By Gengxin, Australia
“Amen, amen I say unto you: that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. Now the servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the son abideth for ever” (John 8:34–35).
“Thewas nailed to the cross to absolve us of our sins so that we are no longer of sin and when He returns He’ll take us home to heaven. The time for Him to return is almost here, so we must wait watchfully, and read the sacred texts and confess often….” The Father stood at the pulpit happily preaching to us. Hearing this was invigorating for me and I resolved to follow God steadily, read the sacred texts and pray more, and then when the Lord returns He’d take me into the kingdom of heaven.
To this end I worked hard to abide by the rules of my faith. Even though I was really busy with my business and could never finish all the tasks on my plate every day, I continued going to Mass and would always say different prayers associated with particular holidays.
But as time went by, I gradually realized that the Father’s sermons didn’t contain any new light. He had three books of sermons for delivering Mass. Just like a teacher delivering a lecture, following the curriculum and proceeding mechanically, he’d go through all of them in three years’ time, from start to finish, then start over again, explaining his understanding of it. I never gained any new sustenance from attending Mass and I felt spiritually starved—I couldn’t feel the accompaniment of God. The love and faith of a lot of my fellow parishioners were also growing more tepid. Some of them would drop off during sermons, some would idly chat and talk about worldly things, some would come to a service for worship but would sell products instead of listening to the Father’s sermon, and some simply stopped coming to Mass. Even worse, the President would often talk about how the value of the currency was going down and the price of goods was going up, so a 20 yuan offering for a Mass wasn’t enough and it should be at least 50 yuan. Before, the Father would make a home visit for anyone regardless of their ability to contribute, but now he stopped doing that for those who didn’t make an offering or who made an offering that was too little. Terrible! I didn’t know how the Father could act like that, and the church was becoming more and more desolate.
I took another look at myself—I was saying confession prayers every day but I still couldn’t stop myself from sinning. I was living in a vicious cycle of sinning by day and confessing by night that I couldn’t escape from. And especially when I saw others, who were also businesspeople, were employing all sorts of tactics to profit off of their customers and earning a lot of money I’d feel some envy. Tempted by money, I also started to engage in underhanded tactics; when I saw that someone was somewhat well-off I’d inflate the price a bit, and sometimes I’d sell a second-rate product as something high quality so I could rake in the difference. I really padded my wallet this way, but my conscience was uneasy, so during morning and evening prayers I’d come before God to confess my sins. But after that I still couldn’t help myself from using deceptive tactics to earn money. I was really suffering, but all I knew to do was keep saying prayers in the hope that the Lord would absolve me.
One day my older sister invited me to listen to a sermon at her home. When my wife and I arrived we saw Brother Zhang who greeted us very enthusiastically and humbly. I said to him, “All the signs point to the Lord returning soon. Based on this, we should have even more faith and calmly await His return, when we will be taken into the kingdom of heaven. However, our faith has become tepid; we’re living within sin and we can’t extricate ourselves. The Father’s sermons are also really dry and it feels like the church is growing more and more barren. What’s going on?”
Brother Zhang said, “The religious world has become barren, and this is something that all believers with a heart and a soul have personally felt. Thinking back, in the past when we read the sacred texts and prayed we had the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, and no matter how busy work may have been we wouldn’t dare miss a Mass or a sermon. So why have we become so negative, and why have our souls become so thirsty? Why has our church become such a landscape of desolation? There are two aspects to this. One is that the leaders in the religious world aren’t keeping to God’s way, but just focus on theological theories and biblical knowledge. They elevate themselves and bear witness to how much they’ve suffered and how much of a price they’ve paid, but fail to elevate and bear witness to. They don’t guide believers to understand and put His word into practice. Some of the priests and nuns even manage factories and sell their wares in the church, leading believers onto a secular path. This is entirely contrary to God’s way which is why they have been cast out and rejected by Him. This is the primary reason for the desolation of the church. Another aspect of this is that the Lord Jesus has already returned and is performing new work outside of the existing denominations—the Holy Spirit’s work has shifted. It’s just like the latter part of the Age of Law when the Lord Jesus had come and He was doing the work of the Age of Grace outside of the temple. The Spirit of God had already left the temple and was no longer working in it, so the temple for worshiping God became a marketplace for livestock.”
After hearing Brother Zhang’s explanation I understood that the desolation of the church was because the priests weren’t adhering to God’s way andhad shifted. It really rang true. Everything the Fathers talked about was just biblical theory and knowledge and a display of how much they had suffered. It didn’t help believers understand God’s will at all, but instead they all just adulated the Fathers and God didn’t have a place in their hearts at all. When he went to parishioners’ houses for Mass even that was transactional—if they had given more money he’d do Mass for them, but if they hadn’t given as much he’d make the excuse that he was out of time. He wasn’t following God’s decrees at all, so how could he gain the work of the Holy Spirit?
I said, “Brother Zhang, you’re saying that the desolation of the church is related to the religious leaders failing to follow God’s way. This actually is true and I can accept this. However, you also said that the Lord Jesus has returned and the Holy Spirit’s work has shifted. Is that really true?”
Brother Zhang said, “That’s right. The Lord Jesus we have been awaiting has once again become flesh and returned; He has uttered words and done the work of judgment beginning with the house of God. He has come to free us from our sins….”
I cut him off and said, a bit confused, “How could that be? The Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross to forgive our sins so we’re no longer sinful. We’re just waiting for the Lord to return to take us home into the kingdom of heaven, so how could there be another stage of work?”
Brother Zhang responded very patiently, “Brother, you are entirely correct that since we believe in the Lord, all of our sins have been forgiven by the Lord Jesus and we are no longer of sin. But does not being of sin mean that we don’t sin? The truth is that we still live in a vicious cycle of sinning and then confessing and we haven’t achieved purification at all.says, ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness: without which no man shall see God’ (Hebrews 12:14). God is holy and no sullied people are permitted to enter into the kingdom of heaven. We’ll only be able to see God’s face if we are cleansed; how could we welcome God as we currently are, living in sin? Brother, let’s read two passages of words expressed by the returned Lord.”
Brother Zhang got out a book of God’s words and read, “A sinner such as you, who has just been redeemed, and has not been changed, or been perfected by God, can you be after God’s heart? For you, you who are still of your old self, it is true that you were saved by Jesus, and that you are not counted as a sinner because of the salvation of God, but this does not prove that you are not sinful, and are not impure. How can you be saintly if you have not been changed? Within, you are beset by impurity, selfish and mean, yet you still wish to descend with Jesus—you should be so lucky! You have missed a step in your belief in God: You have merely been redeemed, but have not been changed. For you to be after God’s heart, God must personally do the work of changing and cleansing you; if you are only redeemed, you will be incapable of attaining sanctity. In this way you will be unqualified to share in the good blessings of God, for you have missed out a step in God’s work of managing man, which is the key step of changing and perfecting. And so you, a sinner who has just been redeemed, are incapable of directly inheriting God’s inheritance.” “The sins of man were forgiven, and this is because of the work of God’s crucifixion, but man continued to live within the corrupt satanic disposition of old. This being so, man must be completely saved from his corrupt satanic disposition, so that his sinful nature may be completely extirpated, never to develop again, thus enabling the disposition of man to be transformed. This would require man to grasp the path of growth in life, to grasp the way of life, and to grasp the way to change his disposition. Furthermore, it would require man to act in accordance with this path, so that his disposition may gradually be changed and he may live under the shining of the light, so that all that he does may be in accord with the will of God, so that he may cast away his corrupt satanic disposition, and so that he may break free from Satan’s influence of darkness, thereby emerging fully from sin. Only then will man receive complete salvation.”
Brother Zhang went on, “We can see from God’s words that the Lord Jesus did the stage of the work of redemption in the Age of Grace, and so we’ve been saved from our sin because of our faith in the Lord. However, we have not been rid of our sinful natures—in our lives, we often sin and then confess, and we are rebellious and resist God. For example, when we encounter people that are disagreeable to us in our day-to-day lives we often become disgruntled, plus we look down on them and aren’t able to get along well with them. We do all sorts of underhanded things for our own personal benefit, and whenever we pay a price or expend ourselves we’re holding on to our own motives and goals—it’s to gain God’s blessings, to do a deal with God. It’s clear that we have not been freed from our sinful natures, and our arrogant, selfish, and crafty dispositions are deeply entrenched in our lives. We don’t remotely live out a human likeness. We can’t get along with other people and we particularly can’t submit to God’s work. All of our thoughts and actions run counter to what God requires. We completely lack hearts of reverence for God, and this is repugnant and detestable to God. People as filthy and corrupt as we are completely unworthy of entering the kingdom of heaven; we’re not qualified to see the Lord Jesus’ face. Even though we continue to say prayers, rein ourselves in and control ourselves, with just our own strength we’ll never be able to free ourselves from the shackles of sin. This is why we need another step of God’s work to rid us of sin, and only then will we be freed from it and be brought into God’s beautiful kingdom.”
I couldn’t help but nod my head, and I said, “It’s true. I’ve been a believer for over three decades. I pray and read the sacred texts every single day, I often go to Mass, and often confess to be forgiven of my sins, but over all these years instead of sinning less, I’m actually sinning more. The Bible says, ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness: without which no man shall see God’ (Hebrews 12:14). I’m still living in sin and I’m really not worthy of seeing God or entering the kingdom of heaven!”
My wife said, “Yes, Brother Zhang, I really feel like your fellowship contained the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and illumination. If we want to achieve freedom from sin we’ll never get there just by saying prayers. It seems God doing another stage of work into save us really is necessary.”
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