Andrew Murray on 'Becoming Spiritual' #3.1
In chapter 23 of The Indwelling Spirit, Andrew Murray draws our attention to the difference between a worldly Christian as described in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 and a believer who lives and walks in the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
1 Corinthians 3:1-2
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit, but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Three spiritual states
Murray now lists the three spiritual states in which a person may be found:
This is a person whose spirit has not been renewed and who does not have the Spirit of God dwelling within them.
The babe in Christ
This is someone who has recently been converted or someone who is not progressing in the Christian life. St. Paul calls them a worldly Christian as they are forever giving way to the flesh.
The spiritual Christian
This is someone in whom the Holy Spirit reigns.
Time is needed to grow spiritually
Based on his 40 years in ministry when writing this book, Murray asserts that time is needed to grow spiritually.
He explains by saying that when someone becomes a new Christian, the Holy Spirit plants a new spirit within him and then goes to dwell within it. But time is needed for the Spirit’s power to penetrate throughout this person’s whole being.
Murray likens this sanctification process to a seed that needs to grow to maturity. He says that it would go against the laws of nature and grace alike to expect a babe in Christ to act as one who is full grown in the Spirit.
And even when there is a great singleness of heart and faith, time is needed for a deeper knowledge of self and sin as well as spiritual insight into God’s will.
For this reason the babe in Christ is still worldly.
Christians who remain worldly
Unfortunately, says Murray, like the Corinthians there are many Christians who remain babes in Christ despite the fact that God has provided all the conditions for their growth.
Murray puts part of the blame on the church and its teaching. The problem, as he sees it, is that most preaching focuses on the pardon for sin and the hope of heaven. It all too seldom focuses on a holy life and the Holy Spirit’s indwelling as the power for growth in holiness. Thus, says Murray, spiritual growth can hardly be expected.
Unwillingness to deny self
Another reason for lack of growth is the unwillingness to deny self and crucify the flesh. Murray reminds us that Jesus expects every disciple to deny himself, to take up his cross and to follow Him.
‘It is in the obedient, that the Spirit works mightily,’ says Murray.
The sins that proved the Corinthians’ undoing were jealousy and strife. And we, like them, can also fall into this worldly category if we fail to speak words uttered in love, adhere doggedly to our own pronouncements, and give in to evil feelings.
Knowledge versus spiritual truth
While St. Paul thanked God that the Corinthians were ‘enriched with all knowledge’ they could not yet digest solid food. This was because the truth that the Word speaks is only given by the Holy Spirit to the spiritually minded. In other words, spiritual knowledge is not deep thought, but living contact with God.
It is not the power of the intellect that equips a man for the Spirit’s teaching. It is a life yielded to God that receives spiritual wisdom and understanding.
Murray goes on to remind us that we may even understand all mysteries and all knowledge, but that without love—the love that the Spirit works in the inner life—it profits nothing.
How to become spiritual
The good news is that as surely as the Holy Spirit can make a natural man regenerate, so too can He make a worldly man spiritual once the latter seeks to become so by spending time in God's presence and the Word.
It is a question of yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit so that He can pervade, influence, and sanctify our whole being: the will, the feelings, the body and the mind.
The first step is to have faith that the Holy Spirit is in us and that He is the transmitter of Christ’s presence.
The second is to seek to know the hindrance. This is usually the opposing power of the flesh that offends through unrighteousness, self-righteousness, self-effort, and striving.
The third is to yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit daily and to wait upon Him. This will give him the time required to bring the flesh into subjection to Jesus. For it is the Spirit who rules and conquers and enables us to put to death the deeds of the flesh so that we can become spiritual.
The fourth is to walk in faith and obedience, and to count upon the Holy Spirit to work mightily in us to will and to do all that is pleasing in God’s sight.
Murray, Andrew, The Indwelling Spirit. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2006, chapter 23.