By Yanzhen, Taiwan
I started to believe in the Lord since I was little, and I am the fourth generation of believers in my family. After I got married and moved to Taiwan in 2005, I continued taking part in serving the church and actively attended Bible study groups and all kinds of classes, and I really enjoyed having gatherings and readingtogether with my brothers and sisters. But good times don’t last long. In 2008, I found that the pastor always preached on the same old things, to the point that in the Lord’s Day meetings, as long as I took a look at the topic on the leaflet, I would know what he would preach, which verses he would quote and what stories he would tell. Although the pastor often invited missionaries from other churches to give sermons, what they said was virtually the same. During the meetings on the Lord’s Day, no one showed much enthusiasm but instead all felt drowsy. Our spirits felt dark and parched, unable to gain sustenance. Our conditions could not be resolved and our prayers were dry and insipid. The number of people attending church gatherings and Bible study groups got fewer and fewer, and the co-workers were engaging in jealous disputes. Seeing this, I stopped serving the church and wanted to find a church where I could gain provision for my life.
Later, I went to a church where many people were coming to gatherings. Externally, it appeared to be very prosperous and the brothers and sisters there welcomed me very enthusiastically, but I still felt something was wrong. This is because the pastor’s sermons always focused on how to get rich and on how to obtain blessings. Besides, the church often invited some entrepreneurs to talk about how they became rich and allowed them to sell health supplements or makeup products. Or they would invite some preachers to preach sermons, who, however, only focused on promoting their own books and CDs, and they encouraged the brothers and sisters to buy them, saying that part of the sales would go to the church and that buying those things was equal to making offerings to the Lord. Among those who went to church, many didn’t truly yearn for the Lord but came to build connections to sell direct sales products, houses, or insurance—the church had become completely commercialized.
Seeing these scenes was like a bucket of cold water dumped over me, and I thought of these words of thein Matthew 21:13: “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.” When I compared our church’s situation to these words, I felt it had become a place of trade and a den for thieves just like the temple two thousand years ago, no longer a place where the Lord was worshiped. Disappointed, my spirit grew more stagnant and withered. I felt afraid and uneasy and wondered: Will the Lord detest and abandon me if I remain in such a church? Therefore, I went to several other churches, but the situations there were pretty much the same: The pastors had nothing to preach about, and the believers paid no heed to the Lord’s teachings but all followed social trends. Unable to find a church in which the Lord was present, I felt very disappointed and prayed to the Lord, “O Lord! How has the church become like this? Now I can’t feel Your presence. Where can I go to find a church that has the provision of the water of life? I ask You to lead me.”
Once when I went back to my original church to visit my brothers and sisters, I was surprised to find that most of the seats there stood empty, which made such a big church look like a barren wasteland. It turned out that many things happened after I left the church: The pastor had nothing to preach, so he stole the recordings of sermons by foreign pastors and then was exposed and expelled from the church. After that, the church was divided and slid into chaos where everyone slandered and fought against each other. Seeing this situation of the church, I again chose to leave and continued with my search.
At one gathering I came across Sister Wu from my original church, who, after finding out that I was still looking for a church, enthusiastically invited me to the church that the pastor had newly established. She told me that the pastor stole the recordings of sermons so that the brothers and sisters could hear good sermons and she hoped I could understand. Though I was unable to approve of what the pastor had done, I still went to his church with a shred of hope that the church could be revived, only to find that he was still preaching the same old stuff. In response to the believers’ growing cold in their faith and love, the pastor organized outings on holidays, camping and mountain climbing for them and asked them to hold a second wedding in the church, and he also invested in funeral business. The church then became a place for wedding ceremonies and funerals and was completely secularized, losing the guidance and blessings of the Lord. Seeing this plunged me into utter despair.
Looking back to the past few years, every time I went to a church, full of hope, I would always leave there feeling discouraged. The pastors had nothing to preach and the believers grew cold in their faith. They all loved personal desires, not the truth, and were fighting against one another. I myself had no enlightenment or illumination from reading the Bible, and couldn’t feel the sensation of being together with the Lord when praying, and I felt really lost without a direction. I couldn’t help but think of Revelation 7:16–17: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the middle of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them to living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” But where is the living wellspring flowing from the throne? I wondered. Why couldn’t I find it?
Later, I continued to search for a church that hadon the Internet, and I thanked God for caring for me.
Shortly before Christmas in 2017, I met Brother Lin from France and Brother Chen from Italy on Facebook. After a period of contact with them, I felt both of them were devout Christians, and we then often had gatherings and studied the Bible together on the Internet. Once when we were sharing our own experiences of faith, I told them about how I felt withered and dark in my spirit and couldn’t feel the Lord’s presence these years, how the pastors sermonized about nothing but stale truisms, unable to supply us with life, and how the churches I’d visited were all pretty much the same, without the guidance of the Lord.
Brother Lin said, “We are now in. The desolation is not just occurring in one church. Instead, the entire religious world is now desolate. Pastors and elders have nothing to preach while believers are negative and weak in general. It is prophesied in the Book of Revelation: ‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot. So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth’ (Revelation 3:15–16). Isn’t the desolate situation of the churches now just like the church of the Laodiceans? If we remain in such a church, the outcome would be very dangerous.”
Brother Chen went on fellowshiping, “The Bible also prophesies: ‘Behold, the days come, said the Lord Jehovah, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Jehovah’ (Amos 8:11). From this we can see that a crucial reason for the desolation of the church is that people no longer follow the way of God or listen to His words. It’s just like the later stages of the Age of Law—the temple that had once been full of God’s glory became a place of commerce, a den of thieves. The main reason for this is that the Jewish leaders no longer followed the laws of Jehovah God. The priests made poor sacrifices to cheat God, they observed man’s teachings while discarded God’s commandments, they devoured widows’ assets and had completely departed from God’s way, thus being detested and rejected by God. Another reason is that the work of the Holy Spirit had moved. As the Lord Jesus carried out a stage of new work outside the temple, the Holy Spirit no longer worked in those who kept the name of Jehovah God and clung obstinately to the laws, but instead turned to uphold the Lord Jesus’ work. At that time, all those who accepted the Lord Jesus’ work of redemption enjoyed the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit’s work, had a new path of practice, and received the sustenance of the living water of life, whereas those Jewish priests, Pharisees and believers who clung to the law and rejected and resisted the Lord Jesus’ work all lost the work of the Holy Spirit and lived in darkness.
“Nowadays, the religious world is desolate and there are more and more iniquities going on in the churches. The primary reason for this is that religious leaders, pastors and elders do not follow the Lord’s way or preach the Lord’s words. They don’t at all exalt the Lord in their work and preaching, but instead only preach about biblical knowledge and spiritual theories, and they also engage in jealous disputes and struggle over position. Many pastors and elders even follow worldly trends, seek fashion, and lust for money; they promote various kinds of products in the churches and lead the believers down the secular road, with the result that they’ve become just like worldly people. This is why God has abandoned the religious venues and no longer maintains the churches as in the Age of Grace.”
Brother Lin continued, “Sadly, pastors and elders still don’t understand the work of the Holy Spirit. They cling to the religious churches preaching some dry doctrines rather than lead the brothers and sisters to search for a church where the Holy Spirit is at work, which results in the churches growing more and more desolate. Therefore, we must seek a place of ‘rain’ and follow the Lamb’s footsteps, for only then can our parched spirits be sated. Those who fail to follow the footsteps of the Lamb won’t be able to gain the sustenance of the living waters and will die of spiritual thirst and hunger.”
The fellowship of the two brothers enabled me to understand that the desolation in the church was caused by the religious leaders deviating from the Lord’s way and failing to follow the work of the Holy Spirit. When I considered it, I realized it was true. In the several churches I had visited, the pastors and elders preached without a shred of new light, yet they didn’t seek for God’s footsteps but instead led the brothers and sisters to pursue worldly trends and sold all manner of goods in the churches. The believers were all spiritually parched and famished and lacked the provision of the water of life. Faced with the desolation in the church, I thought, it is imperative for me to find a church that has the work of the Holy Spirit, so that I won’t be eliminated by the Lord like the foolish virgins.
Later, Brother Chen sent me a passage of word: “God will accomplish this fact: He will make all people throughout the universe come before Him, and worship the God on earth, and His work in other places will cease, and people will be forced to seek the true way. It will be like Joseph: Everyone came to him for food, and bowed down to him, for he had things to eat. In order to avoid famine people will be forced to seek the true way. The entire religious community is suffering severe famine, and only the God of today is the wellspring of living water, possessed of the ever-flowing wellspring provided for the enjoyment of man, and people will come and depend on Him” (“The Millennial Kingdom Has Arrived”).
Brother Chen then fellowshiped, “In fact, the desolation in the religious world today contains God’s intentions within. Through this, God is forcing those whowith true hearts and who love the truth to leave the religion and search for the footprints of God’s work. The Lord Jesus once prophesied: ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come’ (John 16:12–13). And it says in Revelation 3:13: ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ From these prophecies, we can see that the Lord will return in the last days to express the truth and perform His work to save people. Only by focusing on hearing God’s voice will we be able to welcome the Lord’s return. Sister, let me tell you some good news. The Lord Jesus has actually returned as the incarnate Almighty God. He has expressed millions of words that can have man purified and saved and is performing the work of judgment and purification. The judgment work of Almighty God in the last days just fulfills the prophecy in the Bible: ‘He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (John 12:48). All who hear God’s voice and then accept and obey God’s judgment work in the last days are the who are raptured up before God’s throne to attend the wedding feast of the Lamb, and they are able to enjoy the provision of the water of life that flows from the throne and restore their original faith and love. Those who refuse to accept the work of Almighty God, however, are people who fail to keep up with God’s footsteps, and they shall be eliminated and cannot obtain the work of the Holy Spirit.”
After listening to Brother Chen’s fellowship, I suddenly realized: Over these years, the church has been desolate and we have been spiritually parched and famished—it turns out God’s will is for us to seek the true way so that we won’t die of spiritual thirst and hunger in the wilderness where there is no provision of the living water. I truly gained a lot from today’s meeting, through which my longstanding confusion had finally been resolved. I had never expected that I would hear the news of the Lord’s return when the church was at its most desolate. Crying tears of joy, I thought I should hurry to seek and investigate Almighty God’s work of the last days. However, I still didn’t understand the difference between the last days’ work of Almighty God and the work of the Lord Jesus. But as I had something else to do, I arranged a time for our next gathering with the brothers and then got offline.
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Now, disasters are occurring frequently everywhere. In the Philippines, the pandemic and the famine have not passed yet and powerful Typhoon Molave, Goni and Tropical Storm Atsani have landed. Biblical prophecies of the coming of the Lord have been fulfilled. It stands to reason that the Lord has returned—so why have we yet to welcome His arrival? Will we not be plunged into the great tribulation if this carries on? And just what should we do to welcome the Lord’s coming?