Monday, March 19, 2007

BLESSED ASSURANCE




How many times have you sung the wonderful hymn, “Blessed Assurance," the lyrics of which were penned by one of the greatest of hymn writers, Fanny Crosby? I hope it always brings as much joy to your heart as it does mine.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.


Surely the words of Psalm 40:3, “And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD,” rang true in the life of Fanny Crosby, for she wrote over 8000 hymns. Blind from birth, she had a vision into the heart of God that few will ever know. Amazingly, she was very content with her lack of sight, saying, “It seemed intend­ed by the bless­ed prov­i­dence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dis­pen­sa­tion. If per­fect earth­ly sight were of­fered me to­mor­row I would not ac­­cept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been dis­tract­ed by the beau­ti­ful and in­ter­est­ing things about me."
One day, Phoebe Knapp, Fanny's dear friend, played her a tune and asked her afterwards, "What does it say to you, Fanny?" Her reply was simple: "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine." I found it ironical that Phoebe Knapp married Joseph Fairfield Knapp, one of the founders and the second president of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. It was Knapp’s wife Phoebe who composed the music which speaks of “eternal life assurance.”.

In the church of my youth, I was taught that one could not be assured of eternal life. Works- based systems of salvation can never bring assurance. They teach that every person must continually perform good works in order to have favor with God. Even among many Christians, there is a denial of assurance either theologically or practically. For instance, I was reading a book written by a contemporary theologican who cited the words of Ashael Nettleton, “The most I have ventured to say respecting myself is, that I think it possible I may get to heaven." [1] In case you aren’t familiar with Nettelton, he was a revival preacher in the 1800’s whose preaching led to the conversion of over 30,000 men, women and children. How could it be that one who was scooled in the Westminister Catechism and led so many to the Lord lacked assurance in his own heart? Because, although he did believe that once a person was truly saved he is saved forever – he was never quite sure that he was truly saved. As a pastor, I have met people in the very same condition, and the lack of joy and peace in their heart is evident. They seem to be constantly looking at their lives to see if they are measuring up to God’s law in order to determine if they are really saved. While some systematic theologians advocate this, Nettleton’s belief that perseverance in the faith and good works is the only ‘guarantee’ of true regeneration failed him. How unfortunate, because the biblical truth is that we have never measured up, cannot now measure up and will never measure up to a standard of perfect obedience. Isn’t this precisely why Jesus came to suffer and die, “the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God ‘ (1 Peter 3:18)? It is not our performance that merits salvation: it is what Jesus did and how the Father views His atoning sacrifice. Why look anywhere else? Only remember the blessed words of the prophet Isaiah: "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all… 10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53:4-6, 10-11) . Perhaps some will accuse me of over-simplifying things, but that is quite all right. This is not a fully developed teaching on eternal security; I am simply trying to convey the simple truth that the Father was satisfied with the death of His Son. The question, is are we? If you are one of those struggling with assurance, look away from yourself to the cross of Christ, “for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). Think about it: this perfect righteousness comes only by faith (Rom. 4:5) through the marvelous grace of God, “for by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). While a proper dose of self-examination never hurts anyone, a constant introspection and 'looking back' to the law brings doubts. Believers have been freed from the law; the entire debt has been paid! It was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). May we praise God that we can affirm, “Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine!" Looking to Sinai is “fear and trembling” (Exodus 19:16); looking to Mount Calvary is “joy and peace” (Rom 15:13). If ever the smallest doubt begins to arise in my heart, I quickly remind myself that, “he (Jesus) is able to completely save those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:25). Completely saved must include f'inality' because God is infinite and those washed in the precious blood of the spotless lamb of God are also “preserved in Jesus Christ “ (Jude 1). Remember also, the Scripture teaches:"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise" (Ephesians 1:13). No one and nothing can separate the child of God from the love of God (Romans 8:39).

One of my very favorite verses in Scripture comes from the pen of the apostle that Jesus loved in a special way. I trust that it will become a favorite of yours: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13) .

Dear brethren, I pray that you will find your abiding rest, comfort, and assurance in the ONE who promised to forgive all your sins -- past, present and future -- and give you ETERNAL LIFE! Fanny Crosby had it right,

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
watching and waiting, looking above,
filled with his goodness, lost in his love.

God bless you all,

Pastor Tom


[1] B, Tyler & A.A. Bennett, The Life and Labours of Asahel Nettleton, (repr. Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), p.30.

3 comments:

Nick said...

"Assured by God: Living in the Fullness of God's Grace," e.d. Burk Parsons (September 2006) is a great book on this topic. With writings from Drs. John MacArthur, Al Mohler, R.C. Sproul and others, it examines the issue of assurance to help the struggling saint in his or her quest for full peace in Christ.

Cindy Ahlgrim said...

Appreciate this well done blog and discussion of salvation. I posted a link to this from my facebook because I had put a You Tube Third Day vid of "Blessed Assurance" on my profile today...found u in a search....♫ ♫ Glory to our God and King. Cindy Ahlgrim ...(God's Love And Mercy ~ GLAM Inside And Out)

robert said...

Appreciate your comments. Today is the 102nd anniversary of Phoebe Knapp's death--which is why your post caught my eye. If you enjoy reading about our hymns and their authors, I invite you to check out my daily blog on the subject, Wordwise Hymns.