Near the conclusion of his Desiring God National Conference message, “The Life of the Mind and the Love of God”, John Piper had this to say about cross-centered thinking:
Where should our mind focus in order to know God most fully and deeply?
We could focus on nature because the heavens are telling the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).
We could focus on the human soul for we are made in the image of God.
We could focus on the history of Israel because God calls Israel “my glory” (Isaiah 46:13).
We could focus on the life of Christ because he is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3).
Or we could come to the event where more of God is revealed than any other event in history, the death of his Son.
All the other revelations of God in Christ are like rays of sun breaking through the clouds. But the death of Christ for sinners was like a bolt of lightning.
If we want to spend our minds to the fullest in knowing God to the fullest so that we can love him to the fullest, this is where we will focus. And when our thinking begins to focus on this event, something strange happens. The light of God’s glory that we meet at the cross is so strong and so bright as to make all self-exalting thinking look foolish.
“God has made foolish the wisdom of the world,” Paul says, “For in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:20–21). The human wisdom that cannot know God—the human thinking that cannot fathom the cross—is self-exalting wisdom, man-centered wisdom, sin-denying wisdom. Of this wisdom Paul says,
• “God has made foolish the wisdom of the world” (1 Corinthians 1:20).
• “God will destroy the wisdom of the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:19).
• “The foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
• “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
But none of that means we shouldn’t use our minds to think about the cross. There is a right thinking about the cross. There is a true wisdom in the cross. Paul said, “Among the mature we do impart wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:6). The difference between the wisdom that the cross destroys and the wisdom that the cross awakens is the difference between self-exalting wisdom and Christ-exalting wisdom. True wisdom sees the glory of God in the cross. False wisdom sees the cross as foolishness because it threatens our pride.
There is no other object of knowledge in the universe that exposes proud, man-exalting thinking like the cross does. Only humble, Christ-exalting thinking can survive in the presence of the cross. The effect of the cross on our thinking is not cut off thinking about God, but to confound boasting in the presence of God. The cross does not nullify thinking it purifies thinking.
Audio and video of the entire message can be found here. And for more on the topic of cross-centered thinking see chapter 11 of Dr. Piper’s latest book Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (Crossway, 2010).