110. The Principles of Distinguishing Between Real and False Churches
(1) Determine whether the Holy Spirit is at work in the life of a church; whether its congregation eats and drinks of God’s words and genuinely fellowships on the truth; and whether or not this yields a practical effect;
(2) Determine whether the leaders of the church love and pursue the truth; whether they are possessed of the work of the Holy Spirit; and whether they genuinely understand the truth and put it into practice;
(3) Determine whether it is, in fact, the truth that reigns in the church, or evil people; and whether it is pursuers of the truth who reign there, or evil people and troublemakers;
(4) Only an assembly of people who pursue the truth and are possessed of the work of the Holy Spirit qualify as a church; where evil and muddled people gather is a venue of religion, not a church.
Bible Verses for Reference:
“Again I say to you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the middle of them” (Mat 18:19–20).
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said to them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves” (Mat 21:12–13).
Relevant Words of God:
In each stage of God’s work there are also corresponding requirements of man. All those who are within the stream of the Holy Spirit are possessed of the presence and discipline of the Holy Spirit, and those who are not within the stream of the Holy Spirit are under the command of Satan, and without any of the work of the Holy Spirit. People who are in the stream of the Holy Spirit are those who accept the new work of God, and who cooperate in the new work of God. If those who are within this stream are incapable of cooperating, and unable to put into practice the truth required by God during this time, then they will be disciplined, and at worst will be forsaken by the Holy Spirit. Those who accept the new work of the Holy Spirit, will live within the stream of the Holy Spirit, and they will receive the care and protection of the Holy Spirit. Those who are willing to put the truth into practice are enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and those who are unwilling to put the truth into practice are disciplined by the Holy Spirit, and may even be punished. Regardless of what kind of person they are, provided that they are within the stream of the Holy Spirit, God will take responsibility for all those who accept His new work for the sake of His name. Those who glorify His name and are willing to put His words into practice will receive His blessings; those who disobey Him and do not put His words into practice will receive His punishment. People who are in the stream of the Holy Spirit are those who accept the new work, and since they have accepted the new work, they should cooperate appropriately with God, and should not act as rebels who do not perform their duty. This is God’s only requirement of man. Not so for the people who do not accept the new work: They are outside the stream of the Holy Spirit, and the discipline and reproach of the Holy Spirit do not apply to them. All day, these people live within the flesh, they live within their minds, and all that they do is according to the doctrine produced by the analysis and research of their own brains. This is not what is required by the Holy Spirit’s new work, much less is it cooperation with God. Those who do not accept the new work of God are bereft of the presence of God, and, moreover, devoid of the blessings and protection of God. Most of their words and actions hold to the past requirements of the Holy Spirit’s work; they are doctrine, not truth. Such doctrine and regulation are sufficient to prove that the gathering together of these people is nothing but religion; they are not the chosen ones, or the objects of God’s work. The assembly of all those among them can only be called a grand congress of religion, and cannot be called a church. This is an unalterable fact. They do not have the Holy Spirit’s new work; what they do seems redolent of religion, what they live out seems replete with religion; they do not possess the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, much less are they eligible to receive the discipline or enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. These people are all lifeless corpses, and maggots that are devoid of spirituality. They have no knowledge of man’s rebelliousness and opposition, have no knowledge of all of man’s evildoing, much less do they know all of God’s work and God’s present will. They are all ignorant, base people, and they are scum that are unfit to be called believers! Nothing they do has any bearing on the management of God, much less can it impair God’s plans. Their words and actions are too disgusting, too pathetic, and simply unworthy of mention. Nothing done by those who are not within the stream of the Holy Spirit has anything to do with the new work of the Holy Spirit. Because of this, no matter what they do, they are without the discipline of the Holy Spirit, and, moreover, without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. For they are all people who have no love for the truth, and who have been detested and rejected by the Holy Spirit. They are called evildoers because they walk in the flesh and do whatever pleases them under the signboard of God. While God works, they are deliberately hostile to Him, and run in the opposite direction to Him. Man’s failure to cooperate with God is supremely rebellious in itself, so will not those people who deliberately run counter to God particularly receive their just retribution?
Excerpted from “God’s Work and Man’s Practice” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
What name does God give to the religion of those who believed in Jehovah? Judaism. They became a kind of religious group. And how does God designate the religion of those who believe in Jesus? (Christianity.) In God’s eyes, Judaism and Christianity represent religious groups. Why does God define them as such? Among all those who are members of these religious bodies defined by God, are there any who fear Him and shun evil, do His will, and follow His way? (No.) This makes it clear. In God’s eyes, can all those who nominally follow Him be ones whom He acknowledges to be believers? Do they all have a connection with God? Could they all be targets for His salvation? (No.) So, will a day come when you are reduced to what God views as a religious group? (It’s possible.) Being reduced to a religious group—that seems inconceivable. If people become part of a religious group in God’s eyes, will they be saved by Him? Are they of His house? (No, they aren’t.) So, let us try to summarize: These people who nominally believe in the true God, but whom He believes to belong to religious groups—what path do they walk? Could it be said that such people walk the path of waving the flag of faith without ever following God’s way, and of believing in Him yet never worshiping Him, instead forsaking Him? That is, they walk the path of believing in God but forsaking Him and not following His way; their way is one in which they believe in God but worship Satan, they worship the devil, they try to carry out their own management, and try to establish their own kingdom. Is this not the essence of it? Do people like this have any connection to God’s management plan for the salvation of humanity? (No.) No matter how many people believe in God, as soon as their beliefs are defined by Him as being those of a religion or group, He has already determined that they cannot be saved. Why do I say this? In a gang or crowd of people who are without the work and guidance of God, and who do not worship Him at all, whom do they worship? Whom do they follow? In form and name, they follow a person, but whom do they essentially follow? Deep down, they acknowledge God, but in fact, they are subject to human manipulation, arrangements, and control. They follow Satan, the devil; they follow the forces that are hostile to God and that are His enemies. Would God save a pack of people such as this? (No.) Why not? Are they capable of repentance? (No.) They are incapable of repentance. They wave the flag of faith, carrying out human enterprises and conducting their own management, and they run counter to God’s management plan for mankind’s salvation. Their final outcome is one of being detested and rejected by God; He could not possibly save these people, they could not possibly repent, they have already been captured by Satan—they are entirely in Satan’s hands. In your faith, does how many years you have believed in God matter to whether or not you are praised by Him? Do the rituals and regulations you abide by matter? Does God look at people’s methods of practice? Does He look at how many people there are? He has selected one portion of mankind; how does He measure whether they can and should be saved? He bases this decision on the paths these people walk. In the Age of Grace, although the truths that God told people were less numerous than today, and not as specific, He could still perfect people at the time, and salvation was still possible. Thus, as for the people of this age who have heard many truths and have come to understand God’s will, if they are incapable of following His way and unable to walk the path of salvation, then what will their final outcome be? Their final outcome will be the same as that of believers in Christianity and Judaism; there will be no difference. This is God’s righteous disposition! Regardless of how many sermons you have heard or how many truths you have understood, if, ultimately, you still follow humans and Satan, and in the end, if you are still incapable of following God’s way and unable to fear Him and shun evil, then such people will be detested and rejected by God. To all appearances, such people who are detested and rejected by God can talk much about letters and doctrines, and may have come to understand many truths, yet they are incapable of worshiping God; they cannot fear God and shun evil, and are incapable of total submission to Him. In God’s eyes, He defines them as part of a religion, as just a group of humans—a gang of humans—and as a lodging place for Satan. They are collectively referred to as Satan’s gang, and these people are utterly despised by God.
Excerpted from “Only by Constantly Living Before God Can One Walk the Path to Salvation” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Any church ruled by antichrists cannot be called a church, and anyone who has experienced this will understand it. There is no peaceful, happy, dynamic atmosphere; instead, an atmosphere of pandemonium prevails, in which everyone’s heart is deeply troubled with a sense of restlessness and unease, and they have a queasy feeling, as if a major disaster were about to occur. The speech and actions of antichrists can bring about a certain atmosphere, muddying people’s hearts, making them unable to distinguish between positive and negative things. In addition, when antichrists have deceived people for a long time, their hearts grow ever further from God, and their relationship with God is no longer a normal one, as though they are living within religion. There is also a practical problem, which is that divisions appear in the church, and all those who love the truth neither enjoy meeting there nor gain a release, and they would like to leave the church and hold their own meetings. When the Holy Spirit is at work in a church, regardless of whether people understand the truth, everyone comes together to work toward a single endpoint, and the atmosphere is peaceful, stable, and undisturbed. However, as soon as the antichrists make a move, the atmosphere becomes restless and grotesque. Wherever they stir up trouble, cliques appear; people are on guard against each other, are judgmental of each other, attack each other, and undermine each other behind their back. What role are the antichrists obviously playing here? Their role is that of Satan’s lackeys. The consequences of the antichrists’ actions: One is that brothers and sisters judge each other, are suspicious of each other, and are on guard against each other; additionally, there are no longer any boundaries between men and women, and they gradually become close; another is that the visions in people’s hearts become blurred, and they no longer focus on practicing the truth, nor do they any longer know how to work in accordance with the truth principles. The few things they once understood are now gone, their thoughts are muddled, and they blindly follow the antichrists, focusing on outward displays and bustling about. Some people can sense that following the antichrists really is walking up a dead-end street, and they can sense how enjoyable it would be if everyone who pursued the truth were to meet together and perform their duty. When the antichrists seize power, the Holy Spirit is no longer at work, and brothers and sisters all fall into darkness inside, and they are no longer driven to believe in God or do their duty. If this continues for an extended period, will God not cast them out?
Excerpted from “For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (4)” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Every church has people who cause trouble for the church or meddle in the work of God. They are all Satans who have infiltrated the house of God in disguise. Such people are good at acting: They come before Me with great reverence, bowing and scraping, living like mangy dogs, and devoting their “all” to achieve their own objectives—but in front of the brothers and sisters, they show their ugly side. When they see people who practice the truth, they strike out at them and shove them aside; when they see people more formidable than themselves, they flatter and fawn upon them. They run wild in the church. It can be said that such “local bullies,” such “lapdogs,” exist in the majority of churches. They act devilishly together, sending each other winks and secret signals, and none of them practices the truth. Whoever has the most venom is the “head demon,” and whoever has the highest prestige leads them, bearing their flag aloft. These people rampage through the church, spreading their negativity, venting death, doing as they please, saying what they please, and no one dares to stop them. They brim with the disposition of Satan. No sooner do they cause a disturbance than an air of death enters the church. Those within the church who practice the truth are cast out, unable to give their all, while those who disturb the church and spread death run rampage within—and, what’s more, most people follow them. Such churches are ruled by Satan, plain and simple; the devil is their king. If the congregants do not rise up and reject the head demons, then they, too, will sooner or later come to ruin. From now on, measures must be taken against such churches. If those who are capable of practicing a little of the truth do not seek to, then that church will be expunged. If a church contains no one who is willing to practice the truth and no one who can stand witness for God, then that church should be completely isolated, and its connections with other churches must be severed. This is called “burying death”; this is what it means to cast out Satan. If a church contains several local bullies, and they are followed by “little flies” that entirely lack discernment, and if the congregants, even after having seen the truth, are still incapable of rejecting the binds and manipulation of these bullies, then all those fools will be eliminated in the end. These little flies might not have done anything terrible, but they are even more deceitful, even more slick and evasive, and everyone like this will be eliminated. Not a single one shall remain! Those who belong to Satan will be returned to Satan, while those who belong to God will surely go in search of the truth; this is decided by their natures. Let all those who follow Satan perish! No pity will be shown to such people. Let those who search for the truth be provided for, and may they take pleasure in God’s word to their hearts’ content. God is righteous; He would not show favoritism to anyone. If you are a devil, then you are incapable of practicing the truth; if you are someone who searches for the truth, then it is certain that you will not be taken captive by Satan. This is beyond all doubt.
Excerpted from “A Warning to Those Who Do Not Practice the Truth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Sermon and Fellowship Excerpts for Reference:
What is a church? A church is made up of people who truly believe in God and pursue the truth. Together, these people eat and drink of God’s words, worship Him, perform their duties, and experience His work and gain the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the only type of venue that can be called a church. The wicked do not belong to a church. If a group of people who did not pursue the truth or do anything to put it into practice were to gather together, it would not be a church. So what kind of venue would it be? It would be a mere religious venue, or could be called a rabble. Thus, when you evaluate whether or not a place is a real church, you must first look at what kind of people make up its congregation. Secondly, you must look at whether or not they possess the work of the Holy Spirit. If they do not, then their congregation is not a church, and if it is not a gathering of people who pursue the truth, then it is not a church. If a church has no one who truly pursues the truth, then it lacks the work of the Holy Spirit; if there is a person in it who is willing to pursue the truth, yet who remains in such a church, then that person cannot be saved. They should leave that rabble and look for a real church as soon as possible. If, within a church, there are only three or five people who pursue the truth, and the remaining thirty or fifty people are but a rabble, then those three or five people who truly believe in God and pursue the truth should come together; if they do, then their congregation can still be called a church—one with only a few members, but nevertheless, one that is pure. Regardless of what church you attend, you must observe which people in it are the ones who genuinely safeguard God’s work, who can accept the leadership and shepherding of the man used by the Holy Spirit, and who pursue the truth and fulfill their duties in complete accordance with God’s words and the work arrangements of the Above. These are the sort of people who pursue the truth, possess the work of the Holy Spirit, and understand some truth realities; they are people who were genuinely predestined and selected by God. Only if you seek out such people and gather together with them will you have a church life. If, when internal strife occurs or disasters strike, you do not have a single person by your side who genuinely pursues the truth with whom to congregate, then you will be in trouble and have a hard time standing firm in your testimony. Thus, you must search for the sort of people who sincerely believe in God and were actually predestined and selected by Him, and congregate with them—living church life together, eating and drinking of God’s words, praying, singing hymns, singing praise—only then will you gain the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and illumination. Even if there are not many members—perhaps just a handful, even—it will still be a church. If a congregation does not have any members who pursue the truth or possess the work of the Holy Spirit, then no matter how many people attend, it still is not a church. Thus, knowing the definition of a church is key. This is your road map. When disasters hit or internal strife occurs, you must congregate with people who pursue the truth and possess the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit; only then will you have a church life.
Excerpted from Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life
A real church is formed of God’s chosen people. It is comprised of people who genuinely believe in God, pursue the truth, and possess the work of the Holy Spirit. These people, when gathering together, eat and drink of God’s words and are enlightened and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and from their fellowship, everyone can find enjoyment, reward, and the Holy Spirit’s confirmation. This is what a real church is. Some people, who are of Satan the devil and who were discarded and eliminated by God’s chosen people, congregate and constantly speak superficial words and doctrines together, without possessing even a smidgeon of the Holy Spirit’s work. These are false churches; such congregations are but rabble. We must learn to discern precisely which churches are false. First of all, we must determine that a church has absolutely no work of the Holy Spirit in it, that what is fellowshiped on during congregations contains nothing but superficial words and doctrines, that all its explanations of God’s words are fallacious, that no one is able to speak about any true knowledge whatsoever, and that no one feels any enjoyment at all. Secondly, a church’s leaders are not people who pursue the truth, nor do they possess the work of the Holy Spirit, and there is no one who genuinely understands the truth and waters and provides for God’s chosen people. This determines that this church does not possess the work of the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, the entire church has fundamentally come under the control of a gang of evil people and is dominated by people who do not possess the work of the Holy Spirit, and members who do pursue the truth are restricted, suppressed, and cannot fulfill their duties normally. Any congregation that is in any of these three situations is a false church. What causes a congregation to lack the work of the Holy Spirit? Primarily, this happens when its leaders are not people who pursue the truth or possess the Holy Spirit’s work themselves. This makes the congregation very liable to miss out on having even a bit of the Holy Spirit’s work. If a church falls under the control of false leaders and people who do not possess the work of the Holy Spirit, and its members who do possess the work of the Holy Spirit are suppressed, restricted, and cannot fulfill their duties normally, then that congregation will have completely lost the work of the Holy Spirit and has become a false church. If a church’s leaders do not possess the work of the Holy Spirit but sincerely believe in God, have relatively good humanity, and can promote people who pursue the truth and who do possess the work of the Holy Spirit, and put them into important positions, then this is not a false church. If a few people in the congregation who pursue the truth and possess the work of the Holy Spirit can fulfill their duties normally, fellowship on the truth, and water and provide for God’s chosen people, then by extension, the church possesses the work of the Holy Spirit, too. Thus, in ascertaining whether a church is true or false, one must do more than just look at its leaders. Claiming that a church as a whole is false, simply based on the fact that its leaders do not pursue the truth and do not possess the work of the Holy Spirit, would be wrong. The key is to look at whether or not the congregation members who do pursue the truth and possess the work of the Holy Spirit are able to fulfill their duties normally and whether or not they are being suppressed. If these people are being suppressed and cannot fulfill their duties normally, and the entire congregation is under the control of people who are not in possession of the Holy Spirit’s work, then it has completely lost the work of the Holy Spirit and is, indeed, a false church. This is how to discern whether a church is true or false.
Excerpted from Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life