Intro: In a little while we will be dedicating three of our member’s children. But why are they doing this? What is the purpose and does it have any Biblical basis? The first child that was dedicated to the Lord in the Bible was little Samuel. He was a child born to Elkanah and Hannah after many years. So when the Lord finally gave them this child after much prayer, Hannah gave him back to the Lord. “When the man Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord and he will live there always.” 1 Sam. 1:21-22 At the appointed time, they brought the boy Samuel to the Lord and Hannah said, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given to the Lord.” 1 Sam. 1:27-28
What does this do for the one dedicated in his or her salvation? Is this child already saved? No and not yet. Not even baptism will save them for this is not mandated by God. This is an act of gratitude to the Lord for the blessing of this child. Giving this child to the Lord meant that we let God do with the child as He please in accordance to His will. However the parents take the responsibility in teaching and guiding them to know God through His word as the child grows up. The boy Samuel was given to the priest to live there and be nurtured by him who later became a prophet of God. Last Sunday we learned from the apostle Peter this truth what has become of believers after they have been born again. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peoplebelonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Pet. 2:9-10
So in the New Testament the Lord has abolished the priesthood that belonged only to the Levites but made every born again believer in Christ as priest and Christ being the High Priest. This gives them access to God as intermediary between God and men. Just as Hannah gave Samuel to the priest, every parent is a priest to their children and given the responsibility to teach them to love God and fear the Lord. This was already commanded to the Israelites before they entered the promise land. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deut. 6:4-9
So when parents share their faith both by teaching and example to their children as they grow up God will honor their obedience to influence their children. Here’s how the young pastor Timothy got saved. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you have learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Tim. 3:14-15
From whom did Timothy learn the Scriptures and who taught him? “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded lives in you also.” 2 Tim. 1:5 How did this faith get to live in Timothy? It was passed on to him from Grandma Lois and Mom Eunice? This is called “saving faith”, faith in a person who has authority to save. And what is the basis of this faith and where it comes from? “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Rom. 10:17
Faith then is man’s response after hearing from Christ the good news of salvation. Here’s God’s plan how one can have eternal life and live in heaven forever.
“God’s Only Plan of Salvation”
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourself, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph. 2:8-9. We find in this passage the formula of salvation. Let us first define what Grace means? Grace is God’s favor to extend His loving kindness to one who does not deserve it. Those who are saved by the grace of God simply received the gift of God through faith. Grace is God’s unmerited kindness to sinners who already deserve God’s eternal punishment. Here’s how the Word of God explains this. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7
Various religions have devised different teachings how a person can go to heaven and receive eternal life but they are all going the wrong way. So then who are those whom God has favored by grace with His salvation? These are those who will hear and believe the facts that are essential in order to know God’s plan of salvation and then respond to it by faith. Faith is man’s heartfelt response to what God has said in His Word. Here are the facts best explained using the word FAITH.
“F” Stands for Forgiveness. We cannot have eternal life and heaven without God’s forgiveness. And who alone can forgive our sins? We all know that sin is breaking the law of God. So if we sinned against God, from whom should we ask for forgiveness? From the one whom we sinned against and not through any person like the priest. And who has offended God? Here’s what God says, the verdict. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Rom. 3:23
I had no problem in the past believing and admitting that I was a sinner. I know what I did, but then I would minimize my sin because I have not committed any major sins like killing anyone. I had an idea of the Ten Commandments but I really did not know all of them. In my ignorance I hoped God would understand. Like the saying what you don’t know won’t harm you. But that’s a lie. So it is a fact that because of my sin, I need to be forgiven by God because I fall short meaning I cannot make it to heaven and not just me but all have sinned. We are all on the same boat. So then who alone can forgive our sins? The God we offended and has delegated and given authority to only one person who can do that, the Son of God. “In him we have redemption through his blood the forgiveness of sins.” Eph. 1:7
This brings us to the next letter “A”. A stands for “Available.” And what is available? Forgiveness and it is available for all. “For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
God loves the world and made forgiveness available but it is not automatic. Why? “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 7:21 By just calling on God as Lord will not save us because we all have a problem which is our sin. No one can come before the presence of God with sin because God is holy and sin and His holiness cannot come together. So again we have a problem, which brings us to the next letter “I”.
I stand for “Impossible”. According to the Bible, it is impossible to get to heaven on our own. When I look back at my life and the religion I practiced and followed, even though I tried all my best to be good, faithful to go to church, kind to everyone and did my best to obey the commandments it wasn’t good enough. There is nothing wrong by being good. Everyone’s problem is the sins we have already committed against a holy God. We cannot earn and work our way to heaven because we are already disqualified. The only way we can make it on our own is by being sinless and no one has lived in this world a sinless life except Jesus Christ. That’s why salvation is all by the grace of God and not by works because all of humankind has already sinned. God will carry out His law and the consequence because He is a just God. So here is another important fact to believe. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:23
Now we see that the law of God demands payment from everyone who has sinned. Just for one sin the penalty is the same - death. So the consequence is we die physically first and then the death that follows is eternal punishment in hell. Eternal because the spirit does not die but will live forever. So every man has a problem, a huge problem that he cannot fix on his own. Here’s what some people think they can do, as Holy Week is approaching we will see some Filipinos hurt themselves by flogging their backs with a whip and a few even have themselves nailed on a cross as payment for their sins. Will that save them? That’s punishing one’s self in order to gain God’s mercy and pardon. A milder and simpler way that does not hurt much is the penance given by a priest after confessing sins. Again can anyone pay the wages for my sins? No one, except what God has provided to pay the penalty for our sins. So the question that one should ask, how can a sinful person have eternal life and enter heaven, where God allows no sin? This brings us to next letter which is T.
“T” stands for Turn. Imagine you are driving down I-80 to San Francisco and you see a warning sign to turn back because there was a landslide that caused a break on the highway. So what is it saying for us to do? Turn around, take the next exit and make a U-turn. In the Bible turn means repent. Repentance is turning away from sin and self. Jesus made a sweeping statement to all people, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Luke 13:3
This is the first requirement and a must before Jesus will forgive anyone his sins and saves. His first message when He started His ministry is, “The time has come,” he said, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” Mark 1:15
After Jesus resurrected and appeared to two of His disciples, he said to them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance andforgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24:46-47
After turning away from sins, the next step is to turn to Christ and trust Him only. Trusting in Him for what He has already done is the only way we can be saved from the penalty of our sins. Christ died on the cross two thousand years ago and is as good today because the One who died was raised from the dead and is alive, alive forever more. He received back His throne in heaven and He alone can forgive as many sinners that would come to Him in faith. This is the good news and should really be the greatest news of all and for all. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4 God the Father accepted His offering of Himself by raising Him from the dead. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:9-11
This is the basis of the faith that points to the object of faith who is Christ Jesus, the Son of God. So what must one do in order to be saved from going to hell? “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Rom. 10:9-10
So then, what happens if a person is willing to repent of their sins and confess Christ? Then letter “H” will become true to him. “H” is for heaven. Heaven is a place where the one who is saved will spend eternity with God forever and ever. Here is what Jesus promised His disciples just before He went to the cross. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
Heaven is the place where Jesus will take us but what happens while we are still alive here on earth when does eternal life begins? It begins now with Jesus. “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10b
“H” also stands for how? How can a person receive God’s forgiveness, eternal life and heaven? If that is your question because you have not yet received eternal life, here’s Christ’s invitation to you by His very words. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”Rev. 3:20
That’s Jesus knocking at the door of your heart. He will not force His way in unless you invite Him in, surrendering your life to Him as your Lord. Will you receive Jesus Christ into your heart by a simple prayer of commitment? INVITATION