Baby Dedication: Noam

Brothers and sisters, we multiply (literally) to teach the next generation to sing God’s praises. We multiply, as churches, for the same reason: so that the next generation of Christians may declare the powerful works of God.

This isn’t just a call to individual families; it’s a corporate call.

I’ll just briefly explain what a baby dedication is, because according to where you’ve come from, there may be some confusion here.

A baby dedication is not a baptism. We don’t baptize babies in this church, because we believe the Bible calls us to be baptized following a personal profession of faith—a confession that little Noam isn’t able to make yet. When he’s old enough, he’ll decide on his own to be baptized if he wishes, and Lord willing, we’ll baptize him then.

It should also be said that this moment has no impact on the spiritual life of our children; being dedicated before the church doesn’t make a child holier, or more favorable in God’s eyes.

A baby dedication is a public commitment—a commitment from the parents and from the church. The faith of our children does not depend on us; but God has already shown his grace in allowing our children to be born in families which know Jesus, which will speak of him, which will worship him together with the body of Christ; and very often, the Lord uses this foundation to convict the hearts of our kids, to bring them to faith.

The Situation

But it should be said that the context is a little particular in this case.

Most of the time, when we dedicate a baby, we ask the two parents to come up front for the dedication. But in this case, the father isn’t here; he and Christelle are not married, and weren’t when Noam was conceived; he’s not a Christian, and is not involved in the life of his child.

So rather than acting as if this was just like any other baby dedication, we discussed long and hard with Christelle before Noam’s birth, and we all agreed that this was an opportunity to show the beauty of the gospel at work, even under less-than-ideal circumstances.

There are two things that must be said concerning this situation.

Firstly: as we saw before the summer, sex exists to be enjoyed within the context of a marriage between one man and one woman. Any sexual act or thought which happens outside of this context is outside of God’s will for us. Including the act that gave us this little one.

But that is where the beauty of the gospel shows itself in all its splendor—Jesus said that he didn’t come for the righteous, but for sinners (Matthew 9.13); John tells us that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1.9).

Christelle has confessed her sin, and repented of it. She loves Jesus and has placed her faith in him. She has committed to follow him faithfully for the rest of her life.

And she believes, as we do, that God is sovereign over all things, and makes all things work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8.28).

That means that if God allowed Noam to be conceived, he allowed it for good—for Christelle’s good, for Noam’s good, and for our good.

Loanne and I also had a baby this year, like several of you. Zadie is a gift that God gave us, but she is a gift God gave us despite our sin. We don’t deserve her; if God had given us what we deserved, Zadie wouldn’t be here.

In the same way—and I want you to hear me say it loud and clear—dear little Noam is not a consequence of sin. Noam is a gift from God. God is the one who planned this baby; he is a gift to his mother, and a gift to us.

That’s the first thing we have to say.

The second thing is that when the ideal is lacking, the church is called to place itself in the gap and sustain and provide for its members to the best of its abilities.

The ideal is lacking here: the dad isn’t here, and he doesn’t know Jesus—at least not yet. Christelle will have a particular struggle to go through, that most of us here won’t know: the struggle of raising this baby without the support of a spouse (at least for now).

But where the ideal is lacking, the church places itself—joyfully—in the gap.

That’s why in a moment, I’m going to ask Christelle to come forward with Noam and to commit herself to raising this child in the Word of God, and to love him as long as she is alive.

But she won’t be doing this alone. I’m also going to ask Christelle’s mother _____, Arnaud, Emilee, Michael, Loanne, Jean-Daniel and Mélanie to come with her, to represent the church, so that this commitment might be, more than ever, a corporate commitment to God.

What we’re doing here, we do for all of our babies—but God has given us here an opportunity to see more clearly than ever the commitment he calls us to take for our little brothers and sisters, and the joy we have in participating in this work.

That being said, I’ll ask everyone I just mentioned to come forward.

The Family

We read in 1 Samuel 1.20-28:

20 And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel… 

[She] took him up with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the child to Eli. 26 And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. 27 For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. 28 Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” 

Christelle, it is absolutely fitting, given the grace God has shown you in giving Noam to you, that you do the same as Hannah—that you recognize that this child is not your child, but God’s child.

The goal of this dedication is to help you, as a mother, to fully accept the call of God to you, to raise your child as a disciple of Jesus Christ. And so, in accord with this commitment, I’ll ask you, along with those here with you who symbolically represent the family of God, to respond to the following questions:

• Do you dedicate this child to the Lord, recognizing him as a gift from God, and giving him back to God? Yes, with God’s help.

• Do you commit to raise Noam as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Yes, with God’s help.

• Do you promise to raise Noam in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in the practice of prayer, in the gift that is reading God’s Word, and in the development of Christlike character? Yes, with God’s help.

• Do you promise to try, by God’s grace, to form the life of your child, by your example and by your worship, by your words and your acts, that at the right time, Lord willing, Noam might come to an open confession of faith in Christ, and join the family of God? Yes, with God’s help.

Upon your promise before God and before his people to raise this child as a disciple of Christ, we exhort you to give yourselves fully to this task, by God’s grace.

The Church

Now, church—you are symbolically represented up here; so I’d like to ask you to do what we always do and take your part in this commitment.

  • Do you promise, Body of Christ, to receive Noam in love, to pray for him, to help his mother instruct him in the faith, to encourage him, and to support him in the communion of believers?

Church: Yes, with God’s help.

Message: The Urgency of Repentance

(Luke 13.1-9)

Arnaud Weulassagou

As you know, for our messages we’re continuing our series in the Gospel of Luke. We spent a few weeks in chapter 12..

I preach from time to time in this church, but I was glad that it was Jason preaching the last weeks, because in those passages Jesus said things that were very difficult. Jason has more experience, and he knows how to handle delicate subjects in general.

I had hoped that I would preach on passages with less serious subject matter. In general, I prefer to talk about happy things rather than heavier things, or things that can make people sad; my motto is that it is better to laugh than to cry! But alas—that’s is not the case for today… 

In today's text, the words of the Lord are severe, but by looking deeply as we will do, we will see his grace.

In 2 Timothy 3 v 16-17, the apostle Paul says: 

"All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for convincing, for correcting, for instructing in justice, 17so that the man of God would be trained and equipped for every good work. "

The purpose of the Word of God, the reason why the preaching of the Word of God takes its place in our worship, is that God wants us to know things about Him and His kingdom. God wants us to be taught and instructed about the kingdom of God and about the Lord.

But in this description, the Apostle Paul adds that Scripture is inspired by God and useful for CORRECTION.

God gave us His words, and in a special way through Jesus, among other things, to correct us. 

In this verse of Paul's letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul states that the purpose is that "the man of God should be trained and equipped for every good work. » God wants us to be men and women whose lives are filled with good works. For this, He instructs us on who He is and what He does. But His Word also aims to CORRECT us.

Today we will see together one of these texts which aims to correct.

In approaching a text, I often ask myself the question "Why?" And in front of this text in particular I wondered: Why are you so severe, Lord? If I had been among the disciples and the Lord said these words, I think that at one moment I would ask him why he was so angry.

But in reality what Jesus does is nothing new. This is what God always asked the prophets when He asked to warn sinners.

The first thing I suggest to look at in the text is the prophetic ministry of the Lord Jesus to warn sinners, in this particular context (I);

God sends the prophets to warn sinners because they are under the threat of His condemnation; they’re almost out of time (This will be the second part).

And finally, we will see that the Lord Jesus certainly has the role of a sentinel prophet for sinners, but he has also chosen to assume the role of the one who intercedes so that sinners will be saved.

Jesus: the Sentinel for Sinners (v1-5)

We've all watched movies with the wars of the Roman Empire, or even westerns. Where two cities were waging war, and each city was surrounded by a wall.

In general, above the wall, there are people who are there to watch and who can see the danger coming. When the danger arrives, they alert the whole city so that all the people of the city prepare themselves for the danger that comes towards them, either that they put themselves on their guard to fight, or that they take shelter from the danger.

The role of the prophets in the Bible has always been just that: to warn the people of danger.

But what danger? God himself ... 

Remember in chapter 12, verse 5 Jesus said, "I am going to show you who you should fear: dread him who, after killing, has the power to cast hell …"

Jesus himself is rarely seen frightened in the gospels. One of the rare occasions when he is said to be anguished is when he was about to be hung on the cross. Not because He was afraid of the pains of persecution, but because on the cross: 1. He would be separated from God, and then He would bring God's wrath against sinners.

A clear example in the Bible where we see God establishing a prophet and giving him the role of sentinel is in Ezekiel 33. By and large, God goes through the prophet Ezekiel to make clear to the people of Israel that the prophet is there to serve them as a guard against His wrath.

We read in Ezekiel 33 v 7-8: 

"It was you, son of man, whom I gave as a watchman to the community of Israel. You must listen to the word that comes out of my mouth and warn them from me. 8 When I say to the wicked: You who are evil you will die, that's for sure, if you do not speak to warn the wicked so he renounce his conduct, this wicked man will die because of his fault, but I will reclaim his blood. "

And further on in verses 14 to 16: 

"When I say to the wicked, You are going to die, it is certain, if he renounces his sin and begins to apply right and justice, 15 [...] follow the prescriptions that give life by no longer committing injustice, he will live, he will not die. 16 All the sins he has committed will be forgotten. Since he applies law and justice, he will live for sure. "

God had already given the prophets in the Old Testament the mandate to warn men to change their behavior. In some contexts, like this one these warnings were accompanied by threat.

Jesus is the prophet par excellence, the prophet of prophets

In fact, Jesus is THE prophet. Moses told the people of Israel (in Deuteronomy 18) that God would send them a prophet whom he had to obey.

And the role of the prophet is somewhat summarized in Ezekiel 33 v 7 where God said to Ezekiel, "... you must listen to the word that comes out of my mouth and warn them of me. "... The prophet knows the words of God and announces them to others from God.

Let’s go back to our passage, Luke 13: 1-5: 

"1At that time some who were there told Jesus what had happened to the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2Jesus answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were greater sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered such a fate? 3No, I tell you. But if you do not change your attitude, you will all be killed. 4Well these 18 people on whom the tower of Siloam fell and who killed, do you think they were more guilty than all the other inhabitants of Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you. But if you do not change your attitude, you will all be killed. "

At the end of chapter 12, the Lord taught that we must make peace with God now before we find ourselves in the last judgment, because it would then be too late. And according to Luke, while the Lord spoke on this subject, "at that time" as it says at the beginning of chapter 13, people come to bring something serious to the Lord, a catastrophe: Pontius Pilate has killed Galileans who offered sacrifices to God.

But of all the answers that can be given to such an announcement, the Lord does not speak of the people who have been killed. He continues in the momentum of his teaching to make peace with God. And he says, "If you do not change your attitude, you will all be killed.”

The Lord is certainly compassionate toward those who have died. In the Gospels, one of the only times where it is said that Jesus wept was because his friend Lazarus was dead - but in this context, the Lord has especially to compassion for those who listen to him: the Lord is a prophet, he knows the fate of those who are evil before God ... They will certainly die.

God who is sovereign over all the little events that happen in history has probably led this event. While the Lord Jesus was talking about making peace with God, these men come to give him an illustration for His message. He says to those who listen to him, "You probably do not want to be slaughtered like lambs ... But if you do not give up your sins to turn to God, what will happen to you will cause you similar suffering. "

So the Lord is using this image that has been brought to him, to try to convince men who listen to him of the urgency of giving up their sins and turning to God.

Then, in the same breath, the Lord himself adds an illustration that is also based on real facts: a tower that accidentally fell and killed 18 people. The Lord said to His audience, "These men were not any more sinful than you… If you do not change your attitude, you will all likewise perish.”

The Lord wants to convince the men who listen to him to flee their sins and turn to God. So He uses strong images to speak of the wrath of God that will come on sinners who will not give up their sins.

At this point, the Lord continues his teaching by a parable that speaks of a fig tree that narrowly escaped destruction, and that can be slaughtered from one day to the next.

The Reprieved Sinner (v6-9)

V. 6 - 9: 

He also said this parable: A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard. He came looking for fruit and he did not find any. 7So he said to the winemaker, 'For three years I have been coming for fruit on this fig tree and I can not find any. Cut him off: why does he occupy the land needlessly? '8The winegrower replied,' Lord, let him go again this year! I'll dig around and put some manure on it. 9Maybe in the future give fruit; otherwise, you'll cut it. '

In general, you have to be careful with parables. In fact, it is often possible to give them a meaning that is not the primary meaning, but one may also want to interpret on remaining aspects of the parable that are not directly related to the main point.

If in this context, the Lord didn’t not give the explanation of the parable, at least we’d know that from the beginning the Lord is speaking to his listeners so that they might become aware of the importance and the urgency to repent. 

The three main characters in this parable are the master who owns the vineyard, the winemaker who works for him, and the fig tree that is in the vineyard and has not produced figs for 3 years.

The master of the vineyard orders the winemaker to cut down a fig tree, since it is a fig tree that has not produced figs for 3 years. But the winemaker begs the master to give the fig tree one last chance and he devotes himself to do everything necessary for the fig tree to finally produce fruit.

By placing the parable in the context of the teachings of Jesus that preceded it, we understand that the master who owns the vineyard is God. In this context we can specify God the Father.

The vine-grower who looks after the vineyard is God the Son, the Lord Jesus.

What is less obvious is the identity of the fig tree. The Lord Jesus just before called sinners to repent. So the fig tree most probably designates the sinners who need to turn to God. But I suggest that the fig tree can also designate Christian people, at least present in the visible church.

  • To those who have not yet put their faith in Jesus:

God is patient.

The gospel according to Mark tells us an episode where Jesus was going by a path, and on this path there was a fig tree. As Jesus was hungry he came closer to eat figs, but there was none. Jesus then said one word, "Let no one ever eat of your fruit!” And the fig tree immediately withered.

God is a demanding God. In the context of Mark 11, the Lord Jesus was waiting for figs on this fig tree, and in the absence of figs, the Lord cursed the fig tree that dried up.

The good news is that God is more patient with men. We see in the parable that the owner of the vineyard waited 3 years, and even after 3 years he did not cut the fig tree.

But we also learn in this parable that the patience of God has its limits. In the same way that the master of the vineyard decided after several years of waiting that it was necessary to cut down the fig tree. In the same way, one day sinners will suffer the total condamnation of God.

The fig tree occupied the land of the master of the vine ... unnecessarily! In the same way sinners occupy the space that God gives, breathing the oxygen that God gives. But one day God will cut off sinners who do not repent, and they will no longer be able to enjoy any good that God gives.

  • To those who follow Jesus but who do not bear fruit:

It is also possible that the parable is addressed to those who are part of the church, at least the visible church. Many times in the Bible, God to speak about His people uses the image of the vine.

For example, in Jeremiah 2, verse 21, or Isaiah 5: 7, which I read for us: 

"Yes, the vineyard of the LORD, the ruler of the universe, is the community of Israel, and Judah, it was the plant that made his pleasure. He had hoped for righteousness and here is injustice, justice and here are cries of accusation! "

If we are God's children, God asks us not to be children, but to grow up, become more and more mature Christians in the knowledge of Him and in service for His glory.

He expects our attitudes to reflect righteousness and justice.

God expects us to put our talents and gifts in His service and service to others.

The good news is that Jesus has dedicated himself to sinful men so that they bear fruit.

Jesus Devoted to Sinful Men (v8-9)

In verses 8-9: 

"The vine-grower answered him, 'Lord, leave it again this year! I'll dig around and put in some manure. 9Maybe in the future give fruit; otherwise, you'll cut it. ‘"

Two things can be deduced from these passages:

  • The Lord Jesus works for men to be made more and more pleasing to God

  • The Lord Jesus intercedes for men with God His Father.

IMPLICATIONS:

  • The words of the Lord Jesus can be perceived as hard. But the Lord is like a doctor who makes a real diagnosis of the depth of evil, and who makes a profound operation to fully heal the evil.

Sin will take away life in you, it will take you away from the joy here on earth. And ultimately will lead to your destruction by God ... Evil runs deep. And if the Lord's warning words are so strong it's because he wants to avoid us. Let's pay attention to His words.

  • "The ax is the root of the tree" This is the famous expression of John the Baptist to express the fact that we do not have all the time in the world.

God is a God of grace, of course, but also a demanding God. He expects the sinner to repent and His children to bear fruit, to live righteously by putting their gifts in His service and service to others.

- It is Jesus who saves us, and it is Jesus who can make us bear fruit. If you have sin in your life which still seems to be holding you prisoner, think long and hard about what Jesus says. If you have not yet put your faith in Jesus and you hear His voice, turn to Him today. Jesus is in Heaven He prays for you, He will do it.