Book Review – Absolute Surrender

Andrew Murray was a South African Pastor and wrote “Absolute Surrender” in 1897…so yeah…a long time ago.  It’s a good practice to be reading a balanced diet, so yes…picking one from 120 years ago is a good stretch.  [For a super intentional reading plan look at Challies’ 2017 Reading Plan…]


This is also part of B&H’s “Read and Reflect with the Classics” series which provides helpful questions and things to pray through at the end of each chapter.  The chapters are based on a series of sermons that Murray gave and they are good for a morning devotional read.

It usually amazes me how the issues that we face as believers in 2017 were very similar to those faced in 1897.  We still struggle with issues of surrendering all of our hearts to Jesus, the rightful owner. Murray provides a balanced perspective on this, yet doesn’t hold back from the truth – “God expects our surrender, God accomplishes our surrender, God accepts our surrender, God maintains our surrender and God blesses us when we surrender.”

Soon after we talk about the topic of surrender, the topic of love shouldn’t be far behind – again all to the goal of our growth. Murray writes “When God gives the Holy Spirit, His great object is the formation of a holy character…because nothing but love can expel and conquer selfishness.”

However…sprinkled throughout the book and towards the end especially, are comments about the “Higher Life” and Keswick movement…which I would strongly disagree with.  This movement teaches that there is a way to become a “higher level” Christian where you can sin less often or even not at all.  Nonsense.  See Romans 7.  I think the idea is that we are just supposed to know this is false, but still…not sure why it’s not pointed out more clearly as unsound doctrine.

Where this book shines is in it’s uncompromising call for us to surrender all of our lives to God, yet understanding the undeniable fact that this is HARD.  Murray, even in 1897, gets this – “When you thought of absolute surrender to God were you not brought to an end of yourself? Fall down and learn that when you are utterly helpless, God will come to work in you not only to will, but also to do…that which is impossible with men are possible with God.” [73]

This leads rather naturally into a discussion on Romans 7, one of my favorite places in all of Scripture.  The Apostle Paul is wrestling with himself and his utter sinfulness.  Many theologians claim this is a pre-Christian Paul…I can’t disagree strong enough.  The Christian life is one of constantly battling sin, thru God’s enabling of course, but it’s a cage fight to the death, and sometimes I wonder if academic scholars feel this.  We all need to get to a point, regularly, where we are feeling the weight of our sinfulness, which then leads us to feel the glory of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”  (Romans 7:24–25 ESV)

Murray writes – “Blessed be God when a man learns to say “O wretched man that I am!” from the depths of his heart. He is on the way to the eighth chapter of Romans! When a man is brought to this confession…deliverance is at hand.” [88-89] Indeed, then we can stand with Christ and proclaim – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 7:25–8:2 ESV)

This is all done by his gracious empowering of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the believer.  “Nothing will help you unless you come to understand that you must live every day under the power of the Holy Ghost.” [99] What the Spirit begins in us when we surrender to Christ initially, let us not add in our idolatry by claiming our growth is up to us.  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  (Galatians 3:3 ESV)

The Christian life is one of dependance and abiding in Christ for His power to bring about the fruits of the Spirit.  God empowers us to do what he requires from us.  Treasures from the past, like this work from Murray, inspire us, encourage us and challenge us to live in worshipful surrender to our loving Heavenly Father.


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