17. A Taste of Being an Honest Person
By Yongsui, South Korea
One day in a gathering in late March, a leader talked about a brother that had been arrested and brutally tortured. In a moment of extreme weakness, he’d sold out two other church members—he’d betrayed God. He was filled with regret, and by reading God’s words of judgment and revelation, he saw the root of his failure and genuinely repented. The leader asked us what we thought of that experience and if it counted as true testimony. He also asked all of us to share our thoughts. This made me really nervous and I started to speculate: Why did he want us to discuss this? Was it to test whether we saw the problem correctly? I thought, “That brother sold out the others just because of a moment of weakness. That was a transgression. But he did learn about himself and truly repent, so his experience should count as testimony.” But, then I thought, unsure, “I’ll see what the others have to say first so I don’t mess up or say something too vague and make myself look bad.” The others started chiming in with their thoughts. To begin with, a sister said something pretty close to what I thought, so I felt validated. But right after that, another sister said that brother had been a Judas, betraying God, so that wasn’t a kind of testimony that could bear witness for God. Then a few others said very confidently that his experience didn’t count as testimony. Seeing so many people echo that view and back it up made me waver, and I didn’t know what to think. Just then, the leader said, “If you think this isn’t testimony, raise your hand.” Quite a few people put their hands up, but I wasn’t sure, so I kept mine down. I was thinking, “I can’t raise my hand at the wrong time. Wouldn’t that show that I’m lacking in caliber and understanding?” As I was thinking this, the leader asked me, “Why didn’t you raise your hand?” I thought to myself, “Oh no, why is he asking me? Should I have raised my hand?” I shot my hand up into the air. My heart started racing—I started to feel uneasy. Was it right to raise my hand, or not? I did feel in my heart that it could serve as testimony, but I’d raised my hand without really thinking it through. I figured I’d already put my hand in the air, so I started listening to everyone else’s ideas expectantly. They were all sharing what they thought, so I started to consider it calmly. That brother had truly repented, so his testimony should stand. I felt that I probably shouldn’t have raised my hand. I did want to share what I really thought at that time, but then I figured that I didn’t have a complete understanding, so it would be fine if I was right. But otherwise, what would the leader think of me? Would he say I didn’t have caliber or any depth in my experience? If the leader saw this in me, he’d think I wasn’t worth training, and I wouldn’t have any future in God’s house. Plus there were lots of brothers and sisters there, so it would be really embarrassing to get it wrong. I went back and forth and wanted to say something plenty of times, but in the end I stayed silent.
After that, the leader fellowshiped that it absolutely did stand as testimony, and that betraying God in a moment of weakness, then experiencing judgment and chastisement, and truly repenting was great testimony. It was motivating for many others and showed God bestows great mercy upon those with true faith. God knows how corrupt we are, so as long as we feel true regret and turn back to Him, He’ll give us the chance to repent, and that kind of testimony glorifies God and shames Satan most of all. The leader went on to explain that our understanding was impure and said we were deceitful and dishonest, that we didn’t base our views on God’s words. Seeing we were supposed to discuss the issue, we guessed there was something wrong with that brother’s experience. We tried to guess what the leader was thinking and didn’t say a single honest word. The leader patiently fellowshiped with us that we have to think for ourselves and have our own views in everything and that we should tell the truth, whether we’re right or not. That’s the bottom line. Hearing those words “bottom line” made me really uncomfortable. I thought, “He’s right. Sharing my true thoughts, even if I’m wrong, is better than following the crowd. At least it would be my own perspective, and I’d be being honest.” I hated myself for not saying what I really thought. In just ten short minutes when I should have shared my stance, I’d been deceitful and hadn’t practiced the truth, not even meeting the bottom line for human conduct. I not only said the wrong thing and did the wrong thing, but I’d failed to conduct myself properly.
In my devotionals after the gathering, I read this in God’s words: “In their faith in God and the way they conduct themselves, people must take the right path; do not use crooked, evil ways and means. What are crooked, evil ways and means? They are faith in God that is always based on petty cleverness, and smoke and mirrors, and cheap tricks; they are trying to conceal your corruption, and concealing such problems as your shortcomings, faults, and poor caliber. They are always handling things using satanic philosophies, trying to curry favor with God and the church leaders in overt matters, but not practicing the truth, not handling things according to principle, and constantly paying close attention to people in order to toady up to them; they are asking, ‘How have I done recently? Do you all support me? Does God know about the good things I’ve done? And if He does know, will He praise me? What is my place in God’s heart? Do I carry any weight with God?’ What they are really asking is whether they can be blessed in their belief in God. Are constant ruminations of such things not crooked, evil ways and means? This is not the right path. So, what is the right path? The right path is when people pursue the truth in their faith, when they are able to gain the truth, and achieve changes in their disposition” (“Six Indicators of Life Growth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). This is God reminding and warning us to take the right path in our conduct and as believers. We have to pursue and practice the truth. If we don’t put effort into doing these positive things, if we’re preoccupied with covering up our flaws, showing off, getting in good with the leaders, having a position in the church, and we’re too concerned with what God and the leaders really think of us, this is walking the path of evil. I saw what I was doing was exactly what God revealed. I wasn’t sure whether that brother’s experience was true testimony or not, but I didn’t speak from the heart. Instead I read the room, played my cards, and calculated what others might be thinking. When the leader asked me why I hadn’t raised my hand, I thought that had to be the wrong move, and when most people thought that brother’s experience didn’t stand as testimony, I rushed to follow the crowd. I was being petty, seeing which way the wind blew. I showed nothing but a deceitful satanic disposition. I wondered why it had been so hard to make a single true statement. I was afraid of embarrassing myself by saying the wrong thing, that the leader would think less of me and wouldn’t value or train me, and that I might be dismissed from my duty if something like that kept happening. I just wanted to protect my own prestige and keep my position, to conceal my poor caliber and do my best to make a good show. I wanted to act like someone of high caliber who understood the truth and had good insight into things. I always wanted to have the right answer for any question that matched up with the leader’s thinking so he’d think better of me and I’d make a good impression. Then brothers and sisters would approve of me and look up to me, too. I saw the deceit and machinations in my approach. I couldn’t be direct even about something so simple. I could hardly say a single honest, heartfelt word. I was always craftily reading the room to keep my position in God’s house. I was taking the path of evil, not the right path. I became aware of all this but didn’t do any deeper introspection.
Then three months later, I listened to this fellowship from God. God says: “Antichrists engage with Christ in the same way they treat people, taking cues from Christ in everything they say and do, listening to His tone, and listening out for the meaning in His words. When they speak, not one word of it is real or sincere; they know only to speak empty words and doctrine. They try to deceive and cheat this person who, in their eyes, is just an ordinary person. They talk as a snake slithers, the course sinuous and indirect. The manner and direction of their words is like a melon vine climbing its way up a pole. When You say someone is of good caliber and could be promoted, they immediately talk about how good they are, and what is manifested and revealed in them; and if You say someone is bad, they are quick to talk about how bad and evil they are, about how they cause disturbances and interruptions in the church. When You wish to learn the truth about something, they have nothing to say; they prevaricate, waiting for You to make a decision, listening out for the meaning in Your words, trying to figure out Your intentions. Everything they say is flattery, brownnosing, and obsequiousness; not a word of truth comes out of their mouths” (“For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (20)” in Records of Christ’s Talks). These words from God cut me to the quick. All those times I’d been dishonest and had tailored my actions to what others wanted came to mind. Though I didn’t have direct contact with Christ, I wouldn’t accept God’s scrutiny in the environment He’d set up. I just wanted to show off and get the leader to like me, so I measured my words and said what he wanted to hear without being remotely honest. It was all smoke and mirrors. The way I spoke and acted was just like a snake, and it was disgusting to God. I thought playing it by ear that way could fool the leader, and I figured I’d give him a good impression by looking good when I answered the question, then I’d secure my position and future in God’s house. That was incredibly foolish of me, and in fact I was trying to fool God. I didn’t actually believe that God scrutinizes everything. My caliber, stature, and thoughts, and my attitude and perspectives in every situation—He sees all those things with absolute clarity. Even if I could hoodwink the people around me, I could never hoodwink God. In fact, God doesn’t look at what I say or do in front of others, but how I approach the truth. He looks at what I practice and live out every day, and how I behave in my duty. God especially scrutinizes every tiny thing like this. He looks at whether I love and practice the truth, and that false front of mine couldn’t fool Him at all. Then I finally realized that I wasn’t just being devious, but I was denying God’s righteousness and the fact He observes all things. I was acting like a nonbeliever. When I heard God’s analysis of antichrists scorning Christ and fawning over Him, I didn’t think it had much to do with me. I’d never personally encountered Christ, so I thought I wouldn’t show that kind of satanic disposition. Then I finally realized I was wrong, that you don’t have to come into contact with Christ to reveal that satanic disposition. I tried to curry favor and score points with the leader, and I was willing to do things like that to keep my position in God’s house. I was showing exactly that satanic disposition. If I ever did come face-to-face with Christ, that would surely become even more pronounced. I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from trying to fool and oppose God.
For a few days, I kept thinking about how even though we’d given the wrong answer, the leader hadn’t pruned and dealt with us as I’d thought, and he didn’t say that our caliber was lacking, dismiss us, or refuse to train us. He just asked us to share our thoughts so he’d understand our shortcomings before fellowshiping on the truth and giving us guidance on the principles. He also exposed our corrupt dispositions and told us to reflect on ourselves. Everything he did was to help and support us. There’s no need to speculate in God’s house, and with brothers and sisters. That made me think of God’s words: “In essence, God is faithful, and so His words can always be trusted; His actions, furthermore, are faultless and unquestionable, which is why God likes those who are absolutely honest with Him” (“Three Admonitions” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words and deeds are most deserving of our trust, and He treats us with sincerity. When God created man, He told them which fruit they could and couldn’t eat in the garden. He spoke simply and directly—no guesswork was needed. In the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you” all the time. And in this stage of God’s work, we can feel how honest and real Almighty God’s words are. For the most part, they’re deeply heartfelt words that are warm and kind, and even though the parts exposing our corrupt dispositions seem harsh, they’re all based in reality, and they’re all to purify and save us. God is sincere and transparent with us. There’s no pretense whatsoever. But I was calculating and scheming in that situation without a shred of honesty. I felt that I really was way too deceitful and despicable.
Then I remembered some words from God. “I take pleasure in those who are not suspicious of others, and I like those who readily accept the truth; toward these two kinds of people I show great care, for in My eyes they are honest people. If you are deceitful, then you will be guarded and suspicious toward all people and matters, and thus your faith in Me will be built upon a foundation of suspicion. I could never acknowledge such faith” (“How to Know the God on Earth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I never understood before why God said that someone who isn’t suspicious of others and readily accepts the truth is honest in God’s eyes. But now, pondering His words, I began to understand. Honest people don’t harbor suspicions toward God or man; they’re innocent. They don’t try to figure things out with their human brain, but instead they come before God to seek the truth. They accept and practice what they can understand and they do what God says. They approach the truth with an honest heart, and that kind of heart is so precious. This is what it means to be childlike. God blesses them, the Holy Spirit works in them, and guides and enlightens them. They then understand and gain the truth more easily. But, even if someone can say some true things and perform their duty a bit, if they’re like a maze inside, always suspicious and on their guard, and even suspicious about lovely, kind God, then they’re the most deceitful, dishonest type of person. At that point I began to understand why God says deceitful people can’t be saved. Part of it is that God is so genuine, He hates deceitful people and does not save them. Another part has to do with our subjective pursuit. Deceitful people are too complicated. They’re always guessing, analyzing, and guarding against people, things, and God. They also really know how to read people. Their thoughts are overtaken with these things and they don’t seek the truth at all. The Holy Spirit can’t do any work in them. That’s why they’ll never understand the truth. Just as God says, “God does not perfect those who are deceitful. If your heart is not honest—if you are not an honest person—then you will never be gained by God. Likewise, you will never gain the truth, and will also be incapable of gaining God” (“Six Indicators of Life Growth” in Records of Christ’s Talks). So at that point I took another hard look at myself. Faced with an issue, I didn’t come before God to seek the truth with an honest heart, but instead was obsessed with gauging others’ tones. I was like that a lot even in normal discussions with brothers and sisters. Sometimes I didn’t completely understand something, but I’d just go along with whatever understanding most of the others had. Sometimes I had my own opinion, but I was afraid of saying the wrong thing, so I’d hold back and listen to everyone else first and only speak up if I knew I was right. Otherwise, I figured I didn’t need to say anything so I wouldn’t lose face. I saw how deceitful and indirect I was. I just followed the herd when I didn’t understand something and watched and went along with what the others did. That kept me from really understanding the truth. But there’s nothing scary about lacking caliber or not knowing the truth. What’s scary is when people are always covering for what they don’t understand. Then they’ll never be able to understand the truth. I felt it was dangerous to go on that way and that being honest is critical.
I started to seek how to be honest when I faced things in the future, and what principles I should stick to. I read a couple passages of God’s words Almighty God says: “To be openhearted with God, you must first put aside your personal desires. Instead of focusing on how God treats you, say what is in your heart, and do not ponder or consider what the consequences of your words will be; say whatever you are thinking, put aside your motivations, and do not try and use words to achieve some objective. ‘I should say this, not that, I must be careful about what I say, I have to achieve my objective’—are there personal motivations involved here? In their minds, these people have gone round in circles before the words have even been spoken, they have processed what they were going to say many times, and filtered it many times in their head. Upon coming out of their mouths, these words carry the deceitful schemes of Satan; this is not an openhearted way of acting toward God” (“For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (20)” in Records of Christ’s Talks). “In all matters, you should be open to God and you should be openhearted—this is the only condition and state that should be maintained before God. Even when you are not open, you are open before God. God knows, whether you are open or not. Are you not foolish if you cannot see that? So how can you be wise? You know that God scrutinizes and knows everything, so do not think He might not know; since it is certain that God secretly sees people’s minds, people would be wise to be a little more openhearted, a little more pure, and be honest—that is the smart thing to do. … When people start paying attention to form, when it gets put through their brain, when they give it some thought, this becomes a troublesome matter. In their minds they always think, ‘What can I say to make God think highly of me, and not know what I am thinking inside? What is the right thing to say? I must keep more to myself, I must be a little more tactful, I must have a method; maybe then God will think highly of me.’ Do you think God will not know if you are always thinking like that? God knows whatever you think. It is exhausting to think like that. It is so much simpler to speak honestly and truly, and it makes your life easier. God will say that you are honest and pure, that you are openhearted—and that is infinitely precious. If you have an open heart and an honest attitude, then even if there are times when you go too far, and act foolishly, to God this is not a transgression; it is better than your petty tricks, and better than your constant pondering and processing” (“For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (9)” in Records of Christ’s Talks). It says in God’s words that what’s most important and most fundamental in how we approach God and the situations He sets up is being openhearted. We have to lay our hearts bare to God without concealment or camouflage, without trying to study or process things. We shouldn’t harbor motives behind our words or employ any tactics, but just share our thoughts with a spirit of truthfulness. I need to acknowledge I don’t understand things that I can’t fathom and then come before God to seek the truth with an innocent, honest heart. That’s being wise. God sees all and knows us like the back of His hand. My caliber, how much truth I understand, the depth of my experience, and whether I understand something are things God knows well. I’m laid bare before God. What need is there to cover up my faults and pretend to understand everything? Actually, always being calculating, observing others and guessing at what they thought and wracking my brains over what to say was exhausting both mentally and emotionally, and God hated it. That was when I finally saw how important it is to be innocent and candid from the heart. God treasures that, and it’s also a freer and more relaxing way to live. I also saw that God doesn’t just look at people’s caliber or at whether their opinions are right. He looks at our hearts, our attitude toward the truth, and what dispositions we express along the way. Even if we’re wrong sometimes, if we’re open and honest, God won’t care if we’re foolish or lacking in caliber, and He won’t condemn us for it. On the contrary, always being deceitful is what God finds disgusting and hateful. At that point I resolved that I would practice the truth and be an honest person. By being open to God in the environment He creates, being candid in dealings with others, speaking from the heart and opening up about what I understand, I can slowly resolve my hypocritical, deceitful corrupt disposition.
I remember one time when we approached the leader about a church hymn that had a couple of lines that seemed hollow to us. He didn’t say anything about those lines, but he said the hymn didn’t have value, that it was no good. The word “Yeah” just fell out of my mouth. I realized right away I was being deceitful again. I hadn’t seen the problems he saw in it. I was being a yes-man, pretending I understood. I hated how a lie popped out the moment I opened my mouth and I didn’t want to bluff my way through this. If I didn’t understand it, then I didn’t understand it. I thought of God’s words: “To be honest is to be pure in your actions and words….” (“The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person” in Records of Christ’s Talks). I knew I had to amend the lie I’d just told, and be honest. I told the leader, “I thought there was a problem with two of the lines. I didn’t realize it was unsalvageable.” He patiently fellowshiped with us on the problems in the hymn and this opened my eyes a bit about the song. I felt a sense of peace. The truth is, there’s no need to package our words, actions, or views, but we can just be honest people who are practical and realistic. I started practicing honesty when brothers and sisters on my team were discussing issues. Whether I was right or wrong, I just shared my real opinion. I was frank about anything I didn’t understand and I corrected my errors. That brought me a lot of peace. I’m not anywhere near the standard of a true honest person yet, but I’ve really felt the importance of being honest and I know that’s the only way to be saved by God. I really aspire to become an honest person and I want to keep striving for that, to pursue that. Thanks be to God!