Education and sanctification can be frustratingly slow at times. I’m certainly not trying to say that I’ve “arrived” or that I no longer have any learning to do — far from it. But there are certain truths that if the (global) church as a whole would grasp and accept them for what they are we would all be better off and that much further ahead in advancing God’s kingdom.
One truth in particular can get people really riled up. I know because I’ve seen it first-hand and have experienced being pretty close to the center of the resulting firestorm. What is it? It’s this: the gospel is primarily about God, not people. It’s the truth that what was foremost on Jesus’ mind as he went to the cross was the glory of God, not the people who he was dying to save. It’s the truth that, “above all,” he was not thinking about you or me, but about [pleasing and obeying his Father, God.]
John Piper puts it like this in the introduction to his book The Pleasures of God:
So for the first six chapters [of this book] we focus on the pleasures that God has directly in himself and in the freedom of his work, so that it will be unmistakable that God is the center of the gospel. Now we will be able to see why the human responses, which God demands and enjoys, come as good news to sinners, and yet keep God at the center of his own affections. If the gospel demands a response from sinners, then the demand itself must be good news instead of an added burden, otherwise the gospel would not be gospel. And if the true biblical gospel always has God at the center, then the response it demands must magnify him and not us.
Think of it this way: if we are foremost on the mind of God, if Jesus was thinking primarily of us as he hung on the cross, then that’s equivalent to worship. And there would be something really messed up with the fabric of a universe in which the God who created it and everything in it ended up worshiping what he created. If that were the case, then God would be the chief example of idolatry as described in texts like Romans 1:22-23 and Isaiah 44:9-20.
This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t think about you or me, and it doesn’t mean that he loves us any less. It does mean that we are not the center of his universe, although we may be the center of the universe of our own making.