Maybe you tear up when you think about the words you screamed at your kids this morning. Maybe you've deleted the history cache of your computer this week, promising yourself that you'll never access those images again. Maybe you carry that empty snack bag with you in your purse to throw away later so the people in your office won't see it in the wastebasket. Maybe the prescription drugs in your desk drawer right now are the only things keeping you sane, but you fear they're making you crazy. Maybe you just can't stop thinking about the smell of your coworker's hair or the clink of the whiskey glass at the table nearby.
Maybe what you're tempted to do is so wild that my publisher wouldn't allow me to print it here, or maybe it's so tame that I wouldn't even think to mention it. I don't know. But I think I know what's behind it all.
You are being tempted right now, and so am I. Most of the time, we don't even know it. And in every one of those moments, we want either to overestimate or underestimate the power of that temptation. We overestimate it by thinking something along the lines of, "I have these feelings, so therefore I'm predestined to be this kind of person." We underestimate it by thinking something along the lines of, "I'm not tempted to do anything terrible—like adultery or murder. I'm just struggling with this small thing—bitterness over my infertility."
The gospel, though, brings good news to tempted rebels like us. … 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.
The danger we face presently isn't cognitive but primal. The demons are thinkers. They know who God is, and they tremble before that truth (James 2:19). Mere intellect cannot ensure that we are "led not into temptation" or "delivered from evil." … We are not simply overcoming something about human psychology. We're wrestling against the cosmic powers (Eph. 6:12), grappling with an animal-like spirit intent on devouring us (1 Pet. 5:8).
… Some of you reading this now will recognize the good news of what's written here, and you'll abandon it all for an orgasm or an ego. But maybe some of you who believe yourselves to be freaks of nature will cast this burden off as you see a Christ who identified himself with you even in temptation.
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Tempted and Tried is available from Amazon.com and other book retailers.
Previous articles for Christianity Today by Russell Moore include:
Abba Changes Everything | Why every Christian is called to rescue orphans. (July 2, 2010)
The Gulf of Mexico and the Care of Creation | We exercise dominion over creation not only when we use it, but also when we conserve it. (May 3, 2010)
The Empty Tomb and the Emptied Urn | What the wounds of Jesus can—and can't—tell us about our resurrection bodies. (April 7, 2009)
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