In our culture there are basically two different mindsets, or world views, that provide the lens through which we see and live our lives: the biblical mindset and the secular mindset. The greatest difference in the Biblical mindset (God-centered) and the secular mindset (man-centered) is that they move from radically different starting points.
What we mean by the secular mindset is not necessarily a mindset that rules God out or denies in principle that the Bible is true. It’s a mindset that begins with man as the basic given reality in the universe. All of its thinking starts with the assumption that man has basic rights and basic needs and basic expectations. Then the secular mind moves out from this center and interprets the world, with man and his rights and needs as the measure of all things.
What the secular mindset sees as problems are seen as problems because of how things fit or don’t fit with the center—man and his rights and needs and expectations. And what this mindset sees as successes are seen as successes because they fit with man and his rights and needs and expectations.
This is the mindset we were born with and it’s the one society reinforces virtually every hour of the day in our lives. The Apostle Paul calls this mindset “the mind that is set on the flesh” (Romans 8:6-7), and says that it is the way the “natural person” thinks (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is so much a part of us that we hardly even know it’s there. We just take it for granted—until it collides with another mindset, namely the one in the Bible.
The biblical, God-centered mindset is not simply one that includes God somewhere in the universe and says that the Bible is true. The God-centered mindset begins with a radically different starting point, namely, God. God is the basic given reality in the universe. He was there before we were in existence—or before anything was in existence. He is simply the most absolute reality.
And so the God-centered mindset starts with the assumption that God is the center of reality. All thinking starts with the assumption that God has basic rights as the Creator of all things. He has goals that fit with his nature and perfect character. Then the God-centered mindset moves out from this center and interprets the world, with God and his rights and goals as the measure of all things.
What the God-centered mindset sees as basic problems in the universe are usually not the same problems that the secular mindset sees. The reason for this is that what makes a problem is not, first, that something doesn’t fit the rights and needs of man, but that it doesn’t fit the rights and goals of God. If you start with man and his rights and wants, rather than starting with the Creator and his rights and goals, the problems you see in the universe will be very different.
Is the basic riddle of the universe how to preserve man’s rights and solve his problems (for example, the right of self-determination, and the problem of suffering)? Or is the basic riddle of the universe how an infinitely worthy God in complete freedom can display the full range of his perfections—what Paul calls the “riches of his glory” (Romans 9:23)—his holiness and power and wisdom and justice and wrath and goodness and truth and grace?
How you answer that question will profoundly affect the way you understand the central event of human history—the death of Jesus, the Son of God. It will also determine whether or not you have a God-centered worldview or a man-centered worldview.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”
In Acts 17:28 Paul describes the God-centered person, “for in Him we live and move and have our being.”
A God-centered person treats God as central to all of life’s concerns, from the most simple and mundane to the most weighty and personal.
God-centered language is speech that does not marginalize God or treat Him as irrelevant or unnecessary. It makes explicit that all issues that matter are related importantly to God.
God-centered decision-making is radical and different from the way most people make decisions. It constantly asks the question, “What does God want? Is that what we are doing?” It always considers how the decision will affect the kingdom of God first, over and above how it will affect the individuals involved.
God-centered living is ultimately more freeing and more fulfilling than man-centered living. It is the continual life of trusting your Creator and provider in all things and with every aspect of your life. It is recognizing that He has both His and your best interests in mind. But His is always first.
We Are God-Centered Because God Is God-Centered
Romans 3:23-26 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Christ’s work on the cross was to first vindicate God’s glory, because He had passed over sins formerly committed. If the real result of sin is death, which we know to be true, then He could have vindicated His glory by slaying all of His people, but instead He chose to vindicate His glory by slaying His Son. God could have settled accounts with the human race by punishing all sinners with hell. This would have demonstrated that He does not minimize our falling short of His glory—our belittling His honor. But God did not will to destroy us. John 3:17 states, “For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”
Someone may ask, “How can it be loving for God to be so self-exalting in the work of the cross? If he is really exalting his own glory and vindicating his own righteousness, then how is the cross really an act of love to us?”
But this question portrays a common secular mindset with man at the center. It assumes that, for us to be loved, God must make us the center. He must highlight our value. If our worth is not accented, then we are not loved. If our value is not the ground of the cross, then we are not esteemed. The assumption of such questioning is that the exaltation of the worth and glory of God over man is not the very essence of what God’s love for man is.
The Biblical mindset, however, affirms the very opposite. The cross is the height of God’s love for sinners, not because it demonstrates the value of sinners, but because it vindicates the value of God for sinners to enjoy. God’s love for man does not consist in making man central, but in making Himself central for man. The cross does not direct man’s attention to his own vindicated worth, but to God’s vindicated righteousness.
This is love, because the only eternal happiness for man is happiness focused on the riches of God’s glory. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forever more” says Psalm 16:11. God’s self-exaltation is loving, because it preserves for us and offers to us the only all-satisfying Object of desire in the universe—the all-glorious, all-righteous God.