Christian Living, Church, Culture & Society, Faith

A Day of Graduation – And Remembering a Baby Dedication

On Saturday, May 18, 2019, my lovely granddaughter, Rylee, will graduate from Liberty Baptist Academy in Ft. Pierce, Florida. It is an important moment in her life, and brings back personal, precious memories of the day of her baby dedication. I have enjoyed reviewing and remembering what was said to her wonderful mother, Tara Dawn Murrell, on that day.

 The Formal Presentation of Dr. Stanford E. Murrell’s Granddaughter, Rylee Paige Murrell, to our Lord Jesus Christ
Sovereign Grace Baptist Church Apollo, Pennsylvania
July 15, 2001

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”—Proverbs 22:6

Several weeks before Rylee was born Tara came to me while I was studying. “Look at the outfit I bought for Rylee,” she said. “It is for the day of her dedication.”  One of the provisions of the New Covenant is that God will write His law upon the hearts of His people to guide them in what He wants them to do (Heb. 8:8-13). For a long time Tara has wanted to dedicate her baby to the Lord as soon as possible.

The act of consecration of children finds a precedent in principle, we believe, for in the Old Testament, the firstborn in Israel were dedicated to God.  In Exodus 13:1-2 we read, “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.”

Of particular concern were the male children, for each first-born child was a spiritual type of the Messiah to come. In Luke 2:7 we read that Mary, “brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Each male firstborn child anticipated the coming of the Messiah, and so had to be redeemed, either by being replaced with a Levite, or by the payment of a redemption price of five shekels (Num. 3:40-44).  Undergirding the act of paying a redemption price was a simple concept. In a symbolic act, the people were reminded they belonged to the Lord in a unique way.

By His promises to Abraham, by His raising Moses to be their Leader, by the use of many miracles to bring them out of Egyptian bondage, God claimed a special relation to Israel.

He did not want them to forget they were a unique and purchased people. The Lord wanted Israel to remember the blood of the lamb that had redeemed them.

On the night before they left their state of slavery in Egypt, the Hebrew people made a sacrifice. The blood of an innocent lamb was smeared on the doorposts of their homes. In the middle of the night a Death Angel came. But when he saw the blood he passed over the house and the firstborn was protected.

The night of the Passover anticipated the death of the Messiah. Mary’s first-born Son would die at a place called Calvary. Her Son would become the great Lamb of God, “that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  When the blood of Christ is applied to the door of the heart, by faith, the Eternal Death Angel passes over.

John G. Foote invites the Church to sing of this redemption.

“Christ our Redeemer died on the cross,
Died for the sinner, paid all his due.
All who receive Him need never fear,
Yes, He will pass, will pass over you.

When I see the blood,
when I see the blood,
When I see the blood,
I will pass, I will pass over you.

Chiefest of sinners, Jesus can save;
As He has promised, that He will do.
Oh sinner, hear Him, trust in His word,
Then He will pass, will pass over you.

Judgment is coming, all will be there,
Who have rejected, who have refused?
Oh, sinner, hasten, let Jesus in,
Then God will pass, will pass over you.

O great compassion! O boundless love!
Jesus hath power, Jesus is true;
All who believe are safe from the storm.
Oh, He will pass, will pass over you. “

In the New Testament economy there is no need for the symbols of the Old Testament, and so there is no commandment in the New Testament to redeem our children. However, there is a natural longing in the heart of many parents to dedicate their children to the Lord. And there is the comfort of knowing that children were once brought to Christ for a special blessing.

“Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence” (Matt. 19:13-15).

For anyone who might be concerned with the concept of a baby dedication, there should be no discomfort with those seeking to have Jesus bless the little ones in a special way, or seek to have His arms around them. That is ultimately what we are doing today. We are asking Christ to take a child, and pray a High Priestly intercessory prayer, and lay His omnipotent hands on the life.

To seek such a blessing in no way removes personal responsibility to rear our children in the way they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from the path of righteousness.

With these thoughts in mind, we want to exhort Tara in particular, but all parents in general, to instill in the hearts of children seven concepts. Let children know they need to be converted. Teach children to confess known acts of wrongdoing.  Model the joy of a holy and consecrated life. Demonstrate before children the importance of personal convictions. Cultivate with the children a life of spiritual contemplation. Teach children the importance of compassion. Instill in the minds of the children the concept of the sovereignty of God.

First, parents are to seek the conversion of their children, and for good reason. As precious as children are, they have come into a fallen world with the stain of sin upon their souls. It does no good to protest the fact, or to argue for the innate goodness of a baby. The truth of the matter is that we are all born sinners, and at the earliest opportunity transgress the law of the Lord. The Psalmist said, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3).

We live in a culture that thinks non-biblically, and unrealistically in so many ways. In particular children are often idolized, to the point that the country is shocked when young people twelve years of age and under run away, kill and steal, rob and hurt others. The nation would not be collectively surprised if it believed the Bible. Jesus said out of the heart proceeds forth all manner of vileness. The depravity of the soul is natural and deep. Every man, woman, and child needs to be converted. Parents, seek the conversion of the children. Pray for their salvation on a regular basis. Teach them about Jesus, and especially the reason He came into the world, to save souls. Do not allow small children to chose their own religion, but guide them in the way they should go.

Second, parents need to teach the children about the cleansing power of confession. Over the centuries the people of God have come to understand the importance of confessing wrong doing. “For him who confesses, shams are over and realities have begun.”  William James (1842-1910) “In confession . . . we open our lives to [the] healing, reconciling, restoring, uplifting grace of Him who loves us in spite of what we are.”  Louis Cassels (1922-1974).

Very few humans can love another person in spite of what they are. Human love is based on what a person is. And usually that means that we love some one that does what we want, agrees with our views, and will co-operate with our wishes. But let any of that be challenged, and what we called loved will vanish like the mist in the morning.

God’s love is far greater than human love. While we were yet sinners Christ died for the ungodly. So we confess not only to receive His grace, but because of His great love. “The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.”  St. Augustine

By teaching children to humbly confess known acts of wrongdoing, the opportunity will be present to model the joy of a holy and consecrated life. It has been said, “Into every life a little rain must fall.” Some people tell me their life is more like a storm, every day. There are flashes of lightning, and thunder claps, as one crisis after another arises.

The gospel comes to call individuals to peace and joy. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27).

The message of Christ was given that His disciples might have joy. “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).

While the world frantically searches after inner peace and joy in all the wrong places, Christ says, “Come to me. Come to me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

But if we come to Christ to find peace and joy there is something that must be given up, and that is the burden of sin. For example, take the matter of worry. The teaching of Jesus on worry is found in Matthew 6:25ff. “Therefore, I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?  And yet we worry.

Nevertheless, a life of worry, a life of moving from one crisis to the next, a life that is characterized by trauma is not what the Lord wants. It is not true Christianity. Jesus said to His disciples “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19). Joy and peace, because of holiness and a commitment to Christ, is the normal Christian life. Therefore, seek to model the joy of a holy and consecrated life.

“Joy is that deep settled confidence that God is in control in every area of my life.”–Paul Sailhamer

“Joy is the echo of God’s life within us.” –Joseph Columba Marmion

Then fourth, parents are to teach their children the importance of personal convictions. If the doctrines of grace are understood, never surrender them. If the Lord brings conviction about particular matters, then do not violate the conscience. Establish biblical principles to live by and then by the grace of the Lord honor those convictions.

One way that personal convictions are established is through the art of meditation. While it is not wrong for children to be enrolled in cultural programs, and various activities, at some time, they should be taught to meditate. There is the wise expression, “Stop and smell the roses.” And there is the other call of Wisdom. Listen to her voice saying, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

It is in the quietness of contemplation, compassion is allowed to swell up in the heart as thoughts turn toward others. During the 1930’s, living in the lap of luxury John F. Kennedy confessed he learned about the Depression when he went to college at Harvard. While millions suffered around him, Mr. Kennedy never realized their daily struggles to survive until he took time to think, and meditate, and study.

Many children are rushed from one activity to the next, but they are never taught to meditate, and think about the things of the Lord or to learn about God’s sovereignty. By the sovereignty of God, we mean that whatsoever comes to pass is foreordained.

Every blade of grass,
every thought of the heart,
every bird that flies, and every sparrow that falls,
is within the domain of God.

Every moment of time,
every act of progress,
every moment of delay,
every word that is spoken,
and every restraint that is contained,
is within His sovereign control.

To believe in the absolute sovereignty of God will allow the head to understand the universe, and the heart to accept what will be. The fact that we are here today reminds us that both good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, life and death, kindness and cruelty, love and hostility are within the ruling sphere of the Sovereign. Let us teach our children of the greatness of God so that in all things we can give thanks and say, “To God be the glory.”

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