St. Paul speaks of Christ “emptying” Himself in His voluntary sacrifice for us all (Philippians 2:5-11). It is the only place in the New Testament that speaks of this particular action of Christ – at least as an “emptying” (kenosis) but the concept has always played a large role in the Church’s understanding of Christ’s death on the Cross.
It is interesting to me that Father Sophrony, in his writings, takes this idea of kenosis and applies it as well to the “not-I-but-the-Father” sayings: “I live by the Father” (Jn. 6:57; cf 5:30, 7:18, 15:15).
Fr. Nicholas Sakharov says of Father Sophrony’s point:
Christ, though the incarnate God, avoids any “divine action” of his own, so much so that the Father’s hypostasis [Person] is manifest absolutely through the absolutely “transparent screen” of Christ’s self-emptied hypostasis. Through this kenosis it becomes the “express image of the Father” (Heb. 1:3).
This, it seems to me, says much to us about what it means to become “like Christ.” The moralist approach (which I was taught as a child) is fraught with constant attention to “what would Jesus do?” in a moral calculation that can never end in anything but failure or delusion.
When St. Paul speaks of conformity to the image of Christ it is always clear that this is not something we accomplish, but something that is accomplished within us by God. In particular he says:
I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).
Here is our own kenosis or emptying. “Not-I-but-Christ.” And thus we become transparent and finally transparent such that we are His image. This is not an effort of moralism, but a self-offering to God. And so St. Paul writes:
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).