Outside the window, the wind was biting cold and a heavy snow was falling. It was already 9 p.m. when Xuesong returned home from spreading the gospel.
His wife quickly warmed up dinner for him. When he was about to eat, his daughter Xiaoyuan also came back after supporting the church. Xuesong hurried to serve her a helping and was ready to have dinner with her. But Xiaoyuan was not in the mood to eat. At the sight of this, Xuesong asked her, “What’s wrong, Xiaoyuan? You look like something’s on your mind.”
She said in puzzlement, “Dad, Mom, I have been thinking about a question lately. When the pastors and elders preach, they always say that if one can spread the gospel more and bear fruits, run, expend and work hard for the Lord, he will enter the heavenly kingdom. And we indeed have made significant expenditures for the Lord and paid a significant price. But the Lord once said, ‘For many are called, but few are chosen’ (Matthew 22:14). So I started to think: “There are countless numbers of believers in the Lord who are able to make significant expenditures for Him, yet why did the Lord say few were chosen? Can we really enter the heavenly kingdom in the end by suffering, expending, and working hard for the Lord?”
After hearing her words, Xuesong said confidently, “Xiaoyuan, there is no need to worry. The Lord is righteous. So, as long as we hold on to the Lord’s name, and are able to work hard, run, and expend for the Lord, we will be qualified to enter the heavenly kingdom. Didn’t the apostle Paul say that ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness’ (2 Timothy 4:7–8)? These years, we have been following Paul’s words, spreading the gospel, shepherding the church, and abandoning everything to follow the Lord. And although we have experienced years of ups and downs, we have never stopped working for the Lord. Thus I believe all that we have done is sure to be commemorated by the Lord, and that when He returns He will certainly bring us to the heavenly kingdom.”
His wife nodded and said, “Yeah, Xiaoyuan, what your father said is right. Practicing in this way is surely correct, so there is no need to worry.”
After thinking for a while, Xiaoyuan said, “Ever since we believed in the Lord, we have been acting according to Paul’s words, thinking that as long as we work hard, make significant expenditures, suffer hardship, and pay the price, we are sure to enter the heavenly kingdom. But the Lord said, ‘Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’ (Matthew 7:22–23). The Lord’s words are the truth. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but the Lord’s words shall not pass away. If people who work hard all can enter the heavenly kingdom, then how could the Lord condemn those who preached, cast out devils, and did many wonderful works in His name as evil-doers?”
What his daughter said made Xuesong engage in meditation: Yeah, the Lord said that not all people who made significant expenditures for Him could enter the heavenly kingdom. The Lord’s words are the truth, and cannot be wrong. Then, we have been practicing according to Paul’s words, thinking we need only abandon everything to work and expand for the Lord to enter the heavenly kingdom; is our practice really in line with the Lord’s will?
At this time, a knock on the door interrupted Xuesong’s thoughts. Xiaoyuan rose to open the door and found it was her cousin, Cheng Xian.
Cheng Xian smiled and said, “Uncle, Aunt, today I went with several co-workers to studyand was just passing by your house on my way home, so I thought I’d drop in to share what I’ve gained from today’s Bible study meeting with you.”
Xuesong’s wife said, smiling, “Xiaoxian, we were just discussing an issue. Perfect timing! Come on, join us in the discussion!”
Xuesong went on to fellowship, “Yeah, Xiaoxian, we were discussing the standard of entering the heavenly kingdom. Paul once said, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness’ (2 Timothy 4:7–8). Therefore, in my opinion, as long as we believers in the Lord follow the example of Paul to run and work for the Lord, adhere to the Lord’s name, keep to the Lord’s way, and watch and wait for His arrival, we can be brought into the heavenly kingdom. The Bible says, ‘for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me’ (Isaiah 49:23). So, your aunt and I believe that practicing in this way is in line with the Lord’s will. But after Xiaoyuan saw the Bible say, ‘Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’ (Matthew 7:22–23), she is somewhat worrying about our way of practicing. She thinks not all those who work tirelessly for the Lord can enter the heavenly kingdom. Xiaoxian, what do you think of it? Tell us your opinion.”
Xiaoyuan nodded her head and said, “Yeah, cousin, we really cannot see through this issue. Please tell us your opinion of it.”
Xiaoxian said with a smile, “Thanks be to the Lord! My co-workers and I also discussed this issue in today’s Bible study meeting. We have always maintained that as long as we work hard for the Lord and follow the example of Paul, we can be brought directly into the heavenly kingdom when the Lord returns. Though practicing in this way is in accord with people’s notions, is it really in line with God’s will? I think we ought to know that God’s words are the principles of our actions and the standard by which to measure all people, things, and matters. With regard to whether those who watch and wait and work hard for the Lord can really be brought directly into the heavenly kingdom, let’s look at what the Lord said. Thesaid, ‘Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). From the Lord’s words, we can see that He only said only those who did the will of the heavenly Father could enter the heavenly kingdom. He didn’t say that as long as people kept His name and worked hard for Him, they would be rewarded, and enter the heavenly kingdom. According to the Lord’s words, those who enter the heavenly kingdom must be the ones who follow God’s way, submit to Him, love Him, and worship Him. So how could those who do not follow the and who are not of one mind with God be qualified to enter ? When we pursue entry into the heavenly kingdom, we must use the Lord Jesus’ words as the standard. That is because the Lord Jesus is the King of the heavenly kingdom, and only He can determine whether we can enter the heavenly kingdom and be saved.”
Xiaoyuan nodded and said, “Yeah, I think what my cousin said is right. On the matter of entering the heavenly kingdom, we should use the Lord’s words as the standard. And only by practicing according to the Lord’s words can we be after His will.”
Xuesong asked, furrowing his brow, “Xiaoxian, what you have fellowshiped about is in accord with the Bible and is also based on the Lord’s words. Indeed, those who can enter the heavenly kingdom must be those who do the will of the heavenly Father. But, we have been practicing according to Paul’s words, working hard and making many sacrifices for the Lord; is this not doing the will of God?”
Xuesong’s wife looked bewildered and said, “Yeah, Xiaoxian, we follow the example of Paul, work hard and sacrifice for the Lord. Are we not carrying out the will of God?”
Xiaoxian said, “Uncle, Aunt, first let’s investigate a fact. The Jewish Pharisees compassed land and sea to spread the way of God and work. To outside observers, it appeared as if they carried out many good deeds and were quite pious. But why did the Lord Jesus condemn and curse them and denounce them with the ‘Seven Woes’? God looks within the depths of people’s hearts! Although the Pharisees worked hard, they merely engaged in religious ceremonies and explained Bible knowledge and theory. They did not practice the word of God at all, did not abide by His commandments in the slightest, and everything they did was for the purpose of obtaining blessings and rewards, of protecting their status and livelihood. They did not love God in their hearts at all, nor did they have a heart of fearing God. So when the Lord Jesus came to do His work, they wildly resisted and condemned Him, completely exposing their truth-hating and hypocritical essence. This fact allows us to see that working hard or having many good behaviors does not mean that we are doing the will of God. If we do not love God in our hearts, do not practice His words or abide by His commandments, then all our labor is just good behaviors and does not mean we are following the will of the heavenly Father.”
Xiaoyuan said in agreement, “Only now do I understand that the reason why the Lord Jesus condemned those who preached and worked in His name was because they were the same as the Jewish Pharisees. Although they worked hard for the Lord, they did so all based on their own ideas, and their purpose was to gain blessings and benefits from the Lord rather than to obey and love Him, much less to do His will. In the eyes of people, it seems right that we can do this or that in the Lord’s name, but if we do not act based on the Lord’s words, do not exalt and witness for Him, and our goal is not to love and submit to Him, then what we do has nothing to do with doing the will of God.”
After hearing the words of Xiaoxian and Xiaoyuan, Xuesong suddenly saw the light. He said, a little abashed, “Xiaoxian, what you fellowshiped about is right. Paul’s words are not the truth. Only the Lord’s words are the truth. If working hard and running and expending for the Lord had been equivalent to doing the will of God, then those Pharisees would have already entered the heavenly kingdom. How could they suffer the Lord’s curses? It seems that Paul’s words are indeed in opposition to the Lord Jesus’. In the past we pursued entry to the heavenly kingdom according to Paul’s words, we were indeed straying from the Lord’s way. If we continue pursuing in this way, we are sure to be discarded by the Lord!”
His wife said with a startled look, “Seen in this way, those who only work hard outwardly but do not practice the Lord’s words are not the ones who do the will of the heavenly Father. Then, Xiaoxian, what exactly is doing the will of the heavenly Father?”
Xiaoxian went on to fellowship, “Doing the will of God refers to practicing, adhering to His commandments, obeying His orchestration and arrangements. And at any time, under any circumstances, they can hold on to and complete the commission of God, living only to carry out God’s will. Only when they can absolutely obey God, be faithful to Him, and love Him are they truly obeying the will of God. Just like the Lord Jesus said, ‘If a man love me, he will keep my words.… He that loves me not keeps not my sayings’ (John 14:23–24). ‘If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed’ (John 8:31). ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37–39). Take Peter, for example. He offered all his life to the Lord, and shepherded the church in strict accordance with the Lord’s will and requirements. He never prayed to God for the sake of his own personal interests but only wished to love God from his heart. Finally he managed to achieve an ultimate love for God and obedience unto death, and was crucified upside down for God. Peter was the one who truly loved the Lord, so the Lord Jesus gave the keys of the heavenly kingdom to him. Another example is Job. He was perfect and upright, and he feared God and shunned evil. Regardless of whether God gave or took away, and whether God blessed or cursed, he would worship God, praise , and abide by God’s way always. Thus Job was perfect in the eyes of God. … All these people through the ages who obtained God’s approval, they mainly could follow God’s way, fear God and shun evil, could truly love God, obey God, and offer all of themselves to God, and would never make a deal with Him. Only people like this are the ones who truly do the will of God and who are qualified to be brought into the heavenly kingdom and receive God’s promise.
“We all can see that after believing in the Lord many people have indeed suffered a lot and paid a price, and even being jailed or martyred did not make them abandon the Lord. This only proves that they have true faith in the Lord. However, while working hard for the Lord, they fail to pursue the truth, and do not pay attention to practicing the Lord’s words or following His commandments; instead, they follow their own desires and do whatever they please, never obey anyone, and often tell lies and cheat others. All that they have done is for the purpose of obtaining blessings and rewards, and of entering the heavenly kingdom and receiving the crown. From this, we see that if we cannot practice God’s word or adhere to His commandments, and do not have a heart of obeying and loving Him, then regardless of how much we suffer and how much work we do, we are not doing the will of God, and then how can we be qualified to be brought into the heavenly kingdom? It is just as the Lord Jesus said, ‘Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’” (Matthew 7:21–23).
At this time, Xuesong felt more ashamed and said to Xiaoxian in embarrassment, “Xiaoxian, although I have believed in God for many years, I still have no understanding of His will. Now I know that only abiding by the Lord’s commandments, expanding for Him with a heart that loves Him, and being able to often exalt and witness for Him are the expressions of following the will of God.”
His wife said, with a face laden with shame, “Xiaoxian’s fellowship is right. Thanks be to the Lord. In all my years of faith in the Lord, the only thing I knew was blindly working hard for the Lord and devoting myself to Him. And I have always practiced on the basis of Paul’s word and thought I need only work hard for the Lord to enter the heavenly kingdom. I am really ignorant. Only today have I known: The Lord requires us to focus on seeking His will in all things and practicing His word, to spend for Him with a heart of loving Him, and to absolutely obey God and listen to His word like Job and Peter. Only in this way can we be those who do the will of the heavenly Father. This is the most crucial issue, but I ignored it. I am so ashamed!”
Xiaoyuan also nodded, saying, “Yes. If not for tonight’s communication, I would never know that in my years of faith, all my sacrifices and expenditures are for the purpose of gaining rewards by deceiving and exploiting the Lord. I would have stayed on the wrong path, shamelessly trying to exchange my labor with the Lord for my entry to the heavenly kingdom. In the end, I would be condemned and punished by the Lord without even knowing why. It is terrifying thinking of it now!”
Xiaoxian said in delight, “Thanks be to the Lord. Tonight we can fellowship together; this is all part of the Lord’s plan. All the glory be to the Lord!”
After hearing this, Xuesong, his wife, and his daughter looked at each other and smiled knowingly, for they had known the standard of entering the heavenly kingdom and have found the path to practice.
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