By Li Xing
All devout Christians yearn for the return of the Lord and entering the wonderful kingdom of heaven prepared by Him. Yet very few of them have reflected on whether God approves of their belief in Him, nor have they rethought what kind of belief is following God and what kind of belief is following men. Today, let’s fellowship some key truths determining the success or failure of our belief in God and discuss what genuinely following God is.
First, one who follows God must obey His words and depend on Him in everything.
Honoring God as great does not just refer to us reciting many chapters of the Scripture, praying to and praising God, or working and spending for the Lord outwardly; it mainly refers to us living by His words after reading them, and truly relying on Him in practical life. Though we can’t see God, we shall obey everything from Him; especially when we read His words, we should accept them, act in accordance with His intention, and treasure His words as our principle of life and guidance of action. And when anything happens to us, we shouldn’t speak or act according to our personal hobbies or desires. Particularly when it comes to important issues, we should even more seek God’s will in His words to act on His intention precisely; even if it might do harm to our benefits, we shouldn’t give up practicing His words. Only when we regard God’s words as our principle, give first place to satisfying God, and fulfills His requirement: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30), can we be called a true follower of God.
Abraham is a good example. God bestowed a son on him when he was about 100 years old, which made him so happy. Later on, however, God asked him to offer up his son as a sacrifice. Though he didn’t know why God made this demand, he, with a heart of obedience to Him, gave back his only son to God to satisfy Him without considering his personal gain or loss. Because of this, God greatly blessed Abraham, making him a father of many nations. Abraham was able to put obeying God’s words and satisfying Him first, which means God reigned as King in his heart. This is the man who depends on God in all things and honors God as great in his heart.
Second, one who follows God must possess true, and believe that God is almighty and that all is in His hand.
He who truly follows God is supposed to possess true faith in Him. God says, “What does faith refer to? Faith is the genuine belief and the sincere heart that humans should possess when they cannot see or touch something, when God’s work is not in line with human notions, when it is beyond human reach. This is the faith that I speak of. … No matter how God works or what kind of environment you are in, you will be able to pursue life, pursue the development of God’s work in you, and pursue the truth. You will have an understanding of God’s actions and you will be able to act according to the truth. This is your genuine faith, and this shows that you have not lost hope in God. You will still seek the truth in refinement, you will be able to truly love God and will not develop doubts of Him. No matter what He does, you will still practice the truth to satisfy Him, and you will be able to deeply seek out His will and be considerate of His will. Only this is true faith in God.” As long as we have true faith in God, we will not deny Him whatever comes to us, and still follow and satisfy Him as before. For instance, when deprived of his property and children, Job, with a heart of obedience to God, didn’t judge God’s work at will or complain against Him but still praised Him, saying: “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah,” standing witness for God; and such is a true faith in God. As thehealed a blind man and the woman who diseased with an issue of blood, He said to them: “Your faith has made you whole.” From this we can see that, though neither of them had done anything for the Lord before, they firmly believed the Lord is almighty and that all is in His hand; it was their genuine faith that made them gain the approval of God. Thus, possessing a true faith is of great importance in following God.
Third, one who follows God must only sanctify and obeyin his heart without looking up to or worshiping any person.
God exhorted us in the Age of Law: “Look to me, and be you saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22). And the Lord Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). In the process of following God, we shall affirm that none but Christ is the truth, the way, and the life. Only God is the source of man’s life, and all the truths come from Him. Thegiven by people, no matter how good or lofty it sounds, cannot be our life. Even if it is in conformity with the truth, it cannot be called the truth, but can only be called words in accord with the truth. If we can justly look upon this fact, we will not worship man because of his caliber and gifts. Moreover, we must be able to discern whether man’s sermon is the letters and doctrines in the Bible, and whether it is from God and in accord with His words. If we are not able to discern these, we will be easily led astray by a variety of fallacies of people, and then believe in God with our lips but worship people in our hearts, thus missing the chance of . As it is written in the Bible, “As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help” (Lamentations 4:17).
In addition, we shall not be restrained by people; we ought to obey and follow what comes from God, and refuse what comes from man. No matter he is a pastor, an elder, or a preacher, if his talk confirms with God’s words, then we shall accept it; but if it is against God’s will, we shall reject it and obey God’s words. We should never fear influence or status but should only sanctify the truth and Christ. As God says, “People who believe in God should obey God and worship Him. You should not exalt or look up to any person; you ought not to give first place to God, second place to the people you look up to, and third place to yourself. No person should hold a place in your heart, and you should not consider people—particularly those you venerate—to be on a par with God, to be His equal. This is intolerable to God.”
Only when we are able to act according to these truths in our life can we be considered as true followers of God who are possessed of reality; if we just verbally acknowledge these words or simply accept them in mind, it doesn’t represent that we are true followers of God.
In this light, people who don’t have the reality of the truths above are no doubt following men. Those who follow men don’t honor Christ as great or have genuine faith in God. So they feel it more practical and convenient to seek for man’s help when encountering things. And they always listen to those who possess status and gifts, and never pay attention to looking unto or depending on God with their hearts. As they always do so, unconsciously, God’s place in their hearts becomes ever smaller and the place of the people they worship becomes ever greater. Eventually, they believe in God outwardly but in essence worship, believe in, and follow people. And such believers can be seen in each church; they completely believe in and follow their pastors, who seem to have become their lords and gods. As they slide from the path of believing in God into obeying and following people, they never rely on God in anything but look unto and worship men, always asking men what to do and listening to men’s words. There is no doubt that those who always look unto and worship men are actually believing in and following men.
Following people means that they follow their leaders or coworkers whom they worship, and that God does not have much of a place in their hearts. Having merely hung a sign saying they believe in God, they never seek God’s will, but imitate and copy people; particularly when it’s something major, they let people decide and control their fate. They have no discernment of what is spoken by people, but accept it and listen to it as long as it sounds reasonable, regardless of whether it is in accord with the truth. Such people’s belief in God has no principles and there is no truth to their actions; they listen to whoever speaks sense, and even if their idols take the wrong path, they follow them to the very end. If God condemns their idols, then they will have conceptions toward God, and cling tightly to their idols. Their reasons are that “we should listen to whoever is in charge of us; the nearer power is better than the higher power.” Such people are purely those who follow people and are possessed of a muddled belief.
It can be said that whoever looks unto and follows men doesn’t have true faith in God, much less a heart of reverence for Him. For their belief is totally built on enjoying the grace, which is generally called “seeking bread to satisfy hunger.” For example, the five thousand people in the Age of Grace, fed with five loaves and two fish by the Lord Jesus, had no genuine faith in Him, hoping merely for some grace. Their belief is merely a simple conviction and spiritual sustenance, like that of the unbelievers believing the existence of the Old Man in the Sky, and cannot be approved by the Lord. So the Lord treated them with no more than some grace and didn’t give sermons or supply the truth among them. As God says, “There are some people whose belief has never been acknowledged in God’s heart. In other words, God does not recognize that these people are His followers, because God does not praise their belief. For these people, regardless of how many years they have followed God, their ideas and views have never changed. They are like the non-believers, adhering to the non-believers’ principles and manner of doing things, adhering to their laws of survival and belief. They never accepted theas their life, never believed that is truth, never intended on accepting , and never recognized God as their God. They regard believing in God as some kind of amateur hobby, treating God merely as spiritual sustenance, so they don’t think it’s worth it to try and understand God’s disposition, or God’s essence. … How does God look upon these people? He views them as non-believers.”
Knowing the difference between following God and following man, we should learn the result of following man lest we walk on such path. The words with which the Lord cursed the Pharisees are well known to us, but we’ve never paid attention to the ending of those who looked unto and followed them. 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). “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14). From the Lord’s words, we can see the result of the followers of the Pharisees. Because they saw the Pharisees had believed in Jehovah God for so many years and served Him for generations, and had much knowledge of the Scripture, they thought that the Pharisees should be approved by God according to their own mind. Therefore, they didn’t accept the Lord Jesus even when seeing Him perform the signs that no one could perform and hearing Him express the truth that no one could utter. Seeing that the chief priests and Pharisees didn’t follow the Lord Jesus but persecuted Him, they followed them in crucifying Him without discernment, committing a heinous crime.
Reviewing the history, we should reflect on ourselves: Aren’t we the same as them? Noble and dignified in appearance and good at reciting the Bible and giving sermons, the pastors, who graduated from theological schools, have been giving sermons for several decades and captured our hearts. We consider that they are always right whatever they talk, that the Lord must first give revelation to them when He returns, and that they will definitely gain salvation. So in our view, listening to the pastors is listening to God, and we will certainly enter into the kingdom of heaven as long as following them. Yet, we have never measured their deeds with God’s words, but blindly obey them without discernment even when seeing them do something not in accordance with the truth. Then how could we be called a follower of God? If we live in our conceptions and illusions all the time, will we be approved by the Lord Jesus? We believe in God with our lips, but worship people in our hearts, which is just like the revelation of the Lord Jesus: “This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9).
Considering those behaviors above, whom do we truly follow, God or men? Have we realized the seriousness of following men? I hope that if we have the answer, then we can walk on the path of following God as soon as possible, so as to realize our dream of entering the kingdom of heaven.