14. My Pastor Stood Between Me and God’s Kingdom
In November 2020, a brother invited me to join an online gathering. I thought about how I always heard the same old sermons that didn’t provide spiritual sustenance at my church, so maybe a foreign pastor holding a service online would provide more sustenance. I agreed readily. Over a few days of fellowship, I figured the sermons were wonderful, and on things I’d never heard before, with lots of new enlightenment that really nurtured me. I learned that the Lord Jesus has returned, and that He’s expressing truths and doing the last days’ judgment work. He’s come to purify and save mankind so we can completely escape the bonds of sin, become people who truly submit to and worship God, and be brought into God’s kingdom. I was very excited and shared all this with a brother I was distantly related to, but surprisingly, not only did he refuse to listen, he also told my pastor all about the online gatherings I had been attending.
The pastor then sent three church leaders to my house to find out about who had led me to attend these online gatherings, what denomination these gatherings were, and where the preacher was from. I told them, “This isn’t any particular denomination. The Lord Jesus has returned and is doing the judgment work beginning with God’s house. I’ve read lots of Almighty God’s words. He tells us clearly about the root of man’s sinfulness, how to escape the bonds of sin and be cleansed, and the brothers’ and sisters’ fellowship is really enlightening, too.” But the leaders said, “It doesn’t matter how eloquent they are. Any news of the Lord’s return is false, because in the Bible the Lord Jesus says, ‘Then if any man shall say to you, See, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect’ (Matthew 24:23–24). False Christs appear in the last days to mislead people, so any faith claiming the Lord has returned must be false. How could you listen to them?” When they said this, I thought that the Lord Jesus said that so we’d have discernment toward false Christs, not to make us so guarded that we wouldn’t even welcome the Lord’s return. In the online gatherings, Brother Isaac with The Church of Almighty God had shared truths on discerning between the true Christ and false Christs and read some of Almighty God’s words. Almighty God says, “If, during the present day, there is to emerge a person who is able to display signs and wonders, cast out demons, heal the sick, and perform many miracles, and if this person claims that they are Jesus who has come, then this would be a counterfeit produced by evil spirits which imitate Jesus. Remember this! God does not repeat the same work. Jesus’ stage of work has already been completed, and God will never again undertake that stage of work. The work of God is irreconcilable with the notions of man; for example, the Old Testament foretold the coming of a Messiah, and the result of this prophecy was Jesus’ coming. This having already happened, it would be wrong for another Messiah to come again. Jesus has already come once, and it would be wrong if Jesus were to come again this time. There is one name for every age, and each name contains a characterization of that age. In the notions of man, God must always display signs and wonders, must always heal the sick and cast out demons, and must always be just like Jesus. Yet this time, God is not like that at all. If, during the last days, God still displayed signs and wonders, and still cast out demons and healed the sick—if He did exactly the same as Jesus—then God would be repeating the same work, and the work of Jesus would have no significance or value. Thus, God carries out one stage of work in every age. Once each stage of His work has been completed, it is soon imitated by evil spirits, and after Satan begins to follow on the heels of God, God changes to a different method. Once God has completed a stage of His work, it is imitated by evil spirits. You must be clear about this” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Knowing God’s Work Today). Almighty God’s words and Isaac’s fellowship helped me understand that when the Lord Jesus said “There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders,” He was telling us that false Christs mislead people using signs and wonders. So anyone who shows signs and wonders and calls themselves God has to be a false Christ, an evil spirit. For God is always new, never old, and He never repeats His work. When the Lord returns in the last days, He’s not going to do the same work as in the Age of Grace. Almighty God doesn’t show signs and wonders in the last days, but He expresses truths to do the work of judgment beginning with God’s house, to cleanse and save man. Almighty God has expressed so many truths. He is Christ, the Lord Jesus returned. At this thought I countered, saying, “The Lord Jesus told us false Christs would appear in the last days, but that wasn’t to keep us from welcoming the Lord! Just because there are false Christs in the last days, you’re condemning all testimony of the Lord’s coming as false. Isn’t that also denying and condemning the return of the Lord? That’s absurd! Christ is the One who can express the truth and do the work of saving mankind, but false Christs are in essence evil spirits and they cannot express the truth. They just imitate God’s past work and display some simple signs and wonders to fool people. This is the way we can discern false Christs from the true Christ. Wouldn’t doing things your way end up locking the door against the Lord Jesus?” They didn’t know what to say in response to that, so they just threatened me, saying if I kept attending those online gatherings, my family wouldn’t get any help from them in the future. In Vietnam, we ask for our pastors’ prayers for everything, big and small. If someone passes away or there’s some other life event, we always ask the pastors to help. If they don’t come, no brothers or sisters will come help out either. So I was pretty concerned when the leaders said they wouldn’t help out anymore. How would we handle our family affairs? Though I knew the church clergy were wrong, I still felt disturbed because I didn’t understand very much truth. I was also worried about dealing with problems in life without the pastor’s help. But then I thought about how Almighty God’s words really are all the truth, and about how they’re all from God. I felt He likely was the Lord Jesus returned. What if I listened to the leaders, stopped going to the online sermons, and missed out on the Lord’s salvation in the last days? I felt really conflicted and didn’t know what to do. I saw the leaders bearing down on me threateningly, and I knew that if I kept attending the online gatherings and listening to the sermons of The Church of Almighty God, they wouldn’t give up. I figured I could pretend to agree, and then attend again in secret after they left. But they wouldn’t leave it at that. They insisted that I take out my phone and delete the online groups related to The Church of Almighty God, and anyone in contact with it right then and there. I didn’t want to, so I intentionally stalled for time, thinking maybe they’d leave if I kept on not handing over my phone. But then my wife urged me to listen to them, saying they were doing it out of love. I thought about how if they really loved us, they should guide us to investigate God’s work of the last days. Instead, they judged and condemned God’s new work and kept me from reading Almighty God’s words. They were keeping me from welcoming the Lord. Was that love? It was already late in the evening, and they still wouldn’t leave, insisting I hand over my phone. Finally, left with no other option, I gave it to them, and they erased the contact details for all of the groups of brothers and sisters from The Church of Almighty God and blocked all of them. They warned me that if I went against them and kept listening to the online sermons of The Church of Almighty God, they’d kick me out of the church. Hearing that did scare me. If I kept attending those gatherings and something happened in my family, what would we do without the help and support of the clergy? What would our kids do if my wife divorced me? I felt miserable at these thoughts, so I made do with saying, “I’ll stop attending.” Hearing this, one of the leaders smiled and said, “There you go. Just keep attending our church services.”
After leaving the online group, I had no choice but to go back to the old church. Back at church, the pastor was always talking about either grace or offerings, and he’d just randomly pick some verses to talk about. He was always saying the same old things without any new enlightenment. Sometimes when he didn’t know what to say he’d just tell some jokes. It wasn’t remotely beneficial for life, and some believers would even nod off in service. Furthermore, the pastor only prayed for the parishioners who gave more offerings, and ignored the ones who didn’t have much to give. Seeing this made me think of the brothers’ and sisters’ fellowship from online gatherings. They said that the whole religious world is bleak, because God is doing new work, and the Holy Spirit isn’t working in churches from the Age of Grace. Without the Holy Spirit’s work, the pastors’ sermons are just going over the same old things, and can’t provide for people. Thinking over this, I knew in my heart that the church really didn’t have the Holy Spirit’s work. Before, we had always had such enthusiasm in our church services, but now we didn’t want to go to church, even though it was right next to our house. I thought back on how much light the fellowship of the brothers and sisters from The Church of Almighty God contained, and how nurturing it was for me. I’d been listening to the pastor’s sermons all these years, but I still wasn’t clear about truths like God’s management plan for salvation, how He worked in the Ages of Law and Grace, what the fruits of His work were, or how God would judge people in the last days. I just knew I needed faith. Since reading the words of Almighty God, everything became clear to me. Almighty God uncovered all the mysteries of God’s work, and my gatherings with the brothers and sisters helped me understand God’s work more and more. I saw The Church of Almighty God really did have the Holy Spirit’s work, that the words of Almighty God were the truth, and that Almighty God was very likely the Lord Jesus returned. Whenever I thought back on everything I’d gained from the online gatherings, my heart was filled with sweetness and joy. I thought to myself that I clearly knew God had already returned to do new work, and that if I didn’t join those gatherings and read Almighty God’s words, I might miss my chance at salvation. I was dying to join those brothers and sisters for more gatherings, but I couldn’t, because the clergy had erased all their contact information. My spirit was starving, and I felt like I’d lost the most valuable thing on earth. I felt miserable, empty, and in pain. I prayed every single day, asking God to show me a way out.
Thank God, He did hear my prayers. Before long, a sister and a brother from Laos got in touch with me via Facebook. They told me that during those few days we’d been out of touch, they’d been really worried about me, and had been trying to find me. I was really moved and extremely grateful to God. I could feel God’s love, that He really puts His utmost into our salvation, and that He never abandons us! Worried I’d be feeling depressed and weak, they sent me some of Almighty God’s words. One passage really impacted me deeply. Almighty God says, “When God works, cares for a person, and looks upon this person, and when He favors and approves this person, Satan trails closely behind, trying to dupe the person and bring them to harm. If God wishes to gain this person, Satan will do everything in its power to obstruct God, using various evil ploys to tempt, disrupt and impair the work of God, in order to achieve its hidden objective. What is this objective? It does not want God to gain anyone; it wants to snatch possession of those whom God wishes to gain, it wants to control them, to take charge of them so they worship it, so they join it in committing evil acts, and resist God. Is this not Satan’s sinister motive? … In warring with God, and trailing along behind Him, Satan’s objective is to demolish all the work God wants to do, to occupy and control those whom God wants to gain, to completely extinguish those whom God wants to gain. If they are not extinguished, then they come to Satan’s possession, to be used by it—this is its objective” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique IV). The sister fellowshiped, “We could see from God’s words that even though it is people who disrupt us, oppress us, and stand in our way, behind that lie Satan’s manipulations and disruptions. God is working to save us while Satan is using all sorts of people to oppress and block us so that we’ll deny and betray God, and lose God’s salvation of the last days. This is Satan’s sinister intention. This is when we need to stand firm, discern these people and things, and choose our own path of faith. Since we’ve heard God’s voice, we have to follow His footsteps closely. This is the only way to stand firm on the true way.” Her fellowship enlightened me. The leaders didn’t allow me to attend online gatherings and forcibly deleted the group from my phone ostensibly to keep me from being misled, and this appeared to come from a place of love and helpfulness. But in fact, they were disturbing me, standing in my way, keeping me from welcoming the Lord, trying to drag me back into the religious world so I’d totally lose God’s salvation of the last days. The clergy’s obstructions also revealed how paltry my faith was, how weak-kneed I was. I just handed my phone over to the clergy, resulting in my contact with the brothers and sisters being cut off, and in my being forced back to the old church, losing God’s sustenance and living in darkness. If it hadn’t been for the brothers and sisters using every possible means to find me, I nearly would have followed the pastor and given up the true way—how dangerous! I couldn’t give in to Satan again. I resolved to keep reading Almighty God’s words, no matter how the clergy tried to obstruct me. A brother sent me a few testimony videos after that about things like the brothers’ and sisters’ arrests and persecution by the Chinese government, and how they’d stood witness for God through terrible torture. They had true faith! By comparison, I didn’t stand firm and shrunk back at just a little disruption from the clergy. Compared to those brothers and sisters I had such a long way to go. I knew I had to lean on God to get through all of this, and that I had to stand strong no matter how my family rejected me or how the clergy oppressed or obstructed me. I resolved to keep following Almighty God and going online for sermons and gatherings.
The clergy and leaders tried a lot more things after this to keep me from joining online gatherings. They even misled me, saying, “The clergy have been appointed by God, God wants us to watch over His sheep, so we have to take responsibility for you. That’s why we have to stay on top of your online gatherings, and deleting those contacts was for your own good. If we don’t watch over God’s sheep, the Lord will judge us when He returns.” I remembered something a brother fellowshiped in an online gathering about whether the clergy were really appointed by God. He said, “There are words from God to serve as a basis for anyone appointed or used by Him. In the Age of Law, when Jehovah God appointed Moses for the Israelites, He personally told Moses, ‘Certainly I will be with you; and this shall be a token to you, that I have sent you: When you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain’ (Exodus 3:12). In the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus spoke as proof of tasking Peter with shepherding the churches: ‘And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:18–19). ‘Feed My sheep’ (John 21:16). We can see that God personally bears witness to those He appoints and uses. It has God’s words as proof. Without the proof of God’s word, there has to be proof of the Holy Spirit’s work, at the very least. Do the clergy have any proof from God’s words that they were appointed by Him? How about the Holy Spirit’s work?” This gave me a certain confidence. I knew that God never said that He appointed the clergy, and though Paul said “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,” Paul’s words weren’t God’s words, so they can’t be used as a basis. Their claim just didn’t hold water! I’d also recently realized that the clergy and leaders didn’t have the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment in their sermons. They weren’t sharing God’s will or guiding us to put the Lord’s words into practice. They totally lacked the Holy Spirit’s work. Almighty God has expressed so many truths, but they weren’t seeking or accepting any of it. They were still so resistant and condemning of it. This showed that they weren’t appointed by God, but by man. God didn’t acknowledge them at all. In my faith, I had to listen to God’s words and follow Him, not listen to or follow any man. Seeing that I wasn’t responding, the pastor got mad and scolded me: “Anyone wanting to share a gospel has to go through us first. Without our approval, it’s a false way. You can’t listen to it without our permission!” I retorted, “God is the Lord of Creation and He does His own work Himself. He doesn’t need any human’s approval. The Lord Jesus has returned. We listen to God’s voice and follow Him—why would we need your approval?” I was thinking that they really thought themselves higher than God, that they were so arrogant! They were refusing to listen to Almighty God’s words or investigate His work of the last days. They were just passing judgment at their own will like the Pharisees’ attitude toward the Lord Jesus’ work. They didn’t have any reverence for God and didn’t have any love for the truth.
Seeing I wouldn’t listen to them, the clergy and leaders lied to my wife, telling her I’d been led astray onto a false way. She didn’t have any discernment toward their words, so from then on, every time I joined an online gathering she’d get really angry and say we were on two different paths, that she’d divorce me if I kept going to those online gatherings. I was feeling really weak and miserable at that time. I thought, if I compromised and stopped attending gatherings, I’d forever lose God’s salvation. But if I kept on attending, she’d divorce me. Our children were still young, what would happen to them then? In my helplessness, I came before God in prayer, “God, please strengthen my faith. Help me overcome these temptations and lead me along the path in front of me.” Then I remembered something the Lord Jesus said: “He that loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). The Lord’s words showed me that my love for my wife and children surpassed my love for God, and that I wasn’t worthy of following Him. I silently resolved that even if my wife did divorce me, I’d keep following Almighty God. When my wife tried to stand in my way after that, she didn’t have any effect on me.
The pastor later roped in and misled my father-in-law in his attempts to keep me from attending the online gatherings. My father-in-law was a big drinker and didn’t really go to church very often. The pastor told him that after believing in Almighty God, they’ll break your legs if you try to leave the church. Hearing these rumors from her dad, my wife came home and started arguing with me again. I told her, “There is no factual basis for what the clergy has said. No one in the whole world has had their legs broken for not accepting Almighty God’s work of the last days. These are rumors started by the Chinese Communist government, which opposes and oppresses God. A pastor once told me that another pastor was bringing some Bibles back from the US, and the police confiscated them at the Chinese border. The CCP doesn’t allow faith in God. Now that the Lord Jesus has returned and He’s appeared and been working in China, they’re hounding and persecuting believers of Almighty God. How can you believe anything such an anti-God, atheistic government says? Recently I’ve been attending online gatherings and reading lots of Almighty God’s words, which are all the truth, are rich and plentiful, and reveal the mysteries of God’s management plan, plus man’s sinful nature so we can know ourselves. The more I read these words, the more enlightened I feel and the more I feel that they are God’s voice. I am certain that Almighty God is the Lord Jesus returned. The Lord Jesus has returned, and we need to keep up with God’s footsteps. Why would I go back to the old church?” My wife didn’t have anything more to say to that, but as soon as she attended the services and listened to the pastor’s rumors and fallacies, she’d argue with me when she got home. Before I’d always thought of the clergy as people who loved God and had love for us, too, but since they found out about me seeking God’s new work, they’d been doing everything they could to stand in my way, using all sorts of despicable methods to disturb me, just trying to drag me back into their religion. I finally saw clearly their true faces of resisting God and harming people. I remembered the Lord Jesus’ words cursing the Pharisees: “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). “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). The Pharisees seduced people into the religion to have them controlled within their grasp, and when the Lord Jesus came to work, they saw clearly how powerful and authoritative His work and words were, but they didn’t seek the truth at all. They prioritized name, gains and status, and were afraid their status and livings would be endangered if people followed the Lord Jesus. So they spread rumors smearing and condemning the Lord Jesus to mislead believers and keep them from following the Lord. In the end, plenty of believers were led astray by them and followed them in having the Lord Jesus crucified. They were cursed and punished by God. Aren’t the actions and conduct of today’s pastors exactly the same as those Pharisees? They’re also trapping believers in their churches, keeping them under their control, not letting them hear God’s voice and welcome the Lord. It’s so malicious! It reminded me of a passage of Almighty God’s words I read in an online gathering. “There are those who read the Bible in grand churches and recite it all day long, yet not one among them understands the purpose of God’s work. Not one among them is able to know God; still less can any one among them accord with God’s will. They are all worthless, vile people, each standing on high to lecture God. They willfully oppose God even as they carry His banner. Claiming faith in God, still they eat the flesh and drink the blood of man. All such people are devils that devour the soul of man, head demons that deliberately get in the way of those trying to step onto the right path, and stumbling blocks impeding those who seek God. They may appear of ‘sound constitution,’ but how are their followers to know that they are none other than antichrists who lead people to stand against God? How are their followers to know that they are living devils dedicated to the devouring of human souls?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. All People Who Do Not Know God Are People Who Oppose God). God’s words show the clergy’s true, God-resisting faces. God has come in the last days to save mankind, and not only do the clergy refuse to seek and investigate, but they even resist and condemn Him, spreading rumors and lies, sealing off the churches, keeping believers from seeking or looking into the true way. They’re not welcoming the Lord and they’re blocking us from accepting God’s salvation, ruining our chances of entering the kingdom of heaven. They’re truly the demons revealed in God’s words who eat man’s flesh and drink man’s blood, the devils disrupting people from walking upon the true way. The clergy kicked me out of the church because I wouldn’t follow them. The religious leaders told me that they wouldn’t help me if I ran into any problems. When they said this I saw their true, hypocritical faces more clearly. Those clergy don’t love the truth or recognize God’s voice. They’re not God’s sheep. Following them in my faith would be the blind leading the blind, and we’d all be ruined. I feel so fortunate that I could be freed from those false shepherds and follow God’s footsteps.
I read more of Almighty God’s words in the days that followed and heard more testimonials from the brothers and sisters of The Church of Almighty God. I felt so spiritually sustained and edified, and I understood more than ever before in my 10 years of faith. I felt that being born in the last days and being able to welcome the Lord’s return was such a tremendous grace from God! I wanted to share this great and wonderful news with more people who hadn’t come before God yet, but the clergy and leaders warned me not to share the gospel with other church members, or they’d report me to the authorities and have me arrested. I said, “Aren’t you afraid of resisting God?” To my surprise, one of the leaders, Asher, responded coldly, “If this really is God’s work of the last days, then we’ll be the Pharisees this time and let God punish us for generations.” With the clergy and leaders actually being able to say this kind of thing, aren’t they deliberately going against God and offending His disposition? Their arrogance and total lack of fear for God showed me even more clearly how they hate the truth and how they are enemies of God by the essence of their nature. By resisting God that way, ultimately they’ll be punished by God just like the Pharisees!
I gained really clear discernment of the clergy after that. They couldn’t disturb or obstruct me anymore, and I was more determined to follow Almighty God. Now I’ve taken on a duty in The Church of Almighty God. My wife got curious when she saw how firm I was in my faith and started looking into it on her own. She also recognized the voice of God and accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days after reading His words, and now she’s spreading the gospel and testifying about God. I’m grateful for Almighty God’s salvation and I want to put my all into doing my duty and repaying God’s love.