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Can We Really Gain God’s Approval By Doing Good Deeds?

Xiaomei, Gansu Province

My name is Xiaomei. I’m an ordinary Christian. One day in 1996, my only 8-year-old son died of illness. At that time, I was stricken with sorrow, wrapped in depression and in an absent-minded trance all day, and it seemed as if I had no hope of living. At that time, my friend, Xiaozhao came to visit me and preached the Lord Jesus’ gospel to me. She told me that the burden of the Lord was light. As long as we came before the Lord, He would bestow peace and joy upon us. So, I accepted the Lord’s salvation.

The Pursuit of Gaining God’s Approval

After believing in the Lord, I found something to lean on and came out of the sufferings of my son’s passing away unknowingly. In order to repay the Lord’s love and salvation, I attended gatherings actively, gave to charity, donated, and did what I could to help the brothers and sisters in difficulty. At that time, I was full of joy and my life was enriching.

Bible Study

During a meeting one time, the preacher said to us, “Brothers and sisters, please turn the Bible to the book of Romans 2:5-7. Let me read it, ‘The day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.’ From these verses, we can see that the Lord takes care of those who do good deeds and will give them glory, honor and peace. So good deeds are the most honored, and doing good deeds can glorify God most. As long as people see our good deeds, they will give glory to our Father in heaven. Doing evil and humiliating our own integrity bring shame upon the Lord’s name, only if we do good deeds can we gain peace and joy from the Lord. So, as the Lord’s children, we should do good deeds bravely and abandon sins, and then we will be able to gain the eternal life in the future.”

After hearing his fellowship, I understood: Only those who do good deeds in all things, love to do good and give to others can gain the Lord’s approval and the eternal life. Thinking of this, I made a resolution in my heart: I will practice according to the words in the verses, do more good deeds and do my utmost to cooperate with the Lord. I only wish to gain God’s approval and be accepted by Him.

From then on, I practiced hard according to the words in the Bible. I often donated and helped the brothers and sisters who were in need, bought books for them and also offered money to the church. Even those beggars who came to my house to ask for rice or flour, I never let them leave empty-handed. If I saw the disabled people in the street, I even more pitied and sympathized with them. I thought of the verses: “There is that scatters, and yet increases; and there is that withholds more than is meet, but it tends to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that waters shall be watered also himself” (Pro 11:24-25). I thought: The Lord just asks us to have good intentions and provide convenience to others, to remember that servicing rightness is servicing the Lord at any time and doing good deeds is glorifying the Lord’s name. No matter whom we face, we are able to help them happily, and at last the Lord will bestow the eternal life upon us.

Once, there was a very poor sister in the church. Her son had come a long way to find a partner, but as he couldn’t afford the bride price, the girl’s parents didn’t consent to their daughter’s marriage. The sister was very anxious, for fear that her son’s girlfriend would break it off with her son. On hearing that, I lent thirty thousand RMB to her actively. Holding the money, she said in a moving voice, “Thank the Lord! This is the Lord’s love.” When practicing in this way, I had an unspeakable sense of peace and joy in my heart. I tasted the comfort and enjoyment of my heart after doing good deeds. So, I was even more certain that as long as I continually donated and did more good things, I would surely be able to gain the Lord’s blessings. The Lord would surely approve me and let me enter into the eternal life in the future. Each time when I thought of these, I would have more faith. Afterward, I practiced according to the verses as usual.

However, in the following days, something unexpected happened. Once, I took my daughter to the amusement park and jump on the trampoline. But she fractured her arm in a fall due to carelessness, and had an operation. Hearing my daughter’s heartrending cry, my heart was broken. I prayed to the Lord unceasingly, asking Him to have mercy on my daughter. One trouble followed another. After a period of time, I was found to have gynecological disease. In the face of these misfortunes, I was very confused: I practice according to the words in the Bible all the time—do righteous deeds and good deeds. Moreover, I have done so many good things. Why do I not gain the Lord’s blessings but encounter the misfortunes? Why is this? Are all the good deeds I have done not approved by the Lord? Though I often came before God to pray and seek, I had never grasped His will. Because of that, I lived in distress and confusion, losing the former faith gradually.

I Finally Understood How to Gain God’s Approval

One day in 2008, my good friend, Xiaozhao, whom I hadn’t been in contact with for a long time, came to visit me. After an exchange of greetings, we talked about our own situation of believing in the Lord. I told her all my puzzles and difficulties, hoping to gain some help from her. Xiaozhao said with a smile, “Actually, our situations are the same. This is a common problem. In terms of the root cause, when we perform good things and do good deeds, we all have our own intentions, purposes, transactions and impurities. We do so for the sake of our own profits or exchanging God’s blessings, not for satisfying God truly or loving others as ourselves. So, when our family face some misfortunes, we will misunderstand and complain against God for not blessing us. Thereafter, we won’t have faith to do good deeds and perform good things any more. These show that our good deeds are temporary and have transactions. However, God searches all things clearly. He never cares about how many superficial good deeds a person has, how much he has forsaken, how much he has suffered, and how many prices he has paid. Instead, He cares about whether we practice the truth to satisfy Him without any demands and impurities.”

tea cups

Hearing what she said, I was not convinced. So I interrupted her, “That’s not right! It is said in the Bible clearly, ‘The day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life’ (Romans 2:5-7). ‘As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith’ (Galatians 6:10). Is there anything wrong with my practicing according to the words in the Bible?”

Seeing that I was excited, Xiaozhao said to me patiently, “I held the same viewpoint as you before. I considered that practicing in this way was just according to the Lord’s will and He would surly approve me. So I didn’t seek God’s will truly until I saw such two passages words in a spiritual book: ‘Behaving well is not the same as obeying God, much less does it equal being compatible with Christ. Changes in behavior are based on doctrine, and born of fervor—they are not based on the true knowledge of God, or upon the truth, much less do they rest on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Even though there are times when some of what people do is directed by the Holy Spirit, this is not the expression of the life, much less is it the same as knowing God; no matter how good a person’s behavior, it does not prove that they obey God, or that they put the truth into practice’ (“The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition”). People’s outer actions cannot replace truth, and actions are not completely done according to God’s intentions; rather truth is the true expression of God’s will’ (“Understanding Nature and Putting Truth Into Practice”). Only then did I understand God’s will. Actually, my thought that by doing more good deeds, helping and donating whoever needs help, I would be approved by God and gain the eternal life, was just my conception. It is based on doctrine, born of fervor, and totally for achieving my own intentions and purposes. That I satisfied and loved God was not because I had the true understanding about God’s substance, disposition, what He has and does, or totally understanding His will and demands. So these good deeds could only be practiced in the environment that fit my will. Once God’s work didn’t conform to my conceptions and imaginations—I did good deeds but couldn’t exchange the blessings I wished, my former faith would disappear, and I would still complain about God. I couldn’t practice the truth to satisfy God, be loyal to Him and love Him throughout at all. Therefore, if we believe in God and only have changes in behaviors but don’t pay attention to change our disposition or resolve the corrupt satanic disposition inside, we will betray God and stray from God sooner or later. Such good deeds can’t be approved by God but instead be loathed and hated by Him.

The words read by Xiaozhao and her fellowship and knowledge revealed my wrong understanding, thoughts and practice. Her words pricked in my heart and I felt painful. I thought: Since I believed in the Lord, I have practiced according to the words in the Bible— performing righteous deeds and good deeds, and I have done so many good things. I count the good things I have done an honor all the time, but now they all become good deeds on the outside. Besides, they are not after God’s will and demands, much less can make me be saved by God and enter into God’s kingdom. Have I really practiced in a wrong way for these years? But, most brothers and sisters in the church practice in this way, even the pastors and elders also say like that. Everyone does in this way. Could there be mistakes in it? … So, I said, “You said that we have impurities and transactions inside when we do good deeds. I agree with you. But I am practicing the words in the Bible. Moreover, most brothers and sisters have acted in such a way, even the pastors and elders have spoken like this. In Psalms 92:12, it also says, ‘The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.’ Could there be mistakes in it?”

Xiaozhao heard me and said, “Let’s read a passage together and then you’ll understand it.” Then, she took out a book and read, “It is a truism that ‘there are no righteous upon this earth, the righteous are not in this world.’ When you come before God, consider what you’re wearing, consider your every word and action, all of your thoughts and ideas, and even the dreams that you dream every day—they are all for your own sake. Is this not the true state of affairs? ‘Righteousness’ does not mean giving alms, it does not mean loving your neighbor as yourself, and it does not mean not fighting, arguing, robbing, or stealing. Righteousness means taking God’s commission as your duty and obeying God’s orchestrations and arrangements as a heaven-sent vocation, regardless of the time or place, just like all that was done by the Lord Jesus. … No matter how good your actions, no matter how you appear to glorify the name of God, not hitting and cursing others, or robbing and stealing from them, still you cannot be called righteous, for such things can be possessed by any normal person” (“The Wicked Must Be Punished”).

After reading these words, she fellowshiped, “These words clearly say that ‘there are no righteous upon this earth, the righteous are not in this world.’ We have been corrupted by Satan for thousands of years, and Satan’s cancers have been already deeply planted within us. We are filled with filth and evil. No one dares to promise that he lives for God and God’s work wholeheartedly. In fact, we are all for ourselves—for receiving a hundredfold in the present age, eternal life in the age to come, and for entering into the kingdom of heaven and obtaining a beautiful destination in the future. So we are kind to people and perform some good deeds reluctantly. With such despicable intentions and purposes, even if we do well outwardly, and to people, we seem to be beyond reproach, without any disobedience and resistance, God isn’t pleased. Just like the earliest Pharisees, they could do some good things and deeds outwardly, but they didn’t practice the truth truly to satisfy God, but for the sake of showing off to others and obtaining God’s rewards. It could be said that their good deeds were making deals, and were all disguise and deceit, and that they didn’t have any true obedience and worship to God. So when the Lord Jesus came, in order to keep their own positions and jobs, they created rumors to defame, frame and snare the Lord Jesus, spared no efforts to resist Him, and didn’t give up until they forcibly nailed the innocent Lord Jesus to the cross. From these we can see that all the good deeds the Pharisees did were not practicing the truth and were not approved by God, and finally, they were punished because of resisting God. So, no matter how good our outward deeds are, how many good deeds and things we have done, if what we have done is not for practicing the truth to satisfy God, nor do we have the testimony of obeying God and loving God, then, He won’t approve us.”

Hearing her fellowship, I bowed my conceited head with shame. Am I not such a person reflecting on these words? Thinking of these years that I believed in the Lord, outwardly, I did good things, performed good deeds in all things, and helped everyone with love. I always thought that as long as I did so, when the time came the Lord would approve me, and I could gain blessings and enjoy the eternal life. In this way, I blindly asked God for grace and blessings, and treated Him as an object to use. Was there any conscience and sense in my deeds and actions? In the past, I felt I was selfless when I did those outward good deeds, but now, obviously, I am a selfish person. When some unhappy things happened in my family, I didn’t have obedience to God and was filled with complaint, misunderstanding and suspicion. Did I have the slightest likeness of a believer? Thinking about this, I made a resolution inwardly: I will turn around the deviation in my practice and the wrong notions. I will pursue the knowledge of God more, give my heart to Him, do everything with a reverential and obedient heart, and do my utmost to satisfy God. Thinking of this, I couldn’t help feeling very happy for I was able to understand so much. At the same time, I was curious that how Xiaozhao could know so much. So I asked her eagerly, “Where did you get these words? Can you lend the book to me?” Hearing what I said, she nodded with a smile and gave me the book.

Afterward, I read the book eagerly. The more I read it, the more I got into it. I felt the words in the book are all very practical, and what’s more, they carry authority and power, and it seems that no one could speak them, and as if they come from the Holy Spirit, and come from God. Otherwise, who else can speak such words? Later, through seeking for many times, I was finally certain that they are God’s utterances, which just fulfill the prophecy in Revelation, “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7).

Afterward, I began to live the church life. Through attending the church life and brothers and sisters sharing their experiences with each other, I understood many truths. I saw God’s words: “Understand the word of God and put it into action. Be principled in your actions and deeds; this is not abiding by rules or to do so grudgingly just for show. Rather, this is the practice of truth and living by the word of God. Only practice such as this satisfies God. Any custom that pleases God is not a rule but the practice of truth” (“Believing in God Should Focus on Reality, Not Religious Rituals”). “If you have some understanding about God, if you know how to live a meaningful life, if you can do some things that satisfy God, then you will feel that this is real life, that only by living in this way does your life have meaning, that one must live in this way to be able to satisfy God a little and to feel gratified. If you can consciously satisfy God, consciously put the truth into practice, consciously forsake yourself, abandon your own ideas, and be obedient and considerate toward God’s will; if you are able to do all these things consciously then this is to accurately put the truth into practice, to truly put the truth into practice …” (“Only by Seeking the Truth Can You Obtain Changes in Your Disposition”). After reading God’s words, I understood that if I want to genuinely practice the truth, I must focus on pursuing the truth. When reading God’s words, I should seek and ponder God’s will and demands because every word God says is the truth, and is the reality of the truth that we should possess. Understanding the truth can make us have a clear discernment of our wrong and absurd views on pursuit and practice so that we are able to hate and reject these outward deeds. When we have a true understanding of God’s will and demands, we can do things to obey God, love God and satisfy God consciously. Gradually, we are able to act in accordance with God’s will and we will have the chance to be a person who truly gains the truth and obtains God’s salvation. Take Peter for example, in the process of his following the Lord Jesus, he could seek and ponder God’s will in the words God had expressed, reflect on and know his own corrupt satanic disposition, and focus on seeking and practicing the truth from the people, events, things and environment around him. So his life disposition changed at last and he had a true knowledge of God. Therefore, Peter was approved by God. There is also David. He wanted to build the temple for God at every moment so that more people could come to worship God. That He fought battles was also for the sake of building the temple for God. As he could care for God’s will and do things according to God’s will, he gained the approval of God. Pondering these passages, I felt very brightened, finally found the path of practice and was more clear about God’s will.

Thank God for nourishing and supplying me with His words, which lift the veil of the good deeds for me, keeps me from going over the edge of the cliff and makes me have a correct direction in my road of believing in God. Later, I was full of faith and made a resolution: I am willing to pursue according to God’s will and demands, do things to satisfy God’s will without any transactions and impurities and perform my duty as a created being. These are the good deeds I should do. Thank God!

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