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Battling Sin and Temptation

Todd Hunter, Anglican bishop in California has written a challenging yet rewarding book the sins we commit and the way forward from them. To begin with, I think the topic he chose to write on is extremely important for the life of believers and the church at large. Too often, we ignore or accept the struggles we face and think they will subside after time. He begins the book by stating part of the goal in writing by saying, "Beating temptation requires struggle because it always involves sorting out rightly ordered desires for good and godly things from our disordered desires for wrong things" (3). This struggle is a battle to put to death those desires for wrong things that not only cause us harm but others as well. If the default position in selfishness, then the goal is to work with God to transform our desires. Taking a cue from Joseph, Hunter indicates in the first chapter that doing right and godly work enables the flourishing of other people in our path (family, church, culture, etc.).

Hunter in he second chapter examines our disordered desires. I often think of disordered desires coming from oustide of myself, from the culture, media, and place in which I live seeking to grab hold of me. Yet, Hunter in seeking to cull together the wisdom of the Scriptures, points out that our disordered desires come from within us. Hunter says, "I can be tempted only when a desire I already have within me matches something that comes to my attention" (18). We see something outside ourselves and the desire we already have wants to match up with the outside temptation, and in turn, this causes our desires to flee toward sin with a fierce engagement. In many ways, our desires seek to master us when we find ourselves on a never ending quest of sin, therefore, dulling our hearts and minds to the painful consequences of sin.

Throughout the book, Hunter signals to his readers that outward attempts to battle sin and temptation usually fail because we have not gotten to the root of the issue. Why? "Information alone does not produce change because it does not touch the will, the emotions, the heart, the spirit, or our social environment" (59). By learning to have our desires, to not allow them to rule our lives in sinful practices, we can begin to battle temptation victoriously. Dealing with anger, lust, immorality as it comes up, bringing it before God is part of the picture. I would also say that although outward actions do not always provide lasting change, removing some of the present obstacles is part of the process (addiction to ice cream, don't have it in the freezer).

The chapter on Media Mary was indicative of the state of our iPad culture. It is not that computers, iPad's, digital music players, video game consoles are inherently evil, but we have wrong desires that match up with these temptations (100-101). The core thought behind this Hunter reminds us is, "If I don't do this or that thing, I am going to miss out on something wonderful, great, necessary, and fulfilling to my real self" (101). Media has a way of capturing my heart because it pulls in my desires for somebody to listen to me and to think I'm wise. This kind of temptation is all too apparent as everyday I see people in their cars texting someone else while driving.

I know that some readers objected to the over Anglican nature of the last few chapters, but I was encouraged by these practices because I have seen real fruit come from them. Hunter distingusihes between disciplines of engagement and disciplines of abstinence (157). Engaging in bible study and prayer, fellowship and the sacraments has a lasting affect on battling temptation because the regular practice of these things cultivates in our hearts a desire to rightly serve God and his kingdom. A healthy reading of Scripture helps us to find our place in God's story and see how his pursuit of us never fails, even when we fall flat on our faces.

The only major critique of the book is that I would have like to see a good discussion of the idea of union with Christ in relationship to battling sin. It is healthy to know over and again that we have all the blessings we will ever need in being joined to Christ. In knowing and believing this whole heartedly, we can begin to understand that anything that would seek to master us sends a message that Christ is not enough for us.

Overall, I think this was a very good book in dealing with sin and temptation. Most importantly, this book calls believers to turn to Christ and not see disordered desires as outside us but waging war inside us.

Much thanks to the BookSneeze program and Thomas Nelson for the copy of this book.



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