We resist temptation the way Jesus did, through the word of the kingdom. As we follow Jesus, we see the gospel reclaim our identity, reorder our desires, and reframe our future. We need to recognize that we are living in a war zone, a cosmos being ripped from the dominion of its demonic overlords. We are right now part of a counterinsurgency through the mission of Christ. It’s only in this way that we see the power of temptation over us broken, as the demonic powers flee from the presence of the only Man they fear.
Reclaiming Your Identity
My friend Felix’s problem was the same one that most people face at some point or another. His expectations of Christianity were both too high and too low. This is precisely where the satanic powers want to pin you, to hubris or to despair. As a matter of fact, the best situation the demons can have you in is actually a combination of the two, in which you ricochet back and forth between them. The gospel, though, reorients our view of ourselves, of God, and of the world by telling us who we are in Christ.
When the apostle Paul warned the Corinthian believers about temptation, he prefaced his comments with these words: “For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:1–2). This points, first of all, to humility.
From what we can tell from the rest of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the people to whom he was writing persisted in eclipsing the gospel with a sense of personal hubris. Paul silenced such boasting by reciting the truth of the gospel—no one comes to God except by receiving the undeserved mercy found in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If this is so, Paul wrote, then why did they brag and boast as though they hadn’t been given this as a gift (1 Cor. 1:26–31; 4:7)?
This hubris is especially dangerous when it comes to temptation. Our forefathers and foremothers were all “baptized.” What did Paul mean by this? They had all, he said, gone through the cloud and through the sea, referencing the Israelites’ escape from Egyptian tyranny through the parted waters. They had seen the dynamism of God’s exodus delivery. And yet most of them ended up as rotting corpses in the wilderness. If they fell, Paul wrote, then certainly so can you.
“Therefore,” Paul wrote, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). That is, in fact, what baptism is all about, an “appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Pet. 3:21). Your baptism is a sign that you’ve been buried with Christ (Col. 2:12). Like your ancestors pinned up against the sea, the only thing that has delivered you is the power of God. That repentance then ought to be ongoing, continually reminding you that you are capable of any sin. You are invulnerable to nothing. Pretending so only drives you further to destruction.
Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011).
This article excerpted from Tempted and Tried.
A Bible Study based on Tempted and Tried is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.
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