What Jonathan Edwards would say about the modern American Christian

Over this past weekend I read an interesting book entitled, “The God-centered Life” by Josh Moody. Josh earned his PhD from Cambridge and is now a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in New Haven, Connecticut, where he ministers to the Yale community and surrounding areas in New England. In completing his PhD, Josh did his dissertation on colonial New England pastor, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), and Yale is currently the best library of original letters and sermons by Edwards. So Josh Moody has turned his dissertation and ongoing interest and research into Edwards’ life and ministry and theology into a likable book that’s primarily geared toward other pastors and church leaders. Personally, I found it to be interesting, motivating and encouraging. It was good for me to read this book. Ephesians 4:11 tells us that one of Christ’s gifts to his church is good pastors and teachers. And certainly Jonathan Edwards was a significant gift of Christ to us, his church. And we ignore that wonderful gift to our own loss when we overlook the insights and teachings of Edwards still found in his many remaining sermons and books.

What I’d like to share in this blog entry are some excerpts from the fifth chapter on the current plight in the American church of a human-centered theology and practice. I quote from “The God-centered Life,” pages 92-96:

Edwards’ critique of modernity would be its foundational lack of God-centeredness: that you have the wrong god, or no god, or the true God is sidelined. In his view, life, reality, existence, and therefore all sustainable prosperity and social interaction of whatever kind, are founded upon God, rely upon him and must be given to him as an act of worship. That is, life must be foundationally God-centered. Or, even more, thoroughly God-centered; it is not just about beginning with God (foundationally God-centered), but about having a God-centered view of life influencing all our thinking, feeling, believing and acting.

…[Edwards] would have said, “God is in charge! God is God! Worship him! Bow down to him! Obey him! Do not worship money or power—or even the postmodern idea that there is no truth at all, for that itself is a form of worship. No; instead, worship God!”

…Edwards’ answer to the question “Why did God create the world?” was simply “For his own glory.” This may seem an obvious answer. Yet when we think about it, as Edwards’ book [The End for Which God Created the World] forces us to do, and consider what it means and what the ramifications are or should be of that belief in our everyday lives, the implications are enormous: I am not here for myself, but for God.

…In that book Edwards made the simple point that the questions we all ask about the meaning of life can be answered satisfyingly by realizing I am not the center of the universe, but God is. “Why am I here?” we ask. “What is my purpose? What should I be doing? Where should I be going?” All these questions about destiny and purpose are biblically, and only satisfyingly, answered by the belief in God’s glory being the end of all existence. This may seem selfish on the part of God, but, as the Creator, only he is the center of everything. His self can be the center and not be damaging to other selves. He is the rightful heir and ruler. When we focus on our selves, we are narrowly selfish; when God is glorified, the universe vibrates with a wonder and beauty too awesome to be described.

Again, this approach is crucial. All that “soul searching” and trying to find “meaning” and “purpose” is rightly and truly satisfied only when we turn our attention away from ourselves and focus on God. I am confused about who I am because I think about myself more than I think about God. It is only in him that I find my true orientation. That sense of meandering, pointlessness and fatigue derives from the same central issue. It is not about me, but about God. Seeing that makes my life wake up and move from practicing off-tune scales to playing with the divine orchestra. I am a part of something larger than life. I am made for worship. Anything less disappoints.

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