What Prevents You from Getting Baptized?
HAVE you been studying the Bible with one of Jehovah’s witnesses for some time? Have you become convinced that what you are learning is the truth? Do you associate with the Witnesses at their Kingdom Halls, and, as you have opportunity, are you telling others what you are learning? But have you until now let something prevent you from getting baptized?
You probably attended one of the 140 “Divine Victory” assemblies that were held during the past twelve months. At these, a total of 81,830 Bible students took advantage of the opportunity to get baptized. This year even more district assemblies will be held, some sixty in the United States alone. At each one of these there will again be an opportunity for persons like yourself to get baptized—in most cases, on the Friday morning included in the assembly dates.
True, for you to get baptized will not be a case of following the line of least resistance. You may have obstacles in your way. But nothing worth while comes easy. Overcoming the obstacles will demonstrate your sincerity of belief. Are you up in years? Old age did not keep a ninety-five-year-old Russian woman, together with her sixty-two-year-old daughter, from getting baptized at Yankee Stadium last year. Neither did it keep another person eighty-five years old from getting baptized along with his sixteen-year-old grandson.
Or do you have family opposition? This obstacle also has been overcome by many. Thus one woman went ahead with plans to get baptized even though her husband threatened to divorce her if she did. As a last resort, he took her to see a Jesuit priest. The priest told him, ‘The Witnesses love God a little more than we do, so leave your wife alone.’ The priest also told him, ‘If you divorce your wife you really are not a Christian.’ The upshot was that the husband stated, “I’ll live with it, but I won’t change my religion.” Among others baptized at these assemblies was a husband who, at one time, had threatened to kill his wife if she became a Witness. Her not holding back in fear resulted in his getting baptized, just a year after she did.
Does a physical handicap seem to keep you from getting baptized? Well, more than one wheelchair candidate was baptized at one of these past assemblies, they being lifted in and out of the water. One of these was a young man who was paralyzed from the waist down, due to a bullet wound he once received from his own mother when he was trying to kill her with a knife while he was under the influence of drugs. Cerebral palsy did not prevent a mother of three children from getting baptized, nor did blindness prevent a seventy-two-year-old retired truck driver from symbolizing his dedication by baptism.
Even as the Gentile army officer Cornelius accepted Christianity and was baptized in the first century, so in this twentieth century a number of men of the military resigned from the armed forces so as to be able to get baptized, in keeping with Isaiah 2:4. One of these was a master sergeant who had only four more months of service before he could retire on a fine pension, another soldier after having served seventeen years, and another after having served twenty years resigned and was baptized.
What about your former religious background? Does it make you hesitate? Then consider what others have done. A formerly devout Catholic, having been reared in a convent, was baptized at an assembly this past year. Also, a man who had taught religion for years in a Catholic school was baptized; another who had been a Baptist preacher; and a woman who had been an Indian medicine practitioner. Still others had been “Jesus freaks,” atheists, Buddhists, practicers of yoga, of spiritism, and so forth. There were also some who had formerly made money their god, had piled up great wealth or were ambitious to become millionaires.
In the past have you had a moral problem? Many others have overcome these problems in order to be baptized. Quite a number had once belonged to such notorious motorcycle bands as “Hell’s Angels,” others had been promiscuous hippies, quite a few had been drug addicts, some even peddlers of the same, others had been alcoholics from youth up. One had been a go-go girl, another a Spanish flamenco dancer whose job required her to entice men in a cabaret. Others had lived in fornication or were bigamists. Some had been burglars and thieves. And most of these had also been enslaved to the tobacco habit, which they had to overcome, but not without great effort. This calls to mind what the apostle Paul wrote. After enumerating various vices that keep people out of God’s kingdom, he concludes with the observation, “yet that is what some of you were.” But even as did those Corinthian Christians in the first century, so these who were baptized at one of the “Divine Victory” assemblies made a radical change in their way of life and are now rejoicing in their dedicated service to Jehovah God.—1 Cor. 6:9-11.
You understand, of course, that one does not qualify for baptism overnight, as it were. You should not get baptized on the spur of the moment because of hearing some eloquent appeal by an emotional speaker. No, you must first take in knowledge of Jehovah God and of Jesus Christ for a period of time. You must learn that Jehovah is the one true God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and that his Son Jesus Christ died for your sins so that you might gain eternal life.—John 17:3.
This knowledge brings with it an invitation to repent, to change your attitude toward your past course. You must feel deep regret and so stop going in the wrong, selfish course. You must reject it and determine to take a right course; true repentance involves both a change of mind or viewpoint and a change of heart, of feeling and of motive. Such repentance, however, is needed in regard to more than such uncleanness as sexual immorality, and addiction to drugs and tobacco. One must also reject a selfish, self-centered attitude and way of life, for that also is sin.
Such genuine repentance leads to conversion, to turning about-face and going in the opposite direction. Now you are concerned as to what God commands and what God forbids you to do, and you are endeavoring to bring your life into harmony with God’s requirements for you. If you have come this far you are in position to make a valid dedication of yourself to do God’s will and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and be baptized. Yes, Jesus now invites you: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.”—Matt. 16:24.
If you have no serious impediment to your getting baptized, such as a lack of basic knowledge of God’s will for you, or a way of life that is out of line with Bible principles, but you profess to love God and yet you hold back from Christian baptism, really your course is inconsistent. How so? In that getting baptized is a command: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) Likewise the apostle Peter commanded the repentant Jews who had heard him preach on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 2:38) He also commanded that Cornelius and his family be baptized. (Acts 10:48) Likewise after Ananias witnessed to Saul of Tarsus, at which time Saul regained his sight, Ananias said to him: “And now why are you delaying? Rise, get baptized and wash your sins away by your calling upon his name.” In fact, we cannot get a good conscience with Jehovah God unless we dedicate ourselves to do his will and get baptized in symbol of such dedication.—Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21.
Besides, from what you have learned about the greatness and goodness of your Creator, Jehovah God, you have love for him, do you not? Would you not consider it a privilege to bring joy to his heart? God’s Word tells us that it makes Jehovah’s heart rejoice when we take a wise course, which, first of all, includes our dedicating ourselves to do his will and getting baptized. “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.”—Prov. 27:11.
True, even though it is a divine command and his expressed will, yet Jehovah God does not force anyone to serve him. He gives you the opportunity to choose between life and death, between the blessing and the malediction, between the course that is right and loving and the course that is wrong and selfish, even as he gave the Israelites of old the opportunity to choose. And because of his love for you he urges you to make the wise and loving choice.—Deut. 30:19, 20.
Or are you delaying to be baptized because you fear that having once left off all the works of the flesh, including such things as the tobacco habit, you may yet return to them and suffer the consequences? Such an attitude shows a lack of faith and understanding. How so? Because Jehovah has promised: “No temptation has taken you except that which is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” What more could you want?—1 Cor. 10:13.
Yes, take the step of faith, and back up your faith by works. Then you will find Jehovah God true to his promise. He will help you. As the apostle Paul found true in his own life, so will you be able to say: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” (Phil. 4:13) Jehovah gives us guidance and strength through his inspired Word, the Holy Bible, by means of his holy spirit or active force, and through his visible organization, the local congregation and its body of elders.—Zech. 4:6; Matt. 24:45-47.
With the help of these you will be able to live up to your dedication to do God’s will in spite of the inborn weaknesses of your flesh, in spite of the machinations of the Devil and his demons, and in spite of the temptations brought on by this wicked system of things.—Eph. 6:11-18.
If after reading the foregoing you see your privilege of getting baptized, then the thing for you to do is to see the presiding overseer of the congregation with which you are associated for further information. Do not be like one Bible student who got baptized at the “Divine Victory” assembly but who first heard the Kingdom message back in 1951 and yet waited twenty-two years, not getting baptized until 1973. Remember, time now is really running out! Let nothing prevent you from getting baptized!—Matt. 24:34.