29. Judgment and Chastisement Is God’s Love
God’s words say: “What testimony does man ultimately bear to God? Man testifies that God is the righteous God, that His disposition is righteousness, wrath, chastisement, and judgment; man testifies to the righteous disposition of God. God uses His judgment to make man perfect, He has loved man, and saved man—but how much is contained within His love? There is judgment, majesty, wrath, and curse. Though God cursed man in the past, He did not completely cast man into the bottomless pit, but used that means to refine man’s faith; He did not put man to death, but acted in order to make man perfect. The substance of the flesh is that which is of Satan—God said it exactly right—but the facts carried out by God are not completed according to His words. He curses you so that you might love Him, and so that you might know the substance of the flesh; He chastises you so that you might be awakened, to allow you to know the deficiencies within you, and to know man’s utter unworthiness. Thus, God’s curses, His judgment, and His majesty and wrath—they are all in order to make man perfect. All that God does today, and the righteous disposition that He makes plain within you—it is all in order to make man perfect. Such is the love of God” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God). When people mentioned God’s love, I used to think of His mercy and compassion, His grace and blessings. I didn’t really understand His love of judgment and chastisement. But after practical experience with it, I gained some personal understanding and saw that God’s words are the truth, and all so practical, and that judgment and chastisement is God’s love and salvation for mankind.
I used to be responsible for the watering work, and then September of last year I was dismissed for not doing practical work. The church leader arranged for Sister Joyce to take over my work. That left me with a feeling I can’t put into words. I’d overseen Joyce’s work before, and now she was going to oversee mine. Didn’t that make me look incompetent? I’d gone from someone in charge to a regular member of the watering team. Wouldn’t that be humiliating if the brothers and sisters who knew me found out? This thought really made me regret not doing my duty well. Later in a team’s discussion about our work, everyone was silent for quite a while. I thought that even though I wasn’t in charge anymore, I did have some experience with watering the new believers, so I should take on a burden and express my thoughts. That way everyone would see I was still playing an important role, and everyone might look up to me. So I started proactively pitching in with my thoughts and ideas, and after a few discussions, people mostly agreed with my opinion. In nearly every discussion, we went with my ideas, so I felt like my capabilities really stood out in the team. I didn’t have the role of supervisor, but I could still handle that kind of work. I thought the others would look up to me, and then one day I might be promoted again. I started pitching in more actively after that, and before every gathering, I’d try to get an understanding of how the newcomers were doing and find relevant words of God. It took a lot of time and energy, but I figured that doing a good job would prove my capability, so paying that price was well worth it. I was proactive in my duty, was able to discover some issues in our work, and others agreed with the solutions and suggestions I came up with. I was feeling like everyone could see how hard I was working, so I might get promoted when the leader reviewed our work and saw how I was doing. But some time passed, and the leader didn’t seem to have any intention of promoting me. I noticed that more and more new believers were joining the church, so more people were needed to take on positions, but it didn’t seem like there was any thought of promoting me. Seeing this got me kind of down. I felt like I’d made some changes and was doing pretty well in my duty. Since the church was so short of help, why wasn’t I getting another chance? After being dismissed once, would I never have another chance to be in charge? It didn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t know why all my hard work wasn’t paying off. What was I lacking? Later on, I thought I must not be working hard enough or good enough, or I wasn’t achieving enough. I figured I needed to keep working hard, and not only focus on achievements in my duty, but also on life entry and pursuing the truth, so others could see my personal progress. Then God would have mercy on me and give me a chance. I thought that with “proper” pursuit, there would be a change one day, and even if I wasn’t promoted, I could stand out in our team and gain the other brothers’ and sisters’ admiration. So I threw myself into our team’s watering work, and when newcomers had problems, I’d carefully think them over, finding God’s words to fellowship on. When I didn’t understand something, I’d earnestly pray and seek. After some time, I was more and more successful in watering newcomers. Some time later in a gathering, the team leader mentioned I’d shouldered a burden for my duty, and was good at resolving new believers’ issues. I felt very pleased with myself. I thought everyone would start seeing how well I was doing, and if I could improve my performance more, I could win everyone’s admiration. Then I’d have a shot at promotion. I really threw myself into my duty after that. Aside from my own responsibilities, I also took on as much of the team’s other work as I could, and provided feedback and assistance to the supervisor when I discovered issues. I didn’t slack on my pursuit of the truth, either, but read God’s words in every spare moment. I’d come before God in prayer and seeking whenever I felt off and actively engage in fellowship in gatherings. But I was pretty disappointed when I still wasn’t promoted after quite a while of hard work. I felt like no matter how hard I worked or how well I did, the leader would never promote me. So what was the point of all of it? After that, I stopped putting so much effort in, and when I saw newcomers failing to gather regularly, I just casually asked about it without any detailed inquiry or support. Sometimes when Joyce had me find words of God for brothers’ and sisters’ particular issues or shortcomings before the gatherings, I felt like that wasn’t my job, and no one would notice no matter how well I did, so I’d fob it off with an excuse. My own state started deteriorating and I didn’t know what to say in prayer. Reading God’s words didn’t feel enlightening, and sometimes I’d get sleepy. I felt a real darkness in my spirit and couldn’t feel the Holy Spirit’s work. Before long, I saw other brothers and sisters being promoted, while I was still a lowly member of the watering team. I became even more discouraged. I’d been working so hard for so long, but was just turning in circles in the same old place. It seemed I had no hope of being promoted. Believers just like me were able to become supervisors and team leaders, and had others’ admiration, but I never got promoted. Did it mean I was a failure as a believer? I got so negative that I couldn’t muster up the motivation for anything.
Later, I wondered why I was feeling so down. Why did I only live for status? Had I only been after status all my years of faith? How could I be so pathetic? Why was I so obsessed with status? I really hated myself. I kneeled down before God in prayer and said, “God, I want to pursue the truth in my faith, repay Your love, and do the duty of a created being. But right now I’m tormented by my desire for status, leaving me down and depressed. I don’t want to live this way, but I can’t help myself. God, please enlighten and save me, so that I can understand my problem and resolve it.” After praying, I read this passage of God’s words. “An antichrist has an antichrist’s disposition and essence, and this is what distinguishes them from a normal person. Though they say nothing on the outside after being replaced, in their heart they continue to resist. They make no admission of their mistakes, and they are never capable of truly knowing themselves. This has long since been proved. There is also something else about an antichrist that never changes: No matter where they do things, they want to stand out from the crowd, to be looked up to and admired by others; even if they don’t have a legitimate post and title as a church leader or team leader, they still want to be head and shoulders above others in standing and status. Regardless of whether they can do the work, what sort of humanity or life experience they have, they will devise all sorts of means and go to great lengths to find chances to show off, to buy their way into people’s hearts, to win others over, entice and deceive them, in order to gain their admiration. What about the antichrist is there to admire? Even though they have been dismissed, ‘a lean camel is still bigger than a horse,’ and they remain an eagle flying above chickens. Isn’t this the arrogance and self-righteousness of the antichrist, and their exceptionalism? They cannot reconcile themselves to being without status, to being a regular believer, to being just an ordinary person. They cannot simply do their duty with their feet on the ground and stay in their place, do a good job in their own duty, devote themselves to it and do their best. These things come nowhere near satisfying them. They are unwilling to be that sort of person or to do those sorts of things. What is their grand ambition? It is to be admired and looked up to, and to hold power. So, even if they do not have a particular title attached to their name, an antichrist will strive for themselves, speak up for themselves and justify themselves, doing everything they can to put on a show, afraid that no one will notice them or pay them any attention. They will pounce on every opportunity to become better known, to increase their prestige, making more people see their gifts and strengths, see that they are superior to others. In doing these things, an antichrist is willing to pay any price it takes to flaunt and commend themselves, to make everyone think that, even if they are no longer a leader, and no longer have status, they are still superior to ordinary people. In this manner, an antichrist has achieved their goal. They aren’t willing to be a regular person, an ordinary person; they want power and prestige, and to be exalted” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Twelve). Reading God’s words, I felt like God was right there, exposing me. God says people like antichrists want name and status, to have power and others’ admiration no matter what. To fulfill that wild ambition, antichrists will pay any price to be noticed, to exalt themselves, and win people over. I could see that my pursuit was exactly the same as an antichrist’s. In my faith, I wanted to have status, to be a leader or a supervisor. I wanted to excel within my group, and be admired and supported by others. After I was dismissed, I didn’t address my desire to be a supervisor. I actively participated in work discussions and offered suggestions, and I gave feedback to the supervisor as soon as I discovered problems, so she would know I could not only find issues, but also provide solutions, that I had a head on my shoulders. Then I’d be in line for a promotion. I worked hard in my duty, so that other brothers and sisters would see I could do practical work, then I’d have a shot at promotion. I was proactive in work even when it wasn’t my primary responsibility, ready to spend lots of my time and energy, wanting everyone to see I shouldered a burden for my duty and could take on a lot. I didn’t slack in my pursuit of the truth, either, so they’d approve of me. I looked for every chance to prove myself and show off. Isn’t that the sort of antichrist behavior that God exposes?
I read some of God’s words that really thoroughly describe the corrupt essence of antichrists. Almighty God says, “For an antichrist, if their reputation or status is attacked or taken away, it is a matter even more serious than trying to take their life. No matter how many sermons they listen to or how many of God’s words they read, they will not feel sadness or regret over never having practiced the truth and their having taken the path of the antichrist, nor over their possession of the nature and essence of an antichrist. Instead, they are always racking their brains for ways to gain status and increase their reputation. It can be said that everything this sort of person does is done in front of others, and is not done before God. Why do I say this? It is because such people are so in love with status that they treat it as their very life, as their lifelong goal. Moreover, because they love status so much, they never believe in the existence of truth, and it can even be said that they harbor absolutely no belief in God’s existence. Thus, no matter how they calculate to gain reputation and status, and no matter how they try to use false appearances to trick people and God, in the depths of their hearts, they have no awareness or guilt, let alone any anxiety. In their consistent pursuit of reputation and status, they also brazenly deny what God has done. Why do I say that? In the depths of an antichrist’s heart, they believe, ‘All reputation and status are earned by people themselves. Only by gaining a firm foothold among people and gaining reputation and status can they enjoy God’s blessings. Life only has value when people gain absolute power and status. Only this is a befitting human life. On the contrary, it would be cowardly to live in such a way as to submit, as in the word of God, to God’s sovereignty and arrangements in everything, to willingly stand in the position of a created being, and to live like a normal person—no one would look up to them. A person’s status, reputation, and happiness must be won through their own struggles; they must be fought for and seized with a positive and proactive attitude. No one else will give them to you—waiting around passively can only lead to failure.’ … Antichrists firmly believe in their hearts that only with reputation and status do they have dignity and are they true created beings, and that only with status will they be rewarded and crowned, qualify for God’s approval, gain everything, and be a genuine person. What do antichrists see status as? They see it as the truth; they regard it as the highest goal to be pursued by people. Isn’t that a problem? People who can obsess over status in this way are genuine antichrists. They are the same kind of people as Paul. They believe that pursuing truth, seeking obedience to God, and seeking honesty are all processes that lead one to the highest possible status; they are merely processes, not the goal and standard of being human, and they are done entirely for God’s sake. This understanding is preposterous and ridiculous. Only the absurd ones who detest the truth could produce such a ridiculous idea” (The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. Item Nine (Part Three)). Reading this passage of God’s words was really poignant for me. It felt like what I was hiding in my heart had been brought into the light by God. I felt I had nowhere to hide. I started reflecting on myself, and the more I did, the more I felt like my thinking was just like an antichrist’s. All my words and actions were centered around status, and everything I did was to gain admiration. Status was more important to me than anything. Before gaining faith, I always wanted to stand out from the crowd and I loved gaining others’ support and approval. After gaining faith, I kept going after leadership positions so I’d be looked up to and have an important role in the church. After I was dismissed, I didn’t have any regret for my past transgressions and wasn’t thinking about how to really repent and do my duty well to repay my debt to God. Instead, I used that opportunity to do a duty as a chance to show off. I threw myself into my duty and worked hard to regain a role of importance. When I didn’t get that after some hard work, I became discouraged. I felt like no one noticed, no matter how much I put into my duty, no matter how well I did in it. I thought my efforts were meaningless. I lost my drive to do well in my duty when I didn’t gain any status. I even misunderstood and blamed God, reasoning with Him and being resistant. I got carried away by thoughts of name and status. I’d lost the conscience and reason a created being should have. I wholeheartedly pursued status and I wasn’t content to be a regular member of the team. I was evil and shameless just like an antichrist, totally unreasonable. These words from God really helped me: “They believe that pursuing truth, seeking obedience to God, and seeking honesty are all processes that lead one to the highest possible status; they are merely processes, not the goal and standard of being human, and they are done entirely for God’s sake.” This really felt like a slap in the face to me. Pursuing and practicing the truth is a positive thing, and it’s our duty as people. We need to pursue truth in our lives, and live by God’s words. However, I was using pursuit and practice of the truth as a bargaining chip for personal status. Having such a vile motive in my duty could never gain God’s approval. God’s words showed me how wrong my perspective on things was. I thought only by having status and power, being looked up to, well known, and admired could my life have value. Without status as a believer, being a regular follower was a pathetic way to live, and it was a failure. What a crazy outlook! God requires us to be qualified created beings, to stay in our own place, to submit to God’s rule and arrangements dutifully, to carry out the responsibilities of a created being. But I didn’t want to stay in my place, but to be a great person doing important work, to have a lofty position and get more admiration that way. That’s a satanic disposition. In fact, in watering work, no matter how great of a price I paid or what an important role I played, it was just the duty I should do. It was my responsibility, but I wanted to make a show of myself to gain a certain status. When my crazy ambitions weren’t fulfilled, I lost interest in my duty. I mistook my ambition for devotion to God. That so-called devotion was dishonest and transactional. How was that practicing truth and doing a duty? It was trying to use and cheat God, and I was squarely on an antichrist path. God is righteous and holy and He sees into our hearts and minds. I was going headlong down the wrong path. How could I gain the Holy Spirit’s work? My state was deteriorating and I was in darkness. This was God setting me aside and chastening me. That’s when I saw how scary the pursuit of name and status really is. I didn’t know myself, or whether I could do practical work. I just kept pursuing status, hoping for a promotion. I’d lost proper humanity and reason and had no self-awareness. I thought of a passage of God’s words: “You will all one day recognize that fame and gain are monstrous shackles that Satan uses to bind man. When that day comes, you will thoroughly resist Satan’s control and thoroughly resist the shackles Satan uses to bind you. When the time comes that you wish to throw off all the things Satan has instilled in you, you will then make a clean break with Satan and you will truly loathe all that Satan has brought to you. Only then will mankind have a real love and yearning for God” (The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique VI). God’s words are so true. I was pursuing status nonstop, toyed with and tormented by Satan. I’d lost the Holy Spirit’s guidance and I was living in darkness. That desire of mine was really doing me in. I couldn’t stop my tears from flowing and I hated how stubborn, how rigid I’d been. That whole time, I’d been pursuing name and status, on an antichrist’s path. But God still used His words to warn and expose me so that I could see the problem in my pursuit and turn back. But I didn’t get it. I misunderstood and blamed God, being negative and going against God. I was so unreasonable. I was overcome with guilt when I realized that, and I said this prayer, “God, I don’t want to pursue name and status anymore, but to seek the truth to resolve my corruption, and truly repent. Please enlighten and guide me, show me the way.”
I read another passage of God’s words after that: “When God requires that people fulfill their duty well, He is not asking them to complete a certain number of tasks, or accomplish any great endeavors, nor to perform any great undertakings. What God wants is for people to be able to do all they can in a down-to-earth way, and live in accordance with His words. God does not need you to be great or honorable, nor does He need you to bring about any miracles, nor does He want to see any pleasant surprises in you. He does not need such things. All God needs is for you to steadfastly practice according to His words. When you listen to God’s words, do what you have understood, carry out what you have comprehended, remember what you have heard, and then, when the time comes to practice, practice according to God’s words, so that God’s words may become your life, your realities, and what you live out. Thus, God will be satisfied. You are always seeking greatness, nobility, and status; you always seek exaltation. How does God feel when He sees this? He loathes it, and He will be apart from you. The more you pursue things like greatness, nobility, and being superior to others, distinguished, outstanding, and noteworthy, the more disgusting God finds you. If you do not reflect upon yourself and repent, then God will despise you and forsake you. Be sure not to be someone whom God finds disgusting; be a person that God loves. So, how can one attain God’s love? By receiving the truth obediently, standing in the position of a created being, acting by God’s words with one’s feet on the ground, performing one’s duties properly, trying to be an honest person, and living out the likeness of a human being. This is enough, God will be satisfied. People must be sure not to hold ambition or entertain idle dreams, not to seek fame, gains, and status or to stand out from the crowd. Moreover, they must not try to be a person of greatness or superhuman, who is superior among men and makes others worship them. That is the desire of corrupt humanity, and it is the path of Satan; God does not save such people. If people incessantly pursue fame, gains, and status and refuse to repent, then there is no cure for them, and there is only one outcome for them: to be cast out” (The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. The Proper Fulfillment of Duty Requires Harmonious Cooperation). I saw from God’s words that He doesn’t want us to be famous, great, or lofty. He hopes we can be grounded and do our duty, and just submit to His arrangements. But I didn’t faithfully do my duty. I wasn’t content being a regular person. I only wanted a higher position and to be a cut above. I was so arrogant. God is the Creator, and He is so great and honorable. He has personally become flesh, coming to the earth to express the truth, but He never shows off. Instead, He very quietly carries out His work to save mankind. God is so humble and hidden, and incredibly lovely. I felt so ashamed when I thought about it that way, and I resolved that I absolutely had to forsake my flesh and practice the truth.
After that, I threw myself wholeheartedly into my duty and really thought about how to water new believers. I forgot about my status, but felt happy to be a regular person and do my duty as well as I could. Putting this into practice was really grounding for me. When I put my heart into it, God enlightened me, giving me a path in my watering work. Before I knew it, I was doing better in my duty. I remember once when we had a gathering for new believers, the sister who was new to the watering team wasn’t familiar with the new believers and didn’t know how to approach them. I knew I should help out, but it occurred to me that doing the preparatory work of getting in touch with people was really lowbrow. Wouldn’t it take me down a notch if I offered to do that? At that point I saw I was wrong, that duties don’t vary in importance, and communication is also a duty. So why couldn’t I do that? Then I offered to help with contacting brothers and sisters. When I did that, I realized that no matter the duty, as long as you can accept God’s scrutiny, have the right intention, and do it with your heart, you’ll feel at ease, at peace. Sometimes when brothers and sisters were asking about details of the watering work and the supervisor was too busy to answer their questions, I’d do everything I could to fellowship with them and resolve things. I wouldn’t think about whether they’d look up to me or if it would improve my status, but just wanted to work well with everyone else and do my duty well. After I put aside my wild ambitions and practiced according to God’s words, everything changed in my duty. I felt more responsibility and found more problems, and my state gradually improved. I also felt brighter and more at ease, and that conducting myself in this way was truly good. I understood that God’s words really are the truth and that they are capable of changing and purifying people. Only conducting myself and doing things in accordance with God’s word and the truth and obeying the arrangements of the Creator forms my life foundation as a created being. Henceforth, regardless of whether or not I have status, and no matter where God places me, I am willing to place myself at the mercy of God and honestly perform my duty as a created being.
I always used to relentlessly pursue name and status, which just left me tortured and exhausted. Without the judgment and revelations of God’s words, I never would have seen how deeply Satan corrupted me or how much I cared about status. I would have kept fighting for those things, toyed with by Satan, without a human likeness. Through this, I’ve truly felt that God’s judgment and chastisement is His best protection and salvation, and it’s His love. Just as God says, “In his life, if man wishes to be cleansed and achieve changes in his disposition, if he wishes to live out a life of meaning and fulfill his duty as a creature, then he must accept God’s chastisement and judgment, and must not allow God’s discipline and God’s smiting to depart from him, in order that he may free himself from the manipulation and influence of Satan, and live in the light of God. Know that God’s chastisement and judgment is the light, and the light of man’s salvation, and that there is no better blessing, grace or protection for man” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment).