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Reflections from Russell Moore’s Tempted and Tried

Russell D. Moore. Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011. 208 pp.

Russ Moore’s Tempted and Tried is a helpful exegesis of Jesus’ wilderness temptation with regards to fighting temptation as a believer. Moore explains, “The same Spirit who led Jesus through the wilderness and empowered him to overcome the Evil One now surges through all of us who are joined by faith to Jesus. We overcome temptation the same way he did, by trusting in our Father and hearing his voice” (22).

Moore seems primarily to use Matthew’s account of Jesus’ wilderness temptation (Matt. 4:1-11), although he references Mark’s brief passing mention of Jesus’ temptation (Mark 1:12-13) and Luke’s account of the wilderness temptation (Luke 4:1-13). Thus, Moore identifies these three temptations as the temptations at the core of Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness:

  1. the temptation of “consumption” and “self-provision” (63)
  2. the temptation to “self-protection” (109)
  3. the temptation to force “inheritance” and “exaltation” prematurely into the here and now (131)
Jesus overcame each of these temptations without sinning, but we don’t always fare so well in our struggles against Satan. As Moore explains in the second chapter of Tempted and Tried, we don’t always overcome temptation because temptation leads us to sin like cattleranchers lead cattle to a slaughterhouse. From James 1, Moore identifies three steps in “the cycle of temptation” (28):
  1. “the question of your identity” (28)
  2. “the confusion of desires” (37)
  3. “the challenging of your future” (50)
He concludes, “In many ways the more tranquil you feel, the more endangered you are. As you find yourself curving around the soft corneers of your life, maybe you should question the quietness of it all” (59). James puts it this way:
each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (1:14-15)

Temptation is like the lure at the end of a fishing rod. The fish doesn’t know there’s a hook until it’s too late. Even so with us and temptation: we have a desire and indulge it, perhaps not realizing that such sinful indulgence “brings forth death.”

So how are we supposed to fight temptation, if it’s so sneaky? We are to take our cues from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. With each temptation, he quoted Scripture back at Satan. Recall the cycle to temptation, for there are three corresponding actions in the resistance of temptation:

  1. reclaim your identity (166)
  2. reorder your desires (176)
  3. reframe your future (185)

We must remember who we are in Christ Jesus: we are redeemed from sin, freed from the power of Satan. As a result, our desires are now in the process of conforming ever more to those of Christ, and our future is the redemption and glorification of our bodies upon Jesus’ return. By consciously keeping these things in mind that we learn in Scripture, we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, strive against temptation. I can’t agree more with Moore’s conclusion to his book:

I want you to see how imperiled you are. I want you to see how fought for you are. And I want you to be prompted to drop the book and pray to the only One who knows how to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). And I want to remember to do that too. (196)

Amen!

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