Why Dedicate Yourself to Jehovah?
“This night there stood near me an angel of the God to whom I belong.”—ACTS 27:23.
1. What steps have those presenting themselves for baptism already taken, and what questions does this raise?
“ON THE basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?” This is one of the two questions answered by baptismal candidates at the conclusion of a baptism talk. Why do Christians need to dedicate themselves to Jehovah? How does being dedicated to God benefit us? Why can one not worship God acceptably without being dedicated to him? To understand the answers, we first need to consider what dedication is.
2. What does it mean to dedicate oneself to Jehovah?
2 What does dedicating oneself to God mean? Note how the apostle Paul described his relationship with God. Before many others aboard an imperiled ship, he called Jehovah “the God to whom I belong.” (Read Acts 27:22-24.) All true Christians belong to Jehovah. In contrast, the world in general is “lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Christians come to belong to Jehovah when they make an acceptable dedication of themselves to him in prayer. Such a dedication is a personal vow. It is followed by water baptism.
3. What did Jesus’ baptism symbolize, and how can his followers imitate his example?
3 Jesus provided an example for us when he made a personal choice to do God’s will. Because he had been born into the dedicated nation of Israel, he was already dedicated to God. Still, at his baptism he did something more than what was required under the Law. God’s Word indicates that he said: “Look! I am come . . . to do your will, O God.” (Heb. 10:7; Luke 3:21) So Jesus’ baptism symbolized his presentation of himself to God for the doing of his Father’s will. His followers imitate his example when they offer themselves for baptism. However, in their case, water baptism is a public demonstration that they have made a personal dedication to God in prayer.
How Dedication Benefits Us
4. What does the friendship between David and Jonathan tell us about commitment?
4 Christian dedication is a serious matter. It is more than a mere commitment. How, though, does making a dedication benefit us? By way of comparison, let us consider how making a commitment in human relationships brings benefits. One example is friendship. To enjoy the privilege of having a friend, you have to accept the responsibility of being a friend. That involves a commitment—you feel an obligation to care about your friend. One of the most outstanding friendships described in the Bible is that of David and Jonathan. They even made a covenant of friendship with each other. (Read 1 Samuel 17:57; 18:1, 3.) Although friendships with that level of commitment are rare, most friendships flourish when companions are committed, or feel some obligation, to each other.—Prov. 17:17; 18:24.
5. How could a slave permanently benefit from belonging to a good master?
5 The Law that God gave to Israel describes another relationship in which people benefited by making a commitment. If a slave wanted the security of belonging permanently to a good master, he could enter a permanent and binding agreement with him. The Law states: “If the slave should insistently say, ‘I really love my master, my wife and my sons; I do not want to go out as one set free,’ then his master must bring him near to the true God and must bring him up against the door or the doorpost; and his master must pierce his ear through with an awl, and he must be his slave to time indefinite.”—Ex. 21:5, 6.
6, 7. (a) How does commitment benefit people? (b) What does that indicate about our relationship with Jehovah?
6 Marriage is a relationship that requires a high level of commitment. It is a commitment, not to a contract, but to a person. Two people who merely live together without getting married can never enjoy real security; neither can their children. But partners who are committed to each other in honorable marriage have an impelling Scriptural reason for striving to resolve their difficulties with love when problems arise.—Matt. 19:5, 6; 1 Cor. 13:7, 8; Heb. 13:4.
7 In Bible times, people benefited from having binding contracts in business and employment. (Matt. 20:1, 2, 8) Today, the same holds true. For example, we benefit from having a binding written agreement, or written contract, before we begin a business venture or start working as an employee in a company. Hence, if commitment enhances relationships such as friendship, marriage, and employment, how much more will making an unreserved dedication benefit you in your relationship with Jehovah! Let us now consider how people in the past have benefited from being dedicated to Jehovah God and how this was far more than just a commitment.
How Dedication to God Benefited Israel
8. What did being dedicated to God mean for Israel?
8 The nation of Israel as a whole became dedicated to Jehovah when they made a vow to God. Jehovah had them assemble near Mount Sinai, and he said to them: “If you will strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then you will certainly become my special property out of all other peoples.” The people answered unanimously: “All that Jehovah has spoken we are willing to do.” (Ex. 19:4-8) Being dedicated meant much more for Israel than being committed to do something. It meant that they belonged to Jehovah, and Jehovah treated them as his “special property.”
9. How did Israel benefit from being dedicated to God?
9 The Israelites benefited from belonging to Jehovah. He was loyal and cared for them as a loving parent cares for a child. To Israel, God said: “Can a wife forget her suckling so that she should not pity the son of her belly? Even these women can forget, yet I myself shall not forget you.” (Isa. 49:15) Jehovah gave them the guidance of the Law, the encouragement of the prophets, and the protection of the angels. A psalmist wrote: “He is telling his word to Jacob, his regulations and his judicial decisions to Israel. He has not done that way to any other nation.” (Ps. 147:19, 20; read Psalm 34:7, 19; 48:14.) As Jehovah cared for the nation that belonged to him in the past, so he will care for those who dedicate themselves to him today.
Why We Should Dedicate Ourselves to God
10, 11. Are we born into God’s universal family? Explain.
10 While contemplating Christian dedication and baptism, some may wonder, ‘Why can I not worship God without dedicating myself to him?’ The reason becomes clear when we consider the reality of our present standing before God. Remember, because of Adam’s sin, we are all born outside God’s family. (Rom. 3:23; 5:12) Dedicating ourselves to God is a vital requirement for being accepted into his universal family. Let us see why.
11 None of us have a natural father who could pass on to us life as it should be—perfect life. (1 Tim. 6:19) We were not born as sons of God because when the first human pair sinned, the human race was separated from its loving Father and Creator. (Compare Deuteronomy 32:5.) From that time onward, the world of mankind has lived outside Jehovah’s universal family, alienated from God.
12. (a) How can imperfect humans become members of God’s family? (b) What steps must we take prior to baptism?
12 Nevertheless, as individuals we can request that God accept us into his family of approved servants. * How is that possible for sinners such as we are? The apostle Paul wrote: “When we were enemies, we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son.” (Rom. 5:10) At baptism we make a request to God for a good conscience so as to be acceptable to him. (1 Pet. 3:21) Prior to baptism, however, there are steps we must take. We must get to know God, learn to trust him, repent, and change our ways. (John 17:3; Acts 3:19; Heb. 11:6) And something else remains to be done before we can be accepted into God’s family. What is that?
13. Why is it fitting for a person to make a vow of dedication to God in order to be part of His family of approved worshippers?
13 Before someone who is alienated from God can become a member of God’s family of approved servants, he first needs to make a solemn promise to Jehovah. To understand why, imagine a respectable father who shows kind interest in an orphaned youth and wishes to adopt him as a member of his own family. The father is known to be a good man. Still, before accepting the youth as his son, the man wants the boy to make a promise. So the man says, “Before I accept you as a son, I need to know that you will love and respect me as your father.” Only if the youth is willing to make a solemn promise will the man admit him into his family. Is that not reasonable? Similarly, Jehovah accepts into his family only those who are willing to make a vow of dedication to him. The Bible says: “Offer your very selves to him: a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for his acceptance.”—Rom. 12:1, The New English Bible.
An Act of Love and Faith
14. In what way is dedication an expression of love?
14 Making a vow of dedication to God is an expression of our heartfelt love for Jehovah. In some ways it is similar to a wedding vow. A Christian bridegroom expresses his love by vowing to be loyal to his bride, come what may. It is a pledge to a person rather than merely a promise to do something. A Christian bridegroom understands that he could not have the privilege of living with his bride if he would not make a marriage vow. In a similar way, we cannot fully enjoy the benefits of being a member of Jehovah’s family without making a vow of dedication. So we dedicate ourselves to God because, in spite of our imperfection, we desire to belong to him and are resolved to be loyal to him, come what may.—Matt. 22:37.
15. How is dedication an act of faith?
15 When we dedicate ourselves to God, we perform an act of faith. Why is that so? Our faith in Jehovah makes us confident that drawing close to God is good for us. (Ps. 73:28) We know that it will not always be easy to walk with God while living among “a crooked and twisted generation,” but we trust in God’s promise to support us in our efforts. (Phil. 2:15; 4:13) We know that we are imperfect, but we are confident that Jehovah will deal mercifully with us even when we make mistakes. (Read Psalm 103:13, 14; Romans 7:21-25.) We have faith that Jehovah will reward our resolve to keep our integrity.—Job 27:5.
Dedication to God Leads to Happiness
16, 17. Why does making a dedication to Jehovah lead to happiness?
16 Being dedicated to Jehovah results in happiness because it involves the giving of ourselves. Jesus stated a basic truth when he said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35) Jesus fully experienced the happiness of giving during his earthly ministry. When necessary, he went without rest, food, and comfort so that he could help others to find the road to life. (John 4:34) Jesus found delight in making his Father’s heart rejoice. Jesus said: “I always do the things pleasing to him.”—John 8:29; Prov. 27:11.
17 Thus, Jesus pointed his followers toward a satisfying way of life when he said: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself.” (Matt. 16:24) Doing so draws us closer to Jehovah. Could we place ourselves in the hands of anyone else who could care for us more lovingly?
18. Why does living in harmony with our dedication to Jehovah bring more happiness than being dedicated to anything or anyone else?
18 Dedicating ourselves to Jehovah and thereafter living in harmony with that dedication by doing his will brings more happiness than being dedicated to anything or anyone else. For example, many people devote their life to the pursuit of material wealth without attaining true happiness and genuine satisfaction. However, those who dedicate themselves to Jehovah find long-lasting happiness. (Matt. 6:24) The honor of being “God’s fellow workers” makes them happy, yet their dedication is not to a work but to our appreciative God. (1 Cor. 3:9) No one could be more appreciative of their self-sacrifice than he is. He will even restore his loyal ones to their youth so that they can benefit from his care forever.—Job 33:25; read Hebrews 6:10.
19. What privilege is enjoyed by those who are dedicated to Jehovah?
19 Dedicating your life to Jehovah brings you into a close relationship with him. The Bible says: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (Jas. 4:8; Ps. 25:14) In the following article, we will consider why we can be confident about making the choice to belong to Jehovah.
^ par. 12 Jesus’ “other sheep” will not become sons of God until the end of the thousand years. However, since they have dedicated themselves to God, they can properly address God as “Father” and can rightly be considered members of Jehovah’s family of worshippers.—John 10:16; Isa. 64:8; Matt. 6:9; Rev. 20:5.
How Would You Answer?
• What does dedicating oneself to God mean?
• How does being dedicated to God benefit us?
• Why do Christians need to be dedicated to Jehovah?
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Living in harmony with our dedication leads to our lasting happiness