Wednesdays with Words: Holiness, Fellowship, and Conformity

I’ve been reading Andrew Murray‘s The New Life as part of the Humble Habits ecourse work. It has been incredibly helpful and encouraging.

I ordered it because when I googled ‘conform to Christ’ it came up as one of the top recommendations. I’ve heard of Murray before as solid and worthwhile and Mystie so enjoyed his book Humility last summer, so I decided to give it a try.

Murray’s books seem to be written as short meditations building an argument with Bible passages and commentary. There’s a prayer, all of the Bible references from the selection, and comprehension questions.

The New Life is teaching new believers in a very measured and concrete way about this new life we have when we become Christ’s. Murray was a South African pastor with a Continental Reformed theological persuasion.

I’ve been really enjoying The New Life. It’s a gentle yet theologically robust theological presentation of what to do when you’re a new believer, but sometimes the basics are totally worth revisiting.

I’m to chapter 14 “Holiness” – “But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” 1 Peter 1:15-16

When my Word of the Year was *revel* I was reading 1 Peter over and over. I even wrote about a later passage: Revel in Jesus. This Humble Habits course has been very eye-opening for me. One of the weeks we were to choose a phrase for self-talk. This self-talk isn’t some ego-boosting self-affirmation, rather it’s truth from God’s Word to spur us on to good works and to remember who we are. I chose “Be ye holy as the Lord is holy.” to go along with this year’s Word of the Year, [conform].

Murray pulls it all together for us:

Not only has God chosen and called us for salvation, but also for holiness–salvation in holiness. The goal of the young Christian must not only be safety in Christ, but also holiness in Christ. Safety and salvation are, in the long run, found only in holiness. The Christian who thinks that his salvation consists merely in safety and not in holiness will find himself deceived. Young Christian, listen to the Word of God — Be ye holy.

And why must I be holy? Because He who called you is holy and summons you to fellowship and conformity with Himself. How can anyone be saved in God when he does not have the same disposition as God. (pg 32, emphasis mine)

This is why easy believism is not Christianity. You are not saved in yourself, you aren’t even holy in yourself. But you do have work to do alongside that of the Trinity: be ye holy. Work to become like Him. Perfectly? No. Completely? Again, clearly No. But every day looking to His holiness to inform your very being and self. That hymn, “I need thee every hour” has been a mental echo these days. I do. Every hour I need his holiness to clean up the mess I make and every hour I need to remind myself to “Be holy.”

Murray goes on to explain that God is holy in all three of His persons, “Christ is your sanctification. The life of Christ in you is your holiness. In Christ you are sanctified–you are holy. In Christ you must continually be sanctified. The glory of Christ must penetrate your whole life.”

Holiness is more than purity. In Scripture we see that cleansing proceeds from holiness. Cleansing is the taking away of that which is wrong–liberation from sin. Holiness is the filling with that which is good and divine–the disposition of Jesus. Holiness is conformity to Him. It is separation from the spirit of the world and being filled with the presence of the Holy God. The tabernacle was holy because God lived there. We are holy, as God’s temple, after we have God living within us. Christ’s life in us is our holiness. (pg 33, emphasis mine)

There are some tough lines here and I want to be clear – I don’t think Murray is advocating personal holiness as something we achieve as a permanent state in this life. It is always a reliance on the Lord and because of that reliance an effort to do better. “our work is to receive this power from Him by faith every day.”

A  word of warning. As sinners, we cannot have this state of holiness on our own. We cannot hold this state on our own power or work. I recall there were men who came to campus – who still come to campus, I suppose – who claimed to be personally holy. This cannot be so. Sanctification is a process that takes a lifetime and is never done until glory. We run the race. We do the work. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling because God works in us.

When we are Christs, he does the sanctifying work, not we ourselves. But just as Jesus warns:

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-16)

If we try to empty the house without it being refilled by him, we become worse than we started. Salvation and holiness go hand in hand. Neither is our work, yet we must participate in both: we must trust and believe and we must [conform] to Christ in holiness.



  1. Hi! That sounds like a great read! Sanctification is something that is is hard to wrap by brain around sometimes but is so important to understand. I am just starting the book Unseen by Sara Hagerty. Looking forward to diving in.

    Would you mind sharing the name of the piano book your daughter is using on Instagram? My 12 yr old daughter loves loves Lord of the Rings and wants to learn to play some of the songs. Thanks so much!

    1. It's the Faber and Faber Big Time Piano Kids' Songs Level 4 (Intermediate)book. There are books of just Lord of the Rings music on Amazon; might be worth looking at those.

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