It is sometimes startling to read a book about the Christian faith aimed at a general audience that is free of late twentieth and early twenty-first century angst or psychological dilemmas or a popular theology book that doesn’t veer into the Christian self-help genre. What did Christians read, or used to read, when they were seeking to understand difficult Scripture passages, learn about Christian living, or answer basic questions about their faith.
One author they read was Andrew Murray (1828-1917).
Murray, the son of a Dutch Reformed minister and missionary, was born in South Africa, educated in Scotland, became a missionary and pastor himself in South Africa, and authored more than 240 books on faith, theology, and Christian living. He lived during the century of Darwin, Marx, and Freud, the triumvirate of thinkers who many believe permanently closed the book on the Christian faith. And yet he remained steadfast in his belief and wrote book after book to encourage others in the faith.
Absolute Surrender: The Blessing of Forsaking All and Following Christ is one of those more than 240 books. It is aimed at Christians who are seeking to deepen their faith and are asking the question, what does it mean to forsake all, or what he calls “absolute surrender.”
What he describes is a process. He starts by explaining what it means to be filled with Holy Spirit and how it changes the believer. He describes the roles of conviction and confession. He discusses the example of Peter in the New Testament. He explains the blessings which result from absolute surrender, and how it is to be lived out. He shows the results of surrender. He notes that Christians can continue in the process only through the active involvement of God. And he asks the question, what does it mean to be a branch to the vine?
The account is simple. It’s straightforward. It’s free of a lot of the stuff we add to Christian faith today. It is written from a perspective of assurance – doubt and questions are normal and it is through both that one’s faith deepens – in the context of reliance on God to provide the answers.
To read a work like this, written in the 19th century, is something of a relief. Some very fundamental things have not changed, as much as we like to believe we’re smarter, wiser, and more intelligent than people used to be. Look at our technology! And we have the internet!
The basic questions remain the same. The human heart remains the same. And the God we worship remains the same.
Top photograph by Daniel Burka via Unsplash. Used with permission.