For today’s exhortation I want to take a few minutes to talk to you about why we at Cities Church have child dedication services. And the reason I want to talk about that today is because on the next two Sundays, April 10 and April 17, we are going to have a moment in both services when parents in our church are going to dedicate their children. So what does that mean, and why are we doing it?
I’ll try to explain in a few points.
1. As Christian parents [and this is putting it straightforward], we want to dedicate our children because we believe it’s unbiblical to baptize them.
We at Cities are Baptist by conviction and that means that we believe the only legitimate baptism is for those who have put their faith in Jesus. Baptism is a physical drama of a spiritual reality. It’s when we represent to others that by faith we have been united to Jesus, dead and buried with him and then raised to new life in him. That’s what it dramatizes. Spiritually, you are dead, buried, and then raised to new life in Jesus. And we believe that the Bible teaches that only happens when individuals embrace Jesus by faith. So my 7-month old son, Noah, he can smile and laugh and cry, but he’s not able to understand the gospel and believe, therefore I’m not going to baptize him.
Now other Christian traditions do baptize children, and they have reasons for that — several of you were probably baptized as children — but we don’t baptize children at Cities Church because we don’t think the New Testament teaches that.
2. But, and this is the second point, what we appreciate about Christian traditions that do baptize children is that they recognize the amazing providence of children being born to Christian parents.
There are seven billion people in the world, and a chunk of those people have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and when a child is born into a family who has been transformed by the gospel, that is a special thing.
A child born into a family who has been transformed by the gospel will have countless opportunities to hear the gospel. These children will be taught the ways of Jesus, and because their parents are members of a local church, they’ll be surrounded by people who follow the ways of Jesus. And we think that is so significant that we should do something to recognize it. We should say something, do something as a church, to recognize the blessing of children and the providence of their birth, and so we have a dedication service.
3. By dedication, there are really three angles we have in mind.
The parents dedicate themselves to the child, to teach the child the gospel; the parents dedicate the child to God, praying for God to one day bring the child to put their faith in him; and third, we, as a church, dedicate ourselves to the parents and child, to support the parents in teaching their children the gospel.
We don’t think dedicating your child is necessary for their salvation. It absolutely is not. There is no special salvific grace deposited into these children when you dedicate them. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, not by child dedication services. And because of that, just to be honest, Melissa and I have never dedicated our children in a church service. Each time with all five of our kids, as soon as we found out we were expecting, we knelt down — five times, all the same way — and we dedicated that child to God, and ourselves to God as their parents. And because it’s not necessary, we’ve not formally dedicated our children in a church worship service — at least not yet. This is an area we’ve grown in, that I’ve grown in, and your other elders have helped me.
And the three angles here are really important, because it’s not just about the parents, the child, and God; it’s about the parents, the child, and God in the context of the local church. And part of child dedication is parents inviting the church to come alongside them in spiritual parenting. And that’s why, Melissa and I, with our children, are going to be part of the child dedication service on April 17.
So coming up, on on April 10 and April 17 because there are so many children, we are going to have child dedication services. If you are a member at Cities and you want to be a part of this, let your Community Group leader know, and I will be in touch with you.
And now, let me lead us in a prayer of confession.
Prayer of Confession
So Father, what we confess right away is our inability to change our hearts. We know you care about the heart. You are not like us, you don’t look at the outward appearance. You are not impressed with ceremony and sacrifice for the sake of ceremony and sacrifice. Instead, as your word tells us, you delight in truth in the inward being. You care about the deep things of our souls — how we really feel and think, what we really love and care about.
And Father, that by itself is not a comfort to us because we know that inside, in our hearts, if we’re honest, there is darkness. Things are broken. Love is out of order. Our longings are confused. And therefore you must work wonders. You must change us. You must effect in us what glorifies you. You must do that in our lives and you must do that in our children, and so we pray, Purge us with hyssop and we shall be clean; wash us and we shall be whiter than snow. Blot out our iniquities; create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us. Send your Holy Spirit, with your word, to convict us and transform us as only you can, even now as we confess our sins to you in silence.