PUBLICATION DATE: MARCH 2, 2011
ood Christian books on temptation are pretty hard to find. Maybe it’s because Christians like to pretend they don’t fight temptation like we do, I’m not sure, but not a lot of Christian authors are really tackling the subject. Off the top of my head, the only other one I remember reading was John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation, which seems to be the standard on the topic. That book opened up many new insights on temptation to me, but I hadn’t seen anything since that helped in that area.
That’s why I was so happy to get Russell Moore’s new book,Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ. This book was insightful, poetic, convicting, and inspiring to read. Moore has an ability (a la Tim Keller) to be able to take familiar passages in the Bible and connect them in poetic and powerful prose that communicates God’s truth to people in a fresh way. There were multiple times reading this book when I simply had to stop and take a breath from what I had just read (either from conviction or being moved by the truth of the gospel).
Moore begins with a personal anecdote to illustrate the insidiousness of sin and the seriousness with which we should encounter temptation. Then, he uses the analogy of a slaughterhouse to show how many Christians are literally walking to their own destruction willingly, not realizing the danger around them. The metaphor here was striking. These introductory chapters set the stage perfectly for encountering the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the desert. These chapters delve deeply into Jesus’ temptation for bread (“Starving to Death: Why We’d Rather Be Fed Than Fathered”), the temptation for self-vindication (“Free Falling: Why We’d Rather Be Right Than Rescued”), and the temptation for self-glorification (“Desert Reign: Why We’d Rather Be Magnified Than Crucified”).
These chapters are simply bathed in Scripture, with Moore pulling themes and passages together to paint a beautiful tapestry of the big picture of the Bible, all culminating in the cross of Christ. The themes in each chapter lend themselves well to related discussions about modern evangelicalism that were powerful commentaries in themselves. For example, in commenting on the commonplace occurrence of Christians lampooning caricatures of those who disagree with Christianity, Moore states, “The end result is a self-referential Christian rhetoric that not only fails to persuade outsiders but also fails to protect our own children and grandchildren from what we’re afraid of exposing them to in the first place. That leaves us with what amounts to, in the words of one secularist critic, little more than “a perpetual outrage machine” (p. 123). This statement, in the context of Christ’s temptation to self-vindication, was very convicting for me.
After moving through what we can learn from the three different temptations, Moore’s chapter on some of the more practical ways to fight and resist temptation is simply brilliant. He uses the example of a friend who doubted his faith because of the things he was tempted to do. As Moore explains, the temptation itself is not sin, nor are you unique because you are tempted by it. Becoming a Christian doesn’t eliminate temptation. In fact, it may actually increase it. But we can learn to fight the same way Christ did, through faith in His Father’s character and promises in scripture. If we learn to balance humility and confidence in our faith, we succumb to neither pride nor discouragement as we look to Christ’s finished work on the cross that frees us from Satan’s condemnation and God’s wrath. We are free to fight, and many times, walk in obedience.
Struggling Saints everywhere need to read this book. Modern Evangelicals tend to appear to have everything together as we fear being exposed as not what we say we are (and mostly want to be). We feel isolated. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, this cycle causes us to turn further and further inward into hiding, away from people and more importantly, away from our Father. This book will help you fight those urges. It will help you begin to take steps to walk in the Light. It will encourage you to see yourself rightly in relationship to God through Christ. I believe John Owen would be very happy with Russell Moore’s work here, and I’m thankful for men like them who understand the gospel so well and can articulate the themes and passages to help struggling sinners like me.