so guilty about our lavish lives. Rather than living and breathing mission wherever we are all the time – that our life is not our own – we plan episodic mission events to those who have it bad because we have it so good. The remaining part of our life is ours to determine what we choose do with it. Mission has become digging wells for clean water because our water is so clean, yet not offering the life-giving water of the gospel; mission has become feeding the poor because we are so filled and fat instead of offering people food that fills the soul. Digging wells, feeding the poor and rescuing people from wickedness are all noble causes, so long as they pave the way for the water of life, the bread of eternity, and the rescuer from sin – Jesus. Mission is mission only to the degree that one soul tells another soul about the God-centeredness of God in Jesus Christ whose God-centeredness becomes the sole source of true liberation. To simply do good to and for others, if separated from this God-centered gospel, will only reinforce the me-centered condition of humanity. Let us feed, cloth, and rescue the helpless and the hopeless, yet do it with the gospel in mind, lest while preparing people to live in this life we do not prepare them for the next.

Our me-centeredness has equally turned marriage into a self-centered contractual relationship. Take two people and put them together with the goal of self-actualization and there will be trouble. Yet, put two people together who push each other toward the one true, eternal God in Jesus Christ and there will be passion, romance, understanding, grit, and determination. In fact, take a woman who is lifted up to God as a precious offering by her husband, a husband who longs to see his wife blossom into a beautiful vessel in which the treasure of God can be displayed, and I will show you a God-centered marriage that can weather any storm with grace and grit; take a man whose wife lifts him up to God as the humble leader of his home and I will show you a man who will die for her, an example of God’s sacrificial God-centeredness. In both cases, show me a God-centered marriage and I will show you a man and a woman, a marriage, where God directs the household to domestic peace and purpose.

The problem with the God-centeredness of God is that it conflicts with the me-centeredness of me, a dilemma that can be traced back to the garden in which THE temptation was for us to become like God (Gen. 3:5). Since the Fall, sin has shifted the center of human existence from God to self. I am convinced that the reason many in the church have no, true joy is because we attempt to wire the soul with the circuitry of a me-centered world and the God-centeredness of God. It just won’t work; we’ll blow a circuit. And no matter how much we possess or how much we reach for self-actualization there will be no joy or peace.

The good news is that in Jesus Christ a new creation begins for the me-centered sinner that is caused by God and where God once again becomes the center of all things. Instead of God orbiting our lives, our lives orbit His in Jesus Christ. But, oh, how painful this transformation is as we are usurped as the god of the universe, replaced by a God-centered God who is once again acknowledged in all things as supreme and whose God-centeredness graciously spills over into all things that benefit His children.

Dr. Kevin Shrum has been in ministry for 29 years, currently pastors Inglewood Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and is an Adjunct Professor of Theology for Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

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