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Subverting the Subversion

• Greg Boyd

The Devil has historically used a 1-2 punch to fight God. He usually starts by trying to snuff out the Kingdom of God, and if that doesn’t work, he tries to normalize the Kingdom of God. This normalization leads to a watered-down and mundane version of the Kingdom. God calls us to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.

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The Devil has, from the very beginning of the Earth, sought to subvert the Kingdom of God. He usually begins by trying to snuff out the Kingdom. If that doesn’t work, he tries to normalize and water down the Kingdom to make it look like earthly kingdoms. This strategy has been used throughout history and is even used today.

Satan has been trying to subvert Christianity from its very beginning. At first, the Devil tried to snuff out the early Christians. They were persecuted and martyred by the Roman Empire and the Jews. However, he was unable to snuff out the early movement of Christianity. In fact, it grew and spread under this persecution. However, the devil wasn’t finished throwing punches.

In the early 4th century, Constantine was emperor of the Roman Empire. When heading into a particular battle, he is said to have had a vision. In that vision, if he were to put the cross on his shields, then he would win the battle. He did end up winning the battle, and soon after, was said to have converted to Christianity. Within a few generations, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, with the blessing of some of the early church fathers.

Many saw that as a victory, as the persecution against Christians came to a standstill. It also meant that Christianity was the religion that everyone followed. Christianity became normal. As a result, the unusual beauty and craziness of the Christian followers was lost. It was no longer necessary to sacrifice as a Christian. If one looks at the countries that were a part of the Roman Empire, we see that Christianity is of little consequence, with less than 5% of people going to church.

This same 1-2 punch is still seen today. In some nations, Christianity is outlawed—the Devil is trying to snuff it out. It is not normal to see Christianity in these nations, and to be a Christian is to invite persecution and death. There are few nominal Christians in these nations. We also see normalization of Christianity in other areas. The drive to make America a Christian nation is one example. However, there is nothing normal about the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom began with God becoming a human. When all other Gods are powerful god-men, our savior came as a meek and mild baby. Our God spoke the universe into existence and then entered this world as a single cell. Our all-powerful God who allows Himself to be killed only to rise again three days later—all the while forgiving those that killed Him. This is not a normal God, and we are called to imitate Him.
If according to the world “God is weird”, then we are to be weird. If God is abnormal, we are to be abnormal. If God is silly, crazy, and inane—then we are to be silly, crazy, and inane. This is the antidote to the sickness of normalcy—seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

This search for the Kingdom and righteousness will never be attained until the 2nd coming of Christ. The seeking of the Kingdom is a present tense and continuous action. No one has “arrived”. It has not been found by any Christian, but it is every Christian’s duty to find it. This lifelong journey begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ.

We should always hunger for more when it comes to following Jesus. We should never be satisfied, and we should continually seek to manifest more and more of the distinctiveness of God. We should always be suspicious if a Christian action is normal—not that it is immediately wrong, but we should be suspicious as to whether it has been watered down or not.

What if 2011 was the “Year of the Crazy”? A year that all Christians followed Jesus in such a way that the world declared us insane. Where our generosity is obscene and our judgment lacking. Our love abounding in such a way as to inspire hope in a world filled with pain and suffering. A world where people ask “Who is this God that they follow, and could it really be that beautiful to follow Him?”

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Topics: Identity in Christ, Kingdom of God, Satan

Sermon Series: Subversive Christmas

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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 4:5-7

    The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

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3 thoughts on “Subverting the Subversion

  1. Erin says:

    Great sermon series. What really stood out to me was when Greg said, “if Satan can’t snuff it out he normalizes it.” There is nothing normal about our savior, nothing normal about the way he lived – we are called to be abnormal!!! Love it!

  2. BlindPoet says:

    I really appreciate that someone lent me your book Repenting of Religion. That has lead me on a whole journey finding discussion on things that have so grated and made me angry and disillusioned with church and superspirituality and what God is supposedly doing in the world today by His Spirit. In you I have found not someone who is always right, or a guru, or a name to follow, in you i have found someone who has thought and who makes sense, and whom I believe is not living behind a cardboard cut out before God and the community. You are an oasis of hope, and in loving God with my mind I find water at this well. Because I sense that Jesus is there, and you love Him and the life He calls us to. that counter culture, counter norm life. Yet I know many who would say that all the signs and wonders, and the gold dust and the glory of God descending and being visible with the laughter, and the falling over is counter the normal life. I make it my ambition Paul said, or one of them…..to live a quiet life and work with my hands…………….that inspires me and in that living of a quiet and seemingly normal life…….I will in reality be so un-normal and inside my home people will find love and acceptance, outrageous love and welcome…….because of the Christ I love and His Spirit in me………….without growing legs out. Thanks for your thinking and prayer and all the grief that comes from the rejection you probably get from not going mainstream with the drug of faith.

    Graham Hughes | New Zealand

  3. Greg talked about how persecution might be good by the church. It does seem like something similar happened to the church like when Constantine made everyone become Christians. We have lost our salt.

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