By Xiaoya, Canada
At the age of six or seven, once when my eldest uncle and aunt came to my home to visit my grandma, I saw my aunt talk to herself, and laugh one moment and cry another, of which I was extremely afraid. With curiosity, I asked my mother what had happened to my eldest aunt. She said with a sigh, “Your aunt is ill. There’s something wrong with her brain.” Later I was told by my family that in order to have her disease cured, my eldest uncle once sought doctors and remedies everywhere and had spent all the savings. However, she never got better. On this account, my eldest uncle always drowned his sorrows in drink alone.
In the summer of 2004, my father and his younger brother brought back a few brothers and sisters who believed in the Lord. At our home, they led us to sing the hymns of praising the Lord and preached the Lord Jesus’ gospel to us. They said, “Theis loving and merciful. He was once crucified for redeeming mankind. As long as we man cry out to Him, He will bestow His boundless grace and blessings upon us….” Only later did I know that my eldest uncle and his household had long believed in the Lord. And because my aunt recovered from the illness not long after they believed in Him, my father brought back the brothers and sisters under the Lord to preach to us. At hearing the news, I felt the Lord’s deeds were so wonderful that my aunt’s illness, which cost much money yet didn’t get cured, should be gone miraculously through her belief in Him. Thus, our whole family began to believe in the Lord Jesus, and every Sunday I would go to the church for meetings with my family. At that time, there were lots of brothers and sisters in the church and they were all of great faith. Whichever brothers or sisters were experiencing difficulties, everyone else would help them. I was quite fond of such a church.
Nonetheless, good times didn’t last long. Since 2006, I found there were fewer and fewer people who attended meetings. Among those present, some did not concentrate their attention while the pastor was preaching; some dozed off or played with their mobile phones at meetings. And some even brought their children to the church, so that the others were unable to quiet their hearts before the Lord and worship Him due to the noise made by the children during meetings. When giving sermons, the pastor just talked the same platitudes. Even more, seeing the brothers and sisters bring their children there to disturb meetings, he never persuaded them with love, but rather reproached them. Gradually, there appeared envy and strife in the church. Once, Pastor Hong spoke of Matthew 6:30, “Why, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” While speaking, he pointed at the believers sitting in the audience and said harshly, “You of little faith, you busy yourselves with matters of the flesh all day; that is, you have no faith in the Lord….” Feeling that he was lectured lecturing the brothers and sisters in a condescending attitude, Brother Li of our church, then gave him suggestions on the spot. However, Pastor Hong not only refused to accept, but rather, in a sneering tone, said that Brother Li did not compare with him in biblical knowledge, maintaining that his own preaching was right. Excluded and ridiculed by him, Brother Li no longer attended meetings. Another time, I was told by my father that Pastor Hong fought with the pastor of the county town for the followers, having completely lost the likeness of a believer in the Lord. The desolation of the church we confronted greatly disappointed my parents and me. I thought to myself: Doesn’t the Lord teach us to be forbearing, patient, and help others with a loving heart? The pastor’s knowledge of the Bible is more than ours, and moreover, these verses are what he is always talking about in the church, but why can’t he practice the teachings of the Lord? Why does the Lord not do something about the pastor who betrays His teachings? Why is the faith of the brothers and sisters gradually growing cold? Is there no work of the Holy Spirit in our church? Is the Lord not with us?
Then in 2007, our whole family moved to the county town and we attended meetings in a nearby cathedral. At first I thought the cathedral in the county town must be more prosperous than our former church. But beyond my expectation, it was as desolate as our former one. A great many followers’ attending meetings merely observed rituals; they didn’t listen to sermons attentively at all. And the pastor preached the same old things, which had no new light. I could not feel the Holy Spirit’s work at all, thirsty and weak in spirit, and couldn’t touch the Lord’s presence when praying. I didn’t understand: Why is the cathedral in the county town also so desolate? Why does the Lord no longer work in the churches? When I was at my weakest, I could only pour out my misery to God and always sang the hymn alone silently, “Jesus leads me, I am really happy. Led by the Lord, peace comes to my heart, regardless of day or night….” I expected the Lord Jesus to come back soon to change the desolation of our church.
Until one day in February of 2013, my whole family were going back to our hometown from the county town for the Spring Festival. My mother and younger brother went first by bus, and I took my father’s motorcycle home. On our way back, my father first brought me to a sister’s home where several sisters received us with hospitality. Although it was our first meeting, I felt them quite kind and friendly. After we were introduced by my father, Sister Chen Wei, one of the sisters, took out a computer and played several hymns. Then she sang cheerfully to the music, “Almighty God incarnate, we sing loud praises to You. You bring us into the kingdom life. We kingdom people are at Your rich banquet, enjoying Your words, enjoying Your words. … Our church life is so lovely, and all of the saints have come alive. We serve and supply one another and our life grows rapidly. We act by the truth, not by emotion, anddwells in our heart, becoming our reality, becoming our reality. … Meeting with brothers and sisters is the most joyful time. We speak God’s words and share experiences, coordinated in the church. Eating and drinking God’s word enlightens us, and we feel content, living in God’s love, living in God’s love” (“Our Church Life Is So Lovely” in Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). The cheerful hymn activated my heart. I felt it sounded very pleasant and its lyrics were also good. The life of the church spoken about in the hymn, where the brothers and sisters praised God together and shared experiences with each other, was the most joyful yet rare indeed. I couldn’t help thinking of the desolation of the churches, and there was a little sadness within my heart unconsciously.
I said to Sister Chen Wei, “In the beginning, the brothers and sisters in our church were filled with faith and love, and I was also very willing to attend meetings and read the Bible. But gradually, I found their faith and love were no longer as full as they were before, and I could not feel the presence of the Lord when praying. Furthermore, the pastors could not keep the Lord’s teachings but have not experienced discipline from the Lord for their actions not after His heart. I really don’t know the reason behind these.…” After hearing my words, she said with a smile, “Now, there has appeared a desolate scene in every church. We all know that we are in the late period of the last days. The Lord Jesus once prophesied, ‘And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold’ (Matthew 24:12). Lawlessness in the world of religion of the last days is emerging in endlessly in the churches. The pastors and elders don’t practice the Lord’s words or follow His way, but only preach the biblical letters and doctrines as well as theological theories everywhere to protect their own status and reputation. They don’t exalt or testify the Lord at all, but instead, merely show themselves off and testify about themselves to make others admire them, drawing people into their own presence. The believers who listen to their preaching for years haven’t gained any transformation in their life disposition, let alone any knowledge of God; rather, they often live in misunderstandings and complaints against God, as well as negativity and weakness. The pastors and elders have turned the churches into places of religious ritual so that people don’t understand what the belief in God means and regard it as a kind of faith. Many just observe regulations and rites to attend church services every week, and many others follow worldly trends, living in carnal pleasures…. These pastors and leaders have completely departed from the Lord’s way, thereby detested and eliminated by God. This is mainly why the religious world has lost the work of the Holy Spirit. But also, it’s because the Lord Jesus has already returned. He is incarnated to do the work of judgment beginning from the house of God, and thereafter the work of the Holy Spirit has turned to His work of judging and purifying man in the last days. Only by keeping up with His new work can people receive the work of the Holy Spirit. Those who still remain in the Lord Jesus’ redemptive work of the Age of Grace and stay in the religious places have lost the work of the Holy Spirit and fallen into dark desolation. Accordingly, they will have the conditions that they do not attend meetings but feel no blame within, commit sins without discipline from God, cannot feel God when praying, always live in negativity and weakness and their heart stay away from God, etc. This is just as in the end of the Age of Law, the temple was desolate. And the people of that time sold oxen, sheep, and doves there yet didn’t feel guilty; even those priests who served God there throughout the year broke the law and made improper sacrifices on the altar but never experienced discipline from God. It was not that God did not see their actions; it was that there had been so many lawless acts done by the Jewish religious leaders of the time, and thus the whole Judaism was already forsaken by the Holy Spirit and all men were living in sin. In addition, God was personally incarnated and started the redemptive work in the Age of Grace under the name of the Lord Jesus. Those who followed the Lord Jesus all lived under God’s guidance, yet those who still remained in the Old Testament Age of Law were not the objects of God’s work. Naturally they received no discipline although they committed sins. Today, God has come and is called Almighty God. He has done an uplifted work based on the work of the Lord Jesus. Not keeping up with His footsteps, the whole religious world has fallen into darkness, lost the Holy Spirit’s work, and failed to gain provision of the living water of life, thereby living in desolation and thirst. This exactly fulfills the words in Amos 8:11, which say, ‘Behold, the days come, said the Lord Jehovah, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Jehovah.’ Therefore, when God comes for His new work, we man can only receive the supply of living water of life by keeping pace with His work; provided we cannot keep up with the Holy Spirit’s work, then we will be forsaken and eliminated by God’s work.”