“Who of you wanting to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense to see if he has enough to complete it?”—LUKE 14:28.
The following two articles are addressed to young people who are considering baptism
1, 2. (a) What gives God’s people joy today? (b) How can Christian parents and elders help young ones to understand the meaning of baptism?
“I HAVE known you since you were born,” said a Christian elder to 12-year-old Christopher, “and I’m happy to hear that you want to get baptized. I would like to ask you, ‘Why do you want to take that step?’” The elder’s question was valid. Of course, it gives all of us much joy to see that every year thousands of young people around the world get baptized. (Eccl. 12:1) At the same time, Christian parents and elders in the congregation want to make sure that such young ones make a decision that is not only voluntary but also well-founded.
2 God’s Word indicates that the steps of dedication and baptism are the start of a life during which Christians will experience blessings from Jehovah but also opposition from Satan. (Prov. 10:22; 1 Pet. 5:8) Therefore, Christian parents take time to teach their children what is involved in being a disciple of Christ. In the case of young ones who have no Christian parents, the elders in the congregation will lovingly help them to count the cost of discipleship. (Read Luke 14:27-30.) Just as it takes planning to complete a building project successfully, so it requires preparation to serve Jehovah faithfully “to the end.” (Matt. 24:13) But what can young ones themselves do to become determined to serve Jehovah for the rest of their life? Let us see.
3 Are you a young person who is considering baptism? If so, you are to be commended! It is a great privilege to get baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Moreover, baptism is a requirement for Christians, and it is a vital step toward gaining salvation. (Matt. 28:19, 20; 1 Pet. 3:21) Because it is your heartfelt desire to keep the promise you will make to Jehovah, you want to be prepared for this important step. You do well, therefore, to consider three questions that may help you to see if you are ready for baptism. The questions are as follows: (1) Am I mature enough to make the decision? (2) Do I have a personal desire to do so? (3) Do I understand what it means to be dedicated to Jehovah? Let us examine those questions.
WHEN YOU ARE MATURE ENOUGH
4, 5. (a) Why is baptism not for older people only? (b) What does it mean for a Christian to be mature?
4 The Bible does not suggest that baptism is a step to be taken only by those who are older or who have reached at least an age at which certain legal rights may be granted. We read at Proverbs 20:11: “Even a child is known by his actions, whether his behavior is pure and right.” One who is somewhat younger can realize what it means to do what is right and to be dedicated to his Creator. Thus, baptism is an important and appropriate step for a young person who has manifested considerable maturity and has made a dedication to Jehovah.—Prov. 20:7.
5 What does it mean to be mature? Maturity involves more than physical growth. The Bible says that mature people “have their powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Heb. 5:14) Thus, mature people know what is right in Jehovah’s eyes and are resolved in their heart to stick to it. As a result, they are not easily swayed to do what is wrong; nor do they always have to be prodded to do what is right. Really, it is only reasonable to expect that a young person who gets baptized will uphold God’s standards even when parents or other adults are not present.—Compare Philippians 2:12.
6, 7. (a) Describe the challenges Daniel had when he was in Babylon. (b) How did Daniel prove to be mature?
6 Can young people really demonstrate such maturity? Well, consider the Bible example of Daniel. He may have been in his early teens when he was forcibly taken from his parents into exile in Babylon. Suddenly, Daniel found himself living among a people who had a completely different concept of right and wrong. In addition, there was another challenge to Daniel’s situation: He was treated as someone special in Babylon. In fact, Daniel was one of a number of young people carefully chosen to stand before the king! (Dan. 1:3-5, 13) Daniel seemingly had opportunities in Babylon that he might never have had in Israel.
7 How did young Daniel react to all of this? Was he seduced by the glitter and glamour of Babylon? Did he allow his new surroundings to change his identity or sabotage his faith? Not at all! The Bible says that while in Babylon, Daniel “resolved in his heart that he would not defile himself” with anything associated with false worship. (Dan. 1:8) Daniel showed remarkable maturity!
8. What can you learn from Daniel’s example?
8 What can you learn from Daniel’s example? For one thing, a mature young person is stable in his convictions. He is not like a chameleon, which changes colors to fit its surroundings. He does not act like a friend of God at the Kingdom Hall but a friend of the world at school. Rather than getting tossed about, he remains unmovable even during tests of faith.—Read Ephesians 4:14, 15.
9, 10. (a) How might a young person benefit from thinking about how he or she has reacted to recent tests of faith? (b) What does baptism mean?
9 Of course, no one is perfect; young people as well as adults make mistakes from time to time. (Eccl. 7:20) Still, as you are considering baptism, it would be wise to analyze to what extent you are resolved in your heart to stick to Jehovah’s standards. How could you measure the strength of your resolve? Ask yourself, ‘What is my track record of adhering to God’s standards?’ Give thought to the way you have reacted to recent tests of faith. Have you demonstrated that you have the discernment needed to distinguish right from wrong? What if, like Daniel, you are treated as special by someone in Satan’s world? Are you able to “keep perceiving what the will of Jehovah is” even when God’s will conflicts with what you are tempted to do?—Eph. 5:17.
10 Why do we raise these frank questions? They are meant to help you put baptism in the right perspective. As mentioned earlier, baptism symbolizes that you made a solemn promise to Jehovah himself. You promise that you will love him and serve him forever with your whole heart. (Mark 12:30) Everyone who gets baptized should be determined to follow through on his promise.—Read Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5.
IS IT YOUR PERSONAL DESIRE?
11, 12. (a) A person who is thinking about getting baptized needs to be sure of what? (b) What will help you to keep the right view of Jehovah’s arrangement of baptism?
11 The Bible says that Jehovah’s people, including young ones, “will offer themselves willingly” for his service. (Ps. 110:3) So a person who is contemplating baptism needs to be sure that this is his or her personal desire. That might call for self-scrutiny on your part. Why? Because your circumstance as a youth may be somewhat special. For example, you may have been raised in the truth.
12 Over the years, you have likely seen many people get baptized—including some of your peers and perhaps even your siblings. If that is indeed your situation, what should you be careful about? Be alert that you do not come to view baptism as little more than a coming-of-age custom that all young people follow sooner or later. What can you do to make sure that you will keep the right view of Jehovah’s arrangement of baptism? Take time often to stop and think about the reasons why getting baptized is so important. In fact, you can find several good reasons in this article and in the next.
13. How can you tell whether the decision to get baptized comes from your heart?
13 There are ways in which you will be able to discern whether your decision to get baptized comes from your heart. For example, your heartfelt desire to serve Jehovah will be reflected in your prayers. How often you pray and how specific your prayers are may well reveal how close your relationship with Jehovah is. (Ps. 25:4) An important way that Jehovah answers our prayers is by directing our attention to his Word. Thus, our effort to study the Bible is yet another indication that we really want to draw closer to Jehovah and serve him from the heart. (Josh. 1:8) So ask yourself: ‘How specific are my prayers? How regular is my personal study of the Bible?’ And if your Christian family has a Family Worship evening, ask yourself: ‘Do I willingly share in that family arrangement?’ Your answers to these questions will help you to see whether your decision to get baptized is your personal desire.
THE MEANING OF DEDICATION
14. Describe the difference between dedication and baptism.
14 Some might be confused about the difference between dedication and baptism. For example, some young people say that they have made a dedication to Jehovah but are not ready to get baptized. Does that make sense? Making a dedication means telling Jehovah that you will serve him forever. At baptism, a person shows others that he is dedicated. Therefore, baptism is a public expression of a private dedication that you have already made in prayer to Jehovah. Before you get baptized, you need to be sure that you understand what dedication means.
15. What does dedication mean?
15 Simply stated, when you dedicate your life to Jehovah, you give up ownership of yourself. You promise Jehovah that you will put the doing of his will ahead of everything else in your life. (Read Matthew 16:24.) Any promise should be taken seriously, but how much more so a promise made to Jehovah God! (Matt. 5:33) How, though, can you demonstrate that you have really disowned yourself and that you now belong to Jehovah?—Rom. 14:8.
16, 17. (a) Illustrate what it means to disown yourself. (b) What is a person who makes a dedication really saying?
16 To illustrate, imagine that a friend gives you a car as a gift. He hands you the title and says: “The car is yours.” But suppose your friend adds: “I will keep the keys. And I will be the one who drives the car, not you.” How would you feel about this “gift”? How would you feel about the giver?
17 Now think about what Jehovah rightfully expects of a person who makes a dedication to him, a person who tells him: “I am giving you my life. I belong to you.” What if that person were to start living a double life, perhaps secretly dating an unbeliever? What if he were to accept employment that crippled his whole-souled service in the ministry or attendance at Christian meetings? Would that not be like keeping the keys to the car? A person who dedicates himself to Jehovah is, in effect, saying: “My life belongs to you more than to me. If there is ever a conflict between what you want and what I am inclined to want, what you want will win—every time.” That would reflect the thinking of Jesus, who while on earth stated: “I have come down from heaven to do, not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”—John 6:38.
18, 19. (a) How do the expressions of Rose and Christopher illustrate that being baptized is a privilege that leads to blessings? (b) How do you feel about the privilege of baptism?
18 Clearly, baptism is a sobering step that neither you nor anyone else should take lightly. At the same time, it is a great privilege to be dedicated and baptized. Young ones who love Jehovah and who understand what dedication means do not hold back from getting baptized; nor do they at any time regret their decision. “I love Jehovah, and I couldn’t be happier doing anything but serving him,” says a baptized teenager named Rose. “I have never been more sure about anything in my life than my decision to get baptized.”
19 And what about Christopher, mentioned at the outset of this article? Did his decision to get baptized at age 12 prove to be well-founded? Christopher looks back on his dedication and baptism with fond appreciation. He began serving as a regular pioneer at age 17 and was appointed as a ministerial servant at 18. Today he is serving at Bethel. He says: “Baptism was the right decision. My life is filled with satisfying work for Jehovah and his organization.” If you are considering baptism, how can you prepare for it? The following article will address that question.