John Murray: The Pattern of Sanctification

Chris —  July 9, 2015

“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).”

Nothing is more practical to the Christian than considering the dynamic by which we grow as believers. The Christian understands that he or she is to become more like Jesus? But how exactly does that take place? How is it that we make progress as Christians?

  • How can we truly have victory over pornography?
  • How can we finally show self-control with the things we say?
  • How can we learn to be more patient with family members?

In his beautiful essay, “The Pattern of Sanctification,” John Murray explains that the basic dynamic by which the Christian grows is to give focused attention to Christ as He is revealed in Scripture. In so doing, our hearts are graciously warmed and softened towards Christ by the power of the Spirit, and we become more like Jesus.

Murray says it far more profoundly than I do:

“. . . the import is that, as we come into intelligent, believing, and adoring encounter with the glory of Christ, we take on the characters which belong to him.  We must remember, of course, that supernatural agency is at work in this process.  But the means by which this work of grace is wrought are clearly indicated. The glory of Christ is portrayed and exhibited to us in the pages of Scripture. The Holy Spirit illumines our minds and quickens our hearts to behold the glory; he takes the things of Christ and shows them to us. He thus glorifies Christ . . . This process of conformation to the image of Christ does not take place by quiescent passivity on our part.  It is only by concentrated application to the data of revelation that we come into this encounter with the glory of the Lord. And all the energies of our being are enlisted in the exercise of adoration, love, obedience, and fellowship (John Murray, Banner of Truth, Collected Writings Vol. 2, 311-312).””

The beauty of growing in this way as a Christian is that when we are increasingly conformed by the power of the Spirit to look like Jesus Christ-like behavior begins to burst forth in many areas of life. To the extent that we are like Jesus, we manifest the fruit of the Spirit.

The action steps that follow are obvious. Christians should meditate in an ongoing way on Christ as He is revealed in the Bible. This means, especially, being under the preaching of the Word, sharing the ordinances / sacraments together, meditating on and memorizing the Word, praying, and sharing life with the community of the redeemed.

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