I don’t particularly like country music, but I really like country music’s favorite theologian and theology’s biggest country music fan, Dr. Russell D. Moore. I respect Dr. Moore as on outstanding theologian, scholar, pastor and teacher. As an adoptive parent myself, I also respect him as an advocate for adoption. But I most respect Moore’s ability, which he learned from the likes of George Jones, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, to take deep and profound truths and express them in the language that the rest of us understand. That is exactly what Dr. Moore has done with the issue of temptation in his latest book, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ.
Dr. Moore never strays far from his country music roots in his writing and speaking, and his love for a wide variety of music is always apparent. The title of this book is borrowed from the lyrics of a southern folk hymn (“Farther Along”) which has been covered by one of Moore’s favorite artists, Brad Paisley. And one of the book’s chapter titles and funniest anecdotes relates to Tom Petty’s hit, “Free Falling”.
In Tempted and Tried, this lover of music for the common man tackles a subject that Scripture calls “common to man” – temptation. Moore examines Jesus’ testing in the desert and asserts that the three strategies that Satan employed with Jesus, temptations for consumption, security and status, are universal and are rooted in a common impulse “to cast off the fatherhood of God.” Like Jesus, says Moore, “you will be tempted to provide for yourself, to protect yourself and to exalt yourself.” We are vulnerable to Satan’s schemes because in our fallen nature we’d rather be fed than fathered (by God), we’d rather be right than rescued, and we’d rather be magnified than crucified. Satan skews our understanding of our identity and turns our God-given appetites and drives inward instead of Godward. The result, is that like cows being driven to the slaughterhouse, Satan conceals our fatal end from us and allows us to live content in our own self-absorption until it is too late.
In Tempted and Tried, Moore practically and helpfully unpacks what we must do to break the power of temptation in our lives. We must recover a sense of who we are apart from what we want. “We must end the grip that death has on us by teaching us to crave more and more of what cannot satisfy.” We must shed our need to vindicate and prove ourselves right, and submit to God as our Protector and Vindicator. Dr. Moore reminds us that Moses forfeited his opportunity to enter the promised land because he “exchanged his role as deliverer for an opportunity for self-vindication.” And we must humbly live out the implications of the gospel on mission instead of narcissistic self-exaltation. Moore says, “whatever you’re concerned about will lead to what you’ll worship. And on what you worship hinges your destiny.”
In Tempted and Tried, Moore skillfully and insightfully exposes the schemes Satan employs to deceive us and triumphantly exalts Christ as the “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) I recommend this book to everyone who struggles with temptation, which is everyone but Jesus. Now, where is that Willie Nelson CD I was looking for? 😉
[Disclosure of Material Connection: Crossway sent me a free review copy of this book. I was not asked to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”]