Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Summer Reading: Absolute Surrender -- first chapter reflection and questions

The planners of the summer book clubs asked me to prepare some discussion questions that the leaders could use. However, I’m having a hard time putting those questions together. What I’m going to try to do in the next several posts this week (and there will likely be 2 or 3 posts a day) is to both interact with Murray’s Absolute Surrender and to raise some questions. I hope that if you’re reading the books you’ll come put lots of comments and questions in these posts. I hope that discussion group leaders can use some of this material as fodder for their groups. Other Eagle and Child readers are welcome to join in as well....

Previous Posts:
About Andrew Murray

Some Key points from this chapter:

1) God expects your surrender.
This is a hard point for most of us to take, but we are creatures. Jeremiah 18:5ff “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?’ declares the Lord. ‘Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.’” We are but the clay in the hands of the potter. Contrary to popular opinion, this doesn’t diminish our dignity. Rather it enhances it. God cares enough about his creatures to be actively involved in the shaping and direction of our lives and our purposes. When we resist and run from those purposes, why should we expect our prayers to be anything but ineffective?

2) God accomplishes your surrender.
Here is the crux of Calvinism – God at work within. When we were yet unable, we lay on our faces and cry out “God, work on me. “My God, I’m willing that you should make me willing.” Murray acknowledges that even the least flicker of weak desire to be God’s servant is a good sign – for even in our weakness, God works in us. Even in our despair of lack of progress, there is sign of God’s growth. “All these searchings and hungerings and longings that are in your heart, I tell you they are the drawings of the divine magnet, Christ Jesus.” (70)

3) God accepts your surrender.
Even if we’re unsure of the absoluteness, God accepts what we bring – and he’ll grow it. Remember the story of the father of the demon possessed boy who cried out “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:14ff) Murray tells us that “even while you are feeble, fighting, and trembling…” God is there working in your faith. Our faith may be a feeble thing, but we’re to take our eyes off of our faith and put our eyes on the faithful one.

4) God maintains your surrender.
Have we not had the “mountaintop experience” when we go to the retreat or we have the recommitment. But six months later we look back and marvel at how much we lost the fire. But Murray encourages us to trust that God will maintain our surrender “If God allows the sun to shine upon you moment by moment without intermission, will not God let his life shine upon you every moment?” Philippians 2:12ff “….work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

5) God blesses you when you surrender.
“You must deny self once for all. Denying self must every moment be the power of your life, and then Christ will come in and take possession of you.” (74)
In Calvin’s Institutes, Book three, chapter seven he describes the sum of the Christian life as “denial of ourselves”. He explores this in relation to our self-denial toward God and our self-denial toward our fellow men. Chapter seven and eight are well worth a read for those who want to go deeper into the topic (indeed the whole Institutes is a great read ... but a little much for this summer)

Questions for Reflection
1) What are some practical ways to be mindful that we are creatures rather than masters?

2) Reflecting on your life, where have you felt the “divine magnet” drawing you closer to the living God?

3) Where in your life have you seen God sustaining your faith, even when you felt terribly weak?

4) In what areas of your life do you want to practice more self denial?