The Center Is Self, the Margin Is Disorder



Sunday entries are taken from the classic devotional series In Christ by E. Stanley Jones.


Everything which is transferred from the kingdom of self to the kingdom of God has life—eternal life. It has security—eternal security. Everything transferred from the kingdom of God to the kingdom of self has death—eternal death.

Yesterday we saw a pastor dramatically step from life to death, but here is a pastor’s wife who, though less dramatically, just as certainly stepped from life to death by stepping out of Christ into herself. She pulled me aside into the pastor’s study and said: “Most of my life I’ve tried to charm people to myself. I’ve been the center of all I’ve done. Now everyone has found me out. Everything has tumbled around me. Even my little boy has found me out, and I’ve lost my influence with him.” Her self, taken out of Christ and made the center, became insecure—automatically. This losing of God and self amid religious surroundings is depicted in Isaiah 58:1–4:

Cry aloud, spare not . . . declare to my people their transgression . . . Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways . . . they delight to draw near to God. “Why have we fasted, and thou seest it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and thou takest no knowledge of it?” Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and fight

A religious people had inwardly stepped out of God into themselves—”you seek your own pleasure” (v. 3). Therefore, the heavens were brass, and religion turned into a vast futility. The futility turned to fight. Out of sorts with God, they became out of sorts with themselves and others—“you fast only to quarrel and fight” (v. 4). The center was self and the circumference disorder.


O Blessed Father, life is hard if we step out of Thee and easy if we stay with Thee. The way of the transgressor is hard on him and on others. Amen.


His yoke is easy and His burden is light, for they fit me as a glove fits the hand.

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Eli Stanley Jones was an evangelical Methodist missionary to India who sought to make a clear distinction between biblical Christianity and Western culture. For 70 years, Dr. E. Stanley Jones proclaimed the Gospel of Christ throughout the world, earning him the title of "the world's greatest missionary evangelist" by Time magazine in 1938, the Gandhi Peace Prize in 1963, and two Nobel Peace Prize nominations during his lifetime. An author of 29 books, he moved among statesmen and among leaders as counselor, friend, and worker for peace and helped hundreds of thousands, from village outcasts in India to molders of public opinion in America, Japan, Europe, and India.


  1. Our self-focused desires are never fully satisfied. If we don’t learn to resist them, they will dominate and define us. The grace that makes us citizens of the kingdom of God gives us the desire and the power to deny self.