Hello brothers and sisters of Testify God,
Thanks for your last fellowship, and it has resolved my perplexities. Your communication was very illuminating and I really got a lot from it. This time, I’d like to ask another question and I hope to get some help.
I haven’t felt the Lord’s presence for a long time. The pastors and elders drily preach without light; the faith and love of brothers and sisters have grown cold; there is no previous patience but jealousy and strife between co-workers. They always fight and complete with one another in order to preach on the pulpit and misappropriate church offerings. … In such a church, I can’t feel the presence, blessing and leading of the Lord. For that reason, I feel depressed and even begin to think whether our church has been abandoned by the Lord. If so, am I not going to die of thirst and hardship keeping staying here? Therefore, I am very worried and want to seek how to differentiate between true churches and false churches. Hope to hear from you.
I’m glad to receive your letter. Our communication can help you resolve your perplexities, which is the Lord’s guidance. All the glory be to our Father in heaven. Amen!
With regard to your question, we got some enlightenments and guidance from the Lord through praying and seeking. Here we will commune with you about our knowledge of this question and we hope that this can be helpful to you:
1. It is based on whether or not there is the work of the Holy Spirit in the church, whether or not believers truly fellowship about the truth during meetings and whether or not their lives grow gradually.
If a church has the work of the Holy Spirit, then the believers of this church will often fellowship about the word of God when attending meetings, and focus on the search for the truth in God’s words to solve their problems and gaining enlightenments and light from the Holy Spirit, so that they can understand God’s intentions and requirements, and know their own corruption and what they lack. Additionally, they can not only have the knowledge of God’s work, but can speak of their testimonies of experience about practicingin reality. And brothers and sisters complement each other. Thus, in this kind of church, their will become deeper and deeper and their lives grow and grow. But, if, instead, in a church most believers are weak in faith, can’t practice God’s word but just keep some rules outwardly, have little true knowledge and reverence of God, have no enlightenment from the Holy Spirit and no spiritual enjoyment when gathering together in fellowship and feel no interest and no way of practice but just go through the motions as a religious ceremony without any growth and change in life, then we can confirm that there is no work of the Holy Spirit in this church. Just as when the came to do His work, the temple didn’t have the Holy Spirit’s work, becoming a wasteland. Those chief priests and scribes and Pharisees, the so-called servants of God, couldn’t receive God’s work. The lawlessness grew endlessly. They even had no discipline and reprimand of God, much less enjoyed His care and protection. They just treated the laws as dogma and even failed to adhere to it. At last, they made the temple a den of thieves. Just as Jehovah God said: “And also I have withheld the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain on one city, and caused it not to rain on another city: one piece was rained on, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered” (Amos 4:7). A church that has no work of the Holy Spirit is just a gathering of men, not a true church.
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2. It is based on whether or not the pastors, elders and preachers love and pursue the truth and have the work of the Holy Spirit and whether or not they truly understand and practice the truth.
A good church must be led by those who truly follow God, experience His work and are relatively humane. Such people love the truth, have true faith in God and can truly obey God’s work. If having transgressions or corruption that is revealed, they can truly know and regret themselves and have a true repentance. Such people are responsible for their church and the growth of the lives of the brothers and sisters. If finding someone reveals some corruption, they will provide assistance and supply; if finding someone has some difficulties and deviations, they will help him at any time and communicate the truth of God’s words with him to resolve problems. So if being watered, supplied, supported and led by such people, the brothers and sisters in the church will have full confidence in following God and enter into the reality of the truth through experiencing God’s work. As you can see, whether a church is true or false is based on whether or not the church’s leaders love and pursue the truth, have the Holy Spirit’s work and truly understand and practice the truth. If they, who lead and shepherd others, don’t have the Holy Spirit’s work and don’t pursue the truth, then the church where they are will be in trouble. Thus this church may be a false church. As the Lord Jesus said: “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). If a church’s pastors, elders and preachers don’t love or pursue the truth, when encountering issues, they won’t lead brothers and sisters to pray to or rely on God. They also won’t lead others to magnify God or to practice in line with His words, much less will they lift up or testify to God to bring others before God and let them understand God’s intentions. They only solve problems relying on their own will and conceptions and imaginations. And they even bring others before them. It is quite similar to the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees of Judaism: Though they labeled themselves servants of God to interpret scriptural laws, they never exalted God or bore witness to God, nor did they practice God’s words or walk in God’s way. All they did was just ask people to hold on ancestral traditions instead of God’s commandments. They used their hypocritical external actions to confuse and deceive people, to make people look up to them and worship them, while behind people’s backs, they did evil things that resisted God like murdering the prophets and devouring widows’ property. When the Lord Jesus began to do His work, they obstinately and arrogantly adhered to the preposterous view “we don’t accept and recognize Him unless He is called Messiah,” with which they resisted and condemned the Lord Jesus’ work. They tried and trapped the Lord Jesus any chance they got. Finally, they even incited the people together with them to nail the Lord Jesus to the cross. Isn’t it that the blind lead the blind and all will fall into the pit? If the believers of the denominational churches are cultivated and shepherded by those hypocritical pastors and elders, the modern Pharisees, then the lives of these believers will be ruined in the hands of those false shepherds and evil servants sooner or later. Thus without doubt such a church is a false church.
3. It is based on whether the truth or the evil hold the power and whether the people who pursue the truth or the people who are evil and play around hold the power.
The church is a place where the people who seek the truth have the church life and pray to and worship God. A true church consists of all those who trulyand have the Holy Spirit’s work. In a true church, the truth wields the power. In case someone goes against the truth and God’s words and runs wild within the church, he will be driven out of the church. If there are two or three people who have the Holy Spirit’s work getting together in the church and other brothers and sisters revolve around them, putting them first, this is a church. But if those two or three people are suppressed and rejected by others and have no right to speak, then this is not a church for the Holy Spirit has no way to work. The people who have the Holy Spirit’s work are at the center of the church. They can stand and speak up and lead and support brothers and sisters. Besides, the church work is decided by them and everyone listens to them. This is a church. But if it’s not the people who have the Holy Spirit’s work that support and take care of the church, and if it’s not the truth but the antichrists and evil servants, who have no work of the Holy Spirit at all, that wield the power, then this kind of church cannot be called a church and it is actually a false one, a religious place. For the antichrists and evil servants resist God; the Holy Spirit won’t work on them at all. God says, “Those who practice the truth within the church are abandoned and are unable to achieve their potential, while those who disturb the church and spread death run wild within the church. What is more, the majority of people follow them. This kind of church is simply under Satan’s control and the devil is their king. If the people of the church do not rise up and cast out those head demons, then they will also come to ruin sooner or later. From now on measures must be taken against this kind of church. If those who are capable of practicing a little truth are not engaging in seeking, then that church will be banned” (“A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth”). Let us look back at the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees. They didn’t have the Holy Spirit’s work but only followed the rules and performed religious ceremonies. They didn’t obey God’s way but always spoke the words and doctrines of the Bible to constrain and deceive believers. They usurped the temple, not allowing the Lord Jesus to preach in it. Besides, they colluded with the Roman government to condemn and resist the new work done by the Lord Jesus as well as arrest His disciples. The Lord Jesus denounced and condemned them saying: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13). According to the words the Lord Jesus spoke to denounce and condemn the Pharisees, we can see the actual fact that the temple at that time was controlled by the Pharisees, the antichrists. The temple had been made a den of thieves by them instead of a place where people worshipped God. If the pastors and elders can’t say anything about the true understanding of God or the real experience of life, but usually exalt the Bible and explain the words and doctrines of the Bible to us as well, to constrain and control people for others to admire and worship them, then such a church isn’t held by the truth but the antichrists. And this church is a false church.
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4. A gathering of those who truly seek the truth and have the Holy Spirit’s work is a church. The place where the evil and the ignorant gather is a religious place but not a church.
The Lord Jesus once said: “Again I say to you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the middle of them” (Matthew 18:19-20). It shows that so long as people who pursue the truth, that is, people who love and bear witness to God, can gather together to, read God’s words and gain the Holy Spirit’s work, then such a gathering can be called a true church. On the contrary, if a church is not a gathering of the people who pursue the truth, no matter how solemn it is on the surface, how many believers it has, how it performs the religious ceremonies, it’s just a religious place but not a true church. The church is not where some people simply gather together. We must find the people who have God in their hearts, have the Holy Spirit’s work, truly love God and pursue the truth and especially have knowledge of God to get together. This is a church. Within this church, there is the work of the Holy Spirit and God’s guidance, commission and testimony. If the people in the church are a bunch of bums, who play around and don’t love the truth, when getting together to fellowship about the truth, they will speak nonsense, gossip about the external things and complain about the hardship. At last, they won’t have the Holy Spirit’s work at all. Such a church isn’t a church but the stronghold, haunt and den of Satan having been abandoned by God for long. Just as when the Lord Jesus was at work on the earth, those who thirsted for the truth and followed the Lord gathered together, which exactly was a church. Yet those Jews who followed the Pharisees were unable to discern the way of truth and didn’t seek the truth either. Although being in the temple, they didn’t have a God-revering heart in the slightest and traded in the temple. Hence the Lord Jesus taught them saying: “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but you have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17). It shows that if in the denominational churches they all talk about the words and doctrines and there is no Holy Spirit’s work in their meetings, then those churches exactly are false churches. When gathering together, if they always discuss how to keep healthy, how to follow the worldly trend, how to build wealth instead of focusing on pursing and knowing the truth and practicing the Lord’s words, then such a place is a religious place, in which are a bunch of bums. It is exactly not a church. We must reject and stay away from it.
In short, a true church is a gathering of the brothers and sisters who truly believe in God and pursue the truth. These people have the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit when reading God’s words. Through what they fellowship on the truth, people can receive benefit and enjoyment and understand the truth. In this kind of church, brothers and sisters can gain the provision of life and the truth in meetings and their corrupt disposition can be purified gradually. As a result, their disposition will change and their transgressions will be fewer. They all will truly obey and worship God. In addition, their faith and love will increase gradually and all of them can perform their duties faithfully for reciprocating the Lord’s love. Only a church such as this is a true church. Rather, what are the characteristics of a false church? Firstly, there must be no Holy Spirit’s work when people fellowship in this church. Everybody says they get no enjoyment during meetings. All they fellowship is doctrinal words and a vast misinterpretation of God’s words but not true knowledge of God; secondly, the church’s pastors, elders and preachers don’t pursue the truth and don’t have the Holy Spirit’s work. The church become the stagnant water in that no people who truly understand the truth can fellowship about the truth to water and supply the believers’ lives; thirdly, some people in the church, who pursue the truth, are constrained and suppressed so that they can’t normally work nor perform their duties as a creature. The entire church is basically controlled by the evil people and false shepherds, who don’t have the Holy Spirit’s work. A church such as this is a false church.
Sister Helen, these elements above are what we summarize concerning the principle of confirming whether a church is a false one. We hope it will be helpful to you. Also, we hope you will be clear on your church early and then actively seek for the true church which has the Holy Spirit’s work, early returning to the Lord’s family! May the glory be to our Father in heaven!
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We sincerely hope we’ll grow spiritually through sharing with each other.