Who is at the Center?
I was reading part of David Wells' book God in the Wasteland. I found this line provocative:
[W]orldliness is that system of values and beliefs, behaviors and expectations, in any given culture that have at their center the fallen human being and that relegate to their periphery any thought about God. (p. 29)
There is something about a mindset that sets man at the center of life. In many ways, Wells' assessment is that worldliness is in essence living out the maxim of 'man is the measure of all things.' When we do this, we push God to the periphery. God becomes the one on whom we call when it is convenient, but if I can manage, God doesn't need to be concerned with what I am doing and I don't need to be concerned with God.
This Wells quote is striking when one considers what Thomas Brooks says device three and four are in Satan's arsenal to attack. In essence both of these devices can be boiled down to placing man at the center of all life. Device three is considering some sins only as small compromises and not a big deal. Device four is considering how other people sinned the exact same way and that person was a man/woman of God. At the core, these devices are considering sin from my perspective rather than God's.
The remedies for both of these sins is simple: I look to Christ. Brooks gives plenty of different ways to combat these temptations, but at its core Brooks says that it is looking to Jesus that will give us a correct perspective, putting God back in the center of our thinking.
How do we fight off the temptation to think that a small piece of gossip isn't that bad? We look to Christ realizing that even the smallest sin deserved the wrath of God. It was only the taking and eating of one fruit from one tree that brought sin and death into the world. It was only the taking and eating of one fruit from one tree that sent the Son of God into this world to suffer and die, so that we could be brought back into communion with God. Looking to Christ, placing God back at the center of all our thinking gives us a right perspective of sin. It teaches us how to fight sin.
Wells goes on in this passage to say:
Worldliness is what makes sin look normal in any age and righteousness seem odd. (p. 29)
When we have a worldly outlook, sin seems normal. When God isn't at the center of our thoughts and life, righteousness seems odd. This is what I am learning again from Thomas Brooks. When I am tempted to sin, so often it is because righteousness seems odd to me. At those moments, worldliness is my default mode. The Scriptures remind us time and again that though this world seems to be normal, it is odd. The quest for righteousness, the call to holiness, the striving after God, that is the true normal.
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. - Hosea 6:3
I am currently reading through Thomas Brooks Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices. If you would like to read along, next week we will cover chapter 2, devices 5-6.