Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. - Philippians 2:5-8
My brother from Living Hope Ministries gave me this verse on Monday and gave me a powerful insight to accompany it (which is also shared by John Loren and Paula Sanford in their book Transforming the Inner Man ).
Transformation into the image of Christ comes in two parts. Jesus' blood is applied for the forgiveness of sins. That is done completely by Him. All we can do is accept it. But if you stop there, you will not experience true transformation. Transformation comes only through the cross. The cross is there for death and resurrection power. To experience true freedom in Christ, to be transformed into the image of God, we must allow our sin patterns to be crucified. Daily.
It's a miserable death. And what makes it worse is that we can't complete it alone. Crucifixion is a death that only happens at the hands of others. Our part is choosing to stay on the proverbial cross and let our sin nature die when we're nailed to it--usually by those closest to us.
...let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2
The other side of the cross holds great joy for us, just as it did for our Savior, but death must occur before resurrection power can be fully experienced.
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus...He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
Jesus warned us that a cross would be involved. In Matthew 6:24, He says "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." He promised us persecution, and He ordered us to forgive. The two go hand in hand. Forgive as He forgave us. It's one of the hardest hills we'll ever have to climb, and becoming like Christ requires that we do it daily.
Perhaps Paul put it best:
...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 3:10-14
I always suspected this prize Paul speaks of was something we could only achieve after death, but Jesus told us that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and that we can take hold of it here and now. This climb is a difficult one, but His grace abounds in our feeble attempts at obedience, and His strength is perfected in our weakness. We can reach the other side of the cross one heart issue at a time. And the wholeness, freedom, victory, and joy we experience on the other side outshines the painful struggle we endure like a blinding light.