Summary: Today we dedicate a child to God. What does that mean for his parents and the community of faith in which he will grow?
This morning, for the second time in three weeks, we welcome into the community of faith a new child, Lars Hickey. Two weeks ago it was through infant baptism, today through dedication. It’s not my intent this morning to debate the issues of infant baptism vs believer baptism. Rather, let me begin by pointing to the one uniting similarity in the two practices; that is the recognition of responsibility of both the parents and the church to do everything in their power to lead the child to a profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
When we baptize infants, it is the parents who are making the promises. In a similar fashion John and Beth will be making promises to raise Lars, not only with a knowledge of Jesus as Savior, but to encourage him to claim salvation for his own life and lead a life that testifies to the knowledge of the Savior. Additionally, this congregation will agree to assist in the raising of this child, particularly as it relates to his spiritual education and growth. Whether we baptize or dedicate infants the same spiritual truth exists. If the child is to gain eternal life there must be a second birth that comes from the personal confession of faith of the individual; but the parents and the community of faith into which the child is born are called to the great privilege and awesome responsibility of leading the child to faith in Christ. Let’s look at what is required by God as we study verses 4- 8 of Psalm 78.
First, please note the deeds of God, as well as his powers and wonders, are to be shared with future generations. We can haul our kids to Sunday School for years and have saintly men and women extolling the wonders of God as reported in the Bible. But if we neglect to inform our children of God’s very real presence in our life and his deeds, which have directly and personally affected us, God ends up being some kind of celestial superhero; one who is to be admired for his great feats, but has little personal impact on the life of the child. We need to make God personal in the lives of our children. We need to share with them the specific great deeds he has accomplished in our lives.
Secondly, we need to communicate to our children that this very real, and very personal God has very definite expectations of us. (Read verse 5) The word “law” is translated from the Hebrew word Torah, which means “teaching.” God commanded Israel to teach the law to future generations. God didn’t create the world, place man in it, and then just leave him on his own. He gave guidelines by which life could be lived to honor the God of wonders and lead to a life of fulfillment for his people.
Note that God didn’t request or suggest that Israel teach its future generations about God’s laws and decrees, he commanded Israel to teach them. I know of nothing in scripture that would indicate that the desire of God in this respect has ever changed. I think we remain under an obligation to pass the deposit of truth on to succeeding generations. There’s a not-so-subtle implication here for us. Christians in the 21st century are alarmingly Biblically illiterate. Obviously, we’re going to have to do a little learning of our own before passing the truth on to our children.
Israel was to teach the commands so their children would know them. Not know of them, but know them. Our children might know of the 10 commandments, but do they know them, can they name them? There is a profound difference between knowing that something exists and being intimately acquainted with it. I know there is something called quantum physics, but I couldn’t begin to explain to you what effect it has on my life. Similarly, knowing that God has specific guidelines by which we are to live is far different from studying those guidelines and applying them to every moment of our life.
I might add here that as a classroom teacher for 19 years I also know that for all the teaching one might do, there must be a work done on the part of the learner or all the teaching is for naught. Ultimately, we may not have the influence we would like to have, but the ardent effort is our required duty.
The objective of this teaching is that our children might put their trust in God. (v. 7) We teach kids to drive so that when they venture out on the road they have some clue about what to do on the highway. We teach doctors how to operate so that when they’ve cut into a body they can trust their ability to help the patient. We teach our children God’s laws so that when they are confronted by the lies of the world and the deceptions of the enemy they are equipped with the truth. When children are confident of God’s love for them they will follow his commands, their obedience will be out of love and an understanding of God’s desire for their good, rather than a reluctant response or an unwanted obligation.