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The Center of All Things

In 150 AD, Roman scientist, Claudius Ptolemy developed an astronomical system to account for everything he could see in the sky. He did so with Earth as the stationary center of the universe and the known planets, our sun, and even the distant stars, all circling around it. This system, known as the geocentric view – the belief that the earth is the center of everything – was based on two common observations: the planets and the stars appear to rotate around the earth; and the earth doesn’t seem to move.

This was the prevailing view for 1500 years.

Until a man by the name of Nicolaus Copernicus, published a book in 1543, entitled On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres.  This moment in history, now known as the Copernican Revolution, marked the beginning of a shift away from geocentrism, to heliocentrism – our current understanding that the sun is actually the center of our solar system. Unless, of course, you think that the center is you.


The prevailing centrism of the day isn’t geo or helio, but ego. Oh sure, there are few who will actually say out loud, “I think the world revolves around me,” but we get pretty used to acting like it. Too often we’re our first concern in the morning and our final concern at night. It starts untaught in our children – “Why did you hit your brother and take his toy?” “Because I wanted it.” And we keep feeding the self-centric system. Think social media and selfies. Or mirrored weight rooms and Self magazine.[1] Think about the clever way we can work a phrase to generate compliments on our outfit, or pity for our dire situation. Studies show that we spend 60 percent of conversation talking about ourselves. Other researchers did brain scans as subjects told their favorite self-moment, and the brain lit up in the same way it does when you eat KFC or pizza or snort cocaine. [2] As a species we are addicted to ourselves—we love to be the center.

The problem is, according to the Bible, we aren't.

The first rebellion against God (Genesis 3) was the questioning of His goodness and rule. It was the first thought, “Why should God be at the center? Maybe I can do things my way.” And in doing so Adam and Eve became the center; not in reality but in the delusions of their own minds. Just like thinking the earth is the center doesn’t actually make it the center, the invention of self-centrism led them to become false gods and shadow kings.

In trying to be center, they lost the privileges they already had. Their relationship with God was broken, the world was broken, death entered, and man was left to rot at the center of his own shabby little mock-universe; a corrupt and dying kingdom, awaiting judgment from the true King. The sickness of this rebellion, which the Bible calls sin, is what pervades our world today and continues to make us centered more squarely on ourselves, unable to look out and see God as He is, instead thinking, “The sun must revolve around me; it greets me every morning.”

 egocentrism (1)

But that’s not the end of the story:

The answer to this great problem of self-centrism and the death it leads to is found in something we call THE GOSPEL. In barest terms, it is the good news that God sent His Son Jesus to our world, and as fully God and fully man, he lived with the perfect obedience we never could, took on the punishment we deserved, and gave us the reconciliation and reward we could never earn; all guaranteed by His own resurrection from the dead.

But it is not carte-blanche freedom for all. Rather, we must turn from our rebellion, our self-centrism and believe and acknowledge JESUS as the center of all things. Just like the earth-centered view needed to be replaced with a sun-centered view because it is what is true, our self-centered existence needs to be replaced by a Christ-centered existence. A change that can only occur by the work of God in those He has rescued through faith in His Son, Jesus.

Now, you might be thinking, “I don’t know, my way of doing life is working pretty well.” And you know what, it might be, for now. The geocentric (earth-centered) view is also pretty good for a lot of things. For 1500 years scientists used this system to accurately chart and predict the movement of stars, planets, sunrises, and sunsets. But as the wrong system its inherent defects eventually showed themselves. 1) It wasn’t always accurate. This was especially true in charting planets and so the number of tweaks and modifications to the system to make it work eventually broke it down. 2) It didn’t allow for progress. New discoveries went against it. Only once a heliocentric view was established could Newton’s theory of gravity be developed, and the engineering of space flight made possible.[3]


In the same way, a self-centric view might get you by for a while, or at least seem to. You want a job, you work hard to get it. You want a nice home. You save up to buy it. You want success and love… you pursue it. You want pleasure… lots of different ways for you to make sure you get that too. But it’s the wrong system. And it has inherent defects in it too. 1) It’s not very accurate. While you can get the things you think you want, it doesn’t account for the dissatisfaction that still occurs in your soul once all your goals, wants and needs are met. 2) It doesn’t allow for progress. Through this self-centered system we can never become lovers of God, we can never become people who bring Him glory and therefore can never be the kind of people God created us to be. We can’t reflect true humanity as God intended.

But it is not so for those who are in Christ, because we admit that we’re not the center of the system – Christ is. As Pastor James Boice has said, “[Christ] is the center of the spiritual universe. The bible tells us that in this system there is infinite progress, for it is based on reality and on the nature of an infinite God.” [4]

And it was paid for by the blood of its center and its King -- Jesus the Christ.


Have you had a “Copernican Revolution” of your own? Will you accept Christ’s place at the center or do you still think you or maybe something else entirely?

If these questions have piqued your interest, email me to join a new group focused on life’s big questions and the greatest gift that can change your centrism and change your life. (Watch trailer below)




Derick Zeulner is an associate pastor at South Shores Church. He has a M.A. in Theology from Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, CA and he loves the wacky adventures of doing life with his wife, Rebecca, and 4 kids.



[1] Jim Gaffigan, Mr. Universe, “Working Out”

[2] Adapted from Adrian F. Ward, "The Neuroscience of Everybody's Favorite Topic," Scientific American (7-16-13)



[4] Boice, Philippians: An Expositional Commentary, pg 16.

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