A Harsh Lesson Learned After Showing Off

January 18, 2022

By Min Rui, China

I stepped into a leadership role in 2009. Whenever the leader above me came to host a gathering, everyone would crowd around her and ask for her fellowship on problems. I was really envious. I wondered when I’d be able to fellowship on God’s words that well and have everyone supporting me, clustering around me. I thought it would be amazing. Later that year, the Communist Party launched another major arrest operation and things got dangerous. Our leaders couldn’t come to hold gatherings for us anymore. I was thinking that higher level leaders often watered us, so no matter how well I fellowshiped, the others probably thought I was just parroting what they said. But since they weren’t coming by, it was a chance for me to show my real skills. I had to learn more of God’s words to show everyone that I could fellowship and solve problems just as well as them, that I could handle everything just as well without their help. Then I’d gain everyone’s support and approval. So I started getting up really early to read God’s words and racking my brains to figure out the crux and fellowship new understanding to help everyone. In gatherings I was always thinking about what I could say to help enlighten people so they’d think I had caliber, I was perceptive, and my fellowship was inspiring, and they’d see me in a new light. And I’d always have the others share their own fellowship first, then I’d share my understanding so that my fellowship was the most comprehensive and enlightening.

In a co-workers’ meeting, I found out that some team leaders were lazy and irresponsible in their duty and behind in their work. This made me kind of anxious, and I thought that I had to find words of God to show them the trend of God’s work and urge them on in their duty, and then they’d know that my fellowship had helped them. I read them some of God’s words about understanding God’s work in the last days, then cleared my throat and said, “God has appeared and expresses the truth. This is an unmissable, priceless opportunity to be perfected. If we take things easy and waste our time, slacking in our duty, we’ll lose our chance to become overcomers and fall into the disasters, weeping and gnashing our teeth!” As I got more and more impassioned, they listened more intently and said they’d stop slacking off, and would do their duty well. A sister said with emotion that she’d read this passage of God’s words a lot, but hadn’t really understood them. My fellowship gave her a sense of urgency, and she’d stop muddling through and seeking comfort in her duty, but would throw herself into her work. I didn’t want everyone to think I was just parroting what the other leaders said, so I told them that we needed to really ponder God’s words, and under such difficult circumstances, with no upper leadership able to gather with us and no one to water us, we had to pray to God and seriously ponder His words. Then He’d guide and enlighten us. Then another sister said admiringly, “You really have caliber and understand God’s words. I don’t have your insight.” I said God doesn’t play favorites, and all we needed to do was pay a price, but I was secretly pleased with myself. It looked like my efforts hadn’t been in vain, that I could resolve real problems. I wanted to keep working so everyone would admire me even more.

Later, a sister mentioned that her family had been taken in by Communist Party lies and wouldn’t let her go to gatherings or do a duty, afraid she’d be arrested. She was having a hard time and didn’t know how to get through it. I shared how I’d come to recognize the great red dragon’s tricks and gave up my medicine studies, plus how I’d overcome my family’s obstructions to do my duty. I told them about how I’d suffered, really putting feeling into it. Then I said that the leaders valued and cultivated me at that point, what I’d learned and how I’d grown. I’d seen God really doesn’t favor people, but if we just genuinely expend ourselves, God will bless us. After all that, some of the people there commented that it couldn’t have been easy for me to give up everything for my duty at such a young age, and by comparison, their struggles hardly even counted, and they weren’t doing enough seeking. Though I said it was God’s words that gave me the strength to give up everything for Him, I actually felt like I was a better seeker. So, after this gathering, brothers and sisters started admiring me more. I was also reveling in all their adoration. I was dying to work harder on God’s words and think about how to fellowship to gain even more of their admiration. In gatherings, whenever a brother or sister mentioned some sort of difficulty, I’d rush to find the right words from God, then everyone would praise my fellowship and ability to resolve practical problems, and I’d be walking on air. I felt like maybe I did have great caliber and could fellowship well, and even without the help of leadership, I could still resolve people’s problems. I was feeling really proud of myself after I’d made a round of the churches. I felt like I’d resolved a lot of problems and everyone liked hearing my fellowship. I thought I could really do practical work, and I wanted to give a good account to the co-workers so they’d see how effective my fellowship was. So, I very happily told them all about how I’d fellowshiped on God’s words to resolve everyone’s problems, as if it were something precious. I was getting more animated, and the others were listening and taking notes, fully engaged, asking me about which passages of God’s words I’d talked about, afraid of missing a detail. Sister Li said, “You’ve got such great caliber and fellowship. You’re keeping our gatherings going even though the leaders can’t come, and your fellowship has improved. Without your regular gatherings, we wouldn’t know how to fellowship with the others.” She was overflowing with admiration. I was even more pleased when I heard this, and felt like they could finally see how capable I was. Repeating what others say counts for nothing—I could fix problems, and that was real skill. After that, my co-workers started bringing all their questions and problems to me, to seek with me. I’d use God’s words to fellowship with them, and when I saw their looks of appreciation, I felt like everything revolved around me.

Everyone really warmed up to me then. At the next gathering, a sister saw me riding my bike up and rushed over to help me park it, and everyone crowded around me when I went inside, asking me for help handling this or that, how to resolve a certain state. I helped them all tirelessly. Things went on this way, and some brothers and sisters stopped praying and seeking the truth on their problems, but just came straight to me for advice. Even my partner and other co-workers would wait for my fellowship before handling things, taking my advice for absolutely everything. I was still really pleased with myself. I felt like I was just great, that I was a central figure in the church. One time a co-worker said that a gospel deacon in one of the churches was really arrogant, he didn’t follow principles and listened to no one. I thought that God’s words are so authoritative, he had to listen to that no matter how arrogant he was. I thought their fellowship was no good, that doing the church’s work clearly required a more skilled hand. I decided to go myself so they could learn from me how to solve the problem. So I convened a deacons’ meeting and very sternly read God’s words about antichrists’ arrogance and pigheadedness. The gospel deacon sat off to the side, hanging his head like a criminal being sentenced. When I saw this, I reveled even more in my ability to find words of God that hit the mark. Then I analyzed the nature of his actions and the inevitable consequences if he kept on like that. He very meekly acknowledged his wrongs and said he wanted to start following the principles. I was thinking that people like him needed to be dealt with using God’s harshest words. When I went back and met with everyone, I lost no time telling them that my fellowship had convinced the gospel deacon, and described the whole scene in great detail. Everyone was even more impressed by my ability to find the right passage and I was elated, feeling like I had the reality of the truth, that nothing could stump me. But after our meeting, I was shocked to hear a team leader say that a new sister said to him after our last gathering that Christ was in the churches watering and shepherding people, and my fellowship was so good, she wondered if I could be God. I was shocked. How could she be so blind? I was just a corrupt human! I fellowshiped right away on the difference between Christ’s essence and corrupt humans, but I felt really unsettled. Was I bringing people before me instead of God? How could that happen when my fellowship was about God’s words? But then I thought maybe it was because she was a newcomer who didn’t understand the truth. Most of the others supported me and liked my fellowship because it helped them. Reframing it that way, I didn’t take it quite so seriously and didn’t reflect on myself, but kept on that way, full steam ahead, reveling in everyone’s praise and admiration.

March 2010 came before I knew it, and one day as I approached a host’s house, some plainclothes officers posted there arrested me for drug trafficking. They released me when they realized I wasn’t the person they were looking for, but they had some suspicions about me. To protect other members, the church suspended my duty and had me cut off contact with the others temporarily. At first, the sister I was paired with would keep coming every night to ask me about all the problems in the church. And she said when she fellowshiped with others, they looked down on her, and wouldn’t give her the time of day. She was feeling down, like she couldn’t handle everything on her own. I still didn’t reflect on myself, but kept fellowshiping on God’s will with her, to not worry about face, but to lean on God, while also telling her how to fellowship to resolve those problems. I was wondering if I should say something to my leader about my safety concern not being that serious, so maybe I could start my duty again, because the church needed me. But a few days later, she said the leader had dealt with her for adulating me and asking me about everything, not focusing on seeking principles of the truth, and not having God in her heart. The leader talked about the nature and consequences of that, and stressed that no one could contact me in case the police were watching me. At that point I realized that being suspended from my duty wasn’t random, but it was God’s wrath coming upon me, that He set things up to take away my service. I came before God to reflect and all those moments of others praising me and longing for my fellowship passed before my eyes. I searched my heart, asking myself if brothers’ and sisters’ support really was because of the quality of my fellowship. If that were true, after all that time why didn’t they understand the truth or do things according to principle? Why didn’t they pray and lean on God in times of trouble, but relied on me? Wasn’t I taking God’s place? It was then that I started to get scared. While reflecting on this, I read a couple passages of God’s words. “As far as all of you are concerned, if a church was handed over to you and there was no one overseeing you for six months, you would start to go astray. If no one oversaw you for a year, you would lead it away and astray. If two years passed and still no one was overseeing you, you would bring its members before you. Why is this? Have you ever considered this question before? Could you be like this? Your knowledge can only provide for people for a certain period of time. As time goes on, if you keep saying the same things, some people will discern that; they’ll say you’re too superficial, too lacking in depth. You’ll have no option but to try and deceive people by preaching on doctrines. If you always carry on like this, those below you will follow your methods, steps, and model of faith and of experiencing and putting into practice those words and doctrines. Ultimately, as you keep on preaching and preaching, they’ll all come to use you as an exemplar. You take the lead in speaking doctrine, so those below you will learn doctrines from you, and as things progress you will have taken the wrong path. Those below you will take whatever path you do; they will all learn from you and follow you, so you will feel: ‘I am powerful now; so many people listen to me, and the church is at my beck and call.’ This nature of betrayal within man unconsciously makes you turn God into a mere figurehead, and you yourself then form some sort of denomination. How do various denominations arise? They arise in this way” (“Only to Pursue the Truth Is Truly to Believe in God” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “All of those who go downhill exalt themselves and bear testimony to themselves. They go around boasting about themselves and self-aggrandizing, and they have not taken God to heart at all. Do you have any experience of what I am talking about? Many people are constantly bearing testimony to themselves: ‘I’ve suffered in this way and that; I’ve done this work and that; God has treated me in this way and that; He asked me to do such and such; He thinks especially highly of me; now I’m like this and that.’ They deliberately speak in a certain tone and adopt certain postures. Ultimately, some people end up thinking that these people are God. Once they have gotten to that point, the Holy Spirit will long since have abandoned them. Although, for the meantime, they are ignored, and not expelled, their fate is set, and all they can do is to await their punishment” (“People Make Too Many Demands of God” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Every word of God’s judgment was so poignant for me, and a real sense of fear gripped me. I realized I was exactly what God’s words described. I had a certain air, a certain presentation when fellowshiping on God’s words, imparting to the others my literal knowledge of God’s words and my doctrinal understanding, telling them how to do things, what to practice. They were all using my fellowship as the standard without seeking God’s guidance and would all wait for my fellowship. I was always sharing my experience, taking every chance to go on and on about my sacrifices and suffering so everyone would admire me. Wasn’t I exalting myself and showing off, bringing people before me? God elevated me to be a leader so I could seek the truth to resolve problems, to exalt and bear witness to God, and bring people before Him. But I wanted a place in people’s hearts, so I was always reading God’s words, not to seek and practice the truth to solve my own problems, but to equip myself with literal knowledge to flaunt in front of others. I racked my brains to come up with novel understandings, and strategized to be the last one to fellowship, summarizing everything so I’d seem clever. I used problem-solving as a chance to show off and get others to admire me, reveling in my status. I even got on my high horse, using God’s words to judge others, sternly ordering others to practice God’s words to establish my own prestige. I was just a created being, a corrupt person, but to gain people’s admiration, I was reading God’s words with an air as if I were God Himself, judging people with God’s harsh words so they’d bow down to my authority. I was passing myself off as God. I wasn’t acting like a human, but like a demon, like Satan. Then I realized how incredibly evil and shameless I was. I wasn’t just a regular corrupt person, but I was a living Satan who should be damned to hell! But I was still brazenly showing off to everyone my ability to fellowship, so when the others ran into a problem, instead of praying and seeking the truth, they’d wait for me to fix it, and even when my duty was suspended, the sister I worked with put herself in danger every day to come consult with me on the church’s work. She didn’t have the principles of the truth in anything. Brothers and sisters looked down on her, thinking my fellowship was better and they wouldn’t accept her leadership. I was bringing everyone before me. I got more scared, realizing I was misleading people just like an antichrist, bringing them before me, establishing my own kingdom. I saw more and more how serious my problem was.

I read another passage of God’s words, God says, “Most rebellious of all are those who intentionally defy and resist God. They are the enemies of God, the antichrists. Theirs is always an attitude of hostility toward the new work of God; they never have the slightest inclination to submit, nor have they ever gladly submitted or humbled themselves. They exalt themselves before others and never submit to anyone. Before God, they consider themselves the best at preaching the word, and the most skillful in working on others. Never do they discard the ‘treasures’ in their possession, but treat them as family heirlooms for worship, for preaching about to others, and they use them to lecture those fools who idolize them. There are indeed a certain number of people like this in the church. It can be said that they are ‘indomitable heroes,’ generation after generation sojourning in the house of God. They take preaching the word (doctrine) to be their highest duty. Year after year, generation after generation, they go about vigorously enforcing their ‘sacred and inviolable’ duty. None dare touch them; not a single person dares openly reproach them. They become ‘kings’ in the house of God, running rampant as they tyrannize others from age to age. This pack of demons seeks to join hands and demolish My work; how can I allow these living devils to exist before My eyes? Even those who are only half obedient cannot carry on until the end, much less these tyrants without the slightest obedience in their hearts!” (“Those Who Obey God With a True Heart Shall Surely Be Gained by God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). These harsh words of judgment from God felt to me like God was right there, declaring my final outcome, and I sank to the ground, paralyzed. I was always sounding off about my literal understanding of God’s words, using fellowship to solve people’s problems as a chance to lead them astray, elevating myself and my ability to fellowship the truth at every turn so people would look up to me, rely on me, and be dependent on my leadership. Someone even mistook me for God. Wasn’t I taking God’s place in people’s hearts just like an antichrist? God incarnating to save mankind is an incredible opportunity, and everyone’s lucky to have found the true God. But I was using my chance to do a duty to establish myself, unwittingly stealing people away from God and taking His place in people’s hearts. They took me for their master, forgetting about God’s sustenance, guidance, and blessings. I was robbing brothers and sisters of their chance for salvation. I’d never imagined I could sink so low, acting like some king of the hill. Then I was filled with guilt and regret and really despised myself. I bowed down to God and confessed, saying, “God, I deserve to be damned! I’ve been exalting myself, showing off, bringing Your people before me. If Your righteousness hadn’t presented itself by my duty being suspended, who knows how much more evil I’d have done. I’ve been a church leader for over a year, and not only have I failed to help the others understand You, but I’ve kept them from You, becoming a stumbling block, leading them astray. I’ve done them a disservice, and even more, I’m not worthy of Your salvation. I don’t even deserve to live, and I deserve any and all punishment from You. …” For some time after that, my tears hardly stopped. I felt like I’d really opened the gate to hell and was going to be exposed and eliminated by God, and I was even hoping He’d do away with me sooner rather than later so I wouldn’t be living a life against Him.

In the midst of this misery, I read a passage of God’s words. God says, “As long as you have a shred of hope, now, then whether or not God remembers your past transgressions, what mentality should you maintain? ‘I must seek a change in my disposition, seek to know God, never again be fooled by Satan, and never again do anything that would bring shame to God’s name.’ What key areas determine whether people can be saved and whether they have any hope? The crux of the matter is, after listening to a sermon, whether or not you can understand the truth, whether or not you can put the truth into practice, and whether or not you can change. These are the key areas. If you only feel remorse, and when you do things you just do whatever you want, in the same old ways, not only not seeking the truth, still clinging to old views and old practices, and not only being utterly without understanding, but instead getting worse and worse, then you will be without hope, and should be written off. With greater knowledge of God, and deeper knowledge of yourself, you will have greater mastery over yourself. The more thorough your knowledge of your nature, the more able you will be protected. And after distilling your experiences, and the lessons you have learned, you will never fail again. In actual fact, everyone has blemishes, it is just that they are not held accountable. Everyone has them—some have small ones, and some have large ones; some speak plainly, and some are secretive. Some people do things that others know about, while some people do things without others knowing about it. There are blemishes on everyone, and they all reveal certain corrupt dispositions, like arrogance or self-righteousness; they have all transgressed, have all been deviant in their work or occasionally rebellious. And this is all forgivable, and unavoidable by corrupt mankind. But once people understand the truth, it can be avoided, and it is possible to transgress no more, and there is no need to be ever troubled by previous transgressions. What’s key is whether people repent, whether they have truly changed: Those who repent and change are the ones who are saved, while those who remain unrepentant and unchanged throughout must be eliminated. If, after understanding the truth, people still knowingly transgress, if they are steadfastly unrepentant, utterly unchanged, and no matter how they are pruned, dealt with, or warned, it won’t work, then such people are beyond salvation” (“To Serve God One Should Walk the Path of Peter” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). This passage was really moving for me and it filled me with guilt. I thought of all my evil. I hadn’t truly repented and was still misunderstanding God. It was so unconscionable, so unreasonable of me. God doesn’t care how much corruption we reveal. The key is whether we can accept the truth, whether we truly repent and change. I knew I had to stop misunderstanding God, but pull myself together and pursue the truth, and really reflect on myself. That was the only way to stop showing off and exalting myself. Whatever end God determined for me, I had to pursue and enter into the truth, pursue change, and stop resisting God and hurting Him. I didn’t feel so depressed when I realized all of that, and I started looking for relevant words from God.

There were a couple passages that helped me understand my arrogance better. God says: “Some people particularly idolize Paul. They like to go out and give speeches and do work, they like to attend gatherings and preach, and they like people listening to them, worshiping them, and revolving around them. They like to have status in the minds of others, and they appreciate it when others value the image they present. Let us analyze their nature from these behaviors: What is their nature? If they really behave like this, then it is enough to show that they are arrogant and conceited. They do not worship God at all; they seek a higher status and wish to have authority over others, to possess them, and to have status in their minds. This is the classic image of Satan. The aspects of their nature that stand out are arrogance and conceit, an unwillingness to worship God, and a desire to be worshiped by others. Such behaviors can give you a very clear view into their nature” (“How to Know Man’s Nature” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “If you really possess the truth within you, the path you walk will naturally be the correct path. Without the truth, it is easy to do evil, and you will do it despite yourself. For example, if you have an arrogant and conceited disposition, then being told not to oppose God makes no difference, you can’t help yourself, it is beyond your control. You would not do it on purpose; you would do it under the domination of your arrogant and conceited nature. Your arrogance and conceit would make you look down on God and see Him as being of no account; they would cause you to exalt yourself, constantly put yourself on display, and, finally, sit in God’s place and bear testimony for yourself. You would turn your own ideas, your own thinking, and your own notions into truths to be worshiped. See how much evil is done by people under the dominance of their arrogant and conceited nature!” (“Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Reading that made it clear to me that I’d been on an antichrist’s path and doing all that evil because I was ruled by my arrogant nature. Ideas like “In all the universe, only I reign supreme,” “Men should always strive to be better than their contemporaries” were my lifeblood. I thought being high and mighty, having people flock to me was the only way to live a life of glory. Those poisons were etched into my bones, coursing through my veins, becoming my nature and making me incredibly arrogant. I always wanted to lord over others and be the focus of attention. I learned some doctrine to show off so everyone would admire me, cluster around me, and listen to me. I’d been so smug, so self-congratulatory in enjoying others’ exaltation. It was disgusting. I had no self-awareness and had no idea what I really was. The little bit of fellowship and help with others’ problems that I could provide came from the Holy Spirit’s guidance. I didn’t know the Holy Spirit’s work, so I thought I was really something, that I had the reality of the truth, and I shamelessly flaunted myself. The truth is that people who have the reality of the truth don’t go on about doctrines, but they have a true understanding of their corrupt essence and God’s righteousness. They have normal humanity and reason, and can differentiate between the Holy Spirit’s work and their own stature. They exalt and bear witness to God, and always live before God, seeking the truth to resolve their own corruption. They’d never shamelessly show off like I had. I thought about how Paul loved being admired, and he was always focused on preaching lofty doctrines, biblical knowledge, and theology. When he got people to admire him, he got so arrogant that he even said “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Saying that was openly acting like he was God, bearing witness to himself as Christ and offending God’s disposition. He’s still being punished by God. Weren’t my passions, pursuits, and my path the same as Paul’s? I felt even more scared and regretful when that occurred to me, and I could feel God’s righteousness that tolerates no offense. I felt some true reverence for God and I realized going after others’ admiration is a satanic disposition and is going against God.

I collected lots of God’s words about exalting and bearing witness to God and put my heart into reading them. There were a couple passages that made a particularly deep impression on me. Almighty God says, “When bearing testimony for God, you should mainly talk more about how God judges and chastises people, what trials He uses to refine people and change their dispositions. You should also talk about how much corruption has been revealed in your experience, how much you have endured and how you were eventually conquered by God; talk about how much real knowledge of God’s work you have, and how you should bear witness for God and repay Him for His love. You should put substance into this kind of language, while putting it in a simple manner. Do not talk about empty theories. Speak more down-to-earth; speak from the heart. This is how you should experience. Do not equip yourselves with profound-seeming, empty theories in an effort to show off; doing so makes you appear quite arrogant and senseless. You should speak more of real things from your actual experience that are genuine and from the heart; this is most beneficial to others, and most appropriate for them to see” (“Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “As leaders and workers in the church, if you want to lead God’s chosen people into the reality of the truth and to serve as God’s witnesses, most importantly, you must have a deeper understanding of God’s aim in saving people and the purpose of His work. You must understand the will of God and His various requirements of people. You must be practical in your efforts; practice only as much as you understand and communicate only on that which you know. Do not boast, do not exaggerate, and do not make irresponsible remarks. If you exaggerate, people will detest you and you will feel reproached afterward; this is just too inappropriate” (“Only Those With the Reality of the Truth Can Lead” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Reading these gave me a real path of practice. I saw that bearing witness to God isn’t just reading God’s words to people and telling them to practice them, or sharing some lofty-sounding theories to teach people, but it’s fellowshiping on God’s will and requirements, sharing your personal experience of God’s words, like how you’ve been judged and chastised by His words, what corruption you’ve revealed, how God’s words exposed you and how you understood them, how you put them into practice after that, and what you learned about God’s work and disposition. I’d just been shooting off my mouth about God’s words in an empty way without thinking about real-life practice. All those years I hadn’t changed for the better, but just became more arrogant. I was harming myself and misleading others. At that point I saw I had to focus more on my own practice and entry, seek God’s will more, and reflect on my own corruption and faults more. I had to know my place and use my experience and understanding of God’s words to bear witness to Him.

After that, I felt a lot more reverence in my heart when I was fellowshiping on God’s words, and I didn’t dare flaunt my literal understanding, but just shared my own experience. I only talked about what I understood and didn’t think about others’ admiration. I just wanted to say things that truly testified to God. When sharing my understanding, I made sure to give all the glory to God, saying it was the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and not from my own stature. I started to feel afraid of being admired. Being praised would make me nervous, and I’d rush to bear witness for God so others knew it was because of God’s work. I wasn’t as smug, as pleased with myself as before. Doing that gave me a sense of peace and I became much closer to God. It also taught me that what I need to gain in my duty is the truth and knowledge of God, not anyone’s admiration. I became disgusted by my old desire for adulation, and ashamed of it. Now I genuinely understand that whatever bit of understanding and change I gain is entirely God’s salvation for me. I’m so grateful to God!

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