Why Have the Churches Become Desolate?
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, “The Lord Jesus is 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 the gospel 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, and God’s word dwells 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.”
Hearing the sister say that the Lord Jesus has come back and done a new work, I was shocked then: Has the Lord returned? What the sister spoke of was something that I had never heard but was quite practical. Moreover, I heard for the first time that someone could explain the source of the desolation of the churches so clearly; even the pastors could not make it. Her words made me know that the reason why the churches became desolate was that God has done a new work and we had fallen behind since we were still attending meetings in the churches. Then I recalled what the Bible says, “These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (Revelation 14:4). “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7). If it is really God’s new work, only if I hurry up and follow it can I receive the work of the Holy Spirit. However, in our hurry to leave for home, we had to bid good-bye for a little while. When the time came to part, we exchanged our telephone numbers and agreed on keeping in touch later. On the way home, I kept thinking of the matter that the sister had talked to me concerning the Lord’s return, as well as their behavior. Although it was our first meeting, their enthusiasm made me feel that they were no strangers to me. Thus I decided to investigate God’s new work carefully.
After the start of the new school semester, Sister Chen Wei gave me a call and made an appointment to have a face-to-face talk with me. I agreed readily. In my contact with the brothers and sisters, I felt they had saintly decency in their words and actions, living out a good humanity, being quite devout to God, behaving honestly, and being concerned about and caring for me just like my family. From the bottom of my heart, I realized it was out of God’s love. Hence I told them my puzzle, “Now the whole religious world has lost the Holy Spirit’s work and fallen into darkness. If Almighty God is really the Lord Jesus who has come for His new work, then only by hurrying up and following the footsteps of the Lamb can we receive the Holy Spirit’s work, right?” Then the sisters shared God’s words with me, which had my thirsty heart nourished and made me have more understanding of God’s work as well. One of them read two passages of God’s words for me, “The work of today has pushed forward the work of the Age of Grace; that is, the work under the entire six-thousand-year management plan has moved forward. Though the Age of Grace has ended, there has been progress in God’s work. Why do I say time and again that this stage of work builds upon the Age of Grace and the Age of Law? Because the work of this day is a continuation of the work done in the Age of Grace, and an advance over that done in the Age of Law. The three stages are tightly interconnected, with each link in the chain closely tied to the next.” “After the work of Jehovah, Jesus became flesh to do His work amongst man. His work was not carried out in isolation, but was built upon the work of Jehovah. It was work for a new age that God did after He had concluded the Age of Law. Similarly, after the work of Jesus ended, God went on with His work for the next age, because the entire management of God is always progressing forward. When the old age passes, it will be replaced by a new age, and once the old work has been completed, there will be new work to continue God’s management. This incarnation is God’s second incarnation, which follows upon Jesus’ work. Of course, this incarnation does not occur independently; it is the third stage of work after the Age of Law and the Age of Grace. … Though Jesus did much work among man, He only completed the redemption of all mankind and became man’s sin offering; He did not rid man of all his corrupt disposition. Fully saving man from the influence of Satan not only required Jesus to become the sin offering and bear the sins of man, but it also required God to do even greater work to rid man completely of his satanically corrupted disposition. And so, now that man has been forgiven of his sins, God has returned to the flesh to lead man into the new age, and begun the work of chastisement and judgment. This work has brought man into a higher realm. All those who submit under His dominion shall enjoy higher truth and receive greater blessings. They shall truly live in the light, and they shall gain the truth, the way, and the life.” Then the sister fellowshiped, “In the beginning, God created the ancestors of mankind, Adam and Eve. At that time, He did not carry out His management work among man. Later on, since our ancestors ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and thereby committed sins, then God started His work of saving mankind, accordingly bringing the three stages of the work of the Age of Law, the Age of Grace, and the Age of Kingdom. These three stages of work are in closely connected links and each of them is carried out upon the foundation of the previous stage. For example, in the Age of Law, Jehovah God led His new-born mankind to live on earth through issuing laws and commandments. If people abided by the laws, they would be blessed by God; if they offended them, they could atone for their sins by offering sacrifice. However, in the late phase of the Age of Law, people could no longer keep the laws, but rather were overwhelmed by sins, unable to break free from the bondage of sin; thus people all faced the danger of being executed by the laws. Then according to the needs of mankind, God carried out the work of the Age of Grace. He was incarnated the first time to be nailed to the cross for redeeming mankind. From then on, as long as people believed in and relied on the Lord Jesus, prayed in the name of Him, confessed and repented their sins, they would be forgiven of their sins and not be condemned to death by the laws anymore. Yet as the root of their sin hasn’t been solved, people are still living in the fallen cycle of sinning by day and confessing at night. The Bible says, ‘For the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23). So, in order to save man thoroughly, God does a work in the Age of Kingdom to remove sin on the basis of the Lord Jesus’ redemptive work. He becomes flesh once again to judge man through His expression of words, making us see the truth about our corruption by Satan, so that we can break away from sin, attain the transformation in our disposition, and thus receive His salvation in the end. God is always new and never old. Every time when He does a stage of new work, He will bring man new ways of practice. Only by keeping up with His new work can man receive the personal guidance of Him. Whereas, as for those who don’t follow God’s new work but hold on His former work, they have no higher practice and cannot receive the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the basic reason why the whole religious world is desolate while there is the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church of Almighty God.” The sister’s fellowship enabled me to have more knowledge of God’s three stages of work and realize more clearly that only by closely following the footsteps of His work can we man receive His guidance and be saved by Him in the end. Such an understanding was something that I had never heard before in my years of believing in the Lord in religion. Listening to the fellowship of the sisters from the Church of Almighty God, I gained a lot and got much released in spirit.
I am quite grateful to God for having chosen me in the last days. What made me more gratified was that my mother also accepted Almighty God’s work before long. Now, our whole family have followed the footsteps of the Lamb and returned to our original condition of believing in the Lord. Fervent in our hearts, we follow God with the utmost confidence. We read God’s words, pursue the truth and salvation, living in the joy of being led by Him. Thanks be to God! All the glory goes to Almighty God!