Fulfilling a Duty Isn’t About Seniority
By Shangjin, South Korea
I have been involved in recording hymns for several years. Because I have believed in God for a fairly long time, some brothers and sisters came to me before recording songs to ask me to fellowship on my understanding of the lyrics of hymns of God’s word. Sometimes, the group leader asked young brothers and sisters to fellowship with me on God’s word. As time went on, I found that in the matter of fellowship on God’s word, I had gained the approval of my brothers and sisters and the group leader, and I was very happy. Although my singing was the worst, my understanding of God’s word was the best among my brothers and sisters. To gain the admiration of my brothers and sisters, whenever they asked me to share my understanding oflyrics, I contemplated things in advance, and I also found some fellowship or videos related to the lyrics for reference. That way, the understanding in my fellowship could be higher than others. In addition, although I said everyone’s ability to receive was limited, and that we should all just fellowship on what we understood, when others fellowshiped, I didn’t listen carefully at all. Instead, I only thought about how I could share a more unique understanding than others. Sometimes, I asked the brothers and sisters to fellowship first, and then when they finished their fellowship, I pointed out the deficiencies and told them how I understood the lyrics of this song. After I finished, some brothers and sisters said happily, “Your fellowship is so helpful to us.” Others said, “I have little experience and little understanding of God’s word. In the future, I will ask you for fellowship before every song I record.” After hearing these things, although I reminded them not to rely on others, and that they still had to put in the effort to contemplate God’s word, yet in my heart, I still unknowingly appreciated myself.
There were also several gatherings where we fellowshiped on discerning antichrists, and some brothers and sisters said to me, “Brother, we have a relatively shallow understanding ofrevealing antichrists, and we can’t discern based on the actual situation. Please fellowship with us!” At such times, I said I knew very little, but I still felt a sense of superiority in my heart. I felt I had believed in God for a long time, that I had met many people and experienced many things, so I had a deeper understanding of God’s word than my brothers and sisters. After that, I fellowshiped about incidents of antichrists deceiving people that I heard about in the past. When I saw that everyone was listening intently, I really enjoyed the feeling of being valued. Slowly, I discovered that some brothers and sisters seldom pondered the meanings of hymn lyrics, and simply waited for my fellowship. I was quite numb at the time, and I didn’t know to reflect on myself. I just had a vague feeling that this was inappropriate. I even thought what I fellowshiped was only how I understood God’s word, and it was helpful to my brothers and sisters, so it shouldn’t be a problem. So, I didn’t think much about it. And just like that, before I knew it, I put myself on a pedestal.
Once, before recording, a younger sister said to me, “Brother, tell us a Bible story related to this hymn!” To make the story more vivid, when I was speaking, I imitated the tone of Jehovah God’s words. As soon as I said a few words, I felt very uncomfortable. I thought, “Is it inappropriate for me to imitate the tone of God’s words?” But then again, I was doing it to help get people into the recording state, so I didn’t think there was a problem. However, after speaking for just a little while, the young sister said to me, “Brother, you’re making me sleepy.” When I heard her say that, I felt a heat on my face, and I immediately stopped talking. Since everyone wasn’t in the best condition at that time, the recording quality was quite poor, but I didn’t reflect on myself. Later that evening, my stomach problems suddenly flared up. Even after taking medicine, I still felt pain in my stomach from time to time. At about two in the middle of the night, I suddenly felt a violent pain in my stomach. It was so painful I was rolling back and forth on the bed. It felt like I was about to die at any moment. At this time, I clearly thought of God’s words in my mind, “But with any serious illness—when you are struck down with sickness, and when, out of nowhere, life becomes unbearable—that kind of sensation or illness does not happen by accident” (“In Believing in God, Gaining the Truth Is Most Crucial” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). Through the reminder of God’s word, I realized the sudden onset of this disease wasn’t an accident, it happened with God’s permission, so I reflected on what I had most recently exposed. I realized that before recording, to tell the Bible story more vividly and make my brothers and sisters look up to me, I had deliberately imitated the tone of God’s voice. I was shocked at my actions. I thought of God’s words, “You should revere the testimony of God. You shall not ignore the work of God and the words from His mouth. You shall not imitate the tone and aims of God’s utterances” (“The Commandments of the New Age” in). “You should guard your footsteps to avoid transgressing the boundaries set out for you by God. If you transgress, this will cause you to stand in the position of God and speak words which are conceited and pompous, and thus you will become loathed by God” (“The Commandments of the New Age” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Thinking of this, I was very scared. God reminded us long ago to stand in our own positions, be wary of our tongues, and never imitate the tone of God’s utterances, or we will be loathed by God. Despite this, to make people look up to me, I imitated God’s tone. Wasn’t I standing in God’s position by doing this? This is something that seriously offends God’s disposition. Only at this moment did I realize this was God’s discipline for me. I quickly prayed to God. “God, I am so shameless. To gain the admiration of my brothers and sisters, I actually imitated the tone of Your voice to show off. I was so arrogant that I lost all reason. God, I wish to repent, and ask You to lead me in knowing myself.” I kept reflecting, praying, and seeking with God, and before I knew it, my pain eased a bit.
After that, I wondered, how could I do such a thing? In my reflection, I read a passage of God’s words.says, “Today, you face a very large problem. What problem is that? It is that, because you are capable of preaching a little doctrine, and have a grasp of certain spiritual sayings, and can talk a little about your experiences of knowing yourselves, you think that you understand the truth, that your faith in God has reached a certain level, that you are above most people. But in fact, you have not entered the reality of the truth, and without people to support and provide for you, without people to fellowship the truth to you and guide you, you would come to a standstill, and grow dissolute. You are incapable of undertaking the work of testifying to God, you are not able to complete God’s commission, yet inside, you still have a high opinion of yourselves, you think that you understand more than most people—but in fact, you lack stature, you have not entered the reality of the truth, and have grown arrogant merely from being able to understand a few words and phrases of doctrine. As soon as people enter this kind of state, when they think they have already gained the truth, and become complacent, what kind of danger are they in? If a convincing false leader or antichrist really does appear, you will undoubtedly be taken in and start following them. This is dangerous, is it not? You are liable to be arrogant, conceited, and complacent—in which case, will you not stray from God? Will you not turn your back on God and go your own way? Without the reality of the truth, you will not be able to testify to God; you will only testify to yourself and flaunt yourself—and will you not be in danger then, too? … You may have performed your duties for several years, but there has been no discernible progress in your entry into life, you merely understand a few superficial doctrines, and have no true knowledge of the disposition and essence of God, no insights to speak of—and if this is your stature today, what will you be liable to do? What outpourings of corruption will you have? (Arrogance and conceitedness.) Will your arrogance and conceitedness intensify, or remain unchanged? (They will intensify.) Why will they intensify? (Because we will think ourselves highly qualified.) And what is how highly qualified people believe themselves to be based on? On how many years they have performed a certain duty, on how much experience they have gained, is it not? And with this being the case, will you not gradually start thinking in terms of seniority? For example, a certain brother has believed in God for many years and performed a duty for a long time, so he is the most qualified to talk about this duty; a certain sister has not been here long, and although she has a little caliber, she is not experienced in performing this duty, and hasn’t believed in God for long, so she is the least qualified to talk. The person who is most qualified to speak thinks to themselves, ‘Since I have seniority, that means my performance of my duty is up to standard, and my pursuit has reached its peak, and there is nothing I should strive for or enter into. I have performed this duty well, I have more or less completed this work, God should be satisfied.’ And in this way they begin to grow complacent. Does this indicate they have entered the reality of the truth? They have stopped making any progress. They have still not gained the truth or the life, and yet they think themselves highly qualified, and talk in terms of seniority, and wait for God’s reward. Is this not the outpouring of an arrogant disposition? When people are not ‘highly qualified,’ they know to be cautious, they remind themselves not to make mistakes; once they believe themselves to be highly qualified, they grow arrogant, and start to have a high opinion of themselves, and are liable to be complacent. At such times, are they not likely to ask for rewards and a crown from God, as Paul did? (Yes.) What is the relationship between man and God? This is not the relationship between the Creator and created beings. It is nothing more than a transactional relationship. And when that is the case, people have no relationship with God, and God will likely hide His face from them—which is a dangerous sign” (“Only With Fear of God Can One Tread Upon the Path of Salvation” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). After reading God’s word, I compared it to my own state. After I began my duty in the hymn group, when I saw many brothers and sisters around me who believed in God for a short time, I unwittingly began to feel I had seniority. I felt that I had believed in God for a relatively long time, which made me the senior in the group. So, I put myself in a high position. Whenever I interacted with my brothers and sisters, I always felt I had more experience and seniority than them. When we fellowshiped on our understanding of the lyrics, I had already decided that they had little experience, a shallow understanding of God’s word, and that there wasn’t much light or understanding in their fellowship, so when they fellowshiped, I never listened carefully. I always made my brothers and sisters fellowship first, and then I talked about some understanding they didn’t perceive, which made it appear that I knew better than anyone else. From these thoughts I had, I saw that my nature was too arrogant. I regarded my years of believing in God and listening to sermons as capital, I used it to show off, and I felt no guilt at all. I really had no sense of shame! I thought of how I could speak about my little understanding of God’s word. Wasn’t this thanks to the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit? But instead of exalting and testifying to God, I tried to steal God’s glory and used the work of the Holy Spirit as capital for me to show off. I was really just shameless!
Later, I thought of God’s words. “The truth is the life of God Himself; it represents His disposition, His essence, and what He has and is. If you say that by having some experience and knowledge, you thereby have the truth, then have you achieved holiness? Why do you still show corruption? Why can’t you discern between different types of people? Why can’t you testify to God? Even if you understand some truths, can you represent God? Can you live out God’s disposition? You may have some experience, knowledge, and light regarding a certain aspect of the truth, but what you can provide to people is extremely limited and cannot last long. This is because your understanding and the light you have obtained does not represent the essence of the truth, and it does not represent the entirety of truth. It only represents one side or a small aspect of the truth, it is only a level that can be achieved by human beings, and it is still far from the essence of the truth. This little bit of light, enlightenment, experience, and knowledge can never take the place of the truth. Even if all people experienced a truth, and all their experiences and knowledge were put together, it would not reach the entirety and essence of even a single line of this truth. … Some people say they have the truth as soon as they understand the textual meaning of God’s word. Isn’t this nonsense? In terms of both light and knowledge, there is a matter of depth. The realities of truth that a person can enter into over a lifetime of belief are limited. Therefore, just because you possess some knowledge and light does not mean that you possess the realities of truth. The main thing you must look at is whether this light and knowledge touches upon the essence of the truth. This is the most important thing. Some people feel that they possess the truth when they can shed light or offer a little superficial understanding. This makes them happy, so they become smug and conceited. In fact, they are still far from entering the reality of the truth. What truth could people possess? Can people who have the truth fall down anytime and anywhere? When people have truth, how can they still defy God and betray God? If you claim that you have truth, it proves that within you is the life of Christ—then that is terrible! You have become the Lord, you have become Christ? This is an absurd statement, and is entirely inferred by people; it pertains to human notions and imaginings, and is not a tenable position with God” (The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days, Part Three). God’s word is all too clear. Even if a person has some knowledge of the truth, it only represents their personal experience. It cannot provide for people’s lives, and it can never replace the truth! Faced with the truth, a little bit of human knowledge is only a drop in the ocean. It is simply insignificant. Without God to express the truth and enlightenment from the Holy Spirit, we would never know the truth. Much less would we have practical understanding of the truth. The fact that I had a little understanding of God’s word was because I heard a lot of fellowship and experience from others at gatherings. I had learned some doctrine by listening to other people’s fellowship. Even if my fellowship had some enlightenment, it wasn’t actual knowledge I gained from practicing the truth and experiencing God’s words, they were simply others’ words I learned. Despite this, I used these things as capital to show off, shamelessly boasted in front of my brothers and sisters, and enjoyed the feeling of being looked up to. I was completely unreasonable! I had believed in God for a long time, but I had barely put any of the truth into practice. I was content with having a little superficial understanding of God’s word, and even treated it as capital, thinking I understood much more and I had greater insight into God’s words than others, but actually, I had been stagnant in my life entry and my pursuit of the truth. I was so ignorant!
One day, during my devotional time, I read a passage of God’s word revealing antichrists that helped me understand a little more about myself. God’s words say, “The essence of the behavior of antichrists is to constantly use various means and methods to achieve their goal of having status, of winning people over and making them follow and venerate them. It is possible that in the depths of their hearts they are not deliberately vying over humanity with God, but one thing is certain: Even when they do not vie with God for humans, they still wish to have status and power among them. Even if the day comes when they realize that they are vying with God for status, and they rein themselves in a bit, they still employ various methods to pursue status and prestige; it is clear to them in their hearts that they will secure legitimate status, by winning the approval and admiration of others. In short, though everything antichrists do appears to comprise a performance of their duties, its consequence is to dupe people, to make them worship and follow them—in which case, performing their duty in this way is exalting and testifying to themselves. Their ambition to control people—and to gain status and power in the church—will never change. This is an out-and-out antichrist. No matter what God says or does, and no matter what He asks of people, antichrists do not do what they should do or fulfill their duties in a way that befits His words and requirements, nor do they give up their pursuit of power and status as a result of understanding His utterances and a little of the meaning of the truth. Their ambition and desires still remain, they still occupy their hearts and control their whole being, directing their behavior and thoughts, and determining the path they walk. This is a bona fide antichrist” (“Item Five: They Deceive, Draw In, Threaten, and Control People” in Exposing Antichrists). From what God’s word revealed, I gained some knowledge and discernment of the essence of what antichrists do. No matter how zealously antichrists work, expend, suffer, pay a price, or help their brothers and sisters out of love, their motives are always the same. All they do is to win the favor of their brothers and sisters as a means to achieve their goal of making people admire and worship them. They use various means to show off, and thereby bring people before themselves without others realizing it. The essence of what antichrists do is the same as that of the archangel. They always want to have a high position and compete with God for people and status. Their ambitions for status and power never change. I used these manifestations of antichrists to consider my own actions. Although I didn’t intend to compete with God for people, when I fellowshiped with others, I always thought about how to fellowship so that others would look up to and worship me. I even wanted them to come to me when they had difficulty understanding God’s words. To achieve this goal, I put a lot of effort into understanding the lyrics of hymns in secret. Because I didn’t exalt or testify to God, nor did I lead my brothers and sisters to rely on God, their hearts were ever farther from God, and they no longer relied on God to contemplate the lyrics. Instead, they waited for my fellowship. Wasn’t I just bringing everyone before myself? I was walking the path of the antichrist! After believing for so many years, although I could discuss a little understanding of God’s word, my life disposition hadn’t changed at all. Outwardly, I didn’t dare blatantly compete with God for people and status, but in my heart, I had never given up the pursuit of reputation and status. In the right environment, I involuntarily showed off to make people look up to me. I was so pitiful. After years of belief in God, I could only speak of doctrine and possessed no realities, but I still arrogantly thought I was good. I had no self-awareness at all. I thought about the young brothers and sisters around me. Although some believed in God for a short time and their understanding of God’s word was shallow, they pursued passionately. Once they understood God’s word, they could immediately practice and enter into it in their lives, and when they revealed corrupt dispositions, they could quickly seek the truth to resolve them. The more I compared myself to them, the more ashamed I felt. I amounted to nothing, yet I always showed off my seniority in front of my brothers and sisters. I really was too shameless! This time, if God hadn’t used sickness to remind and discipline me, I would have walked the path of resisting God without even realizing it!
Later, I read a few passages of God’s word. “As one of the creatures, man must keep his own position, and behave conscientiously. Dutifully guard that which is entrusted to you by the Creator. Do not act out of line, or do things beyond your range of ability or which are loathsome to God. Do not try to be great, or become a superman, or above others, nor seek to become God. This is how people should not desire to be. Seeking to become great or a superman is absurd. Seeking to become God is even more disgraceful; it is disgusting, and despicable. What is commendable, and what the creatures should hold to more than anything else, is to become a true creature; this is the only goal that all people should pursue” (“God Himself, the Unique I” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “This is the sort of atmosphere you must have within the church—everyone focusing on the truth and striving to attain it. It does not matter how old or young people are, or whether or not they are veteran believers. Nor does it matter whether they have high or low caliber. These things do not matter. Before the truth, everyone is equal. The things you must look at are who speaks correctly and in conformity with the truth, who thinks of the interests of God’s house, who bears the greatest burden in the work of God’s house, who understands the truth more clearly, who shares a sense of righteousness, and who is willing to pay the price. Such people should be supported and applauded by their brothers and sisters. This atmosphere of uprightness that comes from pursuing the truth must prevail within the church; in this way, you will have the work of the Holy Spirit, and God will bestow blessings and guidance” (“Only One Who Performs Their Duty With All Their Heart, Mind, and Soul Is One Who Loves God” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). I understood from God’s word that God wants us to conduct ourselves and fulfill our duties as created beings in a down-to-earth manner. This is the pursuit that people should have, and the rationality that people should possess. I shouldn’t have flaunted my seniority. No matter how long I have believed in God and how many duties I have performed in the church, or how much experience and knowledge of God’s word I have, I will always be a created being, and I should pursue the truth and perform my duty on an equal footing with my brothers and sisters. This is the only way to receive the work of the Holy Spirit.
Once I understood God’s will, I had some direction about what path I should take in the future. After that, when I fellowshiped on lyrics or at gatherings with my brothers and sisters, I no longer blindly showed off, and I listened to everyone’s fellowship attentively. I found that some showed light and enlightenment in talking about their experiences and knowledge that I didn’t understand, and this made me feel even more ashamed. In the past, I always thought my fellowship was deepest, but now I saw that I was no better at fellowship than my brothers and sisters. I was too arrogant and self-congratulatory, so I always thought of myself as the best, and I didn’t know my own measure. I knew I had to stand in my own position, listen to the fellowship of others more, and learn to accept the enlightenment and light from God. This was the only way I could grow.
Then one afternoon, a brother suddenly sent me a message asking me to share my understanding of the lyrics of two hymns, but because the time was a bit rushed, I didn’t have time to figure it out in advance. I was very worried, “If I fellowship badly, what will my brother think of me?” At this moment, I suddenly realized that I wanted to use the fellowship on God’s word to make people look up to me again, so I quickly prayed to God, saying I wanted to forsake my wrong intentions. After that, I said to my brother, “I also don’t entirely understand the two hymns, so I don’t know much, but we can fellowship together.” When I set my mind in the right direction, I saw God’s guidance, I got some inspiration from my brother’s fellowship, and on the basis of his fellowship, I talked a little about my own insights. This way, we complemented each other, and as we fellowshiped, our hearts became brighter.
I truly experienced that when we don’t show off, and fellowship on the truth on an equal footing with brothers and sisters, we receive the work of the Holy Spirit, and our hearts are relieved and at ease. Thanks be to God!