“Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals” by Trevin Wax
I’ll admit that I was highly interested in obtaining a copy of the first book by Trevin Wax, who is the associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Shelbyville, TN. Not only is he a guy who is my age that writes a tremendous blog and received book endorsements from a “who’s who” list of pastors and theologians (Johnny Hunt, Al Mohler, J.I. Packer, to name a few), but he also has a Stevens Street connection. Wax has traveled to (and actually lived & studied in) Oradea, Romania, with our very own Bob Ward!
This is an outstanding book by its own merit, but I was especially thankful to have read it just a week after reading “Counterfeit Gods”. The books deal with the same subject (and are even structured quite similarly), but from a very different perspective. Because Tim Keller’s book had convicted me so much about seeking out the idols in my own life, I was “ripe” for being ministered to by “Holy Subversion”.
Wax begins his book by identifying two definitions of the word “subversion”. The first refers to “overthrowing”, or plotting the downfall of a kingdom. The second, which is the definition he uses in this book, refers to “pushing something back down into its proper place.” The early Christians, Wax says, were subversive in the way they lived their lives, because they refused to honor Caesar as king of kings and lord of lords. While they were submissive to their governing authorities, as required by the New Testament, they did not allow the government to assume ultimate authority. They believed that God had given authority to the rulers, and that government is a gift from God for our good (Romans 13:4). They also believed, however, that this delegated authority was only properly administered under submission to God. Thus, they subverted Caesar’s authority to its rightful place under God, and were persecuted for it.
Wax then identifies what he calls the “Caesars of our day”, which are the things which exercise lordship over our lives. This list is strikingly similar to Keller’s list of idols… which is to be expected when both books base their arguments off of the same source of Truth! Where Keller’s book dealt primarily with identifying and understanding the idols we serve, Wax deals more practically with subverting the “Caesars” of self, success, money, leisure, sex, and power. Each of these things, when seen in its proper context through a Biblical worldview, is a gift from God. When we allow these gifts to occupy a position higher than the Giver, however, they become oppressive rulers that destroy our lives. We must live subversively like the early Christians, placing God on His throne where he belongs.
The best tool for subversive living is to be in close communion with the Body of Christ, living Biblically and evangelizing the world around us. When Christians proclaim that Jesus is Lord over ALL of life, and live according to that claim, we will turn the world upside down like the early believers (Acts 17:6). Our lives will be so counter-cultural that we will expose our culture’s “myth of tolerance” for what it is: “a parody of the Christian understanding of love”. Like the early Christians, though, we risk “unleashing waves of severe persecution” by doing this.
Subversive living is not easy, but it is our duty as Christians. It is impossible in our own strength, but God has sent us His Spirit, by whose power we are able to truly follow Christ.
I commend this book to you, and especially recommend reading it paired with “Counterfeit Gods”. It will convict you, but it will also encourage you greatly. Buy it here.