A Resource For Overcoming Temptation: a book review

We all struggle with temptation and fall victim to our bad choices. Arnie Cole of Back to the Bible and  journalist Michael Ross have teamed up to help us overcome our sin. Following up on their previous book, Unstuck, Cole and Ross  examine the anatomy of temptation and the areas we each struggle with.  As director of the Center for Biblical Engagement, Cole has conducted  surveys on more than 100,000 people on the areas of temptation and spiritual growth. In the pages of Tempted, Tested, True: A Proven Path to Overcoming Soul-Robbing Choices they share the findings of their research, share stories of co-strugglers and offer a biblical remedy for temptation.

Tempted, Tested, True: A Proven Path to Overcoming Temptation by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross

Cole and Ross market Tempted, Tested True as two books in one:

(1) A faith-building guide filled with practical solutions

(2) A personal and small-group workbook (19).

Each of the ten chapters concludes with the workbook section called  ‘a nudge’. The ‘nudges’ are loosely correlated to the chapter material so it is possible to do the workbook independent of reading. For the purposes of this review, I read the chapter material and skimmed the workbook. However I do plan to go back through the workbook exercises more in-depth because  they will be helpful to me (though the table of contents does not tell you the page numbers for the nudge sections)

What I liked best about this book was the tone. This is a book dealing with sin and temptation but it is also gracious. Cole and Ross are fellow strugglers and they open up about this along the way and profile a number of other people. In fact several other writers contributed to chapters of this book, including: Theresa Cox, David Barshinger, Pamela Ovwigho, Kelly Combs, Sue Cameron, Deidra Riggs and Michelle DeRusha.

Their gracious look at temptation eschews easy answers and quick-fix solutions. The  contributors have each pursued personal holiness, sometimes at personal cost.  They have all experienced forgiveness and freedom but they also know how their sin has hurt the ones they loved. Some also have had to set up boundaries to protect themselves from other people’s sin (i.e. Kelly’s Story in chapter six, shares how her mother’s addiction and manipulation made it impossible to remain in relationship with her).  Despite the difficulties faced, Ross and Cole and company hold out the possibility of freedom in Christ.

This book is thoughtfully put together. The research basis for this book means that Cole and Ross do not simply spout off what they think women or men struggle with. Instead they speak empirically of what men and women have really struggled with and they guard from oversimplifying issues.  Their objectivity makes this a useful book for Christians of different theological persuasions.

However I found this book limited in a couple of respects. Cole and Ross speak to where people feel tempted and to issues that besiege  Christians. Yet a full-bodied treatment of sin has to go beyond the realm of felt-temptation. The biggest sins are not always lust, anger or addictions, there are sins of omission as well. One of the biggest sins in our churches is our failure to care about the world around us by reaching out with tangible love. To put it another way, James 1:27 says, “True religion is to care for widows and orphans and to keep yourself from corruption.” Tempted, Tested, True does a great job of helping us keep ourselves from corruption, but says little to encourage us towards active care of widows and orphans. To do the one without the other, is still sin.

On a related note, this book focuses on individual,  personal sins but does not explore the complementary theme of social, and institutional evils.  Following Jesus calls us to stand against injustice and oppression. This is what brought Jesus into conflict with the religious leaders in his own day. Remember how the Pharisees had their own personal code of holy living but ‘devoured widows houses’? (Mark 12:40).  Let me clear, I think personal sins should not be glossed over and we need to pursue personal holiness. However our discussion of sin should  be cognizant of social sin as well.

It is not that a book has to say everything.  I think this book does a great job of articulating its theme. I just feel that you could put into practice the principles in this book and still fall short of all that God intends for your life.  The way of  Jesus is more radical than a personal means of transformation and behavior modification. Jesus is alive and that changes everything.  That being said I think that this book can and should be read for benefit.  Understanding the nature of temptation and how to stand up under it is a noteworthy goal.

I think this book is a good aid for personal study or discussion. I give it 3.5 stars.

Thank you to Bethany House for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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I am a pastor, husband, father, instigator, pray-er, hoper, writer, trouble-maker, peacemaker, and friend. Who are you?

3 thoughts on “A Resource For Overcoming Temptation: a book review”

  1. Nice review, I’m interested in this book. It is something I’ve looked at pretty close with verses like 1 Corinthians 10:13 and in Gen 3. It would be interesting to see the results of his surveys. We should have coffee again, I enjoyed it last time.

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