The ABC's of becoming a Christian

There are many views on becoming a Christian. Here you may discuss your views, and even disagree with the introductory sticky post. Make sure you offer your rationale, and talk with each other courteously and respectfully. If you are not a Christian, this is a good place to ask your questions.<P>Residents and higher may post here.

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The ABC's of becoming a Christian

Postby natman » Wed May 31, 2006 3:02 pm

A. Admit That You're a Sinner in Need Of God.

A relationship with Jesus Christ begins with your admission that you need God. You must admit you need God to do three things:

1. You need God to forgive you of your sins, those attitudes or actions that don't meet God's standards.

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
(1 John 1:8-9).

2. You need God to give you eternal life.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
(Romans 6:23).

3. You need God to show you His purpose for your life.

"The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
(John 10:10).


B. Believe That Jesus Died For Your Sins
The penalty for your sin is death. God loves you so much, He provides a way for you to escape that penalty.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
(John 3:16).

Jesus can and will save anyone from an eternity without God. He died and rose again for your justification , to right your relationship with God.

Believe that Jesus Rose From The Dead

"He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification."
(Romans 4:25).

Belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus for your sins is essential for salvation, but it is not enough.

"You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble."
(James 2:19).


C. Confessing Jesus as Lord means to commit total control of your life to Christ. You give him the ownership of your life. He becomes your new boss. If you confess Jesus as Lord of your life, the Bible says you will be saved.

"If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
(Romans 10:9-10).



Jesus said "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."


If you don't already know Jesus as your Lord and Savior and are ready to Admit, Believe and Confess, you may want to say a prayer something like this...

Dear God, I admit I am a sinner in need of you. Please forgive me of my sins and give me abundant life here on earth and eternal life with you in heaven. I believe Jesus died and rose again for my sins. I confess Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus' name, Amen.


If you have questions or comments, please feel free to PM myself or one of our moderators.
Last edited by natman on Sat Jun 03, 2006 3:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
SON-cerely,
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Postby LivingFree » Wed May 31, 2006 9:22 pm

That's a wonderful summary, Nathan, clear, concise, and to the point. It's a good starter for discussion also. Truly God has given us a great gift, and all we need to do is open our hearts and receive it with gratitude.
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Postby goldwings96 » Sat Jun 09, 2007 12:20 am

That's a pretty good foundation. Just thought I'd throw in my Catholic perspective... people who are interested in become Catholics need to enroll in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). It pretty much teaches the major points of Catholicism, describing why we do a lot of what we do, which even Catholics who aren't as familiar with the faith can benefit from. Some RCIA programs are more robust than others. Here's a link with more info:

http://www.archstl.org/links/becoming.html

Peace! :D
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Postby jochanaan » Mon Jun 11, 2007 7:07 pm

Goldwings, many Protestant denominations also have classes, studies and manuals for those interested in becoming members of churches. But our experiences and studies generally lead us to conclude that membership in the larger Church of Jesus Christ begins when a person believes. Baptism, church membership, and the rest are to us merely the outward signs of a life-changing faith already begun. (I will say that if these outward signs aren't there, many of us, with James Jesus' brother, would question how deep and true the faith is. :? )
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Postby arom » Mon Jul 30, 2007 6:42 am

These are all outstanding points, especially the first post made by natman.

The most important thing to remember that works can never save you. Man is simply not good enough for God. All the classes, rituals or whatever will not bring you to salvation (although people do need to learn more about Scripture).

The only way to accept the free grace of God is to turn to him and accept Jesus Christ as your savior.

It is the savior born and died that washes us clean, just as it was the savior in the future that saved those in the Old Testament.
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Postby nudjohn » Mon Jul 30, 2007 11:00 pm

I believe it was also Paul who stated: I will show you my faith by my works.

Simply, Faith without works is dead.

What do you do with something dead? :?
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Postby jochanaan » Tue Jul 31, 2007 12:30 am

nudjohn wrote:I believe it was also Paul who stated: I will show you my faith by my works.

Actually, it was James. Chapter 2:14-27. :)
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More on becoming a Christian

Postby Asante » Thu Sep 27, 2007 10:51 pm

It looks like this thread and even this particular forum is visited rarely. In fact, this is the first time I have visited here, and thought I'd add some of my own perspective.

I think to the ABC's I would add another point. I firmly believe REPENTANCE is an important part of becoming a Christian. Perhaps this is included in natman's third point "COMMIT". But perhaps it is also helpful to spell out what repentance is, and how it fits into the initial experience of "salvation", or becoming a Christian.

In Acts 2:38, in the first instruction given to inquirers about what they needed to do in response to the message preached by Peter, it is helpful to note that they were particularly convicted in their hearts about the need to do so something. This probably is the work of the Holy Spirit which was obviously anointing Peter on this Day of Pentecost. In response to that heartfelt conviction, they were eager to get right with God. I think too often people in our day make merely intellectual decisions to respond to Christ, rather than heartfelt decisions. Only God truly knows the heart, and how He responds to decisions made merely in the mind or in the heart or both. We can't perceive what is happening in the realm of the spirit for each person we may be instructing. But I think there needs to be some heartfelt conviction of ones need to turn to Christ.

Repentance in the New Testament seems to have two prongs to it. To explain this, we need to realize that the basic meaning of the Greek word for repent is "change of mind". I believe it also includes a change of heart. The first point on which we change our minds is in regard to believing in Jesus as the one who died for our sins and was raised from the dead on behalf of the person whose mind/heart is changing, and that He is indeed the Son of God. The second aspect of changing ones mind/heart has to do with sin and righteousness. Ones attitude toward sin has to change. Prior to committing ones life to Christ ones attitude toward sin was probably benign or even joyous acceptance of sin as a way of life. However, for true repentance to take place, there needs to be a change in ones mind/heart that says he no longer wants to live in sin, but desires to live a righteous life. Both aspects of repentance are very important for a true conversion to take place. I realize that in many people this full extent of repentance is not realized; and in such cases this makes it even more difficult for the person to walk in victory over sin -- if he hasn't realized the destructiveness of sin and the life-giving power and joy of living in righteousness, the message of being holy as God is holy hardly makes any sense. There is still too much enjoyment of sin in his life.

A number of years ago I cane upon a teaching/book/video by an English pastor/teacher named David Pawson, called The Normal Christian Birth. In this book the author teaches 4 steps to a New Testament style conversion. They follow the letters R-B-B-R, which to make pronounceable he converted to RuBBeR.

The first R stands for Repentance which I've just covered.
The first B stands for Believe, which natman covered well.
The second B stands for be Baptized. Here we may enter into some difference of opinion. But in the New Testament Pawson sees that the normal conversion experience involved water baptism. It may have happened a bit after ones expression of faith and repentance, but it was still an expected part of true conversion. For him baptism in the New Testament was by full immersion into water. The actual Greek word for baptize, is "baptizo" which literallly means "immerse". The NT form of immersion signified dying to ones old way of life (sin), and rising in Christ's resurrection power in order to begin living a life of righteousness. The picture is explained in Romans 6.

In reference to this point of whether baptism is part of the salvation experience, there is a lot of discussion. I personally think that through 2000 years of church history, a lot of "accidents" happened along the way that changed both the meaning of baptism for the participants, and the form. When Luther and subsequent Reformers came on the scene, and present-day evangelicals, we resisted the notion of a person's doing any form of activity (other than prayer) in order to become a Christian, and so we separated baptism out of the conversion experience, and it tended to become merely symbolic. We were so concerned about the faith/works issue that we had to eliminate baptism from the salvation experience. But if we study the NT, it would be hard to find any case of conversion where baptism is not an expected part of the process. I believe God expects baptism as part of the salvation process. But I also believe He is a realist in terms of the baggage we inherited in our Christian heritage and He alone truly knows whether a person who has done the other aspects of conversion is genuinely His.

The final R stands for Receive the Holy Spirit. Pawson cites a number of Scriptures where receiving the Holy Spirit was an expected part of the full salvation experience. In Acts 2:38, Peter promised they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8, the Apostles were convinced that the Samaritans needed to receive the Holy Spirit and be aware of it. In Acts 10 Peter was convinced of Cornelius' and his household's salvation because God poured out His Spirit on them. In Acts 19 Paul realized these Ephesian disciples were missing something from Apollos' ministry of leading these few to Christ, and asked if they had received the Holy Spirit. From these accounts, Pawson fairly strongly makes a point that receiving the Holy Spirit is a necessary and expected aspect of the NT salvation experience. Indeed, anyone who talks in terms of "the new birth" would agree that the new convert is "born of the Spirit" and receives the Holy Spirit. Pawson takes this a step further, and would say that when a person received the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts there was some demonstrable evidence of that -- in essence God actually confirming demonstrably to the person that He has been truly born again. In general the evidence in the Book of Acts was speaking in a foreign language the person did not know, by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. I personally would add that some at the house of Cornelius glorified God, thus probably worshiping in their own language in a spontaneous manner empowered by the Holy Spirit. In Ephesus, prophesying was included as an evidence given by the Holy Spirit.

If I want to be truly Biblical, I think I would accept most of Pawson's teaching here. However, as I said above, I think God is a realist and knows the "baggage" one carries as a result of their religious heritage and their present circumstances. If a demonstration of the Holy Spirit's power is not even expected, either by the new convert, or by the person leading him to Christ, then God may just quietly give the person the Holy Spirit without any outward manifestation. I personally believe this is a bit unfortunate, though I don't want to argue with God over the matter. But I believe this keeps the person from experiencing the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit at work in his or her life to the fullest measure God would like to work in ones life. It tends to limit the person's expectancy of what God can do in his/her life.

Later, since reading Pawson's book and watching his video teachings, I also began to dig a bit more into Matthew 28:19,20, in which Jesus said, "Going, therefore, make disciples of all nations, immersing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you..."

In the Greek, the word commonly translated as a command "Go", is really a participle, "Going", which for ease of understanding is sometimes expressed "As you go". The "going" was expected by Christ, since He had already commanded and prepared them to Go. The only direct command here is "make disciples." And since "immersing" and "teaching" are also participles, they tend to describe what Jesus included in His understanding of the process of converting people into true disciples -- or "students" -- of Himself. (The Greek word for "disciple" is more literally "student". In fact, here in the Greek the expression "make disciples" is derived from a verb that more literally would be translated "disciple-ize"; we have adjusted that to more common English parlance with the expression "make disciples."

Jesus included two on-going activities here as part of the process of making disciples. I say on-going because in both cases "immersing" and "teaching" these are present participles which has the meaning of an on-going activity.

First, immersing. I covered this a bit in describing some of Pawson's teaching in regard to the literal translation of the Greek baptizo. I would also like to point out that the Hebrew expression "the name of" has a different meaning than what we normally understand in English. In Hebrew culture, "the name of" a person literally means the person himself. Thus, the expression "Praise the Name of the Lord" is literally understood in Hebrew to mean "Praise YHWH"; or "praise YHWH Himself". If we take that meaning for Matthew 28:19, we come up with the translation of "immersing them into the person of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." I think Christ literally expected His apostles to immerse people into God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I think Christ expected that when the apostles brought people into relationship with Christ, so to speak, that God was going to get in on the act and actually receive these people. I also believe that the process of disciple-making is an on-going experience of helping people live out their immersion into God, and to discover more and more of who God is in their lives. Thus, the new convert becomes a disciple (student) of the Triune God, getting to know Him intimately. This is part of what Christ intended in this Great Commission. We have turned the expression "in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" into a liturgical expression used whenever we "baptize" a person in water, whichever form is used. But I don't think that is what Christ and His disciples meant by saying and hearing this command.

Second, teaching them to observe, is also an on-going part of the process of making disciples. It is teaching people to "look at, meditate on, and then put into practice" all that Christ has commanded. I have a feeling that very little of our disciple-making practices in our churches today focus literally and long-term on getting a person to look at, meditate on and put into practice all the commands or teachings of Jesus. At least, I haven't seen any discipleship materials that focus on this. In most churches or denominations, the "discipleship class" focuses on what a person is to believe and practice as part of this particular church.

Whew! I've said more than enough. Although I believe what I've just written, I'm not ready to "argue" any of these points with anyone. That doesn't mean I believe my opinions are the absolute "right" ones in an arrogant way. I don't mind -- and even encourage -- the types of comments normally seen on this forum. But I think all of us would discourage any theological argumentation. So, if anyone is inclined to comment about anything I've said, or to explain their own position, feel free to "wax eloquent" if you like, as long as the moderators feel this is healthy and belongs in this particular forum.

Any comment from the moderator about this?

Asante
"One thing have I asked of YHWH, that will I seek after: That I may dwell in the house of YHWH all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of YHWH and to inquire in His temple." Psalm 27:4
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Postby natman » Fri Sep 28, 2007 11:51 am

Asante,

It's good to see you posting again.

I would agree with you in that repentence and baptism should be a part of the overal experience of the Christian. However, I would not place them in the area of "salvation", but rather in the realm of "sanctification".

If we say that we must repent before we recieve the Holy Spirit, then our salvation becomes works-based. However, if we repent as a result of recieving the Holy Spirit, then our salvation is of God and not of ourselves.

Eph 2:8-9
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast."


Rom 4:1-3
"What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."


If we have followed through the ABCs, then we can say we are saved (justified).

However, we also know that salvation without works is dead.

James 2:26
"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."


The next action and the first step toward sanctification should be repentence.

Likewise, baptism, is the first outward work or sign as an act of obedience and of our acceptance of the Holy Spirit.

If repentence and baptism were a requirement of the "savation", then Jesus would not have been able to tell the thief on the cross "I tell you the truth, this day you will be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43), because the theif did not have the opportunity for either.

So basically a summary would look something like this...

(A+B+C = Salvation => R+B+G = Sanctification)=Eternal Life with Jesus
(G="Good works")
("=>" means "leads to")
SON-cerely,
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Postby Strandloper » Fri Sep 28, 2007 5:16 pm

Well put, Nathan.
As you say, one can be saved without being baptised.
Indeed, since the time of the Early Church it has been held that a martyr undergoes the baptism of blood.
At the same time, I do feel that we in the Church generally do not have a sound approach to baptism.

Baptists and similar denominations are, I feel, broadly correct in their desire to baptise people as adults. At times, though, I believe it possible for a child to be ready for baptism because of his (her) knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
Yet many such denominations insist that infant baptism is entirely invalid, and among such denominations there are many who insist that if, during the ritual of baptism, you were not pushed into the water three times (once for the Father, once for the Son, and once for the Holy Spirit) you have not been baptised at all.

On the other hand you have the Catholic tradition, maintained by the Anglicans/Episcopalians and various other mainstream churches, that babies must be baptised.
The Catholic Church has traditionally maintained that any child who dies unbaptised goes to limbo, and can never enter Heaven. Even though this position is no longer supported by the Vatican, there are a great many Christians (within and outside the Catholic Church) who cling to that belief.
This doctrine arises in a misunderstanding of the concept of God’s covenant – the unbaptised child of Christian parents is in covenant with God because his/her parents are (or at least one parent or caregiver is) Christian.

And we need to recall also that in Acts, entire families were sometimes baptised – not just the adults, or the adults and teenagers. So even those churches that do practise adult baptism are being overly rigid.

Against my will I allowed my children to be baptised as babies. My wife did not hold with the doctrine of limbo, but nonetheless insisted that it would be wrong not to baptise them.
I would rather they had been allowed to decide for themselves (whether at the age of seven, 17 or even much later in life) when they wanted to be baptised.

I certainly would have raised them in a way that would encourage them to ask for baptism – I do not hold with the approach that one should not “force” religion on a child, and that the child should be allowed to decide for himself/herself what to believe in.
The outcome of that approach generally produces children who are disinclined to even set foot in a church, let alone accept Jesus Christ as saviour.
I put the word “force” in quote marks, because the word is used by agnostics and atheists to characterise any introduction of a child to Christian belief as being harmful to them.
Certainly children need to be taught about the Lord gently, not beaten into submission to one or other church doctrine.

But this is a digression from what I mean to say about baptism.
We need to focus on baptism as a special form of the mikveh, and on the mikveh as a routine part of a believer’s life.
We can cleanse ourselves privately in a bath or shower as most of us now do, but we also ought to reintroduce the concept of communal bathing, and of non-sexual nakedness in company.
This would enable us to approach baptism the way the Early Church did: with both baptiser and new believer naked until they leave the water, without any sexual connotations whatever.
The rabbis taught (and still do) that the mikveh is ineffective if one is wearing any clothing at all, and that all fastening and braiding of the hair should be undone.
Without being legalistic about it, we should have a similar approach to the symbolic cleansing of baptism.
Shalom,
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Postby natman » Sat Sep 29, 2007 9:47 am

Strandloper wrote:The Catholic Church has traditionally maintained that any child who dies unbaptised goes to limbo, and can never enter Heaven. Even though this position is no longer supported by the Vatican, there are a great many Christians (within and outside the Catholic Church) who cling to that belief.


The problem with that position is that there is absolutely no Biblical precedent for it. (The same goes for the doctrin of Purgatory).

This doctrine arises in a misunderstanding of the concept of God’s covenant – the unbaptised child of Christian parents is in covenant with God because his/her parents are (or at least one parent or caregiver is) Christian.


Although I am a Southern Baptist, I would say that I generally am more aligned with the Presbyterian confession of faith, all except the issue of infant baptism. They tend to use the verses that you pointed out to say that "baptism" is the "new covenant" of Christ, supplanting "circumcision". However, again, there is no Biblical precedent for the statement. In fact, Jesus referred to His shed blood and death on the cross as the "new covenant" (Mt 26:28, Mk 14:24, Lk 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25, Heb 9:11-28) when He ordained the celebration of the Lord's Supper as a means that we would remember the price God paid for our sins whenever we sit down for a meal.

And we need to recall also that in Acts, entire families were sometimes baptised – not just the adults, or the adults and teenagers. So even those churches that do practise adult baptism are being overly rigid.


These verses (Acts 16:33) are the very ones and the only ones that Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians and other use to justify and enforce infant baptism. Unfortunately, this is reading something into the scriptures that the Bible does not say. Although it does not explicitly exclude infants, it also does explicitly include infants.

Other than the unspecified infants that might be included in that one verse, baptism is done after a conscious decision is to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.

All of this is not to say that infant baptism is not affective in some way. Although it may not be the baptism specified in scripture, it can be seen as a promise by the parents to raise their children in the love and admonishion of the Lord, a covenant between the parents, God and witnesses, if you will. And, being raised in a God fearing home definitely is a blessing. It still remains that the child must make a conscious decision to accept Christ as Lord at some time.
SON-cerely,
Nathan Powers

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Postby Strandloper » Sun Sep 30, 2007 10:50 am

Natman wrote: “It still remains that the child must make a conscious decision to accept Christ as Lord at some time.”

Amen to that, Nathan.
We are in full agreement as far as both limbo and purgatory are concerned.
And I am of similar mind to you with regard to infant baptism. I was baptised as a baby, and I regard that as a valid baptism. Likewise I regard my children’s infant baptisms as being valid.
But I would rather they (and I) had been baptised after making a conscious decision.
Even so, I reject the teaching that many churches put forward that because one’s baptism as an infant is invalid, one needs to be baptised anew.
And then, as I mentioned, there are the single-dunkers and the triple-dunkers. Some triple-dunkers insist that a single dunking also makes an invalid baptism.
I do feel that baptism could well entail three immersions, but I do not see it as being mandatory, or even justified, by the scriptural accounts of John the Baptist or by Jesus’s command to “go and make disciples and baptise”.
I also wonder how many churches that practise total immersion also practise anointing, which (according to accounts of the ritual going back to the Early Church) was an essential part of it.
Interesting point you make about covenant. I have used the covenant argument to justify not baptising infants, as a counter to the superstitions that persist concerning unbaptised children. If that argument is invalid, I wonder what position I should now take on the issue.
I would be most interested in seeing your comments on this.
Shalom,
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Postby natman » Sun Sep 30, 2007 3:12 pm

My opion (only) is that if a person who was baptized as a child comes to Christ has a desire to be rebaptized as an outward sign of an inward change, then that is excellent. At the same time, that person MAY point back to his or her infant baptism and acknowledge that baptism as such a sign. The point is in recogniing that something different has happened at the point of salvation and that we are now proclaiming that we are now part of the family of God, baught and paid for by the blood, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, His Son.
SON-cerely,
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Postby Strandloper » Mon Oct 01, 2007 11:52 am

Hi, Nathan –
that is a comprehensive answer, but unfortunately I am now left with a problem, and I was hoping you could provide me with an alternative to it.
I am especially concerned about the superstitions concerning unbaptised babies, because my wife holds to them, and is bound to influence my children (when they become parents) to have the grandchildren sprinkled straight away.
She doesn’t believe in limbo, but is still horrified at the idea of not baptising infants.
What arguments do you think I should muster against that?
Shalom,
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Postby natman » Mon Oct 01, 2007 2:31 pm

This is one of those areas that is not precisely spoken of in scripture. However, and again, this is my own opinion, which appears to be similar to that of many evangelical theologians, I feel we must trust that God is just and merciful. There is often mention of an "age of accountability" in such circles, although I have not found it in scripture, at which point individuals recognize good and evil, and typically choose evil. Up to that point, we, as children are selfish by design, such that we would be able to survive. The actual age varies with each individual based on maturity.

At any rate, if a child dies before they reach that age of accountability, we must trust that God, being just and merciful, will transport them directly into His presence. Considering that God's love is modelled to us through our own parent/child relationships, we know that we do not hold our infant children culpable for things they do or say when they do not understand them. So too, I would want to believe that God does the same.

I also believe that a child that is raised in the love and admonition of the Lord may die without making an outward profession of faith and still be saved by the virtue of the inward faith he or she has in Christ based on the teachings of his or her parents.

All of this is only based on the special position young children seemed to have in the heart of Jesus during His earthly ministry.
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