9. A Different Kind of Love
By Chengxin, Brazil
A chance opportunity in 2011 allowed me to come to Brazil from China. When I had just arrived, I was overwhelmed with fresh and new experiences and filled with curiosity, and I had a good feeling about the future. But after some time, this fresh and new feeling was quickly replaced by the loneliness and pain of finding myself in a far-off foreign land. Every day I went back home all alone and ate by myself, staring at the walls around me day by day without anyone even to talk to. I felt so lonely, and would often cry in secret. Just when I was feeling at my most distressed and helpless, the Lord Jesus brought me into a gathering by means of a friend. Through reading the word of the Lord, singing hymns, and praying in gatherings, my lonely heart was consoled by the Lord. I learned from the Bible that the heavens and earth and all things were created by God, and that man too is God’s creation. I also learned that the Lord Jesus was crucified for the redemption of mankind, that it was the Lord Jesus who redeemed us from sin, and that He is the only Redeemer of mankind. Having come into the presence of the Lord’s salvation, which is greater than all else, I felt deeply moved and resolved to follow the Lord for the rest of my life. I was therefore baptized on Thanksgiving and formally became a Christian. Because I liked singing, especially singing hymns in praise of God, after I was baptized I became actively involved in working for the church by joining the choir. Because of God’s guidance and blessings, I lived in peace and happiness. Every time I went to a gathering or praised God in worship, I felt suffused with energy.
But good times don’t last forever, and as I entered the ranks of the church ministry, I gradually came to see that the brothers and sisters in the church appeared on the surface to care for and look after one another, and they all seemed to get along well together, but that actually everything they said and did was for their own self-interest. They didn’t want to suffer any personal loss while working in the ministry of the church, and often gossiped behind each other’s backs about who was doing more and who was doing less. Even the pastor was extremely snobby. He treated people based on the amounts of their donations, and made special mention of donations whenever he gave a sermon. Every time he came to a gathering, the issue the pastor was most concerned with was whether or not people were giving donations and how much they were giving, and he didn’t want to hear anything about the lives of the brothers and sisters. He talked about love but I never saw him take any real action. Whenever a brother or sister had a difficulty, the pastor wouldn’t help them or support them. But what was even more outrageous was that he would still criticize people and look down on those powerless and penniless brothers and sisters. When I saw this situation in the church, I was disappointed but also confused: How had the church changed to become no different than society at large? Slowly, I lost the love and faith I’d had in the beginning, and I no longer participated so actively when I went to church on Sundays. I didn’t even want to sing. Every week when I went to church, I would either stand outside drinking coffee or take a quick nap in the pews. When the sermon was over, I’d hand over a donation and head out, and I would always leave with a feeling of grief and helplessness in my heart.
One Sunday in August of 2016, I met Sister Li Min in a park. She had come from America and had been the classmate of sisters Gao Xiaoying and Liu Fang. We all believed in the Lord, and got to chatting while sitting on the grass. We talked and talked and got on to the topic of the situation in the church, and I told them everything I had seen in the church. After I’d finished talking, Sister Li Min nodded thoughtfully and said, “Nowadays, not only has your church become this way, but the whole religious world has lost the work of the Holy Spirit, and it has fallen into darkness and desolation. The Lord Jesus once prophesied: ‘And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold’ (Matthew 24:12). We are now at the end of the last days, and lawlessness is growing ever more rampant in religion. The pastors and elders don’t abide by the Lord’s commandments, they don’t practice the way of the Lord, and they think it is not a big deal to live in sin like that. We all know that the flourishing of the church is the result achieved by the work of the Holy Spirit. Today, God has already performed new work, and the work of the Holy Spirit has shifted to a group of people who accept and obey God’s new work. The pastors and elders in religion don’t lead believers to seek and investigate God’s work of the last days, but instead they resist and condemn God’s new work by disseminating all kinds of rumors and fallacies to stop people from turning to God. They meet with God’s hatred and rejection, and so the entire religious world is without God’s blessing, has completely lost the work of the Holy Spirit, and has been cast aside and eliminated by the Lord. The church therefore becomes more and more desolate and darkened. It is just like the time when the Lord Jesus incarnated to perform His work. The work of the Lord Jesus began the Age of Grace and put an end to the Age of Law. Because those who followed the Lord Jesus accepted and obeyed the new work of God, they then gained the work of the Holy Spirit, whereas the Holy Spirit did not work among those who did not accept the Lord Jesus and who remained in the temple. And so, the temple that once was filled with the glory of God and where believers worshiped God became a place for doing business and a den of thieves. In other words, there are two reasons for the desolation of the church: The first is because the pastors and elders do not adhere to God’s commandments or practice the word of God, and because they constantly commit sins and do evils; the second reason is because God is performing a new work, because the work of the Holy Spirit has shifted, and because people are not keeping up with the footsteps of God. However, God’s will is behind the desolation of the church, and there is a truth to be sought here. Through the desolation of the church, God compels all those who believe in Him with true hearts and who thirst for the truth to leave religion behind, so that they can search for the work of the Holy Spirit, keep up with the footsteps of God, come into the presence of God, and obtain God’s present work and salvation.”
After listening to Sister Li’s fellowship, I nodded and said, “What you say is right. It’s certainly just as you say. I was never able to understand this problem. The church was originally a place for worshiping God, but there is no difference anymore between the church and society at large. Furthermore, there is no new light in what the pastors preach, nor any enjoyment in listening to them, and people all now live in darkness. As it turns out, it’s because we have not kept up with God’s new work, so what must we now do to keep up with God’s new work?” Sister Li said, “The Lord Jesus has long since returned. In the last days, God has incarnated as the Son of man to express the truth under the name of Almighty God, and to perform the stage of the work of judging and purifying mankind. We have to keep up with God’s work in the last days and accept the judgment of God’s word, and only then will we be able to obtain the work of the Holy Spirit.” When I heard that the Lord Jesus had already returned and was performing the work of judgment, I was astonished. I thought: “Isn’t judgment to punish a person after he is declared a sinner? God comes in the last days to judge those who don’t believe in God, and we who believe in the Lord Jesus have already been absolved of our sins and have been graced with salvation. We don’t need to receive God’s judgment, for when the Lord comes He will directly raise us up to the heavenly kingdom. How could He come to judge us?” With that thought, I gave voice to my opinion, at which point Sister Liu Fang said, “Brother, I have already been looking into Almighty God’s work of the last days with Sister Gao for a week. By reading the word of Almighty God, we have recognized it to be the voice of God. Almighty God is indeed the returned Lord Jesus. Read the word of Almighty God, and then you will understand. The reason why the Lord Jesus has returned to perform the work of judgment is because, although we who believe in the Lord have been forgiven of our sins, we are still always living in sin from which we cannot free ourselves. We are incapable of freeing ourselves from the bondage and control of sin, and we really do need God to express the truth to judge and purify us, and to root out our sinful nature and satanic corrupt dispositions. Almighty God’s work of judgment in the last days is a newer and higher work built on the foundation of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus. It completely purifies and saves man through the judgment of the word, and leads people to a wonderful destination.” Afterward, they patiently fellowshiped about many more truths with me. But no matter what they said, I just couldn’t accept that the Lord had returned to judge those who believed in Him. While I was dealing with this inner conflict, I also felt bewildered: Sisters Gao and Liu were very pious believers, and everyone acknowledged their belief and love for the Lord, so how could they believe that the Lord Jesus was returning to judge those of us who believed in Him, and that He would not raise us up directly into the kingdom of heaven? Could it be that there was some mystery or truth in this matter that I did not know?
As I was thinking, Sister Li Min took out a book and said earnestly to me, “Brother, the Lord Jesus said: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3). Don’t jump to conclusions, OK? Let’s first see if the word of Almighty God is the voice of God, and whether it can provide for our lives, and whether it can purify and save us, and then we will know whether Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus or not. I trust that God’s sheep will hear the voice of God, so let’s read God’s word together!” I felt a little reluctant and didn’t answer her. The three sisters were a little saddened to see my attitude. Sister Liu suddenly suggested: “First let’s pray, and then read the word of God.” The three sisters then began to pray, and I had no choice but to follow along with them. Still, as I was praying, I could hardly quiet my heart. Even though I couldn’t hear what the sisters were praying about, I was moved by the way they conducted themselves. Their attitude toward God was so sincere, and they sought God’s will in everything. They hoped that I would investigate God’s work of the last days, and this hope was also born of God’s love. After praying, Sister Li handed me a book and said earnestly to me, “Most of the questions in this book, A Hundred Questions and Answers on Investigating the True Way, are asked among people of all denominations. Related passages have been chosen from the word of God to answer each question. Go ahead and take a look.” I didn’t want to take the book, but seeing how sincerely she had spoken, I looked again at Sister Gao and Sister Liu, and saw how much they hoped I would investigate and seek this. I thought how crucial a matter it was to welcome the coming of the Lord, and that I shouldn’t treat it carelessly. At that, I accepted the book and said, “Alright, I’m willing to accept this book. Let’s not talk any more about it today. I’ll read the book first, and then we’ll talk some more.”
After I went back home, I set the book to one side—my mind was in turmoil. I thought about what Sister Li Min had fellowshiped and it all felt clear and transparent to me. Everything she had said was true, but what I couldn’t understand was why the Lord would perform the work of judgment upon His return? I contemplated it carefully, but still didn’t understand. As for the matter of the Lord’s second coming, however, since I had now heard about it, I couldn’t just blindly make my own decisions about it and sit resigned to my fate. I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the book and develop some discernment. I therefore spent six days reading that book from cover to cover. I saw that Almighty God had made known many, many truths and mysteries that I had never heard of before and I was greatly sustained by reading them. Also, when I read the words of Almighty God, I felt that there were many things that were said in the same tone as that of the Lord Jesus. The words were possessed of authority and power, as if God Himself was speaking. And so, after I finished reading the book, I wanted to better understand what the work of judgment done by Almighty God was all about, and I decided to go find Sister Gao to ask her about it.
On the next day, I went to Sister Gao’s house, and happened to meet some of her friends. They had all accepted the work of Almighty God of the last days and were holding a gathering and fellowshiping with each other. We greeted one another, and Sister Li Min got right to the point by asking me, “Brother, what notions do you still have? What aspect of God’s work of the last days do you want to understand? We can fellowship together.” I said, “You mentioned that the church has become desolate in the last days because the work of the Holy Spirit has moved on. I can accept this, but we who believe in the Lord have already had our sins absolved, and the Lord does not see us as sinners. Why does God still want to perform the work of judgment? Will we be unable to be raised up into the heavenly kingdom if God does not perform this stage of work? When God judges a person, is that person not then condemned? Must we all be punished? How then can we be raised up into the heavenly kingdom?” Sister Li Min said, “As far as most people’s notions are concerned, the people who the returned Lord judges are unbelievers who do not believe in God. They believe that, because God judges someone, that person is then condemned and punished. They believe that those who believe in the Lord have had their sins absolved, and that when the Lord comes, He will raise them directly into the heavenly kingdom, and will certainly not judge them. They therefore refuse to accept God’s work of judgment in the last days. By doing this, they completely misunderstand God’s will and show that they do not know God’s work. Actually, the work of Almighty God in the last days—that of expressing the truth and of judging and purifying man—is performed precisely for the sake of raising believers up to the heavenly kingdom. We all know the Bible says: ‘Judgment must begin at the house of God’ (1 Peter 4:17). This prophecy tells us clearly that God’s work of judgment in the last days begins first in the house of God. That is, it begins with those people who believe in God with true hearts and accept God’s work in the last days. So, we think that believing in the Lord Jesus means that we don’t have to accept God’s judgment, but this view is wrong. In the last days, God uses His words to judge all those who come before His throne, and He purifies and saves these people, and makes a group of people into overcomers before the disasters come. Afterward, when the great disasters come, He will reward the good and punish the evil. This is how God’s work of judgment in the last days proceeds. No one is able to escape from God’s work of judgment in the last days, but to those who accept and obey God’s judgment it is purification, salvation, and perfection. As for those who refuse and resist God’s work of judgment in the last days, although they may hide from the judgment of God’s word, they still cannot escape the judgment of the great disasters in the end. This is a fact! The reason why God wants to judge us in the last days is explained very clearly in the word of Almighty God. Let us read together a passage of God’s words. Almighty God says: ‘You only know that Jesus shall descend during the last days, but how exactly will He descend? A sinner such as you, who has just been redeemed, and has not been changed, or been perfected by God, can you be after God’s heart? For you, you who are still of your old self, it is true that you were saved by Jesus, and that you are not counted as a sinner because of the salvation of God, but this does not prove that you are not sinful, and are not impure. How can you be saintly if you have not been changed? Within, you are beset by impurity, selfish and mean, yet you still wish to descend with Jesus—you should be so lucky! You have missed a step in your belief in God: You have merely been redeemed, but you have not been changed. For you to be after God’s heart, God must personally do the work of changing and cleansing you; if you are only redeemed, you will be incapable of attaining sanctity. In this way you will be unqualified to share in the good blessings of God, for you have missed out a step in God’s work of managing man, which is the key step of changing and perfecting. You, a sinner who has just been redeemed, are therefore incapable of directly inheriting God’s inheritance’ (“Concerning Appellations and Identity” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). We understand from the word of God that by believing in the Lord Jesus we only have our sins forgiven. This does not mean that we do not sin, nor that we are sinless. In reality, we all live in the vicious cycle of sinning and confessing, and we still need God to express His word to judge and cleanse us. Only when we are cleansed will we be qualified to be raised up into the heavenly kingdom. It is recorded in the Bible: ‘You shall be holy; for I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:44). ‘Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). God is holy. Defiled and corrupt people may not see God’s face and are unfit to enter God’s kingdom. The work of redemption done by the Lord Jesus only absolved us of our sins, but it did not absolve us of our corrupt dispositions and sinful nature. Therefore, our satanic corrupt dispositions still remain, such as those of being arrogant and conceited, crooked and crafty, selfish and despicable, evil and greedy, feeling aversion to the truth and enjoying injustice. These corrupt dispositions are precisely the root cause that leads us to sin and to resist God. If they are not resolved, we will often sin, vie with each other for fame and gain, engage in jealous disputes, lie and deceive, exalt ourselves, bear witness to ourselves, and more. Especially when God’s work doesn’t conform to our notions, we still rely on our notions and imaginations to judge, deny, and condemn God, and to resist God’s work. How can people like this who resist God be raised up into the heavenly kingdom? God expresses the truth and does the work of judgment in the last days, and His goal in doing so is to cleanse us of our satanic corrupt dispositions and fulfill our dream of being raised up into the heavenly kingdom. When we accept God’s judgment, break free of our corrupt dispositions, and become purified and transformed, we then become qualified to inherit God’s promise and to be led by God into the kingdom.”
After listening to the sister’s fellowship and to the word of Almighty God, I thought: “When one believes in the Lord, one’s sins are forgiven, but that does not mean that one no longer commits sin. This really is true! Looking at those in the church, from the pastors and elders all the way down to the ordinary members, including myself, everyone is living in a state whereby we sin during the day and confess our sins at night, and we are unable to escape from the bondage and control of sin. It seems that people will certainly be unable to see the face of the Lord without first being judged and purified by the word of God. When one puts it that way, it is absolutely necessary for God to come and perform the work of the judgment and purification of man! I once believed that if one had faith in the Lord Jesus, then one did not have to be judged. I thought that the Lord would come to judge those who did not believe in Him. Now I understand that this notion is not in keeping with God’s will at all, and that it is a misunderstanding.” Just then, Sister Gao played for me a video with singing and dancing from The Church of Almighty God called The Happiness in the Good Land of Canaan: “I’ve returned to God’s family, excited and happy. My hands hold my beloved, my heart belongs to Him. Though I’ve passed through the Vale of Tears, I’ve seen God’s loveliness. My love for God grows day by day, God is the source of my joy. Bewitched by the beauty of God, my heart is attached to Him. I can never love God enough, songs of praise well up in my heart …” (Follow the Lamb and Sing New Songs). The whole song was cheerful and stirring, and it was incredibly inspirational. I saw that the face of every brother and sister in the video was brimming with happiness, and we couldn’t help but join in with singing the hymn. We started dancing along to the music and our hearts filled with joy. I saw that the brothers and sisters who had the provision of God’s word were blessed and joyful. Though they had gone through the judgment and chastisement of God, they still had no worries at all, but instead were liberated, free, joyful, and happy. I thought about how my own faith and enthusiasm in religion had all but disappeared, and all I saw was the desolation and darkness of the church. The brothers and sisters of The Church of Almighty God, on the other hand, were filled with of the work of the Holy Spirit. Light shone from their fellowships about the truth, they praised God with vigor, and they bore witness to God with great excitement and energy. In comparison, they seemed to be living in an entirely different world to me. Right then, I felt like a drifting orphan who had returned home and was enjoying the warmth of his mother’s embrace. I thought: There really is truth to be sought here. I must listen well to the fellowships given by the brothers and sisters about the truth of God’s work of judgment in the last days so that I won’t miss my chance to welcome the Lord’s coming and be raised up into the heavenly kingdom.
Following that, Sister Li read us two more passages from the word of God: “By what means is God’s perfection of man accomplished? It is accomplished by means of His righteous disposition. God’s disposition primarily consists of righteousness, wrath, majesty, judgment, and curse, and He perfects man primarily by means of His judgment. Some people do not understand, and ask why it is that God is only able to make man perfect through judgment and curse. They say, ‘If God were to curse man, wouldn’t man die? If God were to judge man, wouldn’t man be condemned? Then how can he still be made perfect?’ Such are the words of people who do not know the work of God. What God curses is the disobedience of man, and what He judges are the sins of man. Although He speaks harshly and relentlessly, He reveals all that is within man, revealing through these stern words that which is substantive within man, yet through such judgment, He gives man a profound knowledge of the substance of the flesh, and thus man submits before God. The flesh of man is of sin and of Satan, it is disobedient, and it is the object of God’s chastisement. Thus, in order to allow man to know himself, the words of God’s judgment must befall him and there must be employed every kind of refinement; only then can God’s work be effective” (“Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “What the work of judgment brings about is man’s understanding of the true face of God and the truth about his own rebelliousness. The work of judgment allows man to gain much understanding of the will of God, of the purpose of God’s work, and of the mysteries that are incomprehensible to him. It also allows man to recognize and know his corrupt essence and the roots of his corruption, as well as to discover the ugliness of man. These effects are all brought about by the work of judgment, for the essence of this work is actually the work of opening up the truth, the way, and the life of God to all those who have faith in Him” (“Christ Does the Work of Judgment With the Truth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
Sister Li fellowshiped to us, saying, “After we were corrupted by Satan, we all lived under the domain of Satan and became degenerates who resisted God. According to God’s righteous and holy substance, we were all targets for God’s curse and destruction, but it is not God’s will to destroy mankind, but rather it is to save mankind. So, in order to completely save people from the domain of Satan, God expresses His words and performs the work of judging and purifying man in the last days. The work of judgment is actually God using His word to expose people’s rebellious and God-resisting speech, actions, nature, and essence, so that people may come to know their corrupt essence and the truth of their corruption, to recognize God’s disposition of righteousness and holiness, and to achieve self-hatred. Then, people can truly repent and transform, and they can break free of their corrupt satanic dispositions and be gained by God. In this way, people will attain full salvation. Only through the judgment and chastisement of the word of God are we able to see that we are filled with corruption, that at all times and in all places, we display such corrupt dispositions as selfishness, arrogance, deceitfulness, and greed, and that we are filled with notions and imaginings, extravagant desires, and unreasonable demands with respect to God, and that we are without conscience or reason, loyalty or obedience. The more we accept God’s judgment, the more we recognize how deeply corrupted we are and that we indeed have no humanity. We begin to feel disgusted with ourselves, and to hate ourselves in our hearts. The more we accept God’s judgment, the more we see God’s holiness and righteousness, and the more our hearts revere God. We become willing to forsake our fleshly desires and live in accordance with God’s word. Subsequently, a transformation occurs in our perspectives on things and in our corrupt dispositions, and we start to live out some semblance of a genuine human being. We then truly come to appreciate that God’s judgment and chastisement are God’s great love and salvation for us. Without God’s judgment and chastisement, we would all be targets for destruction.”
The sister ended her fellowship here, and I felt very moved by what she’d said and saw how great and true God’s love is. He is the God who loves mankind! It was I who had misunderstood God’s good intention in saving people. I had thought that God judged people to condemn and punish them, and had never thought that God expressing His word and judging man in the last days could be an even truer love, or that it was an even greater salvation for us! Thanks be to Almighty God! Through reading the word of Almighty God and from the sisters’ fellowships, I gained some understanding of God’s work of judgment and my misunderstandings about God were dispelled. I came to the firm belief that Almighty God is none other than the returned Lord Jesus, and I became willing to accept God’s work of judgment. I had fully emerged from the fog of confusion, and my face beamed with a joyous smile. Sister Li said happily, “Thanks be to God for guiding you. All this is the result of God’s word. From this, we can see that, before we have come to understand the truth, though notions about God and God’s work may arise, as long as we seek and accept the truth, and listen to God’s word, then we will understand the truth and have knowledge of God’s work, and our notions and imaginings will be blown away like clouds of smoke. We will then be able to understand God’s will and will no longer misunderstand God.” I nodded happily and thanked God for saving me.
After having accepted God’s work in the last days, I installed a messaging app on my phone so that Sister Gao and the others could often share with me gospel movies, music videos, and hymns from The Church of Almighty God. When I saw the gospel movie from The Church of Almighty God called From the Throne Flows the Water of Life, it had a great impact on me. The desolate situation of the church in the movie was just like the situation in our own church, and the movie showed the root cause of this desolation with perfect clarity. Because God’s work had shifted, and God was no longer working within the religious church, the people who refused to accept Almighty God’s work of the last days were all suffering a famine. Those people who accepted the word of Almighty God attained God’s provision of the water of life and were no longer parched, and they lived a blessed life with God. When I watched the movie Waiting, I couldn’t help but let out a sigh. The old pastor in the movie had believed in the Lord his whole life and thought that his hard work was meritorious. He was just waiting for the Lord to come so he could be raised up into heaven. But he stubbornly clung to the belief that when the Lord came He would descend upon a cloud and would give the revelation to him first. Because of this stubbornness, he resisted and refused to accept God’s work of the last days, so in the end he was left just staring at the sky, waiting for a cloud, and he died filled with regret. This bitter lesson really gave the viewer food for thought! At the same time, I rejoiced in my heart and gave thanks to Almighty God for saving me, a rebellious son who only sought to gain blessings from Him but was reluctant to accept His judgment and purification, and for leading me before His throne to attain His salvation in the last days.
I now live the church life in The Church of Almighty God, and through truly experiencing the judgment and chastisement of the word of God, I have slowly begun to perceive how real and practical it is for God to perform the work of judgment. When God dissected man’s treacherous nature, I felt that because I myself never lied, I therefore refused to acknowledge the actual situation revealed by God’s words. When I encountered a practical situation which God had arranged for me, I involuntarily blurt out lies to protect my own interests and safeguard my vanity. Moreover, I felt treachery and deceit in my heart, and I also had many secrets I did not want openly known. This led me to see that everything revealed by the word of God is the truth and the real situation, and that it is man’s nature and essence. Only then was I truly convinced of God’s word, and I had an urgent desire to seek the truth and to transform my own deceitful nature. After this experience, I came to realize that if it hadn’t been for God’s practical judgment and chastisement, I never would have known my own treacherous nature, and I never would have been able to practice the truth to change my own deceitful disposition. God’s judgment and chastisement were indeed cleansing and saving me, and they are a different kind of love. I want to cherish this special kind of love well and accept the judgment and chastisement of God, and I want to change as soon as may be into a new person so that I may satisfy God.