For me, vacation equals books and endless reading. This past month, I took nine books with me to Florida’s Anna Maria Island. Amazingly, my bag did not get slapped with one of those “HEAVY” stickers at the airport.
Normal people take lighter, entertaining reads to the beach. Not me. I was giddy to savor some deep-thinkers. One of those was by Trevin Wax, titled Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals.
With cutting insight, Wax highlights seven modern-day “Caesars” that steal our allegiance from Christ. He also lovingly prods us to topple them. I’ll discuss the first Caesar here and then tackle the others in future posts.
The Caesar of Self
Children are naturally egocentric. Their minds are not emotionally mature enough to think beyond self until abstract thinking kicks in.
But spiritual immaturity also results in egocentric thinking and an egocentric faith that focus on Self rather than on God and what He loves. The Caesar of Self tempts us to turn from Christ and His Kingdom to focus on personal pursuits and pseudo kingdoms. Wax outlines the three truths that topple the Caesar of Self:
1) Salvation is about God’s plan for the world, and the gospel is what he has done through Jesus of Nazareth in order to accomplish that plan (Eph. 1).1
God is exacting His redemption plan for His creation. Salvation “runs against our Western ideals of autonomy and independence to think that our choice in salvation is dependent on God’s choice of us before the foundation of the world.”2
2) Salvation comes only by the grace of God (Eph. 2:1–9).3
We are objects of God’s mercy, in debt to His redeeming grace that adopts us and renews us. It is based in His gracious mercy toward us not in our wise choosing of Him.
3) Salvation comes with a calling that must be fulfilled within the community of faith (Eph. 2:10–22).4
Wax says: “Paul’s emphasis on the community of faith strikes at the heart of self. We are to crucify our own desires and put others ahead of ourselves. The place we do this is the local congregation. How often do we die to ourselves for the church? How often do we put aside our own preferences for the benefit of others?”5
Reflection and Application
After I read this chapter, God’s Spirit convicted as He does, gently yet firmly, exposing how I think life and God and church should revolve around me. I wrote this summary after reading the chapter:
What God is doing is the main thing—He is redeeming a people to Himself, restoring all of creation. He is building His Kingdom, the Church—not a mass of individuals. I am to become part of the Body, to take my place there. I am to deny/crucify my Self by serving the Body and working for unity and working to break down the walls of disunity.
And therein lies the utter joy of getting over the suffocation of Self to then love and serve God.
So life isn’t about me, myself, and I. Neither is salvation about me or what I get (a ticket into heaven or some self-help here on earth).
Salvation is about God and who He is.
He is the God who pursues His creation to the point of death. He is the God who won’t ignore the injustices we endure. He is the God who made a way for His mercy and justice to be satisfied in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All of life is about God, His Kingdom, and His glory as reflected through His redeemed, a community seeking to magnify Him and His works.
This is what God is doing.
Am I on board with it? Or am I merely pursuing my kingdom and my glory reflected through what I want to do apart from anyone else?
1. Trevin Wax, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010), 38.
2. Ibid., 41.
3. Ibid., 45.
4. Ibid., 49.
5. Ibid., 55.