It is absolutely faulty if we have this idea that once we come to Christ, that's all the more we need of the Cross; now we need to move on to other things in the Christian life. No. No. No.
What the Cross is it's the greatest demonstration of love of all. And as we are brought back to that demonstration of love again and again, and we behold Christ, and we behold what He did, and we behold His sacrifice, we behold Him suffering the wrath of God, we behold Him enduring what nobody else ever endured, we behold such depths such heights such expanses of love, and we behold this and we gaze upon this, and we take this in, Paul realizes this... Yes the Spirit of God is the One who bears this fruit in our lives, but it is as we abide in Christ.
How do we abide in Christ? By faith, we keep looking; we are beholding. The image is worked by the Spirit into the fabric of our beings as we are gazing on Him.
Again, husbands, love your wives, no period there, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Brethren, how many zealous new Christians work themselves practically to exhaustion trying to keep the commandments, trying to keep the rules, trying to do this, trying to keep going, trying to gut it out, trying to grit their teeth, trying...
And do you realize what is said? The idea is, we behold the Lord. Did you realize that that text in 2 Corinthians 3:18 isn't even a text that is telling us so much how to become lovers of men, it basically is telling us how to become image-bearers of Christ. And it says, "Behold Him."
Brethren, have you ever been in a place where you have beheld Christ and you have been so moved by a view of Him; you have been so overcome by His love for you; it has swept you off your feet, it has caused you to go to your knees on the floor, it has caused the tears to flow, where you've just bowed your head; do you ever tell Christ that you love Him? Or do you feel His love? Have you ever had experiences much like the Song of Solomon, where you just feel Christ is coming to you, and He is loving you, and He is visiting you, and He is putting His arms around you, and He is kissing you with the kisses of His love, and you have a feeling and a sense of Him dying for you, have you ever been there brethren? I mean, I go there almost every week in our singing at church. I feel that when we are singing those songs.
Brethren, in spite of all your failings and shortcomings, cultivate a love relationship with Him. The way of holiness is not law of any kind, but a love relationship with Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Brethren, this isn't any exhortation to ease. I mean, what he is NOT saying there is, "Stop striving to be like Him altogether." He says, "Sometimes we need to just stop striving and behold Him." And when he says, "Stop striving," he doesn't mean that if we get to that place where we bask in the glow of Christ like that, that suddenly the Christian life becomes easy. "Through much tribulation, we must enter the Kingdom." (Acts 14:22). "Follow Me," He said, "Follow Me." What does that mean? Imitate Me. We do need to strive to follow Him; but brethren, the way the power is going to come to us is as we behold Him and our following of Him. But as we behold Him and follow Him, we must carry our Cross and deny ourself.
It doesn't mean it's always going to be easy. It is a hard path. But let me ask you this: Who is it throughout history, what men and what women have most made the greatest sacrifices of love for the sake of Christ? It has been those who have been most enamored with His glory; who have most beheld that Shekinah glow as it comes from Christ; they have most beheld Him in His glory, in His beauty; they have most communed with Him, walked with Him.
Brethren, what is it that pumps the power of the living God into the life of a human being whereby they can love in ways that are absolutely unknown to this world, and are the chief indicators that we are disciples of the living Christ. Brethren, the people that can go hard after God like that, and make the sacrifices - the ones that can lay their lives down, the ones that can take the costly path of discipleship, they are the ones that feed on this flow of power from God through the beholding of Christ.
You can go nail your Ten Commandments over your door. And I've been in churches like that. They pound Law, Law, Law, Law. It's a Christless pounding of the Ten Commandments, and it drives it home - legalism - it becomes a place that it stale and full of the scent of death. Brethren, when you set your eyes on Christ, it's not saying there are no laws in God's Word to be kept. There are. But when my faith...you know, Christ says that we are to eat of Him. When you lay your teeth into Him, such nutrients come from that. That is a picture of faith, when we look at Him and we believe Him, we trust Him, we gaze upon Him.
How do you gaze on His glory? Again, we don't have any inner sanctum to walk into, any holy of holies, where we find the Shekinah today. You find that glow in the Word of God. You find it in His Word, you find it on your knees in prayer as you commune with Him. You find as you pray, and you meditate, and you memorize Scripture, and you find that the Scripture becomes real, and the Spirit of God makes it alive, and you can see in your mind's eye what Christ is like. You see Him: "If You will, You can make me clean." "I will. Be clean." You see that, and, can you imagine being one of the disciples? Brethren, by faith we can walk those dusty roads with Christ where He loved men and women; where He loved some old, formerly demon-possessed woman, probably prostitute like Mary Magdalene. O brethren you know the stories.
Mature, brethren, mature. Where is the path? Because this is what we want. We want something tangible that we can go out of this place and set ourselves to. And what is that? It's gazing on Christ. You gaze on Christ, you feed on Christ, then you set your love on people. That is saying it in a nutshell. But brethren, that's where it is. You need a power outside yourself to mature in love the way you are told. It comes by the Spirit as you behold Christ. And in that way, from one degree to another you are transformed into His glory. You see that progression? That's maturity. From one degree of glory to another degree of glory - that is from one lesser degree to a greater degree. That is maturing. You become more like Christ as you gaze at Christ, that is the maturing process. Brethren, there is no shortcuts. You try it any other way, it's not going to work.
There is no substitute for time spent with Christ. No substitute. None. You must walk with Him, you must cultivate a relationship with Him, You must come to know Him, you must come to know the secret place of prayer and fasting, the Word, you must be intimate with Christ. Only those intimate with Christ will know how to love men. Yes, there needs to be acts of the will of setting your love. Yes, you need to be out there in the nursing homes and the prisons, in the places where the widow and the orphan dwells, where they sit in darkness; yes, you need to be there. But brethren, unless you go in the power of your God, it is an utter waste of time.
You need power. Outside of yourself power. This is where it comes from. Mature, brethren, mature. Make your progress known to all. Amen.