22. Not Fearing God Is a Dangerous Path
Starting last year, I took on responsibility for watering work in the church. One time in a meeting, Brother William, the gospel work supervisor, gave me some feedback, saying lately quite a few new believers were skipping gatherings, and that we had issues in watering that needed to be reviewed and turned around as soon as possible. I was able to accept his feedback at first. I discussed the problems with the brothers and sisters and tried my best to make the necessary changes and turn things around, but every month newcomers were still leaving groups for various reasons. William told me again that I wasn’t being responsible in my duty and that I hadn’t resolved the watering work issues. I was thinking, “I’ve done my best to fix them and have done what I was supposed to, so why are you focusing on me? Isn’t this just nitpicking? Besides, there were plenty of reasons for new believers skipping gatherings. Some still had religious notions that hadn’t been resolved, which meant that you hadn’t clearly fellowshiped the truth when spreading the gospel, so why aren’t you reflecting on your own issues? If you’d fellowshiped well, fewer of the newcomers would have left the groups.” So, I developed a grudge against William and disregarded his suggestion. I was surprised when some brothers and sisters who spread the gospel later reported these problems to an upper leader. I didn’t self-reflect when I heard this news, but I was afraid that after the leader heard the report of the situation, he’d think I wasn’t doing practical work, and that I was a false leader. If I was dismissed, it would be so embarrassing. Weren’t they tattling on me to the leader? I got angrier the more I thought about it and resented them even more. When they gave me suggestions again later, I felt like they were just stirring up trouble and paid them no mind.
Once, in a gathering, a watering deacon had a certain opinion about the brothers and sisters who spread the gospel, saying that they hadn’t resolved newcomers’ religious notions, and that that was irresponsible. If their fellowship had been clear, new believers would be attending gatherings. This was exactly how I felt, so I responded immediately, “Yeah, those newcomers are handed over to us for watering while they still have religious notions. How can we water them successfully?” Following my lead, all the waterers started speaking up on one thing after another. I felt a little unsettled, wondering if what I was doing was passing the buck and judging others behind their backs. But then I figured, what I had said was factual. I didn’t put much more thought into it. One time when I was discussing work with a watering deacon, he suddenly said, “I have to leave, because Brother Jackson wants me to resolve the religious notions of a person investigating the true way together with him.” I was thinking the brothers and sisters who spread the gospel were always saying we had problems, so why did they need our help even with something like resolving religious notions? So I said, “He can’t handle it himself? Why does he need your involvement in everything? You have your own work. If he can’t do that on his own, that means he’s incompetent.” My heart pounded after saying that: Why had I said that? Jackson wanted help with sharing the gospel so it would be effective. That was normal. I was instigating problems between them. Wasn’t that disrupting the work of the church? At this thought, I quickly corrected myself and said, “Go right ahead.” Thinking about it after the fact, I felt kind of scared, so I prayed to God, asking Him to enlighten me to know myself.
I read some words of God in a gathering the next day: “How does God scrutinize people’s hearts? He does not look only with His eyes; He sets environments for you, touching your heart with His hands. And why do I say this? Because when God sets an environment for you, He looks at whether you feel aversion and revulsion, or joy and obedience; He looks to see if you wait passively, or take the initiative to seek the truth; God looks at how your heart and thoughts change, and what direction they are growing in. Sometimes the state within you is positive, sometimes it is negative. If you are able to accept the truth, then, deep down, you will accept from God the people, events, things, and various situations that He arranges for you, and face them correctly. Through reading God’s words, and through mental reflection, your every thought, idea and mood will change with the words of God—which will all be clear to you, and watched by God. You have not told anyone these things, or prayed about them. You only thought about them in your heart, in your own world—but God knows them well, and they are as clear as day to Him” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Often Living Before God Can One Have a Normal Relationship With Him). From God’s word I understood that God uses the situations He sets up to observe our hearts, to see if we’re annoyed and resistant when things happen, or if we seek and practice the truth. If we’re always averse and resistant to things God arranges and rely on a corrupt disposition in our actions, we’ll commit more and more transgressions and eventually be spurned and cast out by God. Thinking back on recent events, every time those brothers and sisters who spread the gospel made suggestions, I was obsessed with right and wrong, and was critical of them and their actions. I didn’t seek the truth at all and even developed grudges against them. I was judgmental behind their backs together with other brothers and sisters. Is that how a believer acts? In my conduct and actions, I was undermining and disturbing the work of the church, which is doing evil. This realization scared me, so I said a silent prayer: “God, I’ve been judging the brothers and sisters behind their backs, creating schisms. I have resisted You. I am ready to self-reflect. Please guide me.”
Later, I read God’s words: “Those who believe in God should do things cautiously and prudently, and all that they do should be in accordance with God’s requirements and able to satisfy His heart. They should not be headstrong, doing whatever they please; that does not befit saintly propriety. People must not run amok, waving the flag of God all over the place while swaggering and swindling everywhere; this is the most rebellious sort of conduct. Families have their rules, and nations have their laws—and isn’t it even more so in the house of God? Does it not all the more have strict standards? Does it not all the more have administrative decrees? People are free to do what they want, but the administrative decrees of God cannot be altered at will. God is a God who does not tolerate offense from humans; He is a God who puts people to death. Do people really not know this already?” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth). “People who practice the truth will, in the end, be saved and made perfect because of the truth. Those who do not practice the truth will, in the end, bring destruction upon themselves because of the truth. These are the ends that await those who practice the truth and those who do not. I advise those who are not planning on practicing the truth to leave the church as soon as possible to avoid committing even more sins. When the time comes, it will be too late for regret. In particular, those who form cliques and create schisms, and those local bullies within the church, must leave even sooner. Such people, who have the nature of evil wolves, are incapable of change. It would be better if they left the church at the earliest opportunity, never again to disturb the normal life of the brothers and sisters, and thereby avoid God’s punishment” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth). “I exhort you to get a better understanding of the content of the administrative decrees, and to make an effort to know the disposition of God. If not, you will find it difficult to keep your lips sealed, your tongues will wag too freely with high-sounding talk, and you will unwittingly offend the disposition of God and fall into the darkness, losing the presence of the Holy Spirit and the light. Because you are unprincipled in your actions, because you do and say that which you should not, you shall receive a fitting retribution. You should know that though you are unprincipled in word and deed, God is highly principled in both. The reason you receive retribution is because you have offended God, not a person. If, in your life, you commit many offenses against the disposition of God, then you are bound to become a child of hell. To man it may appear that you have only committed a few deeds that are at odds with the truth, and nothing more. Are you aware, however, that in the eyes of God you are already someone for whom there is no more sin offering? Because you have violated the administrative decrees of God more than once and have, moreover, shown no sign of repentance, there is no other recourse but for you to plunge into hell, where God punishes man. … If in your actions you do not offend the disposition of God, and seek the will of God, and have a heart of reverence toward God, then your faith is up to the standard. Whoever does not revere God and does not have a heart that trembles in fear is highly likely to violate the administrative decrees of God” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Three Admonitions). Reading God’s words left me feeling distressed and afraid. God’s disposition tolerates no offense. There are administrative decrees and requirements from God within God’s house. Speaking and acting without fear for God, just like an unbeliever, judging and attacking others, always forming cliques to drive people apart, and disturbing the work of the church is being Satan’s helper. God will never tolerate someone like that staying within the church. They are completely lacking in humanity and don’t safeguard the work of the church, so they’re bound to eventually be cast out and punished by God for doing too much evil. Thinking back on recent events, when William pointed out some problems in my duty, that was from God, and it was beneficial to the work. But I didn’t reflect on myself or resolve these problems in a timely way, and was critical and judgmental instead, thinking that he was deliberately finding fault, so I got annoyed with him. After I found out some brothers and sisters who spread the gospel had told upper leadership about issues, I still didn’t try to repent whatsoever, and thought they were snitching on me, making me really biased against them. In a gathering, when a watering deacon expressed discontent with the brothers and sisters who spread the gospel, instead of fellowshiping the truth to help him reflect on his own issues, I fanned the flames, using that as a chance to win over brothers and sisters to judge them, and I put all the responsibility for newcomers’ poor attendance on them. This led to the waterers becoming biased against them, following my example to complain about them and criticize them. When Jackson wanted a watering brother’s help with sharing the gospel, I jumped at the chance to undermine the brothers and sisters who spread the gospel and deride them without safeguarding the interests of the church whatsoever. I saw that I didn’t have any reverence for God. Not only was I not accepting the truth, I was also provoking trouble, being judgmental, and undermining people to protect my own name and status. I was forming a faction, doing evil and resisting God! In fact, the brothers and sisters who spread the gospel gave me repeated reminders to help me see issues and resolve them quickly so newcomers could attend gatherings normally. That was safeguarding the work of the church. But I didn’t accept recommendations at all, and only cared about protecting my status and image. I didn’t resolve real problems, which led to problems being left unresolved and many newcomers not attending gatherings. My actions and conduct meant I should have been dismissed. I was filled with remorse when I realized this. Inwardly, I prayed to God, determined to truly repent.
In a gathering later, I opened up and fellowshiped about my recent behavior of being critical, judgmental, and undermining people behind their backs, to help the brothers and sisters guard against these things as well. They also started to become aware that during that time they had been living by a corrupt disposition and judging people behind their backs, and how not cooperating with the brothers and sisters who spread the gospel held up the watering work. They were ready to change their incorrect states. I felt even guiltier when I heard their fellowship. As a leader, I had seen lots of newcomers not attending gatherings and even some dropping out. I not only didn’t lead the others in reflection, reviewing where we were going wrong, and seeking resolution with the truth, but I took the lead in criticizing others, shifting responsibility, and forming a clique within the church. Not only was I doing evil and resisting God, I was even guiding others to go against God. I was truly unworthy of being a leader!
Afterward, I was wondering why I was capable of doing these things that disrupted the church’s work. What disposition was I being controlled by exactly? Then one day I read some of God’s words exposing antichrists’ disgust for the truth that helped me understand myself. God’s words say, “Antichrists’ archetypal attitude toward dealing and pruning is to vehemently refuse to accept or admit it. No matter how much evil they do or how much harm they do to the work of God’s house and the life entry of God’s chosen people, they do not feel the slightest remorse or that they owe anything. From this point of view, do the antichrists have humanity? Absolutely not. They cause all sorts of damage to God’s chosen people and bring harm to the work of the church—God’s chosen people can see this as clear as day, and they can see antichrists’ succession of evil deeds. And yet the antichrists do not accept or acknowledge this fact; they stubbornly refuse to admit that they are in error or that they are responsible. Is this not an indication that they are sick of the truth? Such is the extent to which antichrists are sick of the truth. No matter how much wickedness they commit, they refuse to admit it, and they remain unyielding to the end. This proves that antichrists never take the work of God’s house seriously or accept the truth. They haven’t come to believe in God; they are minions of Satan, come to disturb and disrupt the work of God’s house. In antichrists’ hearts there are only reputation and status. They believe that if they were to acknowledge their error, then they would have to accept responsibility, and then their status and reputation would be severely compromised. As a result, they resist with the attitude of ‘deny until you die.’ No matter what revelations or analysis people make, they do their utmost to deny them. Whether their denial is deliberate or not, in short, in one regard this exposes the antichrists’ nature and essence of being sick of and hating the truth. In another regard, it shows how much the antichrists treasure their own status, reputation, and interests. What, meanwhile, is their attitude toward the work and interests of the church? It is one of contempt and denial of responsibility. They lack all conscience and reason. Doesn’t the antichrists’ shirking of responsibility demonstrate these issues? In one regard, shirking responsibility proves their essence and nature of being sick of and hating the truth, while in another regard, it shows their lack of conscience, reason, and humanity. No matter how much the brothers’ and sisters’ life entry is harmed by their interference and evildoing, they feel no self-recrimination and could never be troubled by this. What sort of creature is this? Even admission to part of their mistake would count as them having a bit of conscience and sense, but the antichrists do not even have that slight amount of humanity. So what would you say they are? The essence of antichrists is the devil. No matter how much damage they do to the interests of the house of God, they do not see it. They are not remotely troubled by it in their hearts, nor do they reproach themselves, much less feel indebted. This is absolutely not what should be seen in normal people. This is the devil, and the devil is devoid of any conscience or sense” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part Three)). In reading God’s words exposing antichrists, I saw they really detest and are sickened by the truth in nature. No matter how much they harm the work of the church, they refuse to admit this. They not only won’t accept the truth and self-reflect to know themselves when they’re dealt with, but even try to protect their name and status, making excuses and shifting responsibility without any pangs of conscience whatsoever. They’re essentially devils. Leaders should accept the brothers’ and sisters’ supervision and fix problems in a timely manner once they are discovered. That’s what God requires and it’s a leader’s responsibility and duty. However, I wasn’t doing watering work well, and I didn’t feel indebted or remorseful about my neglect of duty, yet I was still critical and judgmental of others, twisting their reminders and help as trying to find fault with me. When their reports of problems compromised my reputation and status, I even lashed out behind their backs, trying to win others over to exclude them, disrupting and tearing down the work of the church. I wasn’t venting my anger at any person with my actions and conduct, but rather I was venting anger with the work of the church, doing evil and resisting God! Any reasonable person with a conscience who was pruned and dealt with for not watering newcomers well, which led to some dropping out, would feel guilt and indebtedness, and would submit and self-reflect. They might want to defend themselves at first, but they’d accept it later, evaluate the problems, and then take care of new believers. But when I saw such big problems in my duty, I wouldn’t accept others’ reminders and help, I just made excuses and shifted the responsibility elsewhere. To protect my status, I didn’t want to take the slightest responsibility. I only thought of my own interests, not the interests of the church. I was truly lacking in humanity. I was revealing an antichrist’s disposition. I hated and was sickened by the truth. Realizing this filled me with even more remorse and regret.
Later, I read a couple of passages of God’s words. “The following passage was recorded in the Book of Jonah 4:10–11: ‘Then said Jehovah, You have had pity on the gourd, for the which you have not labored, neither made it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?’ These are the actual words of Jehovah God, recorded from a conversation between God and Jonah. Though this exchange is brief, it brims with the Creator’s care for mankind and His reluctance to give mankind up. These words express the true attitude and feelings that God holds within His heart for His creation. Through these words, which are clear and precise such as are rarely heard by man, God states His true intentions for humanity. This exchange represents an attitude God held toward the people of Nineveh—but what kind of attitude is it? It is the attitude He held toward the people of Nineveh before and after their repentance, and the attitude with which He treats mankind. Within these words are His thoughts and His disposition” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique II). “Although Jonah was entrusted with proclaiming Jehovah God’s words to the people of Nineveh, he did not understand Jehovah God’s intentions, nor did he understand His worries and expectations for the people of the city. With this reprimand, God meant to tell him that humanity was the product of God’s own hands, and that He had expended painstaking effort on each and every single person, that each and every person carried God’s expectations upon their shoulders, and that each and every person enjoyed the supply of God’s life; for each and every person, God had paid the price of painstaking effort. This reprimand also told Jonah that God cherished humanity, which was the work of His own hands, just as much as Jonah himself cherished the gourd. God would by no means abandon mankind lightly, or until the last possible moment, not least because there were so many children and innocent livestock inside the city. When dealing with these young and ignorant products of God’s creation who could not even distinguish their right hands from their left, it was even less conceivable that God would end their lives and determine their outcomes in such a hasty manner. God hoped to see them grow up; He hoped that they would not walk the same paths as their elders, that they would not have to hear Jehovah God’s warning again, and that they would bear witness to Nineveh’s past. Even more so, God hoped to see Nineveh after it had repented, to see Nineveh’s future following its repentance, and more importantly, to see Nineveh live under God’s mercy once again. Therefore, in God’s eyes, those objects of creation who could not distinguish between their right and left hands were Nineveh’s future. They would shoulder Nineveh’s despicable past, just as they would shoulder the important duty of bearing witness to both Nineveh’s past and its future under Jehovah God’s guidance” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique II). Reading God’s word, I felt humiliated and ashamed. From God and Jonah’s conversation, I saw God’s love and mercy for man. God knew everyone in Nineveh like the back of His hand and He paid a real price for every single one of them. He didn’t want to give them up until the last moment. I thought about how the new believers I was responsible for had just accepted God’s work of the last days, didn’t understand the truth, and were unlikely to stand firm in the face of the disruption and misguidance of the antichrists in the religious world. The brothers and sisters were thinking about how to work with one heart and mind to support the newcomers so they could set roots on the true way as soon as possible. That’s why they were repeatedly giving me those suggestions and pointing out problems. But I refused to accept these things and just looked on as lots of new believers weren’t attending gatherings because of my irresponsibility, and I didn’t feel guilty—how was I even human! I said a prayer: “God, I’m not going to shirk responsibility, and I’m ready to repent, to lean on You to find solutions and support these new believers by watering them well.”
After that, I discussed the issues in our watering work with the brothers and sisters. We held gatherings for the newcomers addressing these problems and emphasized truths such as God’s three stages of work and the significance of His judgment work of the last days, as well as why God needs to come in the flesh to work. When we were done fellowshiping, a newcomer said, “I initially had so many notions, but not anymore, thanks to your fellowshiping the word of God. Please can we have more fellowship with you because lots of others still don’t understand this.” Then a brother said, “I used to be really confused about God’s work in the last days and was thinking about dropping out of the gathering group. But after listening to you fellowshiping the words of Almighty God, everything’s clear for me now. I’m so happy, and I’ll attend more gatherings. Thank Almighty God!” I was really moved to hear these things, but at the same time, I also felt really guilty. If I’d accepted others’ suggestions and done more practical work before, addressing the newcomers’ difficulties and problems, some of them wouldn’t have weakened and dropped out. After that, I opened up to William about the corruption I’d shown, and he also opened up about his own state and problems in his gospel work. He said he wanted to change. In that instant, the barrier between us disappeared and I felt so relieved. After this, I started making a conscious effort to coordinate with the brothers and sisters who spread the gospel, and though there was a little conflict, we all had a common goal: to water newcomers well so they could gain a foundation in the true way quickly.
Afterward, I was wondering once more about how to approach criticisms in the future that would be in line with God’s will. I read this in God’s words: “When it comes to being pruned and dealt with, what is the very least that people should know? Being pruned and dealt with must be experienced to adequately perform one’s duty—it is indispensable. It is something that people must face on a daily basis and often experience in their faith in God and attainment of salvation. No one can be apart from being pruned and dealt with. Is pruning and dealing with someone something that involves their future and fate? (No.) So what is pruning and dealing with someone for? Is it in order to condemn people? (No, it’s helping people understand the truth and perform their duty according to principles.) That’s right. That’s the most correct understanding of it. Pruning and dealing with someone is a kind of discipline, a kind of chastening, but it’s also a form of helping people. Being pruned and dealt with allows you to alter your incorrect pursuit in time. It allows you to promptly recognize the problems you currently have, and allows you to recognize the corrupt dispositions you expose in time. No matter what, being pruned and dealt with helps you fulfill your duties according to principles, it saves you from making mistakes and going astray in time, and it prevents you from causing catastrophes. Is this not the greatest aid to people, their greatest remedy? Those with a conscience and reason should be able to treat being dealt with and pruned correctly” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part Eight)). God’s words made it clear to me that being pruned and dealt with is not someone trying to be difficult or to condemn us. It’s to help us better reflect on ourselves, resolve our incorrect states or the problems in our duties quickly, and do our duties adequately. It’s one of the ways God’s work changes and cleanses us, and something we have to experience to be saved. When being pruned, dealt with, and exposed, I should accept these things as being from God, handle them properly, and self-reflect based on God’s words; this accords with God’s will. Once I understood this, I felt enlightened, and I knew how to regard the brothers’ and sisters’ reminders and help in the future.
Then once, William told me a few new believers weren’t gathering and didn’t have support from anyone. He didn’t know why. He wanted me to look into the situation and see what the problem was. I thought to myself, “We’ve already offered these absentee newcomers lots of help and support, and sought principles with leaders. We’ve given up on them after confirming they were nonbelievers, so what is there to find out?” But then I thought he was considering the interests of the church with this reminder, and taking responsibility for every single newcomer. I should submit to it first and see what was really going on, then turn things around as soon as possible if there were problems. Following this, I looked into details of the situation, and though eventually I confirmed that they really were nonbelievers, I saw some problems in our watering work. That helped me see that there was truly a lot to be gained from accepting suggestions and submitting, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen the problems or corrected them in a timely manner, and that would cause losses for the work of the church.
These experiences showed me that accepting the brothers’ and sisters’ reminders and suggestions in my duty can greatly benefit myself and the work. If I always reject and am sickened by truth, that’ll not only keep me from changing my corrupt disposition, but I’ll also hurt the work of the church. Then God would end up spurning me and casting me out. At the same time, I also understood that no matter what I encounter, no matter how much it may not accord with my own notions, I should have fear for God and not act or speak willfully out of blindness. I need to pray to God and seek the principles of action to avoid doing evil.