It seems a little odd to me to try and make a bridge between us on the subject of temptation. If the news outlets are any indicator, Senators still face the temptations of infidelity, government heads still face the temptations to oppress and abuse power, marriages are still fraught with the temptations of adultery and financial anxieties, and on the whole, people continue to live in a fallen, broken world.
When it comes to understanding the nature of the temptations we face and how to find help and hope, there’s no better person to look to than Jesus. Jesus was tempted, and was tempted by none other than Satan himself, in the flesh. It’s this passage out of Matthew 4 about the temptation of Jesus that Russell Moore opens up for us in his book, Tempted and Tried: Temptations and the Triumph of Christ.
Maybe this seems like a strange angle to you in understanding your own temptations. How can Jesus, who was sinless, relate with someone like you and me? Deep down, maybe you whisper with me, “Isn’t learning from giving in to temptations and making mistakes just what it means to be human? So how can Jesus relate with that?”
Here is where Dr. Moore is helpful. In his book he plainly opens up the temptations Jesus faced in Matthew 4 and breaks them down so we see the full weight of what was at stake in each of Jesus’ temptations. At the root of every real temptation Jesus faced was a temptation I feel so desperately allured by every day. Have you ever just wanted to be provided for, protected, and given good things? If you’ve ever faced those desires, and the sinful temptations to get them apart from God, then you have an idea of the temptations Jesus faced.
But this is how Moore’s book is helpful. Jesus didn’t just come to endure the temptations we face on a daily, hourly basis, he came to conquer them. He came to be tempted and tried so that he could vindicate his people to new life. Where our father Adam failed, Jesus came to be faithful.
Ultimately, temptations are about identity – the call of where we’re going to find it, and who’s going to satisfy our cravings. But it’s not just about finding identity, it’s about who that identity is in. Moore makes this brilliant insight into Jesus’ temptation, and implicitly, our own:
At the root of temptations are the question: Who are you going to call your father? God or Satan. Bob Dylan once sand, “It might be the Devil, it might be the Lord, but your gonna have to serve somebody.” At the root of Jesus’ and our temptations are the question of who we’re going to serve and root our identity in. Moore is helps us see the real, raw, weighty nature of Jesus’ temptations, and how we are not only assailed by the same temptations, but how rooting one’s identity in Christ through repentance and faith, being a child of our Heavenly Father (rather than our satanic father) is key to walking in newness of life.
If you’re like me, this can all begin to feel a little… invasive. But that’s the point – you and me need the invasion of a Healer, one who can fix our brokenness. This is how Moore’s book is so deeply helpful. Moore is clear and articulate in opening up Scripture, and he aptly exemplifies the sympathy of Jesus for sinners like us in the pastoral, caring heart of Christ he takes in his posture towards us in how he applies Scripture. This book is profoundly practical and rich with good insights into how we live.
I think that on the spectrum of books about sin in the Christian life, Moore’s Tempted and Tried is one of the most accessible books on the subject. Obviously John Owen has written a great deal about sin and temptation, but even abridgments and updates of his work can be rough reading. Moore’s angle of engaging the Christian life through the life of Christ is immediately helpful. If you want to overcome sin with simply more of Jesus, then entering in through the temptations and triumph of Jesus is the place to begin.
In the end, my only critiques of the book is that the chapters are long and that I despise end-notes (the constant flipping to the end of the book!). But, eh… that’s small beans, and I need to get over myself.
If you want to know more about the temptations of Christ and his compassion for sinners like us, read this book. If you want to overcome sin and temptation, but know that such a goal must require Jesus to succeed, read this book. If you’re weary of being beat over the head with moralistic rules on how to overcome weaknesses, read this book. If you want a profound adoration and love for Christ to be the powerhouse in working through temptations and sin, read this book.
Title: Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ
Author: Russell D. Moore
Dust jackets: n/a
Binding: sewn and glue
Topical index: yes
Scriptural index: yes
Price USD: $13.99 / $10.04 at WTSBooks