God is Not Man-Centered

The term “God-centered” can have differing connotations to differing people. While one could probably do an entire thesis on the subject, I will try to keep this fairly short. I have contended in past posts that Reformed theology was historically God-centered. One could understand that as simply meaning that men are to be focused on God in what they do. For some, it might simply mean that man is to refer to God in all he does and do things with some thought of honoring God in what he does. That can lead a person who is still dead in his sins to thinking that he is doing good things for God. What I mean by the term, however, is that not only is man God-centered but God is God-centered. This is a Copernican revolution in theology once a person grabs a hold of this or rather is grabbed by it. Another way to state this is to say that God is the most God-centered being that exists. Yet another way to put it is that it is only when man is God-centered that he is being like God. It is perverted and wicked to have a theology that demands God to be like man in being man-centered and to judge Him and the Gospel according to how man loves himself.

There are those in the modern day who claim to be God-centered and yet end up with a man-centered view. Without naming names, I have heard one speaker who spoke of God very highly and used many verses about God. The reason that he spoke highly of God was for man-centered reasons. The result was that he ended up with a man-centered God, which in reality leads man to being man-centered as well in the final analysis. The claim that I am making here is that until we set out God as being God-centered we are essentially presenting a God who is man-centered. When we do that our theology may be Reformed in creed and yet miss the very heart of what Reformed theology has stood for. When people who are Reformed in name without the heart of Reformed theology, which is of a God who is God-centered, those people end up trying to be gracious to men rather than speaking the truth of God and in reality distort (at best) the Gospel of the glory of God.

At this point I want to be very plain. If we think of God only in terms of what He does for man, we have a different God than Scripture. When Reformed people have a God that is man-centered, they have a different core and god than their creeds and historical theology. They also have a different gospel than the Gospel that thundered forth from Luther and the Reformers during the time of the Reformation. Let us make no mistake about the real issue during the time of the Reformation. It was over the character of God. Certainly there were the vital issues over the authority in the Church as to whether it was the Pope and councils or Scripture. There was also the issue of justification by faith alone. But at the real heart of those issues is the very character of God and whether He is centered upon Himself and His own glory or whether He is man-centered. We have much the same issue today, though it is in different language. There are the issues of the New Perspective and of the theology of the Federal Vision movement, for example. The real issue behind those has to do with the character of God and of grace. We can argue about details in exegesis, but the real issue is over God and His focus and ultimate commitment.

“And by this rule one may try his own religion. If it began in a belief that God loved him, and had bestowed salvation upon him, etc., and all his religious joy and sorrow, and darkness and light, respect his own interest in God’s favor, etc., it has the appearance of false religion. He who comes to the knowledge of the truth fixes on something infinitely more important than self, and his own personal interest, as the object of his regard and pursuit. He from that moment devotes himself to the glory of God, and the greatest general good, in the advancement of his kingdom.”

The quote above is from Samuel Hopkins a student of Jonathan Edwards. Let us reflect upon this statement for a moment and see just how important something like this is for the heart of the Gospel. Does true repentance and regeneration just leave a person in the throes of love for self and now that person has help from God in his or her self-centeredness? No, we know from Scripture that the very focus of Christ and of His people in history has been the glory of God. A person that is left in the throes of self and of self-love has not repented of the very heart of sin and has not become like Christ who did all to the glory of God the Father. The Gospel of grace is glorious in that it transfers a person from the kingdom and dominion of darkness and places that person in the kingdom of the Beloved Son and of grace. A kingdom is the place where the reign of the king is. Christ is King in the hearts of His people and He works in them so that they will walk as He walked (I John 2:3-6). If a person has joy in his or her religion and it never goes beyond his or her selfish interests, even though it may be of heaven, that person is centered upon self and has not been saved from sin.

If it is true that Christ and His people are delivered from self to where their chief love and desire is for the glory of God in all that they do, and if it is true that a person is not delivered from self is not saved, then what does that tell us about God? Is the God who saves sinners from themselves in order to become God-centered Himself no different from unregenerate and unconverted sinners? The very height of sin is to be lovers of self (II Tim 3:2), which is men loving self rather than God. It is a horrible sin to love others and their opinions more than God and His “opinion.” Is God then a lover of men more than Himself? Is God more concerned about man’s opinions of Himself than of His own? Does God need to take a public opinion poll to decide how He should behave? No, the assertion of this post is that God is not like sinful man in being man-centered. Instead, God is God-centered and the true Gospel and true sanctification are about making man like God in being God-centered. When the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, it is about a God who is centered upon Himself and His own glory. When the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, the proclamation of repentance from self and to God and His glory is part of that. When the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, man is left with no hope in himself and no hope that God will love him as he is. Instead God changes man from what he is to a person that loves God as God loves God. One can preach a doctrinally correct message about a gospel and miss the heart of the true Gospel. The true Gospel is all about a God who loves Himself and does all for His own glory. Without that, grace is graceless in reality.

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