Thursdays with Murray [Humility, week 3]

Andrew Murray 2Over the next weeks, I am interacting with some of the writings of Andrew Murray. Murray was a South African pastor and missionary during the 19th and early 20th centuries. I am spending time first with his short book Humility.

In chapter 3, Murray looks in a more focused way at the humility evident in Jesus’ life. He turns it around like a gem in his hand to identify and reflect on its different facets. He then compares Jesus’ humility to our approach to God. The following series of quotes caught my attention:

This life of entire self-abegnation, of absolute submission and dependence upon the Father’s will, Christ found to be one of perfect peace and joy.

This is the true self-denial to which our Saviour calls us, the acknowledgment that self has nothing good in it, except as an empty vessel which God must fill, and that its claim to be or do anything may not for a moment be allowed.

Here we have the root and nature of true humility.

The secret, of which all nature and every creature, and, above all, every child of God, is to be the witness – that it is nothing but a vessel, a channel, through which the living God can manifest the riches of His wisdom, power, and goodness. The root of all virtue and grace, of all faith and acceptable worship, is that we know that we have nothing but what we receive, and know in deepest humility to wait upon God for it.

Murray’s words are strong in relation to the self; almost too strong for our contemporary ears. Yet, the basic idea that we must begin by having nothing – that we are empty vessels that must be filled – is perhaps the most basic idea of the life with God.  We come with empty hands and must be filled by God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. That very approach must be saturated with deep humility. How else do we walk with God but to begin here?

How do Murray’s strong words on the self’s entire lack of anything strike you?

In what ways do you struggle with coming to God empty?

How have you seen God fill you in the place of emptiness?

Pascal on the Infinite Abyss

Blaise Pascal

I came across this quoted Pascal in his work Pensées as I prepared for my message this past weekend. It is one that I have shared in previous messages, but it is so relevant to our searching for identity:

“There was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself.

You can access this specific section here, as well as the entire work at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Thursdays with Murray [Humility, week 2]

Andrew Murray 2Over the next number of weeks, I am interacting with some of the writings of Andrew Murray. Murray was a South African pastor and missionary during the 19th and early 20th centuries. I am spending time first with his short book Humility, which a friend shared with me recently.

In the second chapter of the book, Murray draws attention to the way in which humility is the secret of our redemption in Jesus Christ. On the one hand, an honest assessment of our own need and the power of sin in our lives should lead us into a humility caused by our own inability and powerlessness. On the other hand, the very humility of Jesus should encourage us that the pathway to redemption comes through His humility and our humble response to Him. Here is Murray on Jesus’ humility and its tie to our redemption:

The life of God which in the incarnation entered human nature is the root in which we are to stand and grow; it is the same almighty power that worked there, and then onward to the resurrection, which works daily in us. Our one need is to study and know and trust the life that has been revealed in Christ as the life that is now ours, and waits for our consent to gain possession and mastery of our whole being.

In this view it is of inconceivable important that we should have right thoughts of what Christ is, of what really constitutes Him the Christ, and specially of what may be counted His chief characteristic, the root and essence of all His character as our Redeemer. There can be but one answer: it is His humility. What is the incarnation but His heavenly humility, His emptying Himself and becoming man? What is His life on earth but humility; His taking the form of a servant? And what is His atonement but humility? “He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death.” And what is His ascension and His glory, but humility exalted to the throne and crowned with glory? “He humbled Himself, therefore God highly exalted Him.” In heaven, where He was with the Father, in His birth, in His life, in His death, in His sitting on the throne, it is all, it is nothing but humility. Chris is the humility of God embodied in human nature; the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win and serve and save us.

This deep attention to the humility of Jesus gives me great pause to reflect and worship Jesus as we move out from Lent, Good Friday, and the resurrection celebration of Easter. I appreciate the way in which Murray connects the deep humble action of Jesus with the character of humility in God.

Turning the corner from God in Christ to our response to Him, Murray writes pointed words:

If humility be the first, the all-including grace of the life of Jesus – if humility be the secret of His atonement – then the health and strength of our spiritual life will entirely depend upon our putting this grace first too, and making humility the chief thing we admire in Him, the chief thing we ask of Him, the one thing for which we sacrifice all else.

How does that strike you as you read it?

How would you say that the humility of Jesus has most affected you?

How has the humility of Jesus taken root in your life?

What is the greatest hindrance to that?

Bibliography for the Theology of Suffering and the Life of Joseph

books.jpgWhenever I study for a sermon series, I spend a lot of time far in advance of that sermon series doing research, reading books, thinking, reading articles, reflecting, reading more books, writing, and reading even more.

I usually gather all of the resources I use together into a bibliography for each series. Sometimes, I have bibliographies with sub-bibliographies because, well, that’s the sort of person that I am.

I had a lot of positive feedback on our Lenten series, “The Life of Joseph: God’s Sovereignty in Our Suffering.” I know there were many reasons for that, from the devotional written by members of our congregation at Eastbrook to the stories of God’s work in people’s lives and so much more.

Along with everything else, I also studied a lot for that series. I read a lot of old books and interacted with a lot of contemporary blogs and articles to help shape my thinking on the biblical text from Genesis and also the issues of God’s sovereignty and human suffering. With all that in mind, I thought I’d share my book list from that series. As is usually the case, I do not endorse the views of all of these books. In fact, many of them I disagree with sharply. However, the authors became meaningful conversation partners in shaping the direction and content of this series.

Life of Joseph – Bibliography

Genesis and the Biblical Story

Paul Borgman. Genesis: The Story We Haven’t Heard. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

John Bright. A History of Israel, 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.

Walter Brueggemann. Genesis. Interpretation. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.

Gene A. Getz. Joseph: Overcoming Obstacles through Faithfulness. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996.

Henry Jackson Flanders, Jr., Robert Wilson Crapps, and David Anthony Smith. People of the Covenant: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

F. B. Meyer. Joseph: Exalted Through Trials. New York: Fleming H. Revell, n. d.

Charles R. Swindoll. Joseph: A Man of Integrity and Forgiveness. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.

Gerhard Von Rad. Genesis. OTL. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1961.

Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks. Genesis: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.Read More »

Thursdays with Murray [Humility, week 1]

Andrew Murray 2Over the next number of weeks, I am interacting with some of the writings of Andrew Murray. Murray was a South African pastor and missionary during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Murray is probably best known for his book With Christ in the School of Prayer, but he has many other valuable works.

My writing here was prompted by a conversation I had recently with a friend in town who shared Murray’s book Humility with me. Murray begins that book by distinguishing between three motives that urge us toward humility:

  1. The urge toward humility as a creature  – “The first we see in the heavenly hosts, in unfallen man, in Jesus as Son of Man.”
  2. The urge toward humility as a sinner – “The second appeals to us in our fallen state, and points out the only way through which we can return to our right place as creatures.”
  3. The urge toward humility as a saint – “In the third we have the mystery of grace, which teaches us that, as we lose ourselves in the overwhelming greatness of redeeming love, humility becomes to us the consummation of everlasting blessedness and adoration.”

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