and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed ... Righteousness
shall go before Him, And shall make His footsteps our pathway” (Psl 85:10,
God vs. Man-Centered
By Pastor Bill Randles
The Church is currently
being divided. Like the broader culture in which we live, the Pentecostal
and Charismatic, and to a large extent, the Evangelical world, is engaged
in a profound philosophical struggle. None of the old dividing lines are
adequate. It is no longer liberal or conservative, or “Spirit-filled” versus
“cessationist.” The real schism goes deeper.
We are seeing two
competing visions of the very definition of Christianity struggling for
the hearts and minds of those in the Church. The faultline could be designated
as being either “God-centered” or “man-centered” spirituality. It is clearly
illustrated in our view of the basic elements of the Gospel itself, which
are the contrasting views of God, Christ, man, and our response.
In the new man-centered
view of God, love is the first and foremost attribute of God. It is primary.
“God isn’t mad at you. He loves you with an unconditional love, and He
longs to help you and to meet your needs” is the substance of much of the
preaching today, particularly much of the evangelism these days. But, it
is a love out of context.
Curiously, a quick
review of the apostolic preaching in the book of Acts shows that there
was no preaching of that nature or emphasis in the beginnings of the Church.
God was held up as being Holy, and the Creator of all, as well as our Judge.
His sovereignty was also frequently acknowledged. There was no talk of
such things as unconditional love, or “longing to help” us. In contrast,
the wrath of God was held forth as an inevitable reality.
Today, there are
conflicting views of man and his dilemma. Man is indeed seen as lost, in
the man-centered view, but lost in the sense of someone “seeking,”yet unable
to find what he is looking for. The God-centered view charges man with
being lost, yet also declares that he is not seeking, rather running from
God: “There is none that seeketh after God.”
The new emphasis
is on the “felt need” of people, whereas the old was on the need to face
up to our sin and be forgiven. “Felt needs” such as loneliness, emptiness,
alienation, and so forth, are appealed to in the new gospel, but usually
without any reference to the Law or Character of God.
In a real way, the
man-centered view of man puts us as earnestly seeking, but lost victims.
The God-centered view has us as utter rebels, in denial of what God has
shown us (see Romans 1:18-31).
There has even been
a shift in philosophy of ministry to people from a so-called “courtroom
style” which has us as guilty sinners standing before our Judge, condemned,
to a “relational style” which sees us as needy victims, getting in touch
with our “felt needs” which God longs to meet.
shift inevitably changes the way we view Jesus Christ and His work. In
the God-centered view, Christ has come to satisfy the Wrath of God, to
save us from the consequences of our sins. He is our Prophet, Priest and
King, emphasized over and over in the sermons of the book of Acts as the
Lord. He is gathering unto Himself a kingdom, and one day, every knee will
bow to Him, and all will confess Him as Lord.
In the man-centered
view, He is standing outside, with hat in hand, hoping that you will one
day “get around to inviting Him into your heart,” making Him a “part of
your life.” In that view, He is “always there for you,” hoping you will
let Him be your personal Savior. Even if you do allow Him to be your personal
Savior, He really hopes you will one day “make Him your Lord.” On the contrary,
God Himself has made this Jesus Lord and Christ!
This brings us to
our response. What should we do? Even in the phrases, the conflict between
the two views is evident. Does God command all men everywhere to repent?
Or is He asking us to invite Him into our heart? Is it our decision? Or,
does He choose us? Who responds to whose initiative?
I believe that the
answer to the current dilemma of powerlessness in the Church is the restoration
of a high view of God, a balanced view of man, and consequently, a new
appreciation for Jesus Christ!
Believers in Grace
8600 C Avenue, Marion,
Phone: (319) 373-3898