Earlier this summer, I was blessed to have the chance to read Dr. Russell Moore’s latest book, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ. I absolutely LOVED this book! It’s phenomenal.
In Tempted and Tried, Dr. Moore tackles the tough subject of temptation through a powerful exposition of Christ’s temptation by Satan in the desert. He opens the first chapter, “Wrestling With Demons: Why Temptation Matters”, with a personal anecdote and then moves into a sweeping overview of the whole history of redemption, framing temptation as a cosmic spiritual battle with eternal significance, not just a personal struggle for individual believers.
“In order for Jesus to proclaim the Kingdom of God, he needed also to point out why the world that God created was anything other than his kingdom anyway. Jesus, like the prophets before him, showed us that the cosmic order was hijacked millennia ago by these “rulers” and “authorities”(Eph. 6:12). Jesus in his taking on of our nature, offering himself up in death as a sacrifice for our sins, and turning back the curse of death in his resurrection, has ended the claim these demonic powers have on the universe. These powers don’t want to give up their dark reign, so they are lashing back, and with fury. This means war.” (p. 20)
“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). Ultimately, the agony of temptation is not about you or me. We’re targeted because we resemble Jesus, our firstborn brother. We all, whether believers or not, bear some resemblance to Jesus because we share with him a human nature in the image of God. As we come to find peace with God through Jesus, though, we begin a journey of being conformed more and more into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). The demons shriek in the increasing glory of that light, and they’ll seek even more frenetically to put it out of their sight.” (p. 21)
In the second chapter, he uses the metaphor of a slaughterhouse to illustrate how many Christians are walking willingly to their own destruction without even realizing they’re in danger. He goes through the steps in the cycle of temptation. First, we question our identity. Next comes the confusion of our desires, and finally, the challenge of our future.
These two introductory chapters set the stage perfectly for the next three, each examining in depth one of the three temptations of Christ in the desert: the temptation for bread or appetite (“Starving to Death: Why We’d Rather Be Fed Than Fathered”), self-vindication (“Free Falling: Why We’d Rather Be Right Than Rescued”), and self-glorification (“Desert Reign: Why We’d Rather Be Magnified Than Crucified”). Every page of these chapters was packed. I had so many passages highlighted and starred that it was impossible to narrow them down to share!
Chapter 6, “Where the Wild Things Aren’t: Why You Can Resist Temptation (Especially If You Can’t See How)”, is brilliant. With practical examples, Dr. Moore reminds us that we are able to resist temptation because of Christ’s finished work on the cross:
“Gospel freedom is the most important aspect of resisting temptation. Remember that Satan’s power over you is first and foremost the power of accusation and threatened death. In Christ, though, you have already been indicted, judged, executed, and resurrected. You are ‘dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 6:11). Regardless of whether you support or oppose the death penalty, you’d probably wince to hear about a state that executed a murderer and then had a public flogging of his corpse. Your discomfort there wouldn’t be because you’re soft on murder but because that act would be insanely beside the point. After all, an executed corpse can’t be punished anymore. It’s over.
Likewise, you’ve been to hell in the cross of Christ. You’ve been buried beneath the judgment of God, turned over to the Devil, and you are gone. Now you stand in Christ, hidden in his identity, and thus free from any accusation. Knowing that truth doesn’t lead you to yield to temptation but instead to fly from it. You’re not hiding from God anymore.
Jesus overcame temptation because he consistently believed God’s Word about him-‘You are my beloved Son’-even when he walked in the wild places. Because there was no sin in him, his communion with his Father was unbroken. The gospel reminds you continually that you are found in Christ, that the Christ-life is being lived out in you through the Spirit, and that the Father is therefore pleased with you. The more you look to Christ, the less you hide.” (p. 170-171)
In Chapter 7, Dr. Moore brings it all together and wraps it up:
“I hope now that you’ve finished this book…you have a little more perception of what’s going on in the skirmish for your life. I hope you recognize the satanic offers that come to you for self-directed provision or protection or exaltation. I hope you see how our Lord Jesus can intercede for you, how the Spirit can fight through you. But mostly I hope you see the point of it all. You cannot triumph over temptation. Only Jesus can.” (p. 195)
The book is simply brilliant. Dr. Moore is not so much a straightforward writer clearly laying out his case as he is an exceptional storyteller. Using beautiful, poetic prose, he meanders from Old Testament parallels to personal anecdotes to observations from culture and then skillfully drives home his point at just the right time. The result is incredibly powerful.
I found the book completely absorbing, and yet I read it fairly slowly compared to my normal pace, simply because I so often had to stop to soak in the compelling, profound truths he drove home throughout the book. This is so much more than simply a self-help guide to resisting temptation based on biblical principles. Every chapter is simply bathed in Scripture and crammed with powerful insights into the nature of temptation, framed within the larger context of the Kingdom of God and the spiritual warfare raging for it.
Tempted and Tried is must-read! I give it my highest recommendation!