The Image and Presence of the Crucified

Joos de Momper (II) - Landscape with the Temptation of Christ - WGA16134

There is only one stronger reality to be set against the exclusive reality of desire and of Satan: the image and the presence of the Crucified. Against this power the power of desire breaks up into nothingness; for here it is conquered. Here the flesh has received its right and its reward, namely death. Here I realize that the lust of the flesh is nothing else than the anguish of the flesh in the face of death. Because Christ is the death of the flesh, and because this Christ is within me, the dying flesh rears itself up against Christ. Now I know that the death of the flesh is manifested in the temptation of the flesh. The flesh dies because it kindles lust and desire. In the temptation of the flesh I share in the death of Jesus in the flesh. So the temptation of the flesh which draws me into the death of the flesh, drives me into the death of Christ, who died in the flesh but who is raised in the spirit. Only the death of Christ rescues me from the temptation of the flesh…Flee to that place where you find protection and help, flee to the Crucified. His image and his presence alone can help. Here we see the crucified body and perceive in it the end of all desire; here we see right through Satan’s deceit and here our spirit again becomes sober and aware of the enemy.”- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Temptation, 34-35.

“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”- Romans 7:22-8:1.

Where can i go when i have removed myself from the source of temptation, only to realize that the temptation is coming from within me? After I have run as Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife, where can i go when i find Potiphar’s wife even within my own being? I can only go to the place where all evil desire, all sin, all ungodliness has found its end. I can only run to Christ. I often think that simply “escaping” from temptation and sin by running from it will kill sin within me. And surely this may help for the time being, but i have not addressed my heart, and i have not addressed my own struggle to believe in truth over lies. For surely, though sin finds a way to tempt me by using external things, i will find that temptation and evil desire are arising not from without, but from within. And then i must address my faith, i must address my heart. I must not only run from sin, i must run to something stronger. And here my heart must find a superior joy, a superior strength, a superior Savior to latch onto over and against the extreme strength and pull of my own evil desire. And this superior Superior is the Crucified and Risen Christ. Little does my flesh know that in tempting me, it has forced me to run to the Destroyer of sin itself. Temptation and sin only force me to the place where temptation and sin have been dealt with, have been annihilated, have been destroyed. Temptation leads me to Christ. Here i see that sin has been lying, sin has been deceiving. Here i see the folly of seeking my salvation and satisfaction in the things of this world. Here i see the Only Savior. Here at the cross i see the Only Satisfaction, and i come to rest in my union with the Son of God. Here i understand that “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” (Galatians 2:20). Here at the feet of Christ i perceive my new life, my new status, my new family, my new hope, my new assurance. This practice of fleeing to the Christ by meditation in His word, by prayer, by communion with other believers, by using any means, is anything but an easy fix. It doesn’t always follow that my temptation will cease and the storms will subside. But where else can I go? I must feast on Christ, and i must trust that over time, a long time, my heart will come to treasure, adore, and savor Him more than the wretchedness, deceitfulness, and emptiness of my own sin.

*On the Painting Used:
Joos de Momper’s work is truly wonderful. In the distance we see not only Christ being tempted by Satan, but we behold the Cross also. Surely Christ knew that the fate of His people rested in these hours of temptation. By overcoming Satan in these moments, He preserved Himself in His righteousness. Because He preserved Himself, He is able to arrive at the cross as a perfect sacrifice. Because He arrived at the Cross as an imperfect sacrifice, He was able to secure His people. He not only secures us in being a perfect sacrifice, but also in being able to credit His own righteousness to His peoples’ accounts. Only a perfect sacrifice could atone for His imperfect people, and only a Christ who overcame temptation, Satan, and sin could be the superior hope, joy, and satisfaction of a people who are unified with Him but still remain in the midst of deep temptation and struggle with sin.

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