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Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals Paperback – January 8, 2010
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"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 serves as a helpful reminder and competent guide to draw out the implications of true allegiance to Jesus Christ."
—R. Albert Mohler Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"How should God's American people put the lordship of Jesus Christ on display in their lives? Wax's searching answer is biblical, basic, businesslike, and blunt."
—J. I. Packer, Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College
"Trevin Wax passionately tackles some of the most dangerous idols in our culture, and, unfortunately, in our own lives. Especially relevant now is his reminder to us of the way money can capture us and force us into submission. Not only in days of economic stress, but also in those of economic prosperity, we must be aware of money's alluring trap and learn how to turn this resource into something that may be used for the kingdom. With judicious insights and clear writing on a number of issues, Wax challenges us to live subversively against the powers of this world."
—Johnny Hunt, Former President, The Southern Baptist Convention; Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church Woodstock, Woodstock, Georgia
"Christianity is all about paradox. We lose our lives to gain them. We find life in crucifixion. We serve in order to reign. In his book, Holy Subversion, Trevin Wax takes up the question of how to be both a rebel—against the false authorities of this time—while simultaneously being submissive—to the divine authority of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This book is a helpful warning against both nihilism and cynicism."
—Russell D. Moore, president, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
"Simple yet succinct, Holy Subversion exposes the idols of modernity and provides the biblical arsenal needed for their complete destruction. Trevin Wax provides medicine for the heart in this short, powerful study. Read it and be blessed."
—Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
"Trevin Wax provides good advice on how to turn away from the idols of success, money, leisure, sex, and power."
—Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief, World Magazine
"Using a definition of subversion as 'pushing something back down into its proper place,' Trevin Wax seeks to subvert the idols of our society—self, success, money, leisure, sex, and power—in a theologically responsible and challengingly practical way. These false gods must be thrust back into their proper place, and that subversion is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ—the message about the crucified and resurrected God-man who is Lord over all bogus lords—equips us to do. Wax wonders, 'What would it look like today if we reclaimed the subversive nature of Christian discipleship?' Read this fine book if you wish to live as the true Savior and Lord Jesus Christ would have you live."
—Gregg R. Allison, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"The Apostle John warns us to 'keep ourselves from idols.' Trevin Wax, in this incisive, convicting, and elegantly written book, considers the false gods that insidiously corrupt our lives. I was reminded afresh what it means to confess that Jesus is Lord and that glorifying God expresses itself in the concrete realities of daily life. What a joy to read a book that is theologically faithful and practically compelling."
—Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky
"In Holy Subversion, Trevin Wax issues a wide-ranging invitation for believers to rethink what it means to be a Christ-follower in a culture that offers rival ways of thinking and living at every turn. Those who wrestle with this timely and biblically-based challenge will be called to nothing less than whole-hearted faithfulness in all areas of life."
—David S. Dockery, president, Trinity International University
"In the midst of much debate and uncertainly about the kingdom of God in the world today, Wax makes it clear that Jesus' kingdom challenges our allegiances. Wax looks at issues of idolatry and strongholds that, one by one, show us how the gospel of the kingdom requires a new loyalty. Holy Subversion is a helpful and challenging book."
—Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism, Wheaton College
"There is the sense that something is wrong in the church, very wrong, and most prognosticators have been telling us what we need to do get back on track. Trevin Wax takes a different approach, a more radical approach—he calls us to come face to face with the 'Caesars' in our life. Only once we have understood the dire effect of these allegiances, as Wax shows, can we then hope to subvert the kingdoms vying for our localities. Holy Subversion makes clear the contours of the sacred revolution which is ours to undertake."
—Nicholas Perrin, Dean, Wheaton College Graduate School
"Today we live in a land of self-made men who love to worship the creators of their success. Sadly, this very same attitude has crept into the church. Quite rightly then, Trevin Wax challenges us to see what it means to confess Jesus Christ as Lord: to embrace and rejoice in the sovereignty of Jesus Christ over all things. But this book is not about the doctrine of Jesus' lordship; it is about how you live out Jesus' lordship in every sphere of your life. In an age where there are many 'gods' and many 'lords' biding for our allegiance, Trevin Wax calls the church to throw down these idols and to order their lives according to the story, symbols, and values of the Lord Jesus Christ. He encourages us to get our knees dirty by bowing to Christ and to get our hands dirty by serving him. This is a book that every serious follower of Jesus should read and heed."
—Michael F. Bird, Lecturer in Theology, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia; author, Evangelical Theology
"Trevin Wax deftly uses Scripture and his cross-cultural experience in Romania to convict North American Christians of the subtle ways that we conform to our culture's idols. His tough love inspires us to surrender to Jesus' ownership of the world, and his bold plan for change shows us how. This book forces each of us to reconsider the most important question of our lives: whether Caesar or Jesus is Lord."
—Mike Wittmer, Professor of Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary; Author of Heaven Is a Place on Earth and Don't Stop Believing
"In Holy Subversion, Trevin Wax engages both the church and the world with clarity and conviction. With great insight into the heart of the apostolic gospel, Wax highlights the profound impact of early Christians' complete allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth as Savior and Lord over all aspects of personal life and society. True Christianity, contends the author, dethrones the Caesar of our day and enthrones Jesus Christ as the only Savior and Lord over all life. This is a timely and prophetic book for our generation. I highly recommend it to pastors, evangelists, missionaries, Sunday-school teachers, and all believers in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, according to the inspired and infallible Word of God, represents the foundation for the author's call to contemporary Christians to the 'Ephesians Road,' that is, to live and labor with undivided loyalty for the glory of the one and only Master of time and eternity, Jesus Christ."
—Paul Negrut, President, Emanuel University of Oradea, Romania
"In this book, Trevin Wax returns us to a God-centeredness displayed in the Scriptures. He reminds us that faithfulness is more important than success, humility more desirous than fame, and that Christian unity can be achieved even in the face of great diversity. I highly recommend this for anyone seeking an authentic relationship with the God who transforms our lives, our passions, and our world."
—Christian George, author, Sex, Sushi, and Salvation: Thoughts on Intimacy, Community, and Eternity>
"Trevin Wax delivers a sober challenge for the church to live up to her lofty calling. By God's grace, may Christians heed his warning and follow the narrow path prepared by Jesus. Perhaps we will then see the fruit of the Spirit's transforming power in our midst."
—Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition; author, Blind Spots
"The bridge between the biblical world and ours is a two-way path. Most travelers start from the Here-and-Now world and, equipped with the tools of exegesis, step back in space-time into the There-and-Then world. Trevin Wax makes a bold proposal for a journey in the opposite direction. What would it be like if the biblical authors were to step into our own world? How would Moses, David, Paul, or even Jesus proclaim God's message if they were living today? The author's creative and persuasive proposal invites the readers to ponder what they might plausibly hear if the biblical imperative against idolatry were given to us today."
—Radu Gheorghita, Professor of New Testament, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
"This book reads like a series of very good sermons. There is pastoral wisdom, balance, and conviction in these pages. Trevin Wax helps us remember what really matters."
—Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, Christ Covenant Church, Matthews, North Carolina
About the Author
Trevin Wax (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the managing editor of the Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources. He is the author of three books and blogs regularly for the Gospel Coalition. Trevin lives in middle Tennessee with his wife, Corina, and their three children.
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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 Tim Keller's list of idols in "Counterfeit Gods"... 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.
Revelation of today's excuses brought to our attention
By T. W. We have become the society of tolerance at the
expense of the Holy Father and the Perfect Savior. This
book reveals the need to reset to Biblical Christianity for
our good and those around us.
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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I got onto Wax's blog mostly because of his interviews with N.T.Read more
Special thanks to Connie of Crossway for a review copy of this book.Read more