By Qiuzhen, United States
On a spring morning, the sun was slowly rising from the east, shining upon the earth. The grass and the flowers by the roadside were breathing the fresh air in high spirits. The twittering birds also couldn’t wait to sing songs. Everything looked lively. Li Yang was joyfully walking on the way to Ye Ling’s under the bright sunshine.
After arriving there, Li Yang asked Ye Ling with concern, “Hey, what have you been doing recently?” Hearing this, Ye Ling proudly answered, “Except for doing my housework, I spreadwhenever I have time. Yesterday Sister Huang and I spread the gospel to my auntie living in the nearby village. Though the five-mile walk washed me out, it was worth it as she was willing to believe in the Lord.” “So joyful you are.” “Of course. Our pastor says if we want to be raptured into the kingdom of heaven, we must suffer more and pay great price, preach the gospel more and bear more fruits, and work hard. That way, we will be taken back to the heavenly home when the Lord comes.”
After hearing her words, Li Yang smilingly said, “I had the same thoughts as you in the past, thinking that as long as I worked hard and preached the gospel more, sacrificed and expended for the Lord, and devoted my youth, the Lord would surely raise me into the kingdom of heaven when He returns. These several years I have contacted with some preachers with a comparatively better understanding of the truth. After listening to their communications, I had a new understanding and realized that we are far from entering the kingdom of heaven by this means of pursuit.” At this moment, Ye Ling looked at Li Yang in surprise and said, “Oh? Far from it? But the apostle Paul 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). Isn’t it enough for us to enter the heavenly kingdom if we have run, worked and expended for the Lord through the wind and rain? What do you think?”
Li Yang replied, “Ye Ling, our faith in God should be based on the Lord Jesus’ words. No matter who said these words, we should all determine whether they conform to the Lord’s words. If they do, we should follow them; if not, they are completely the product of man’s notions and imagination.” Ye Ling nodded and listened thoughtfully with knitted brows. Li Yang continued, “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). From the Lord’s words we can see: Many assiduous workers, who prayed in the Lord’s name every day, and cast out devils and did many wonderful works in His name, spread the gospel and preached from place to place, and often supported the weak brothers and sisters, were not only not known by the Lord, but they were even called evil-doers. Why is that so? Within lies the Lord’s intention and so we should seek. If we don’t understand this question and still pursue according to our conceptions and imagination, we will be abandoned by the Lord eventually. How dire the consequences are!”
Thinking over Li Yang’s words, Ye Ling felt slightly confused: “All of these people were the ones who worked hard, endured sufferings and expended themselves. Why is it that not only were they not in heaven, but the Lord said they were evil-doers? What on earth is the Lord’s intention in it?”
Li Yang said patiently, “Actually, the reason why they couldn’t enter the heavenly kingdom is not that they couldn’t endure the sufferings or pay the cost, but that they didn’t follow the will of God. For example, the well-known Pharisees served God year after year, and traveled over land and sea. And they also had many good behaviors and spoke frankly on appearance. Yet they didn’t gain the Lord’s praise, but His curses instead. Just as the Lord Jesus said: ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves’ (Matthew 23:15), and ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone’ (Matthew 23:23). From this, we can see: Though the Pharisees superficially spent and worked hard, that was simply putting on a false appearance for people. Actually, they didn’t observe God’s commandments or practice His word. Even though they preached the gospel, what was the final effect? The believers were led onto the path of resisting God. When Jesus came to do a new work, though the Pharisees had clearly recognized that the Lord’s word is the truth, in order to protect their own fame, status, and interests, they still stubbornly held on to their notions and didn’t accept the truth expressed by the Lord nor allowed the believers to seek or accept His work. Furthermore, they even led the believers to follow the Roman regime and nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross. This completely exposed their truth-hating and hypocritical nature. Although they could suffer to spread the gospel, work hard and sacrifice something, they were not the ones who loved the truth and followed God’s will.
“Similarly, today though we can also sacrifice, expend ourselves, suffer, preach and work hard, does it mean that we are the people who follow God’s will? Most of our thoughts and actions are not in accordance with the Lord’s words. We pursue nothing but fame, status, and wealth; in order to protect our personal interests we are able to tell lies and deceive others. When preaching to brothers and sisters, we exalt ourselves and bear witness to the hardships that we suffered. We do not exalt and bear witness to the Lord at all, thus brothers and sisters all worship and look up to us while having no place for God in their hearts. We compete with brothers and sisters over the amount of fruits we bear, believing that the more fruits we bear, the greater our rewards will be. On the surface, it looks like we are spreading the gospel and bearing witness to God, but in essence we are doing so in exchange for the blessings of entering the heavenly kingdom and rewards. We are not doing so out of love for God or to satisfy God. How can we say that we are following the heavenly Father’s will with all these kinds of behaviors? And now we have been withered up in our spirits and fail to feel the work of the Holy Spirit. However, we still don’t search for a church that has the work of the Holy Spirit or ask those who pursue the truth what the cause of this situation is, but just blindly work. Isn’t it completely going against the Lord’s words ‘Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled’ (Matthew 5:6)? Therefore, only working hard outwardly doesn’t mean that we are the ones who do the will of the heavenly Father or that we can enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Hearing this, Ye Ling was greatly touched and became immersed in contemplation with her head bowed: You are exactly right. The Pharisees worked hard, endured hardships and expended themselves at that time. But when they clearly knew the Lord Jesus’ word has the truth and authority, not only did they not accept it, but they also stubbornly resisted and condemned it. They were by no means the ones who were following the way of God. Now we believers are unable to put the Lord’s words into action in our lives; our spirits are in darkness and feel parched, but we still don’t find the church which possesses the Holy Spirit’s work. How could people like us be the ones who do the will of the Father in heaven? Then Ye Ling said with emotion, “Um, your words make sense and they are in line with our true conditions. So, what should we do to follow the will of the heavenly Father and enter into the kingdom of God?”
Li Yang answered, “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’ (Matthew 7:21), and ‘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’ (Matthew 22:37-38). The Lord Jesus already told us the conditions for one to enter into the kingdom of heaven: We should love the Lord with our heart and soul and put His words into practice; we should only have a place in our heart for the Lord and act according to His requirements without our own choice in anything. Abraham is a good example. When God asked him to return Isaac, he listened to and obeyed God’s requirement, so he saw God’s deeds and obtained His blessings—his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand on the seashore. There’s also Job, who feared God and shunned evil. When he encountered trials and refinement—losing his mountain of sheep and cattle, his sons and daughters being killed, and his whole body being covered in sores, he still extolled God’s name, not complaining to Him. For this reason, God said that Job was a perfect and upright man. And Peter pursued to love God to the highest level and obey God to death. He kept in mind every word he heard of the Lord Jesus and compared himself to these words so that his every thought, idea, and action could be in accordance with His will. In the end, he was crucified upside down for God but still felt that he could not love God enough. Owing to his pursuit, the Lord Jesus praised him for his belief and gave him the keys of the kingdom of heaven. From the former saints, we can see that to obtain God’s approval, one needs to unconditionally listen to God’s word, submit to and worship God, and pursue to love God and live out the likeness of a real man God requires of, rather than only having some superficial good deeds, enduring pains or paying some price. This kind of faith is the only way to obtain God’s praise.” Ye Ling felt what Li Yang said was consistent with the truth, so she nodded as she listened.
Li Yang went on. “The Lord Jesus never said that we could enter the heavenly kingdom by only having external good behaviors. If we want to enter it, we should go by the Lord’s word, instead of our conceptions and imagination. As the saying goes, ‘If you don’t do what your boss wants, it is futile even if you work yourself to death.’ Unless our faith in the Lord is based on His word, it is just a dream and our wishful thinking to enter into the kingdom of heaven!”
Ye Ling said thoughtfully, “Your words are absolutely right. They are the enlightenment from God, and also conform to the truth and the Lord’s words. For our belief in the Lord, it should be based on His requirements, and we should pursue to love God and satisfy God with our heart and soul, which is God’s will. However, I don’t act according to His word, but think that having superficial good deeds and gaining more people by preaching the gospel can be exchanged for the blessings of the heavenly kingdom. Isn’t that my conceptions and illusions! I have strayed from the Lord’s way, but I am not aware of it. If I continue like this, I’m afraid that what the Lord said ‘I never knew you: depart from Me, you that work iniquity!’ will be fulfilled upon me. It’s really too terrible. Thank the Lord! Li Yang, I’ve understood and found the way to the kingdom of heaven through your fellowship!”
Li Yang looked at Ye Ling, and then they both nodded happily.
The birds out of the window were still singing in the trees. The flowers looked brighter and more beautiful in the sun.
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