I'm sure most of us have been in a situation where we told a story. It may have been a time when you stood before a congregation or a small group at Bible Study and you gave a testimony; which was your story of how good God had been to you in a particular time in your life. So we're all familiar with telling a story.
In 1873, a fifty-three year old woman named Fanny Jane Crosby told her story, and not only was it a story; it was a song. Mrs. Fanny said, "Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine!"A few verses later she said, "Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love." In her story, Mrs. Fanny used words like sight, watching, and looking; which was so amazing because Mrs. Fanny had been blind since she was six weeks old. She was physically blind, but spiritually, she had perfect sight because Mrs. Fanny had that Blessed Assurance; and that Blessed Assurance made her the epitome of walking by faith, not by sight.
We may not have the exact story Mrs. Fanny had, but because of the precious blood of Jesus, we all have a story. And our story may not be an entire song, but because of the promises of God, we can all sing of Blessed Assurance. Throughout the Bible, the believer is assured of many things. In the Old Testament, the Prophet Isaiah said, "The effect of righteousness shall be assurance forever." And in the New Testament, Jesus taught His disciples to live in the air of assurance. Often He spoke words that began, "Verily, Verily, I say unto you." And how much more assured can you get than that? But still, some of His disciples doubted and showed little faith at times; but eventually, they came to know that Blessed Assurance was their spiritual birthright. And not only theirs, but for everyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. But sadly, during Jesus' three year ministry, not many experienced that Blessed Assurance.
As I've said in many of my previous lessons, most of the Jewish leaders did not believe Jesus was the Son of God. With all their knowledge of the Scriptures, they would not accept Him as their promised Messiah. Oh yes, they knew the Scriptures, but they did not know the Man, so they were very hostile to Jesus from the very beginning. But, there was one Jewish leader who showed no hostility because he recognized his limited knowledge of Jesus, and he desired to learn more. That leader was Nicodemus. And you know the story about Nicodemus, the Pharisee who came to Jesus by night.
The Bible does not say why Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, but I'm sure one reason was, he had concerns about his reputation. Afterall, he was honored among the Jewish people. But, since Jesus was surrounded by throngs of people during the day, probably the main reason for going at night was that, it was the most perfect time to have a long, private conversation with Jesus. Nicodemus was about to embark on new spiritual insight, and he wanted no interruptions.
Nicodemus came to Jesus as a typical Pharisee, even addressing Jesus as Rabbi, just like the rich young ruler did. To them, and even to some people today, Jesus was just an outstanding man and a great teacher. But, Nicodemus did go so far as to say that they knew Jesus came from God, because no man could do those miracles except God be with him. God be with him? In spite of all of his learning, Nicodemus still did not know that one important truth: God was not with Him. God was Him! Jesus was God in the flesh, and Nicodemus was about to have a serious talk with God.
Again, as a typical Jew, Nicodemus had longed for the day that the Messiah would come and set up His kingdom on earth. But what he learned was that the Messiah had already come, and His kingdom was not of this earth. The Scripture says Jesus answered and said unto Nicodemus, "Verily, Verily, I say unto thee: Except a man be born again of water and of Spirit: he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Up to that point, Nicodemus had only made a statement; he hadn't asked Jesus a question. But Jesus, knowing the heart and character of man, knew the thoughts of Nicodemus. Nicodemus, like the other Pharisees, thought he could enter the kingdom of God by his own merits: his wealth, his status, his natural descent from Abraham. But Jesus told Nicodemus, in so many words, "I assure you Nicodemus, a man has to be reborn of water and of Spirit to enter God's Kingdom." So, in the still of that night, Jesus taught Nicodemus all about the new birth.
Nicodemus learned, as the meaning of his own name, "Innocent Blood" suggested, that salvation and a home in God's kingdom was dependent upon the shedding of innocent blood.....Jesus' blood. And it was to Nicodemus that Jesus uttered one of the best known verses in all the Bible: John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And evidently Nicodemus wanted everlasting life because somewhere between that night and the death of Jesus, Nicodemus became a disciple of Christ. And on Calvary, when Nicodemus helped take Jesus' body down from the cross, he didn't care about his Jewish reputation because he had something far better. Nicodemus had been born of Jesus' Spirit, washed in His blood, and he had that Blessed Assurance.....Oh, how the Heavens rejoice when even one is saved!
While one Jewish leader was receiving spiritual enlightenment, many other Jewish leaders were showing their spiritual ignorance. The Pharisees prided themselves on being religious, but they weren't very religious in trying to stir up jealousy and conflict between the disciples of John the Baptist and the disciples of Jesus about whose baptism was the greater. It was really ignorant on their parts because John knew and taught his disciples that he was only the forerunner to Jesus; the One whose shoe's latchet he was not even worthy to unloose. But the Pharisees, being the self-righteous, self-centered bigots that they were, were so irritated by Jesus' popularity that they would have done anything to stop Him; and as we know, even to the point of death. But, Jesus' hour had not yet come, so He left Judea to avoid any conflict with the Pharisees because He wanted nothing to hinder His ministry.
In my last lesson I talked about Jesus leaving Judea and going through Samaria and I concentrated mainly on the woman at the well. But, the Samaritans were a people who had received limited Books of the Old Testament, so their conception of the fulfillment of God's promises was limited, especially the promise of the Messiah. But because of the Jews' rejection of Jesus, the Messiah came knocking right at the Samaritans' door, and they received Him with open hearts and open minds. So Jesus stayed with the Samaritans for two days, and in those two days, the race wall that had separated the Jews from the Samaritans for centuries was destroyed. The Samaritans accepted the Jew as the Savior of the world, and because of that acceptance, the Samaritans received that Blessed Assurance.
After His two day stay in Samaria, Jesus found His way back to Cana where He had performed His first miracle of turning water into wine. This time in Cana He would perform another mighty miracle, the healing of the nobleman's son. In this miracle, a certain Jewish nobleman displayed faith by coming to Jesus, but his faith was proven weak when he begged Jesus to come down before his son died. The man's son was dying in Capernaum, which was about twenty miles away; so he believed that Jesus had to be at his son's bedside in order to heal him. Obviously, the man didn't know of Jesus' omnipresence. He was speaking to Jesus in Cana, but Jesus was also in Capernaum at the same time. Next, the man thought if Jesus wasn't there before his son died, then all hope would be lost. But oh, how wrong he was! Because later, that same man and his son would witness as Jesus raised three from the dead, even one who had been in the grave for four days. At that time, Jesus could have rebuked the nobleman for his defective faith, but, the Savior of the World chose to reward him for the faith he did have. Jesus simply uttered the words, "Thy son liveth." And miles away, the man's son was made whole at that very second.
That miracle marked the end of Jesus' first year of ministry. I always try to go over at least one of Jesus' miracles because His miracles were very important. Although Jesus performed miracles only out of mercy, most times a miracle was the only reason some people believed.
Time will not permit me to go into detail of Jesus' second and third year of ministry, but I will say this, His second year brought about mixed reactions: Jesus' miracles increased, His disciples increased, and the believers increased; but with the increase of the good came the increase of the bad. When Jesus claimed equality with God, the opposition of the Jewish leaders also increased. And in His third year of ministry when Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life which came down from heaven", that statement proved to be too much for even some of His disciples to bear. Many of them took offense and followed Him no more, which prompted Jesus to ask the original twelve disciples "Will you also go away?" Of course, Peter answered for the twelve and said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words to eternal life. We believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." But Jesus answered Peter in so many words and said, "Look, I don't know where you're coming up with this "we" stuff, because all of you do not believe that I'm the Son of God; one of you is a devil." And as we know, Jesus spoke of Judas Iscariot, whom He already knew would betray Him.
Jesus also knew that His hour was getting closer and that the other eleven disciples weren't at the level of assurance that they needed to be, although they wouldn't realize that until they all ran away in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter had just made the statement that Jesus had the words to eternal life. But now, Jesus would give a discourse to His disciples that would assure them that He not only had the words, but that He was eternal life.
The Apostle John wrote three chapters covering this encouraging discourse to the disciples. A discourse that still offers comfort to distressed souls over two thousand years later. One that begins, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." But the disciple Thomas stopped Jesus and asked Him, "How can we know the way?" And in His answer to Thomas, Jesus was letting us know that He can meet the three-fold need of every man. Jesus said, "I AM!" Man is lost, but I AM the WAY; Man is in error, but I AM the TRUTH; and Man is dead, but I AM the LIFE: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. Jesus wanted His disciples to know that no matter what happened in the next few weeks, in Him was their Blessed Assurance."
What exactly is this Blessed Assurance? Blessed Assurance is the honor in being certain our salvation is secure. To Nicodemus it was being born again; to the Samaritans it was drinking Living Water; to the thief on the cross it was being in Paradise; and to us, it's simply knowing: Knowing there's no greater love than the love of God. Knowing, through His redemptive work on the cross, Jesus paid it all; and knowing through the death of Jesus, we have eternal life. That's the main part of our story, and if you're not familiar with that part of the story, then you need to go to Calvary, because Calvary covers it all.
Earlier you may have wondered about the blind woman's story. She was blind since she was six weeks old so Mrs. Fanny never saw any of God's precious gifts like a beautiful sunset, a rose in full bloom, or a colorful rainbow across the sky. But, Mrs. Fanny could come up with such beautiful lyrics as Blessed Assurance. How could she do it? Well, I can assure you, Mrs. Fanny went to Calvary, where she received God's perfect gift to the world, His Beloved Son, Jesus. And how do I know this? It's right there in her story! (Don't miss it.) The song says:
Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine - Mrs. Fannie was saying, "I'm certain of my salvation because I accepted Jesus, He's Mine!"
O what a foretaste of glory divine - Jesus looked at His own death as being glorified so Mrs. Fanny accepted that small sample of His glory because she knew that when He returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, then she could feast on His divine glory in His kingdom.
Heir of salvation, purchase of God - Mrs. Fanny knew that on Calvary the will of Jesus was read, and at God's expense, we were all left rich. We became heirs of salvation. Oh, What Blessed Assurance! I know I can't go through the entire song, but I got to mention:
Echoes of mercy - Mrs. Fanny knew that Jesus' mercy was so abundant that He never missed a chance to heal or forgive. She had heard the stories of His repeated mercy. Mercy to Blind Bartimeaus, mercy to Mary Magdalene, and forgiveness to the woman caught in adultery. You know the stories. And just as Jesus never missed a chance to show mercy, He never missed a chance to utter:
Whispers of love - Mrs. Fanny knew that no matter how far we were from Jesus, His spiritual hearing was so keen, that He never missed our heavenly whispers. But, Mrs. Fanny also knew that in order for us to hear His return whisper of love, we had to be close to Him. So I pray that you will let Jesus come into your heart and get:
Filled with His goodness and lost in His love - Because it was His love that took Him to the cross, it was His love that made Him lay down His life, and it is His love that gives us the privilege to live in that Blessed Assurance.
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