Study Guide: Subverting the Subversion

Sunday December 26, 2010 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

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.

Extended Summary:

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?”

Reflection Questions:

  1. What questions and comments did you have about the sermon and the supporting text?
  2. As a group or on your own, list all the ways that Jesus has called us to follow Him. Why is it difficult to follow these commands?
  3. When you look at this list, in what ways has the world watered down and subverted these commands? In what ways do we do a little of the command, but not nearly enough?
  4. When you think of the marathon that is following this crazy ways of God, why is it difficult to even start the race?
  5. As a group or on your own, list out a few practical, small ways that you can be a little crazy this year. What ways can you remind yourself, or have others help you remember this list? Implement this list and ways to remember it throughout the year.