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Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Trevin Wax

"Trevin Wax faithfully sounds the call for world-changing, Christ-exalting Christian practice. By unmasking contemporary 'Caesars,' he reveals real dangers and points to pitfalls of which many believers are completely unaware. This book … see full wiki

Author: Trevin Wax
Genre: Christianity
Publisher: Crossway Books
1 review about Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in...

Turning the World Upside Down!

  • Jan 19, 2010
Ed Stetzer, in his Foreword to Trevin Wax's Holy Subversion, notes that "instead of being salt and light we have become unsalted and lite." Wax writes to enlighten us to six areas of bland liteness and to equip us in those same six life arenas to be salt and light once again.

When I first picked up the book, examined the table of contents, and pondered the relative youthfulness of the author, I cringed. My fear? Too often books like this are heavy on guilting Christians about worldliness, with little insight into joyfully being in the world but not of the world. Often you finish books like this and think to yourself, "I guess being a Christian means doing nothing and doing it mournfully."

Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth regarding Holy Subversion. Oh, there's plenty of "true guilt" to go around--each of the six "middle" chapters artfully expose the subtle and not-so-subtle ways Western Christians have subverted holy living. However, those same six chapters never stop there. Wax has a unique way of seeing the good in what we've twisted into evil.

Rather than telling us to "do nothing and do it mournfully," Wax shows us how to do all to the glory of God and do it joyfully. This is vital for the spiritual life. God built us for joyful purpose (or purposeful joy). We must pursue something with energy and passion. Attempts to submerge all passion simply result in those passions emerging in non-God or anti-God ways.

Subversion Not Submersion

That's why Wax's title is so spot on. Subversion, as Wax uses it, does not mean pushing something down and forcefully trying to keep it there. It means pushing something back into its proper place.

Wax traces how we have warped six spheres of modern life: the self, success, money, leisure, sex, and power. He shows what happens when we take these good gifts from God and make them ultimate in our lives--we worship the gifts instead of the Giver, and the gifts become our master.

Then he shows us how to return these gifts back to their proper place of allegiance to Jesus as Master and King. This is where his concept of "holy subversion" enters the picture. When we live countercultural lives in these six areas, we subvert the dominant worldly narrative of our day. By changing our lifestyles to match the lifestyle of first-century Christians, we turn our world upside down; we become world-changers. That's a joyful purpose worth pursuing.

Wax summarizes it better than I can. "Therefore, our job as Christians is first to identify and unmask some of the more insidious `Caesars' that seek to muzzle our message and demand our allegiance. Then, we must think through specific ways in which the church can counter our culture by subverting its prevailing idolatries and pushing them back to their rightful place, under the feet of Jesus."

A Christ-Centered Foundation

Wax wisely begins by erecting a Christ-centered foundation. Before we can ever examine how to live the Christian life, we must think carefully about how one enters into the Christ life. Wax explains that when we invite people to Christ in self-focused, self-sufficient, and selfish ways, we should not be surprised that so many Christians live self-focused, self-sufficient, and selfish lives.

So Wax strikes out the worldly way of salvation.

*Strike One: The strike against self-focus--Salvation is about Christ, not about me.
*Strike Two: The strike against self-sufficiency--Salvation is by grace, not through works.
*Strike Three: The strike against selfishness--Salvation is in community for the world, not just for me. God has a wonderful plan for the world, for His glory, for His Bride; not just a wonderful plan for my life.

Do Not Be Conformed, but Be Transformed

At the risk of robbing any of the richness and depth of each "middle" chapter, we might encapsulate them as follows:

*Chapter 2: Subverting the Self--Life is all about Christ and us (community), not all about me, myself, and I.

*Chapter 3: Subverting Success--Success is comforting others not being comfortable, seeing ourselves as co-workers not competitors, and choosing suffering not ease.

*Chapter 4: Subverting Money--Money is for generosity not greed; for giving not hoarding.

*Chapter 5: Subverting Leisure--Free time is for involvement not entertainment, for people not things.

*Chapter 6: Subverting Sex--Single sexuality means purity and chastity not just abstinence, marital sexuality means mutual intimate celebration not simply individual personal satisfaction.

*Chapter 7: Subverting Power--Power is about empowering others not overpowering them, power is strength made perfect in weakness.

Salvation, Discipleship, and Evangelism

Wax begins (chapters 1 and 2) at the beginning--the nature of true salvation. It's about Christ, by grace, in community, for the world.

He continues (chapters 2-7) with discipleship--how to live the Christian life. It's about subversive holiness through biblical lifestyles related to self, success, money, leisure, sex, and power.

He concludes with evangelism (chapter 8). As he puts the question, "How does our understanding of the subversive nature of Christian discipleship transform our evangelism?"

His answer: "Subversive evangelism takes place whenever someone shares the gospel message faithfully and refuses to shy away from its harder truths." Three of the hardest truths that Wax highlights are the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way to salvation, the costliness of following Christ, and the Lordship of Jesus over all of life.

True evangelism occurs when discipled Christians, living in community, live lives of holy subversion. People take notice and ask the biblical question, "Tell me the reason for the hope I see within you."

In a mere 130 pages of text (excluding the front and back matter), Trevin Wax has walked us through a practical theology of salvation, discipleship/Christian living, and evangelism. In the spirit of the Puritans, he shows us the way of the world and loads our conscience with guilt. Also in the spirit of the Puritans, he clarifies the way of the Word and lightens our conscience with grace. He is a subversive--a holy subversive.

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