November 29, 2013

Temptation - Book Review

Temptation: Applying Radical Amputation to Life's Sinful Patterns by Jay Adams is a short book, only about 32 pages in length, and is part of a series of books providing Resources for Biblical Living.

Facing ongoing sin in one's life can be a troubling and frustrating part of Christian Living. I would doubt that there is a Christian out there that would honestly say that they haven't had struggles, or battles, with sin. In this book, Jay Adams begins by inviting the reader to consider sins in their own life that they may be struggling with, then he describes the two main tendencies offered in Christian circles on how to face sin.  These two options are: "(1) inaction on your part in lieu of contemplation and prayer; or (2) obedience to biblical commands that leads to growth."

Both of these methods, though often set as opposing methods, are actually missing the correct approach.  In other words, there are aspects of both that are true, but they must be taken together. I agree with this basic premise, true Biblical change is an absolute dependence on God, that we are working whole heartedly to accomplish. What many misunderstand in this is that since my sanctification (spiritual growth) is entirely dependant on God, then I can work with confidence!  Consider this passage of scripture:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV)
Can you see these two concepts working side by side?  It is not, "... God is doing his part and I am doing my part." Instead it is, "God is doing all of it so that I can do it!"

My issue, like most, is that instead of truly working, with the confidence that God is working, I want to gradually eliminate sin from my life when he calls me to stop sinning today.  This is where this little book is especially helpful. The main focus is on the concept of "radical amputation" which is pictured in Christ's teaching in Matthew 18 about the cutting off of hands and the poking out of eyes. What Jesus actually says is,
And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matthew 18:8-9, ESV)
Cutting off is so abrupt. It is so final. So much I want to hang on to the availability to sin in my attempt to stop sinning. I want to be gradual in the process. I don't want it to cost me very much.  That is not Jesus' approach. On this gradual walking away from sin, Jay Adams said something that was quite helpful in putting it into perspective:
"The proposal to 'wean' oneself from sin is as offensive as if one were to cut off a dog's tail, one thin slice at a time."
He goes on to say, in response to a Let God... mentality:
To many, the unbiblical (though seemingly spiritual) manner of putting off sin is to follow a quietistic course of action. In the final analysis -- without going into methods of various sorts -- what quietism is saying, 'God has promised to eliminate sin in my life, and only he can do so. I will therefore leave the matter in his hands. In his time, he will do so.' But this is nothing more than a pious cop-out. God has already told you the time -- it is now. The sin is to cease at once.
If you are struggling with sin in your life, then I want to recommend that you get this book. It is direct and to the point, which is what those who are in sin are needing and wanting to hear.

(This book was provided by NetGalley.com for reviewing purposes.)