Have you ever asked the question, "How do I know when I am ready for baptism?" Have you ever avoided baptism because you thought you were not ready or perfect enough yet? Have you ever wondered what you should look for in yourself and what you should do to prepare for baptism? If you can relate to these questions—if they sound familiar to you—this article will be helpful.
Young people reared in Church families will likely not have the same kinds of dramatic "conversion experiences" as Church members who were reared outside God's Church and came to the Truth as adults. Most Church members who grew up "in the world" can point to very moving "callings" and to a distinct spiritual awakening regarding God's Truth. Young people from Church families often have a very different experience of coming to the Truth. Most have known the Truth for many years—even for their whole lives. More than that, they know that it is the Truth of God. So how might their conversion process be different? And how can young people reared in the Church determine whether they are ready for baptism?
Signs That You May Be Ready
First, you will begin to understand the Bible more than you ever have before. You will see and hear the messages at Sabbath services, and experience your own personal Bible study, very differently than before. You will be much more excited about what you are learning, and you will learn on a much deeper level. Church teachings, or Church literature to which you have previously been exposed, will "make sense" in a way that it never did before (Psalm 119:97–104). You will look forward to going to services every Sabbath to hear the messages and experience spiritual fellowship. You will become hungry for the truth of God, in a way that you have not experienced before (Matthew 5:6).
Second, you will come to see that no matter how hard you try, you keep falling short of truly living God's way (Isaiah 55:8). You may struggle with your own way of thinking, your attitude and even some of your actions. You will come to understand that you need His help to change, because your very nature and heart are contrary to God (Jeremiah 17:9). As a result, you will want Christ to live in you—to have the power of the Holy Spirit present in you and directly helping to influence every aspect of your life (Galatians 2:20). You will know that even with the Holy Spirit in you, your trials will not go away (1 Peter 4:12–13), but you will also know that with God's Holy Spirit, you will be far more successful in attempting to overcome sin. As you read through the Bible—God's word—you will want many more of the fruits that come with God's Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22–25).
Third, you will come to a point in your life when you are ready to commit to God's way of life. The teachings and beliefs that were so important to those who reared you will now become important to you—they will become your beliefs! You will be totally aware of the depth of this commitment, yet you will be ready to make that commitment anyway. You will begin to "count the cost" of committing yourself to live God's way of life (Luke 14:28), and you will want it more than ever. You will realize that once you commit to God, there is no turning back to the world and to a worldly way of thinking and living. Ultimately, you will come to the point where you believe that following God is not giving up anything, but rather is gaining everything (Philippians 1:21).
Fourth, you will not only be ready to commit to God's way of life; you will come to the point of wanting to surrender your will to Him, as Christ did (Luke 22:42; John 4:34; Romans 6:1–14). You will come to see that you, of and by yourself, are really nothing special (1 Corinthians 1:26–31). In fact, you will come to realize that your very nature is corrupted, and that you have begun to develop some of the very character traits of Satan the Devil—and even some of his thought patterns (John 8:44; Galatians 5:19–21). You will want something different in place of your corrupted human nature; you will want to live a life apart from Satan and his influence—a life where you are trying with all of your being to develop more of the character traits of God and Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14; Galatians 5:22–25). You will begin to see that God's will is what is most important, and you will begin to want His will to become your own will—you will want to think like Him (1 Corinthians 2:16). No more will you desire to live life your way; instead, you will want— with your whole heart and soul—to live God's way (Joshua 22:5).
What Comes Next?
If you have been thinking about these issues—if you are hungry for God's truth, if you want to commit to this way of life, if you want God's Holy Spirit and the help that it can bring to your Christian struggle, if you want God's will to become your own—it is time for you to seek baptism!
Conversion is a process. After you have come to repentance, there is of course the moment of baptism when you go under the water and your sins are forgiven, and another moment when hands are laid on you and God gives you His Holy Spirit. These moments are very important; they represent the burial of your old self and old way of thinking and acting, the forgiveness of your sins, and your begettal as a "new creation" to begin to walk in "newness of life" (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:7). However, these moments come after a process of preparing or laying the foundation for baptism. As part of this process, you need to experience baptismal counseling with your local minister. This counseling may take several months, and you should not rush through it; rather, you should allow God to guide you through it. In fact, you can and should pray to God to help you— and the minister who is counseling you—see when you are truly spiritually ready for baptism. You and your minister both need to have confidence that you have truly repented and fully understand the commitment that you are making before God. Take your time, and make the most of it, for you will only go through it once!
So, contact your minister and start the process! As you wait for the minister to contact you, or wait for the day of your first counseling session, here are some preparatory steps you can take:
Read our booklet, Christian Baptism: Its Real Meaning.
Begin, or continue working through, the Bible Study Course.
Read and really study all the other booklets produced by the Church.
Ask your minister to have you placed on the mailing list for the Living Church News, if you do not already receive it.
Begin reading and studying the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter and 1, 2, & 3 John.
Pray and fast about your commitment, and for God's guidance, as you begin to deeply examine yourself in the light of His word.
Begin earnestly asking God to help you come to real, true, deep repentance. Repentance is from God; it is not something that we can just create within ourselves or work up out of emotion (Romans 2:4).
God's calling and His Holy Spirit are truly incredible gifts (Acts 2:38; Hebrews 6:4). God is choosing to give these gifts to a very few now—His called-out ones, His elect (John 6:44; 1 Peter 2:9–10). If you are coming to understand that you want and need to be baptized, He is calling you to be part of His elect too (1 Peter 1:2)! Do not take God's calling for granted—act on it, and thank God for it! Remember, you do not need to be perfect to be baptized; you need only want to become perfect, and to begin living and thinking in a way that reflects this desire (Matthew 5:48). God's Holy Spirit dwelling within us enables us to work toward perfection much more successfully, and baptism allows us to put to death our sinful self and be forgiven of our past sins. Without God's Holy Spirit dwelling in us, and without being able to partake fully of Christ's sacrifice, we cannot begin to become perfect. Conversion is a long process that will not end until we are changed "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" (1 Corinthians 15:52), and baptism and the receipt of God's Holy Spirit is a vital step in that process. If God is calling you to take that step, do not delay in responding!