[From ws3/16 p. 8 for May 9-15]
“To do your will, O my God, is my delight.”—Ps 40:8
“ARE you a young person who is considering baptism? If so, what lies before you is the greatest privilege any human could have. As the preceding article pointed out, however, baptism is a serious step. It symbolizes your dedication—a solemn promise you make to Jehovah that you will serve him forever by putting his will above everything else in your life. Understandably, you should get baptized only when you are qualified to make that decision, you have a personal desire to do so, and you understand the meaning of dedication.” – Par. 1
The writer of the article makes it clear from the opening paragraph that before getting baptized, we must be ‘qualified to make the decision’ which entails ‘understanding the meaning of dedication.’ As we saw in last week’s review, the solemn vow or promise to God to dedicate oneself to him is not taught in the Christian Scriptures. Therefore, from whence is one to gain this understanding of the meaning of dedication? The answer clearly is from the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A vow of dedication as a precursor to baptism is a doctrinal requirement imposed by the men charged with feeding the flock of those who consider themselves to be Jehovah’s people. It is not from God. In fact, God’s son condemns such making of vows. (Mt 5:33-36)
In my 40 years as an elder I knew many who held back from getting baptized, sometimes for years, because they were afraid they couldn’t keep this promise or vow. The spiritual implications of this are profound, because 1 Peter 3:21 indicates that baptism provides the basis for us to ask for forgiveness of sins and to have the confidence that God will grant it. Therefore, a Christian that holds off from getting baptized for fear of being unable to keep a vow is denying himself the scriptural basis for the forgiveness of sins. This is evidence that the arbitrary insertion of the dedication requirement actually works against Christian baptism. Again, Jesus’ words are proven true for he said that such vows originate with “the wicked one.” (Mt 5:36) Clearly, Satan rejoices at any ploy that is successful in frustrating a Christian’s relationship with the Father.
“According to one reference work,[i] the original-language word for “persuaded” has the sense “to be convinced and certain of the truth of something.” Timothy had made the truth his own. He accepted it, not because his mother and grandmother told him to do so, but because he had reasoned on it for himself and had been persuaded.—Read Romans 12:1.” – Par. 4
“…why not make it a goal to examine more closely the reasons for your beliefs? That will strengthen your conviction and will help you to avoid being driven by the winds of peer pressure, the world’s propaganda, or even your own feelings.”
Not only children and young people, but all, should reason for themselves and strengthen their conviction of what is true so as to resist peer pressure and propaganda. However, the source of such pressure and propaganda is not limited to the so-called godless world.
Here we are told to use WT publications to overcome doubts about the existence of God or the Bible creation account. This is fine, but do not limit yourself to JW sources for such things. There are many fine sources of scholarly research that will help build faith in the Bible account.
“What about “deeds of godly devotion”? These include your activities in the congregation, such as your meeting attendance and participation in the ministry.” – Par. 12
The point here is that the primary way we can perform “deeds of godly devotion” (1Pe 3:11) is to go to meetings at the Kingdom hall and go out in field service which means going from door-to-door to place magazines or show videos from JW.org. There is little doubt that the article’s author would not view our meeting with fellow Christians on our own terms in compliance with Hebrews 10:24, 25, nor our preaching about the Christ outside of the organizational arrangement, as proper deeds of godly devotion. Yet, it should come as no surprise to us that the Bible does not list meeting attendance and magazine placements as deeds that demonstrate godly devotion. What it does say is this:
“. . .The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (Jas 1:27)
Such deeds of godly devotion go entirely without mention in this article.
The article concludes with a sidebar listing questions from the “Young People Ask” series. Let us consider two of these:
How Can I Improve in My Prayers?
Both my wife and myself always strived to have a personal relationship with God through prayer, yet we never seemed to be able to achieve it. In such cases, one cannot help feel that the fault must lie within. As a consequence, one feels inadequate and unworthy. There is an instinctive awareness that something is missing.
It was only when I came to the realization that I too could become a child of God by obeying Christ’s command to partake of the emblems representing his blood and flesh that things changed for me. By accepting that calling, I experienced a change in my relationship and prayers that came automatically and without effort. Suddenly Jehovah was my Father, and I felt the Father/son bond. My prayers took on an intimate tone, one I’d never experienced before and I felt sure he was hearing me and loving me, because a son is sure of his Father’s love.
This experience is not unique I have found. Many of those who have likewise awakened to the true relationship being held out to us have told me they have experienced a similar change in their relationship with God and their prayerful expressions to him. So in answer to the question posed by this Watchtower article, I am confident in saying that all of us here would agree that to improve one’s prayers, one must stop viewing oneself is outside the family of God and reach out for the wonderful reward of adoption that Christ made possible by his ransom sacrifice.
How Can I Enjoy Studying The Bible?
We now have at our fingertips the greatest research tool that has ever existed: the Internet. If you want to enjoy studying the Bible, make extensive use of this. For example, if you are studying one of the publications or listening to a video on JW.org, and a Scripture is referenced, look it up in the NWT by all means, but do not stop there. Go to a source like biblehub.com and type in the Scripture there to see how other Bible translations render it. Make use of the link to the interlinear on that site to see how the original language presents the thoughts, and then click on the numerical identifiers above each Greek or Hebrew word to reference various concordances and see how the word is used elsewhere in the Bible. This will help you greatly to overcome doctrinal bias from whatever source so as to determine for yourself what the Bible teaches.
Through this review and last week’s we are encouraging baptism, but not the so-called dedication vow. When one gets baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (not in the name of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses), one is submitting oneself to do God’s will. In essence, one is giving up the rule of man for the rule of God, and one is transferring from the dying family of man to the living family of God. Baptism is a requirement for all Christians and a wonderful provision for our sanctification by the forgiveness of sins. However, if we accept the dedication requirement, we are accepting again the rule or yoke of men and by this we are undoing the benefit of the baptism which follows. (Mt 28:18, 19)
[i] For some time now, the publications do not provide the source for such reference words. The exact reason is unknown and conjectural explanations range from space constraints to information control. Certainly, the practice does not facilitate further research and fact-checking.