As I said in a previous post, Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore has been the best book I have read so far this year. It is an in-depth study of the accounts of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness when He stood face to face with Satan and walked away victorious. As Moore fleshes out these small pieces of Scripture with great insight, he hearkens back to Old Testament accounts of temptation (Adam and Eve, Jacob and Esau, Israel in the wilderness) in order to provide a contrasting perspective between the frailty of man and the triumph of Christ.
From the get-go, I knew the book was going to be different from most of what I’ve read in the past. Moore does not mix words nor does he dabble with PC descriptions of the adversary of the Bible. In the first chapter, he speaks of Satan in descriptive and chilling terms as he fleshes out a general understanding of temptation and how the demonic powers prey upon our individual weaknesses.
The subsequent chapters dig into the meat of Jesus’ experience in the wilderness. Their titles are self-explanatory:
Starving To Death: Why We’d Rather Be Fed Than Fathered
Free Falling: Why We’d Rather Be Right Than Rescued
Desert Reign: Why We’d Rather Be Magnified Than Crucified
In these, Moore discusses the specific roots of sinfulness that Satan used in an attempt to lead Jesus astray. This adversary is neither ignorant or always easy to see. Rather, he is cunning, crafty, and clever. He studies humanity and even Scripture (Luke 4:9-11). Temptation matters and so does the one who employs it for his own dark endeavors because the ultimate goal is that our eyes might be diverted from the blood-stained cross of Christ.
“The satanic powers don’t care if your illusion is one of personal grandiosity or of self-loathing, as long as you see your current circumstance, rather than the gospel, as the eternal statement of who you are.” (28)
Throughout the final chapter, Moore paints a picture of the believer’s reality in light of the victory of Christ: freedom even when we cannot see it. The theme that continues to come up is that of 1 Corinthians 10:13, that in all situations Christ is working freedom within us and has provided a path for us to pursue that Truth.
This book struck me in a few different ways. First, it was a stark reminder for me that my struggle as a believer is a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:12). The demonic powers are real, they are active, and they are unceasingly persistent for their cause. They are also good at what they do. After all, they’ve been practicing for thousands of year since that ancient day in the Garden of Eden. I very much appreciate that nothing was sugarcoated. As I said earlier, Moore writes in very clear and offsetting descriptions that will stir your soul. There is a sinister evil preying upon us day and night whose goal is to divert us from Christ. That needs to be spoken of plainly even if it is uncomfortable.
More than anything, I felt deeply encouraged when I finished the final chapter. Although Satan is a clever and effective enemy, we have victory over his ways in Christ Jesus who met him in the wilderness, subjected Himself to the devil’s best attempts to cheat Him away, and walked out triumphant. Our Savior has experienced our trials in every way and He was victorious over them. Now, because we died with Him on the cross, He lives in us that we might walk victoriously and freely as well. So when it comes to temptation, our hope is not in will power or external behavioral modification, but in allowing the promises of Christ to radiate throughout our lives. The believer does not have a comfortable life. There will be trials for us all, but when we put our faith in Christ we can know that those trials are for the purpose of leading us towards holiness that God might be glorified more fully with our lives. We persist, we push back against the darkness, we call on the Lord and the devil will flee from His Presence within us (James 4:7).
I would encourage you all to read this book. Temptation is intrinsic to the existence of a Christ follower as we are waging a war with a fierce enemy who does not play by the rules. Tempted and Tried helps sharpen your understanding of the various tools Satan uses to employ his tactics of temptation, but more than anything the book serves to illustrate the victory we have in Christ. Apart from Him, we are lost and defeated, but when He becomes our reality we can truly walk alongside Him in victory.
If you’re interested, you can pick up a copy of the book by clicking here.
“The problem is though, that we often think escape from temptation, promised by God, means escape from the agony of struggling against temptation, which it does not. Don’t pray for an end to the struggle. Pray for your warfare to be more effective as you dodge fiery darts on the way into the kingdom.” (184)