I recently read a book that requires some chewing on after I put it down. It was very “in your face.” A book about a more vibrant Christian life. It made it…manly, though not geared towards guys only.
It’s titled Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom by Frank Viola.
In my reading and spiritual journey through the years, I’ve been looking for a richer worldview instead of just dry philosophy. I like the philosophy, I’m a nerd after all. But I want more dynamism.
You can trace the lineage of the desire with my reading of the following books (in this order): Immediate Obedience, Your God is Too Small, How (Not)To Be Secular, Miracles, The Unseen Realm, Supernatural, Angels, Demons, and now Insurgence.
With a sizeable portion of the Bible Project’s YouTube videos and The Naked Bible podcast.
Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom
“Why does the allegiance that radical terrorists give to their false cause exceed the allegiance that most Christians today give to Jesus Christ?
In Insurgence, bestselling author Frank Viola presents a radical proposal for Christians. Namely, that we have lost the explosive, earthshaking gospel of the kingdom that Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles preached. Viola argues that we’ve lost this dynamic, titanic, living gospel and exchanged it for a gospel of religious duty or permissiveness and “easy believism.”
In today’s politically charged era, Christians on the progressive left as well as the conservative right both equate their particular viewpoints with the kingdom of God. Viola challenges and dismantles these perspectives, offering a fresh and revolutionary look at the gospel of the kingdom.
Viola writes with gripping power, challenging Christians to embrace an unparalleled allegiance to Jesus Christ and his kingdom. This high-octane message is being reclaimed today, launching a spiritual insurgence.”
If just that didn’t knock you back a little, then you may need to reread it. What is the Kingdom of God?
“The kingdom of God is at the heart of God’s eternal purpose. In fact, in recent years, I’ve come to realize that the kingdom of God is just another term for the eternal purpose. In this respect, John Bright was correct when he wrote, The concept of the Kingdom of God involves, in a real sense, the total message of the Bible. . . . The Bible is one book. Had we to give that book a title, we might with justice call it “The Book of the Coming Kingdom of God.” That is, indeed, its central theme.2 The kingdom of God explains and sums up the meaning and purpose of Jesus. The kingdom points to the universal glory, fullness, and rule of Jesus Christ and the exercise of God’s image and authority through human beings—the central features of the eternal purpose.”
He then asks the reader to approach the book like they weren’t saved. To look at it like they are hearing this for the first time.
He then describes two other gospels that were present in the 1st Century and still are today, legalism and libertinism. Legalism, we know. But what’s this other one?
“The gospel of libertinism teaches that because we are under grace, anything goes. Libertines live the way they want, having skirted the lordship of Christ. They are inclined to justify carnality by pulling the “grace card,” the “I’m free in Christ” card, and the “don’t judge me” card.”
What does he suggest the Bible teaches?
“The gospel that the apostles preached was the announcement—the heralding—that Jesus of Nazareth had become this world’s true Emperor (Lord), launching a new era of peace, salvation, and blessing, and because of it, everything has changed. This was the explosive gospel of the kingdom.”
“Since the mid-1900s, some commentators have divorced the gospel of the kingdom from the gospel of grace.* They’ve taught that the gospel of grace is mandatory for salvation, while the gospel of the kingdom is optional for discipleship.”
I’ve noticed that last quote. Deitrich Bonhoeffer went after it with both barrels in The Cost of Discipleship back in 1937.
“One of the things I’ve learned in my spiritual journey is that the closer someone gets to Jesus Christ, the less judgmental, self-righteous, harsh toward others, and selfish he or she will be. And the closer one gets to Christ, the more they will desire to know and live for God’s ultimate purpose. The lordship of Jesus Christ and the liberty of Christ are two sides of the same reality. The gospel of the kingdom liberates us from the defiling acts of the flesh on the one hand and sets us free from the self-righteousness of the flesh on the other.”
“Jesus Christ, the true King, rules by His glory. And He still gives human beings the freedom to submit to Him or reject Him.”
Then Frank takes aim at modern Christianity.
“When serving the Lord trumps knowing and loving the Lord, something is desperately wrong. This is one of the reasons why modern Christianity is so shallow. Countless young believers are trying to give away tickets to a place they’ve never been.”
Ok, Frank, what’s it supposed to be like?
“What’s required to surrender everything you have to another person? If you’ve come to deeply love someone, how did it happen? Did someone command you, saying, “You must love this person or else!”? Were you responding out of fear? Guilt? Shame? Duty? Or were your eyes opened to behold how beautiful that individual was? Indeed, that’s how it happened, was it not? You were compelled. Driven. Impelled. Obsessed even. At some point, there was an unveiling. A revelation. An eye-opening glimpse. You recognized the person’s beauty—inward and outward—and you were captivated by it. And it wrecked you for anyone else. Well, that’s precisely how the gospel of the kingdom and the Christian life were meant to function.”
I made a note here how it’s like falling in love and getting married. Casey wrecked me for everyone else.
“It’s essential that we become fascinated, gripped, and captivated by the Lord. If not, we will struggle with boredom, and our hearts will be vulnerable to pursue other things. The tokens of beauty that God has painted in His creation are designed to lead us to worship the source of all beauty itself—Christ. The beauty of God is designed to lead us to wholehearted abandonment, which is the essence of worship. As we’ve already established, all real beauty is found in God Himself. Unlike the beauty we find in the created order, the loveliness of Christ can never be exhausted or worn out.”
Where are the manly in your face parts, you may ask? This is only 10% of the way through the book. Setting it up. Here are the punches.
“Those who believed the gospel severed their allegiances to all other systems and empires, bending their knee to the new King, Jesus. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14 NIV) The irony here is that adherents to religious terrorist groups have more in common with the first-century Christians than do most contemporary believers. (Obviously, there are many differences between these radical groups and the early Christians, but I’m speaking strictly in terms of the absolute devotion they have to their faith.) “
“They switched all their allegiances to Jesus Christ. As a result, the early Christians were viewed as outcasts who were extremely dangerous (just like terrorists are today). They were regarded as subversive to the existing empire.”
“John’s disciples stopped giving their pledge to the flags of this world. They believed that the whole system was coming down and God was about to plant something new in its place. John’s message was total, utter, and absolute. And it demanded complete devotion and total allegiance. The message of John, and later Jesus and Paul, was a call to join the insurgence. One that contained no violence, no armed conflict, and no rebellious overthrow. Rather, the insurgence that John announced was built on a subversive message that people believed, lived out, and heralded to others. It constituted a nonviolent revolution, a quiet revolt against the present order.”
I noticed how big we are in America with our nationalism. We call it a Christian nation, yet it isn’t. It was founded on the Enlightenment era philosophy blended with Judeo-Christian ethics.
We wave the flag or burn it and worship another ideology. Christians are not of this world, just in it. We shouldn’t pledge allegiance to any of these. Only help when our causes are aligned, but not getting into the parts contrary to King Jesus’s decrees.
After reading this book, I began compiling all mentions of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven (they’re used interchangeably) to study.
“There are basically three views of the kingdom of God among Christians today. One view says that the kingdom equals heaven. According to this view, Christians are waiting to escape this dirty little planet called Earth to be in a better place. Advocates of this view believe this “better place” is the kingdom of God or “heaven.” All who believe in Jesus will enter the kingdom when they die. Another view says that the kingdom equals God’s miraculous power to cast out demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead. Those who advocate this view talk a great deal about “doing the work of the kingdom,” which for them means displaying the supernatural power of God here and now on the planet. Still another view says that the kingdom equals the alleviation of poverty and the implementation of social justice. Advocates of this view talk about “building the kingdom” or “doing kingdom work.” By those terms they mean striving for peace and justice in order to make the world a better place. All of these views are held in tension with one another. And one can find various verses in the Bible to support each. But they all fall short of the scriptural understanding of the kingdom of God.”
Where is the kingdom of God today?
“The kingdom of God is embodied in Jesus Christ, the King. And wherever Jesus was in the first Century, there too was His kingdom. Wherever Jesus is active today and His lordship is submitted to, there is His kingdom.”
This review is running long, and I have 5 more pages of highlights to get through. What I’ve given you is an introduction. Frank goes deeper into the kingdom and people in it, called the ekklesia, which is translated into the church in today’s Bibles.
The chapters are short, like 2-3 pages long. I encourage you to read it, even if it hurts a little. I’m still smarting over the devotion of a terrorist being greater than mine, especially when Jesus taught about giving everything up to follow him.
It got 5 stars on Goodreads and no written review until now because I had to think about it for a while. I’m still thinking about it. An earlier blog post is related to those thoughts.
That’s how I know it’s a good book.