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The Higher Christian Life
Let’s talk about something that has captivated believers for generations— the Higher Christian Life. This term refers to a life of intimate fellowship with God that goes beyond the ordinary Christian experience. Popularized by 19th-century revival and devotional preachers such as Andrew Murray, Oswald Chambers, and R.A. Torrey, and brought into the Christian mainstream by the Keswick movement, this life is characterized by holiness, surrender, and a depth of relationship with God that taps into His supernatural power in ways seen in Scripture, but seldom experienced in contemporary church.¹
In this post, I want to provide a biblical overview of the Higher Christian Life— what it looks like, how we enter into it, and then answer some common questions that often keep seeking believers from experiencing the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10), or what has been called the Higher Christian Life. My prayer is this will inspire and equip you to experience the abundant life in Christ that He intends for each of us as believers.
Defining the Higher Christian Life
Simply put, the Higher Christian Life is:
A life of holiness, consecration, and victory over sin that is available to every Christian who fully surrenders themselves to Christ’s lordship in faith. It is considered ‘higher” because it transcends the defeat and constant struggle that plagues much of Christian living and reveals a new dimension of faith-filled living in the power of the Spirit.
Some key aspects of the Higher Christian Life include:
• Complete surrender and consecration to Christ: Relinquishing our self-will and ambitions by surrendering every area of your life— your time, relationships, work, and resources — to Christ’s complete control and lordship.
• Death to self and sin through co-crucifixion with Christ: By reckoning or understanding that our old sinful nature was crucified with Christ, we are able to break sin’s mastery in our lives (Rom. 6:6). By faith, we count ourselves dead to sin’s power and alive to God since our old self is crucified and dead and we have new, resurrected life in Christ (Romans 6:11).
• Filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit: By praying for the Holy Spirit to fill us and take full control, and by depending on the Spirit’s power to overcome sin, we then produce Christlike character and are supernaturally equipped for ministry. The results: We are guided, moment-by-moment, and empowered by the Spirit as we yield to Him.
• Victory over sin’s power: Sin’s mastery is broken because by faith, our old self is crucified with Christ, and sin has no dominion in our lives (Rom. 6:14). Though temptations remain, we have Spirit-given power to overcome anything our flesh or the enemy can throw our way.
• Deeper intimacy and fellowship with God: We find our time in God’s Word and prayer becomes sweeter as we relate to God more deeply. We desire to know Christ more as the Spirit reveals His presence and character in ways not known to us before. And, as a result, our walk with Him is characterized by joyful obedience and not legalism.
• Fruitfulness and power for ministry and service: Our energies go toward serving Christ wholeheartedly and caring for others, rather than living selfish, self-consumed lives. We learn to depend on Christ working through us as we trust and abide in Him.
This abundant life liberates us from defeat and brings new joy, passion, and power through our relationship with, and dependency on, Christ. It is the normal Christian life as God designed it.²
Benefits of this Surrendered Life
This intimate walk with God impacts every area of life. As 19th-century missionary Hudson Taylor said, “I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” What seems impossible in our strength becomes real to us by surrendering our life to Christ and embracing His power within. It is often called full salvation, or complete surrender. Theologians call it practical sanctification.
Living the Higher Christian Life brings freedom from sinful habits and attitudes that previously felt unbreakable. Things that once caused irritation and resentment quickly lose their power. We become more loving, patient, kind, and self-controlled as a result. As Charles Finney said, it is “dying to self and coming alive to Christ.” Our marriages, families, and relationships are strengthened as we experience victory in ways previously unimaginable.
Pioneer missionary C.T. Studd said it well: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.” Serving God in our daily lives becomes natural and joyful, rather than burdensome. We overflow with worship and praise as we fall deeply in love with Jesus. And walking faithfully with Christ fills our hearts with “inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Pet. 1:8).
When you compare this to our own experience with Christ, it is not hard to see why it is called the Higher Christian Life.
Steps for Entering In
So how can we enter practically into this life of intimate surrender to Christ? Here are some key steps:
1. Admit your inability in your own strength through prayer – “Lord, I confess I cannot conquer sin or live the Christian life by self-effort. I surrender my weaknesses and failures to You.” Express dependency in your prayer.
2. Make a definite, complete surrender/consecration to Christ – Give Him express lordship over every area in your life— your time, relationships, work, resources, and future. Plead with Christ, “I surrender my entire life to You to do with as You please. I no longer want to live for myself but only for You.”
3. Claim the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit – Pray to be filled and empowered fully for God’s service and yield to His control. Pray, “Holy Spirit, I ask You to fill and empower me fully for Your service. Take control of my life.” Then depend fully on the Spirit’s power.
4. Reckon ourselves dead to sin, alive to God in Christ based on our co-crucifixion and resurrection with Him (Rom. 6:11). Thank God your old self has died, and your new life is hidden with Christ. Then, by faith, affirm sin’s mastery over you is now broken.
5. Maintain daily surrender through ongoing prayer. Begin each day yielding and surrendering yourself completely to God for that day. Pray, “Lord Jesus, I surrender myself and this day to You. Have Your way in my life today.” Choose to walk in continual dependence on the Spirit.
Walking in Newness of Life
When we enter the Higher Christian Life by faith, what changes practically in our daily experience? Here are some key implications:
Sin’s mastery is broken as you count yourself dead to it daily (Rom. 6:14). Though temptations still come, sin no longer has dominion over you. By continually identifying with Christ’s death, sin’s grip is broken, and you gain new power through the Spirit to walk in obedience.
You experience inward transformation as Christ’s resurrection power works in you. Old habits and thought patterns begin to lose their hold as you are inwardly renewed. Relationships start to align more with God’s kingdom values of love and holiness rather than selfishness. Your ethics and integrity reflect more of Christ’s righteousness. Priorities shift from self-centeredness to glorifying God.
Obedience becomes joyful as you relate to God in a deeper way. Serving Christ is no longer drudgery, but delight. Legalistic striving fades, being replaced by freely flowing intimacy with Christ. Prayer becomes a lifeline rather than a duty. Digging into God’s Word fuels your spirit like never before.
You bear Spirit-empowered fruit for God as you abide in Christ (John 15:5). Instead of anxiety and fruitless striving, you experience new effectiveness and fruitfulness in life and ministry. Gifts flourish. You depend on Christ’s life in you to reach people, disciple others, and advance God’s Kingdom. Fear gives way to boldness.
This does not mean perfection. Temptations, failures, frustrations, and trials will come. But you now have resurrection power and victory available to weather the storms of life differently than before. The Spirit empowers you moment-by-moment.
In essence, the Higher Christian Life transforms daily experience by breaking sin’s power, renewing the mind, producing intimacy with Christ, and bearing new fruit through depending on the indwelling Spirit. This brings radical new freedom.
Questions and Answers
What does it mean that we are “co-crucified with Christ”?
More than just agreeing doctrinally that Christ died for us, it means our old sinful self was crucified with Him. As we identify with Christ’s death by faith, we experience inwardly a death to our old sinful habits and desires. Sin’s mastery is broken in our lives, and we are now, probably for the first time, able to live a consistent life of holiness to Him (Rom. 6:6-7).
What are the implications of being united to Christ?
The implications are profound! For starters, sin no longer defines us. We are freed from sin’s tyranny as resurrection power operates within us. We count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God daily by faith in what Christ has accomplished on our behalf (Rom. 6:11). And now, sin loses its grip on us as we live out of our new identity in Christ.
What does “walking in newness of life” mean practically?
Practically, it means Christ’s resurrection power, which resides in us, transforms everything in our lives— our relationships, ethics, habits, and character. As we now are free to live to honor God, our ungodly patterns lose sway, the fruit of the Spirit develops, and our energies advance God’s Kingdom rather than our own self-interest. It is truly a supernatural life!
Can this life ever be lost?
In a word, absolutely. The abundant life (John 10:10), or the Higher Christian Life, is maintained by ongoing surrender, faith, and obedience. We can lose it by taking our focus off Christ and failing to walk in step with the Spirit. Therefore, continually yielding to the Spirit is essential.
Is this way of living only for “super saints”?
No, it is for every believer (including you) who totally surrenders to Christ’s lordship. It is not a higher class of Christianity, but this abundant life Jesus promised is intended as normal Christian living for any who yield fully to the Spirit. Therefore, it all depends on you. So yield to Him today.
Doesn’t this lead to pride and perfectionism?
It shouldn’t, if properly understood. This life depends completely on Christ and the Spirit, leaving no room for pride. The focus is consecration, not perfection. Therefore, just like everything else in the Christian life, humility and faith are key.
In summary, the Higher Christian Life is a life of intimacy, fruitfulness, and victory available to every believer through full dependence on Christ and surrender to the Holy Spirit. It liberates us from sin’s power and unlocks the supernatural promises of Scripture. May God give us grace as we surrender to the abundant life He intends for us in Christ.
The Next Steps
If you are ready to leave spiritual defeat behind, take time to prayerfully process the truths shared here. Ask the Lord to show you any areas you are not fully surrendered to Him. And as you take steps of faith to yield to Christ’s complete control, trust the Holy Spirit’s empowering presence to make this new life real. Remember, you were created for so much more than constant struggle. God longs for you to experience the Higher Christian Life of intimacy with Him and victory over sin.
So begin that journey of surrender today.
1. Some of the preachers and speakers associated with the teaching of the Higher Christian Life and the Keswick movement were:
• D.L. Moody (1837-1899) – Famous American evangelist who did much to popularize the Higher Life teaching. His meetings at Keswick helped spread the message.
• Andrew Murray (1828-1917) – South African preacher and devotional writer who wrote books like “Absolute Surrender” emphasizing the Higher Life. He was a regular Keswick speaker.
• F.B. Meyer (1847-1929) – Baptist pastor and author of “The Secret of Guidance” who promoted the deeper life message as a Keswick speaker.
• Evan Hopkins (1937-1918) – Anglican clergyman considered the father of the Keswick movement. His emphasis on overcoming sin and entire surrender to God influenced early Keswick teaching.
• Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) – Famous British Baptist preacher who stressed consecration and the Spirit-filled life in his sermons, laying the groundwork for the Higher Life emphasis.
• Hudson Taylor (1932-1905) – British missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Mission who emphasized full surrender and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
• Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) – Irish missionary to India who exemplified the Higher Life in her devotion to God and service. She wrote books like “If” promoting total surrender.
• R.A. Torrey (1856-1928) – American evangelist and pastor who succeeded Moody as superintendent of the Moody Bible Institute. He was a prominent advocate of the Higher Christian Life.
• G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) – British evangelical preacher and Bible teacher who promoted the Victorious Life message of holiness and surrender.
• Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) – Scottish Baptist and missionary who taught on the higher life in his popular devotional “My Utmost for His Highest”.
• Watchman Nee (1903-1972) – Chinese church leader who wrote “The Normal Christian Life” among other books on living the deeper spiritual life.
• Alan Redpath (1907-1992) – British pastor and Keswick speaker who authored many books on surrender and triumphant living like “Victorious Christian Living.”
• Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) – British Methodist preacher and writer involved with the Keswick movement who stressed the crisis experience of sanctification.
2. The Normal Christian Life is a book by Watchman Nee (1903-1972). Written in 1957, Nee’s classic work makes the case that the “normal” Christian life should be one of resurrection power, victory, and the abundant life promised in Scripture, yet is often lived at a “subnormal” level of defeat and struggle— thus he makes an impassioned call for believers to awaken to their full position and inheritance in Christ through surrender and the indwelling Spirit.