Question: "What does it mean to be God-centered?"
Answer: Everyone’s life has a center. Our center is the hub around which all decisions revolve. For some, survival is the hub from morning until night. For others, the acquisition of wealth or material goods drives daily choices. In many Western cultures, the center of life is pleasure-seeking, gained through entertainment and sexual deviations of every sort. But a God-centered life is one that revolves around the character of God. Decisions are made from within that center, based upon that which pleases or displeases God.
A God-centered person has found that the pursuit of God is life’s highest calling (see Jeremiah 29:13). Earthly enticements lose much of their attraction for someone who has been in the presence of the Lord God Almighty (Isaiah 6:1–5; Hosea 12:5). Attitudes, desires, and relationships are altered by that encounter, and the Word of God becomes a lifeline. A God-centered life is marked by the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). These are not personality traits that we can “work on”; they are called “fruit of the Spirit” because, as a fruit tree naturally produces fruit, a life that is fully surrendered to God naturally produces godly qualities.
God-centered people are not self-centered. God-centered people pay less attention to the applause of this world, because their motivation is the anticipation of hearing the words “Well done!” when this life is over (see Matthew 25:21, 23). Their focus is on becoming more like Jesus rather than acquiring fame and fortune for themselves. A. W. Tozer wrote that “the goal of every Christian should be to live in a state of unbroken worship,” and the God-centered (or Christ-centered) person finds this a delightful goal.
A fine but distinct line exists between being God-centered and being religion-centered. Many religion-centered people think that their lives revolve around God, when, in truth, they are enslaved to a religious system. Many false religions, and even some Christian denominations, focus so much on strict performance standards that the relationship with God Himself is pushed into the background. Neither being church-centered nor being activity-centered can substitute for being God-centered. Another distinction must be made concerning the identity of one’s God. Many religions have created their own gods, and people may center their lives on those gods, but such false religious systems lead to very different ends from biblical Christianity. For the purposes of this article, “God-centered” refers to the one true God revealed in the Bible and manifested in the person of Jesus Christ (John 10:30; 14:9).
In order to differentiate between a God-centered and a religion-centered life, it helps to know the difference between the two. If you believe yourself to be born again according to Scripture, then consider these questions:
Do I live with the vague, uneasy feeling that God is continually displeased with me?
Do I often find myself exhausted and defeated in trying to live a Christian life?
Do I secretly judge others who are not as actively engaged as I am in church or charity work?
Do I believe there to be a clear distinction between the sacred and the secular as it pertains to daily life?
Do I consider religious-looking activities a means by which I can gain God’s favor?
If my religious activity slackens, what is my motivation to resume it—guilt? fear? or a desire for more of God?
If guilt or fear is the motivator for any Christian-based activity, you may have a religion-centered life. A truly God-centered life feels off balance when prayer or personal Bible study is lacking. For a God-centered person, the motivation to return to those practices stems from desire, not guilt, similar to how a man who has fasted all day by evening hungers for food. A religion-centered life draws clear lines between the sacred and the secular, considering only religiously tainted activities as having any spiritual worth. God draws no such lines and encourages us to glorify Him in the mundane chores of daily living (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23).
We move from earthly centered to God-centered by having a real encounter with the Holy Spirit, who transforms and renews our minds (Romans 12:2). When we realize that nothing else matters and we are willing to let go of whatever is necessary to have more of Him, we are on the way to living in joyful abandon to the things of God.