Friday, August 24

July Books: Tempted and Tried by Russell Moore

Russell Moore is a great writer. He's a good writer when it comes to concepts, but he's a great writer when it comes to stories. Having listened to him read the audio version of his fantastic book Adopted for Life, it was fun to hear his voice in my head while I read this one.

If Michael hadn't read and liked this book it certainly never would have made it on my reading list. A book on the temptation of Jesus seemed a little narrow in scope and not particularly pertinent to my own spiritual life. I realized quickly that this was a silly assumption. After all, there are few certainties in life, but temptation is definitely one of them.

This book individually examines the three temptations of Jesus and their implications about His character, Satan's methods, and our lives. I'll admit that I had difficulty following some of his points, but Moore provides the most thorough and insightful interpretation of this passage that I've ever heard. It occasionally felt like he was reading too much into the text, but considering he's dean of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, it's probably just that he knows much more about the rest of the Bible than I do. Yeah. That's definitely the case.

The three temptations of Jesus are:
  • provision - turning stones into bread
  • protection - bringing angels to the rescue
  • exaltation/inheritance - taking on Satan's domain

Moore argues that at the core of each of these temptations, and the ones you and I face today, is an invitation to cast off the fatherhood of God. With God as our perfect Father, we have access to all of these things, but only in his timing and control.

"In every one of the temptations, Satan attempted to counteract God's voice at this point: 'If you are the son of God, then...' This is the equivalent of the Edenic 'Has God really said?'"
"Most people don't first conclude that adultery is right and then start fantasizing about their neighbor swinging from a stripper pole... It happens in reverse... First, you do what you want to do, even though you 'know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die,' and only then do you 'give approval to those who practice them' (Rom 1:32) You start to see yourself as either special or hopeless, and thus the normal boundaries don't seem to apply."
"It's not that you are deficient in your ability to diagnose the situation. It's that you slowly grow to believe that your situation is exceptional."
"Eve started to see God not as Father, but as rival, and that's when she struck out to grab what He was holding back from her. Her appetites, Satan said, were a more reliable guide to what she needed than the word of her God."
"Cycles of abundance and abasement are part of God's strategic purpose, not because of his ignorance of human need."
"To lose control of your appetites is to lose sight of the gospel itself, the truth that God knows what you need to survive - the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus."
"Why do we never ask why it might be better to live in a one-bedroom apartment or a trailer park than to outsource the rearing of one's children? It's because the American way of life seems so normal to us that such things do not even seem to be options at all."

The reason Satan still uses the same methods as he did back then is that they still work. Left to our own devices, we will succumb to his schemes. But Jesus is triumphant. I've always been hasty in reading the account of his temptation because I know Jesus won't sin. It's a given. But what I learned from Russell Moore is that his triumph over Satan - not just in his resurrection, but in resisting temptation, gives us hope.

"We overcome temptation the same way He did, by trusting in our Father and hearing his voice."
"God's testing and Satan's tempting may coincide in the same event, but they are radically different, with different motives and different intended outcomes."
"The world around you often defines you in terms of what you want... If you want to have sex, then that's your 'need' and you must 'be true to yourself.' But you do not live by bread alone. You are not what you want... You are who you are. And that's defined by the Word of God."
"The Spirit of Christ compels us toward contentment. We are able to be free from the love of money when we recognize our identity and our inheritance in Christ and cling to the promise, 'I will never leave you or forsake you.' (Heb 13:5)."
"(Jesus) was willing to trust God's Word and to be seen to be wrong in the meantime."
"If you are in Christ, God will not allow you to enter his reign with a kingdom-grasping pride. You will be stripped of every haughty look, every personal empire, in order that you may enter as a little child, looking for a Father's inheritance."
"One of the first ways you can tell you are moving beyond temptation into a pattern of sin is if you find yourself in a time of prayerlessness. That isn't just a' spiritual maturity issue' - it's a gospel issue"
"Stop seeing yourself as an isolated individual, and start seeing yourself as the gospel does, as part of a head/body unity between Christ and his church... If you are in Christ, your desires will line up with his eventually. Count on it"
"As you read Scripture, ask God to discern your heart and to discipline you."

If, like me, you just read this book and move on to other things you will only find it interesting. If, like I should have done, you put it down and pray for grace at the moments that you identify your struggles, you will be changed. Revisiting the book for this post has made it clear to me that that's something I need to do. I hope you will, too.

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