There has been a fair amount of buzz on twitter and various blogs about Russell Moore’s latest book, Tempted & Tried (Crossway Books), and having read it I have to say it is for good reason. Unlike the attention being paid to some other recent releases, the focus of conversation has been squarely on the content, not the author. Moore’s book is a walk into the wilderness with Jesus, as the Christ squares off against the Devil. It is both an exegetical work and a contemporary application of those strategies that were employed to tempt Christ, seeking to understand how we are likewise tempted. Most importantly, it is not a book telling us the step-by-step method of overcoming temptation, but instead is a long, hard, devoted look at the only one who has faced the Devil and walked away not guilty. Tempted & Tried not only guards us by revealing the strategies of our enemy, but keeps us from pride and legalism by pointing to Christ as our only hope for victory.
The structure of the book, after a great introduction to the general theme of temptation and the basic way that temptation will be worked on people, follows the three temptations that Christ faced in the wild places. Dealing firstly with that introduction though, because it matters – Moore is very sure to point out that we’re not dealing with make believe here. There is a temptation in modern man to think himself oh so much smarter than those who came before. Now that we understand more about the way the brain works, or the laws of nature, we can explain so much away. We are unwilling to surrender our own sovereignty over all things, and as such will not tolerate the existence of spiritual realities outside of our dominion. The Devil is not a welcome concept. Incarnate evil is so middle ages, don’t you know? Thankfully, Moore doesn’t fall for that and takes the Biblical account seriously. As Moore writes, “The sheer animal force of temptation ought to remind us of something: the universe is demon haunted.”
Allowing for that point, the next chapter deals with the brilliant patience of Satan and his cohort. “The path of temptation is gradual and intelligent,” says Moore, “not as sudden and random as it seems.” In other words, we need to keep our wits about us, stay on the ball and live our lives as though we’re at war, not out for a nice picnic.
Now we get into the meat of the text, as Moore relates the three temptations (bread, worship and throwing Himself from the high place) to the temptations we will all face: consumption, security and status. As Moore deals with the exegesis and hermeneutic of each temptation, he applies brilliant analogies, shares openly of his own struggles and falterings and applies things with a pastoral counseling tone that takes this book beyond the realm of mere information and into the kind of place that God can speak through into people’s lives.
I urge you to read the book for yourself – it isn’t overdrawn, or unnecessarily complex. That is the mark of a good teacher that he has taken complicated ideas and presented them with such comprehensibility. Let me share with you my own “aha!” moment that occurred from reading this book. It was to do with the appetites, and other than C.S. Lewis, I have not found a more insightful view on the appetites. Maybe I’m just not widely read enough, but it isn’t for want of trying!
Moore notes, “The fear of death overshadows us, tempting us to grab what we want, to satisfy our cravings, before we lose our opportunity. The reign of death seeks to drive us on to fill our guts with what we think we need.” But he also says that “a life that is all fast or all feast is disordered to the core.” Moore is not opposed to the appetites. We must remember that these appetites are given by God.
Here’s the payoff for me: we’ve spent so long being told that our appetites (food, sex, possessions) are for survival. We eat for sustenance. We have sex to procreate. We acquire to be secure and expand our empires. Once survival is dealt with, then we begin to enjoy food for itself, sex for itself, things for themselves. But in that the appetites are never satisfied. This is because with that model the appetites never get their true climax. Our appetites exist that we might give thanks to God. That’s where I got to from Moore’s writing, and I don’t know if he actually spelled that out, but I’m thankful that I landed there!
The same principal is found in the issue of security and status. When those are not submissive to God, they become places of weakness we can be tempted in as fear is used to drive us to take things for ourselves.
The book is gospel-infused, full of grace and truth, and brimming with the power of Christ who was tempted, tried and is victorious.
Here’s a video of Justin Taylor interviewing Dr. Moore about the book:
A review copy was provided to me at no charge by the publisher. No attempt was made to gain a favorable review, and all opinions and recommendations expressed are the author’s own.