I just finished reading Tempted and Tried by Russell Moore (2011). The book’s sub-title: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I am excited to recommend this book to anyone who wants to prepare themselves for everyday attacks from Satan.
So far, I have not read any other book on this broad topic. John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Tempation is out there and it’s recommended by many, but at over 400 pages, it’s a slightly longer read (Moore’s book is accessible at just under 200 pages). There’s a ton of books written about sexual temptation but I was excited to read one that speaks to all temptation like Moore’s book does. And I do mean all. The way Moore approaches this topic through scripture is conveniently comprehensive. More on that below but I can confidently say—it doesn’t matter what kind of sin you are struggling with, it’s covered in this book.
Tearing Down the Icon
This book is about temptation therefore it goes without saying: this book is for every Christian. But this isn’t a mere ‘how-to’ guide on how to have victory over your sin. Moore gets to the core of what temptation is all about and guess what, it’s not even about you:
Temptation is so strong in our lives precisely because it’s not about us. Temptation is an assault by the demonic powers on the rival empire of the Messiah. That’s why conversion to Christ doesn’t diminish the power of temptation—as we often assume— but actually, counterintuitively, ratchets it up. If you bear the Spirit of the One the powers rage against, they will seek to tear down the icon of the Crucified they see embedded in you (1 Pet. 4:14, Rev. 12:17). (p.21)
Satan wants to diminish the gospel you believe in but Jesus Christ triumphed in the wilderness and we will forever have the gospel of grace. It’s our job to be ready for Satan’s inevitable attacks for the sake of Christ’s name and for the sake of your soul.
Methods of the Wilderness
Moore walks you through the gospel accounts of the temptation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan, face to face (Matt. 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-15). Satan tempted Jesus in three ways, using three strategies which are:
1. To get you to provide for yourself.
2. To get you to vindicate and protect yourself.
3. To get you to seek your own glory.
Again, I’m convinced every temptation past, present and future is connected to one or more of these satanic strategies. Notice what they all have in common—Satan wants you to forget God and forget the gospel of salvation. The beauty of Moore’s book is that he not only speaks to how Satan was using these methods to tempt Jesus, he shows the reader that Satan has been using the same strategies throughout the Old Testament all along, most evidently in the fall of Adam and Eve and the rebellion of the Israelites during the exodus. Moore also uses Esau, David and King Saul as examples of people falling to temptation. After Moore unfolds Satan’s intention in each temptation, it becomes clear how Satan is using the same methods on you and me today. Moore is helpful in giving contemporary examples of Satan tempting Christians, however subtle the temptation may be in our lives.
Lining Up Desires
Jesus never forgot who he was and what God could provide. That’s why he triumphed in the wilderness. Moore reminds the reader in his conclusion to remember who you are: Spirit-filled and connected with Christ. Your desires may be out of whack today and you might feel hopeless. The bible doesn’t deny this. But Moore reminds us:
Stop thinking of yourself as an isolated individual, and start seeing yourself as the gospel does, as part of the head/body unity between Christ and his church. Jesus’ desires are ordered toward the will of God. (p.178)
You can count on your desires lining up with Christ eventually (Rom. 8:29). It takes obedience through faith in Christ for he’s the only one with the authority to tell the Devil to “be gone.” (p.191)
Tempted and Tried is helpful, insightful, convicting and full of truth. It’s gospel-centered through and through and I am confident that if you take time to read it, you will learn more about yourself, Christ and the evil one who wants you to forget the gospel.