Posted by: Billy Marsh | September 5, 2008

Is There a Wrong Way to be God-Centered?

If you’ve never read John Piper’s book, God is the Gospel, then I believe you are depriving yourself of indulging in one of the most powerful works ever written on behalf of the gospel. I read it a few years ago and my life was radically changed by it, and now we are using it as the book study for the care group I co-lead at my church. After only reading the “Introduction,” I am already reminded of the great magnitude of this little book’s importance level with respect to a right understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how to be truly God-centered.

God-centeredness in Piper’s work is presented much narrower than probably how it is often used today. The concept in contemporary theological jargon can refer to a number of broad assumptions. For instance, when someone says that something is God-centered, that person could mean, “We are doing things according to what God has said in the Bible.” Or, when a pastor says that his ministry is God-centered, he could in effect be saying, “My ministry is concerned with the things about which God is concerned.” When “God-centered” rolls off the tongue, someone could even be using it simply to assert an association with deeds, words, ideas, and so forth that pertain to God. However, in God is the Gospel, God-centeredness is relational.

God-centeredness is about making much of God, that is, the person of God, not just doctrines or church methods or spiritual disciplines. According to Piper, someone who is truly “God-centered” sees God as the highest and best gift of the gospel itself. However, if we genuinely search our hearts, we will find that this attitude goes against the core of our nature. We want to be made much of rather than making much of someone or something else. Thus, what often happens is that truths of the gospel like forgiveness, blessings, heaven, and eternal life become the means to God making much of us rather than enabling his people to make much of him. So, we can often say we’re God-centered, but within that statement, we must continually evaluate our inner man as to what is motivating us to declare that we are God-centered. This quote from Piper, in just one sentence, best illustrates the way in which we ought to be checking to see whether we are in fact God-centered in our relationship with God himself:

We are willing to be God-centered, it seems, as long as God is man-centered (12-13).

A great question to ask yourself in an attempt to refocus or realign your understanding of the heart of the gospel that comes from our group’s study guide for this book is: Why must the gift of the gospel ultimately be God himself in order for it to be truly good news to us? How would you answer?

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