Thursday, January 8, 2009

Why Should Everything Revolve Around God?

We naturally hate others.

We find it easy to despise those who arrange their lives around demanding attention, admiration, and praise (especially since they're pulling away some of the attention that we're sure is rightfully ours)!

We pity those whose souls are so full of leaks that they require constant re-inflation by everyone around them (especially since we flatter ourselves that we can stand on our own merits without anyone propping us up).

And yet we read in our Bibles about a God who demands worship.

Is God's soul full of leaks? The omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, all-glorious, eternal Holy One...does He need His ego propped up by measly little creatures like us?

Of course not! God forbid that we should think of Him that way!

Many would argue that God's self-sufficiency makes it impossible for Him to be God-centered, or for Him to want us to revolve around Him. And to the extent that we hold this view, we will bristle at what seems to be brazen egotism in some of God's statements (see, for example, Ex. 20:3, Ps. 2:12, Isa. 66:23, Rom. 9:17).

Those who make no pretense of loving Him will openly despise such statements. Those who pretend to love Him will either avoid such statements, or apologetically explain them away. Much of the modern Western "church" does precisely that. "Let's protect God from His embarrassing egotism, and protect people from being offended by it. Don't preach those passages. Make services man-centered, because nothing else is truly 'relevant.'"

How tragic! In the eyes of such people, the Emperor truly has no clothes. He parades around the universe, embarrassing Himself with His delusions and demanding admiration from others. The church's job is to cover up His shameful nakedness with a cloak of decent man-centeredness. How else could He possibly be acceptable?

Ironically, those who claim that they defend God's honor by protecting Him from His own God-centeredness find themselves in the unenviable position of dishonoring Him. They say that they reject God-centeredness because it is insulting to Him to "prop Him up with human ego strokes." But they end up insulting Him by holding up human-stitched figleaf garments in front of Him so He won't shame Himself with his embarrassing Napoleon complex, His pompous nakedness (as they see it).

They avoid those Bible verses at all costs!

God, have mercy!

Why is our self-centeredness a weakness? Because we aren't anything special, and we delude ourselves if we think we are.

Why is God's God-centeredness a weakness in our eyes? Go on...fill in the blanks. If we believe that it's wrong for God to be God-centered, then we really believe that He isn't worth the honor. He's just deluding Himself. There's really something greater He ought to bow to. (And what, may I ask, do we think that might be?)

"But wait," you may protest. "Even greatness should be humble. Just because someone is great at what they do, it doesn't mean they should lord it over others."

I couldn't agree more! Behind every great man are the parts he doesn't want seen. The great athlete may have a drug problem. The great preacher may hire prostitutes in the dark of the night. The great king may commit adultery and murder. Great accomplishments are not the same as greatness. No matter what we do, it doesn't change what we are. We are mere mortals. We are walking dirt, given life by the breath of God, and we will collapse back into dust the moment His breath is called back to Him. This is the basis of our humility. To the extent that we lack humility, to that same extent we have forgotten what we're made of.

"Jesus was humble," you remind me. Oh indeed He was (and is)! But I must ask you, what is the basis of His humility?

Go back and ponder that question. What is the basis of Jesus' humility?

Is He humble for the same reasons that we are? Behind all of His great accomplishments, is there some hidden shame? Is there some lack of greatness anywhere in Him?

Listen to the testimony of Job, who spoke to God face-to-face, hearing an impressive litany of God's accomplishments. Did Job see any lack in who God is compared to what God has done?
"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees You.
Therefore I abhor myself,
and repent in dust and ashes."
(Job 42:5-6)
What he heard impressed him, but it was what he saw that humbled him. God's essence overwhelmed him.

And yet, in Christ, God proved Himself humble. His humility has a perfection that we will never fathom, precisely because His humility springs from flawlessness.

In the same way, His God-centeredness has perfections that we cannot fathom. Do not pollute His God-centeredness by comparing it with human ego! There is no comparison.

God is perfect in all His being, and that includes perfection in the truth. He cannot lie. He hates lies. And therefore, He cannot deny Himself. If He is the greatest, He will not lie about it. If He is worthy of an eternity of worship, He will not pretend otherwise.

Oh you who object to His God-centeredness, examine your heart! Is there not something in you which cries, "Why should everything revolve around Him...instead of me!"

Who is proud...the Perfect One who recognizes the truth about His own perfection, or the sinful wretch who wants to usurp glory for himself?

Why should everything revolve around Him instead of us? It would take an eternity to list the reasons. And there is no greater blessing He could offer us than an eternity spent enjoying those perfections as we praise Him. Yes, he demands worship, because it is utterly right that we should worship Him, and God demands what is right. But He has designed us to enjoy that find pleasure in it beyond anything we can fathom, so that His glory is our endless delight. He will not spend eternity yanking unwilling praise from unappreciative lips! He will find great pleasure in giving us the greatest gift he ever could give us, just as any loving parent enjoys seeing his children appreciating what he has given. And if the greatest gift He can give us is Himself, is it anything but kindness on His part that He gives it? Is it wrong of Him to enjoy our enjoyment of Him?

And yet He is humble. Look at Him, taking on human flesh, submitting to human spittle on his beard, to human insults and beatings, to the cross. If it is humility you long for, can you see that His is a humility greater than any human can ever show...and it is greater because it springs from One who has no imperfections? Can you see that His humility will satisfy your soul, as will all of His other perfections, in a way that no human humility ever will?

Is not His humility made far more glorious than ours, simply by virtue of the fact that He alone has the right to be proud?

What do you think He should do, if not giving us Himself as our greatest treasure? Would you have him substitute some other pleasure and give that lesser thing to us forever? What would you prefer to worship in the ages to come? If you reject Him as worthy of it, you must plan to put something...or His place. What would that be? Who would that be? Be honest.

Let us always be ashamed of our own pride, because it is undeserved. But if we are ever ashamed of His honest assessment of His own perfection, then it is because we believe it to be undeserved as well, and because we have forgotten His humility.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him,
for he who comes to God must believe that He is,
and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Heb 11:6

He who comes to God must believe that He is...that He is what? My friend, is it not required of us that we believe Him to be what He says He is?

Only those who diligently seek Him will be rewarded. And why would we diligently seek Him, if we did not believe Him to be the greatest thing we could ever find?

In short, isn't God-centered faith required?

If your soul protests, why does it do so? What sort of faith do you think is better? Why is it better?

He does not need our measly praise. Nor does He need our measly protection. He needs nothing from us at all. And yet, because of a love that surpasses our comprehension, He has created us to enjoy Him ecstatically forever. Those who want to do so are welcome to do so. Those whose pride recoils in horror from such a prospect will not be required to do so. They will instead be granted an eternity of His absence, and they will find His absence to be Hell. Literally.

Do not fear being God-centered. Do not despise God's God-centeredness.

He is clothed, not with removable rags, but with His own unimpeachable glory. Throw away those fig leaves you've sewn together for Him.

The Emperor has more clothes than we can possibly imagine.

Do you look forward to gazing upon Him forever?

(Photo from Stock.xchng by Brunatka)


Laurie M. said...

This is a very powerful statement. I've been chewing on something related to this all day. I've found that keeping this great view of God in mind is the only way to stomach the Scriptures' dreadful doctrine of hell.

My son's 18 year old friend died amidst this New Year's revelling. He was not a believer (neither is my son). It is almost unbearable for me to think of it. It is only by keeping ever before me the greatness of God, and man's summary rejection of Him in favor of trifles, that can keep me from choking on what Scripture says is the destiny of those who reject the gospel. Hell is a doctrine so terrible that it's existence can cannot be accounted for in the absence of a truly heinous offense. And what offense could possibly warrant infinite suffering but the rejection of the infinite and glorious God, the source of all beauty, love and goodness, in favor of anything else?

Thanks again for speaking the truth boldly.

Betsy Markman said...

Oh, Laurie I am so saddened by the loss you describe! My heart also struggles with the horror of Hell. Anyone who does NOT struggle with it either doesn't believe it, hasn't really let its reality sink in, or doesn't yet know anyone who has died outside of Christ.

Father, please fill the agonizing places of our lives with Yourself, and shine through with such piercing brightness that those around us will see You and desire You for themselves. Please give special comfort to Laurie, and give her extra wisdom in how to extend Your love in this tragedy. Please use this time of grief as a link in a chain of events that leads her son to You, and others as well.

Thank You for Your salvation!
In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

This is definitely an inspired piece. Powerful! Especially fitting is the imagery of the Emperor with no clothes. All praise to the Worthy One!

Susan Storm Smith said...

One of the first things I learned as a new Christian was God was the center of all things and we needed to be rooted and grounded in that center. So thanks for a timely message. But find so many today that run from that truth.


Yvonne said...

Yes, God is worthy to be praised because He is the Almighty, Omnipotent Holy Creator! There shouldn't be any other reason or question in our puny minds, should there?


Mary Moss said...

And yet, in Christ, God proved Himself humble. His humility has a perfection that we will never fathom, precisely because His humility springs from flawlessness.

There is always so much to pull out of your posts. This is what stood out particularly today. Thank you for your insights.

Esthermay said...

This is interesting. I don't know that I've ever considered God to be "God-Centered" as you say. I don't say this is a prideful way. . . I think it's a cultural thing maybe -- The culture likes to put down Christianity and all that it encompasses and one way to do it is through this concept -- making God out to possess human qualities such as narcissism.

Makes discipleship all the more vital for new Christians and the culture all the more dangerous to our younger generation. . .

God is GOD. Period. We can't assign human qualities -- neither positive nor negative - to HIM. Just my humble opinion.


LauraLee Shaw said...

Powerful post, Betsy. I have never even thought of this before! Wow, you have a gift of showing things from a deeper perspective!

Jan said...

Betsy, I am truly WOWED at the depth of your writing! You always give me a lot to think about!

You looked to be a younger woman than me...but oh so much "older" in wisdom. (Not sure if older was an appropiate word, but it was all I could come up with.)

Is there any specic way that you go about your study of God's Word??

Betsy Markman said...

Thanks everybody for your comments!

Jan, I think you'd be really disappointed if you met me in person! :)

Honestly, my views of the Bible and of God have been more powerfully influenced by Pastor John Piper than any other person. He's the one who taught me God-centeredness (not that I've ever met him personally, but I listen to his audio sermons and read his books.) His ministry is called Desiring God, and I highly recommend it. As for Bible study, the main thing is to read the Word as a God-centered book, not a man-centered one.

You know, maybe I ought to write an entry on Bible study and ask different people to chime in so we can all learn from one another. It's such a good topic, and different people's methods can be so helpful. (Though of course it all depends on the Holy Spirit opening our eyes. Methods are useless without Him!)

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