Lessons Learned From Boasting

January 22, 2022

By Lin Jie, China

In May 2021, the churches I’m responsible for were all holding elections. In the gatherings, the brothers and sisters brought up many issues surrounding the elections, and I resolved them all by leaning on God. The elections all went smoothly. I felt really pleased with myself for having singlehandedly managed these elections. I felt like I had great caliber and some work skills.

And during a gathering, the sister I’m partnered with said a church leader named Li was sowing discord and throwing a church into chaos. They were unsure of her essence, and didn’t dare to casually dismiss her. I wasn’t sure what sort of person she was, either, so I prayed to God and asked for His enlightenment and guidance. Then another sister said that Li hadn’t let Sister Liu, who we had assigned to partner with Li, do a duty, and Li said she didn’t know what Sister Liu was supposed to do. Hearing this, I thought Li had been clearly told that Sister Liu was to take on the church’s work with her. How could she say she didn’t know? She hadn’t been getting Sister Liu to participate in the work. Didn’t this mean she didn’t want to share her power? And I remembered once, a sister went to that church to do a project. Li refused to cooperate, and instead just made her a figurehead. Then I thought about God saying that antichrists tend to set up their own empires, and the more I thought it through, the more I saw that was how Li was behaving. So I shared fellowship with these two sisters, referencing God’s words, on Li’s motives and tactics, and their nature and consequences. I also said Li should be discerned and determined to be an antichrist, and fellowshiped on some related truths. This gave them discernment over Li. At first I felt like it was all God’s enlightenment and guidance, but later I thought I’d been the one to figure out such a tricky problem and give my sisters a path forward. Without my understanding of the truth, God wouldn’t have been able to enlighten me. After I got home, I told another sister, walking on air, about how I’d relied on God to recognize that Li was an antichrist, and how I’d taught the others some key points for discerning antichrists. I saw she was listening to me intently, and I thought I could resolve any problem through fellowship, no matter how difficult. I must really have discernment and rather good caliber. I started holding my head high, feeling like I was better than the others, I was insightful. I often bragged about myself. Later, she’d seek me out whenever there was something related to discernment she wasn’t sure of, and I felt even more confident in my understanding of the truth, that I was an indispensable talent. I was really on cloud nine. I was arranged to manage another election later. At a gathering, Sister Luo asked a question about an issue no one could get to the heart of or resolve. Then another sister’s fellowship gave me insight, and I fellowshiped based on that insight to get Sister Luo to reflect on herself, and ultimately the problem was solved. I felt like I had insight into a problem that no one else did. I could use fellowship to resolve a problem that nobody else could, so I must really have caliber. Once the election process started, some sisters raised some questions that all the candidates didn’t know how to address. I felt like none of them could handle problems, so it was up to me to show them how it’s done. I started talking about those sisters’ problems one by one, and telling them what they should do. One sister said admiringly, “None of us saw all this or knew what to do. How did you do that?” I was happy to hear that and, pleased with myself, said, “I’ve had more experience, so I can put my finger on these things.” After that, when the brothers and sisters brought up issues, I acted like I wanted the candidates to try to resolve them, but when I saw them struggling to find the right words of God, I just thought they weren’t up to the task. I wanted to show them how well I could resolve things using God’s words. In later fellowships, I only focused on what I had to say, and didn’t ask the others to speak up. All the candidates gradually stopped speaking at all, leaving me the only one talking. It became my own personal podium. Then I realized something felt off, that candidates should have the floor for the most part, so people can see if they have discernment and caliber, if they can handle real problems, then decide how to vote. But with the candidates not speaking up, no one could see whether they could fellowship the truth to resolve problems. So how could they vote? Wouldn’t that make the election a failure? I started to do some seeking on what had led to that happening, and asked the others for feedback. Some candidates said that I’d just been showing off how much truth I understood, making them feel they weren’t up to par, and they were reluctant to say anything. When they said that, I thought about how I couldn’t help but show off and brag, and I felt a little guilty. I stopped shooting my mouth off, afraid of negating someone else’s opinion and constraining them, and interfering with the election.

After the gathering, I immediately sought the truth related to my problem, and saw this in God’s words: “People who do not understand the truth are liable to think highly of themselves—and when they start thinking too highly of themselves, is it easy to bring them back down again? (No.) Normal people with a little sense don’t think highly of themselves for no reason. When they have yet to achieve anything, have nothing to offer people, and no one in the group pays them any attention, they don’t think highly of themselves. They may be a little arrogant and narcissistic, or they might feel themselves somewhat talented, and better than others, but they are not liable to think highly of themselves; they are more down to earth than most people. Under what circumstances do people think highly of themselves? When other people praise them for some minor achievement. They think that they are better than others, that other people are ordinary and unremarkable, that they are someone with status, and not in the same class, on the same level, as other people, that they are higher than them. And in this way, they get above themselves. And they think themselves justified in their high opinion of themselves. How do they judge themselves? What they believe is, ‘I have strength, caliber, and brains, and I am willing to pursue the truth. I have accomplished something now, too—I have made a name for myself, my reputation and worth are higher than other people’s, so I must stand out from the crowd, I must be someone who everyone looks up to, and so it is right that I think highly of myself.’ This is what they think in their minds, and it ultimately becomes a given—par for the course—that they should think highly of themselves. They believe that this is logical. If they don’t think highly of themselves, they feel unbalanced, like they are not worthy of their identity and other people’s approval; and so it is natural that they think highly of themselves” (“The Principles That Should Guide One’s Conduct” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words show us that the moment corrupt people accomplish something, they’re walking on air, thinking they’re better than everyone, that they have status and are a cut above. They can’t help but show off and brag—it’s really shallow. I saw I was that way. I had accomplished some things, had some discernment over antichrists, so I thought I was amazing, that I had insight and caliber, that I was an indispensable talent. When I saw candidates unable to address some problems in the election, I looked down on them. I wasn’t really listening for the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment in their fellowship. I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut, showing off my ability to understand the truth and resolve problems, which was disruptive to the election process. My role was to lead the election, so I should have guided the others to express their ideas, so that they could understand each other, then pick a good leader based on the principles. That was my duty. But I got so arrogant I lost all reason, just showing off and putting on my own show. How was that doing my duty? Wasn’t I just derailing the election? I was so full of myself, I had a few successes, then was walking on air, thinking I was better than everyone else.

Later I saw a passage of God’s words that really opened my eyes. “As one who is used by God, every man is worthy of working for God, that is, everyone has the opportunity to be used by the Holy Spirit. However, there is one point that you must realize: When man does the work commissioned by God, man has been given the opportunity to be used by God, but what is said and known by man are not entirely the stature of man. All you can do is to better know your own deficiencies during the course of your work, and come into possession of greater enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. In this way, you will be enabled to gain better entry in the course of your work. If man regards the guidance that comes from God as their own entry and as something that is inherent within themselves, then there is no potential for man’s stature to grow. The enlightenment that the Holy Spirit works in man takes place when they are in a normal state; at such times, people often mistake the enlightenment they receive as their own actual stature, because the way in which the Holy Spirit enlightens is exceptionally normal, and He makes use of what is inherent within man. When people work and speak, or when they are praying and making their spiritual devotions, a truth will suddenly become clear to them. In reality, however, what man sees is only enlightenment by the Holy Spirit (naturally, this enlightenment is connected to man’s cooperation) and does not represent man’s true stature. After a period of experience in which man encounters some difficulties and trials, the true stature of man becomes apparent under such circumstances. Only then will man discover that his stature is not so great, and the selfishness, personal considerations, and greed of man all emerge. Only after several cycles of experiences like this will many of those who are awakened within their spirits realize that what they had experienced in the past was not their own individual reality, but a momentary illumination from the Holy Spirit, and that man had but received this light” (“Work and Entry (2)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words showed me that accomplishing some things in a duty doesn’t mean I understand the truth or I have great stature. Any accomplishments come from the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and guidance, not because I understand the truth. Thinking back on the antichrist Li, I didn’t see the true picture at first either, or know how to deal with her. It was a sister’s comment that got me thinking, then the Spirit enlightened me. That was how I had discernment and saw she was an antichrist. It wasn’t my actual stature or insight into her. And at first, I didn’t know what was going on with Sister Luo, either, but it wasn’t until another sister’s fellowship that enlightened me that I understood her actual state and solved her issues. That also came from the Holy Spirit. That was all God’s guidance. Without that sister’s input, without the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, I wouldn’t have seen or understood anything. But I shamelessly claimed all the credit for all the work that was done, thinking I had discernment and a great understanding of the truth. I was so pompous, really. I didn’t understand the Holy Spirit’s work or have a clear view of my own stature. I was misguided, thinking that since I could do some work, I had the reality of the truth. I was self-satisfied, living in a self-congratulatory state. I was taking all the credit for the Holy Spirit’s work, for brothers’ and sisters’ fellowship and helpful comments. I always thought I was doing so well, and I became more and more arrogant and shameless. I couldn’t stop boasting to make the brothers and sisters admire me. I was on a path against God, offending His disposition without a clue. I was so pathetic and ignorant. Distinguishing between the Holy Spirit’s work and one’s actual stature is key. That way I wouldn’t take the Spirit’s work as my own reality of the truth and I wouldn’t revel in ourselves. After that, I became more low-key. In gatherings when I had some insight and a path of practice to share, I’d give thanks for God’s guidance. I stopped thinking it was all me, and I stopped boasting.

But not long after, since I had no true understanding of my corrupt nature, I started bragging again when the right situation came along. During a coworkers’ meeting, Sister Zhang said that a leader named Chen in a church wasn’t clearing out some unbelievers and evildoers, and that they were Chen’s own relatives. Sister Zhang wasn’t sure about Chen, and didn’t know how to handle it. It made me think of God saying that antichrists tend to practice nepotism, and I saw that was what Chen was up to. So I used God’s words to fellowship with the brothers and sisters on the essence of Chen’s behavior. Everyone was in agreement, and said excitedly that it was a great gathering and helped them understand the truth to resolve the problem. This went straight to my head. I also thought that the last time, I accurately sussed out that Li was an antichrist, that she had that essence. This time, I’d recognized Chen’s problems, so I thought I really understood the truth. I thought if I visited every single church and shared some fellowship, the brothers and sisters might gain some discernment. After this conclusion, I was walking on air again. At a gathering the next day, I started talking about the discernment I’d had over people lately, and about how important it is to have a good leader at a church, how only when leaders can do practical work is it possible to get rid of those people disrupting things. At that point, I realized that speaking that way might make the others think I was boasting about my discernment, that I could do real work. Then I rushed to say that discerning this antichrist was God’s guidance. Then a brother said, “That truly was God’s guidance, not your work.” I wasn’t too happy to hear that, and didn’t entirely agree with him. I was thinking: How was it not my work? Of course it was God’s guidance, but I had my own part, too. Otherwise, why was I the only one to see Chen’s problems? I was the only one with a burden, with caliber, so that’s why God enlightened me. After that gathering my stomach hurt so much I couldn’t get any food down, and I had a high fever that night. I realized it was God’s discipline for me. I’d started boasting, appreciating myself again over the last few days. I quickly came before God to reflect on myself.

Then I read this in His words: “In the course of performing your duty, are you able to sense the guidance of God and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit? (Yes.) If you are able to sense the work of the Holy Spirit and still think highly of yourself, and that you are possessed of reality, then what is going on here? (When our performance of our duty has borne some fruit, we slowly start to think that half the credit belongs to God, and half belongs to us. We magnify our cooperation to an unlimited extent, thinking that nothing is more important than our cooperation, and that God’s enlightenment would not have been possible without it.) So why did God enlighten you? Can God enlighten other people as well? (Yes.) When God enlightens someone, this is the grace of God. And what is that little bit of cooperation on your part? Is it something you are due credit for—or is it your duty, your responsibility? (Duty and responsibility.) When you recognize that it is duty and responsibility, this is the right state of mind, and you will not have thoughts of trying to take credit. If what you believe is always ‘This is my capital. Would God’s enlightenment have been possible without my cooperation? This needs people’s cooperation; people’s cooperation accounts for the bulk of this,’ then this is wrong. How could you have cooperated if the Holy Spirit had not enlightened you, and if God did nothing, and no one fellowshiped the principles of the truth to you? Nor would you know what God requires; you wouldn’t even know the path of practice. Even if you wanted to obey God and cooperate in the work of God, you wouldn’t know how to. Is this ‘cooperation’ of yours not empty words? Without true cooperation, you’re only acting according to your own ideas—in which case, could the duty you perform be up to standard? (No.) No, which indicates a problem. What problem does this indicate? No matter what duty a person performs, achieving results to satisfy God and gain His approval and performing their duty up to standard rests upon God’s actions. If you carry out your responsibilities, if you do your duty, but God does not act and God does not tell you what to do, then you won’t know your path, your direction, or your goals. What ultimately comes of that? It would be a waste of effort, you would gain nothing. Thus, doing your duty up to standard and being able to stand firm within God’s house, providing edification for brothers and sisters and gaining God’s approval depends entirely upon God! People can only do those things that they are personally capable of, that they ought to do, and that are within their inherent capabilities—nothing more. Therefore, the results ultimately reaped from your duty are determined by the guidance of God’s words and the enlightenment from the Holy Spirit, which make you understand the path, goals, direction, and principles provided by God” (“The Principles That Should Guide One’s Conduct” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). “When you are gained by God, you do not only possess the work of the Holy Spirit; principally, you are able to live out the requirements of the practical God. Merely having the work of the Holy Spirit does not mean you have life. The crux is whether you are able to act according to the practical God’s requirements of you, which relates to whether you are able to be gained by God. These are the greatest meaning of the practical God’s work in the flesh” (“You Should Know That the Practical God Is God Himself” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). After I read that, I felt really ashamed. I could see that anything we achieve in a duty is thanks to God’s guidance. Without His enlightenment, without the truths He expresses, no matter how hard we work, we’ll never get anything done. Also, resolving whatever problems come up in work is the duty of a leader, it’s their responsibility. Not doing so is a failure, and completing it is just doing your job. It’s nothing to brag about. But I mistakenly thought it was all my own accomplishments, so I was showing off, bragging. I was so unreasonable. Wasn’t my ability to discern an antichrist entirely because of God’s words? Without God expressing truths, revealing their essence and behaviors, no matter how hard I worked or how much I racked my brains, I’d never spot one. I realized I had nothing to brag about. It was God’s guidance and words that taught me a path of practice and the principles, so I knew what I should be doing. Otherwise, I’d never understand the truth, and never accomplish anything. But I was blind and foolish, and didn’t go by God’s words, instead trying to steal God’s glory, boasting for the brothers’ and sisters’ adoration. Even worse, when a brother said it was God’s guidance, not my own work, I felt upset, thinking my work was so important. I was so arrogant and unreasonable! The path I was taking was an antichrist’s path against God. I also mistakenly believed that I gained the Holy Spirit’s work because I understood the truth, but now I know that having the Spirit’s work doesn’t mean having the truth or life, but the key is whether a person can practice God’s words. Only experiencing and living by God’s words is truly understanding the truth and having its reality. I’d been patting myself on the back for so long, always thinking that if I didn’t cooperate, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t work in me, that I can take half the credit. I was shamelessly stealing God’s glory, How could someone as arrogant and unreasonable as me possess the reality of the truth? I’d always thought I could discern antichrists, but I didn’t have any awareness of my own path toward becoming one. I was so arrogant and ignorant. Then I came before God and prayed, “Oh God, I don’t know myself, and I’ve been stealing Your glory. I’m on a path against You. Please God, save me.”

After that prayer, I read this passage of God’s words: “The word ‘glory’ is not applicable to people, but only to God, to the Creator; it bears no relation to people. People might make an effort, and they may be cooperative, but this is still under the guidance of the work of the Holy Spirit; what could they do without the work of the Holy Spirit? The same goes for the word ‘testimony’: Be it ‘testifying’ as a verb or ‘testimony’ as a noun, neither has any connection to created humans. Only the Creator is worthy of people’s testimony and of being borne witness to; it is determined by God’s identity, status, and essence, and is His due because of all that is done by God, and because of all the sacrifices He has made. What people are capable of is too limited, and nothing but the product of being guided by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. People’s nature is such that when they understand a little of the truth, and are able to do some work, they grow insolent. Without the judgment and chastisement of God, no one is capable of obeying and testifying to God. Because they were predestined by God to have a few gifts or strengths, or to learn some profession or skill, or to be a little clever, people grow smug and constantly try to receive a share of God’s glory and testimony—which is irrational, is it not? It is utterly irrational; it is an instance of overstepping bounds and seeing themselves as other than what they actually are. Human humility is not because humans have humbled themselves. Humans have always been humble and lowly. God’s humility is because He humbles Himself. Saying a person is humble is the equivalent of elevating that person, when in fact, man is lowly. People always want to vie against God. This puts them in the role of Satan; this is the nature of Satan. They truly are Satan’s descendants” (“They Do Their Duty Only to Distinguish Themselves and Feed Their Own Interests and Ambitions; They Never Consider the Interests of God’s House, and Even Sell Those Interests Out in Exchange for Personal Glory (Part One)” in Exposing Antichrists). Reading this was really enlightening. God is the Creator who made all of us. God became flesh and has given everything, just to save us from Satan’s power. He’s done such great work, but He’s never shown off in the least. He also hasn’t felt like He’s done something so incredible, or laudable, instead He’s been humble and hidden, quietly doing His work. God’s essence is so lovable, so benevolent. Only God deserves glory, deserves our eternal praise and worship. I’m just a created being, a corrupt human being. God bestowed me with some gifts, some ability to understand His words so that I could understand the truth to have some insight. It was God’s grace. I’d gained so much from God, but never bore witness to Him or gave Him the glory. Instead I was unbearably arrogant, thinking I was a big deal, and I wanted to steal God’s glory, to bring the brothers and sisters before me. I truly was shameless. But then I realized that Satan had infused me with a satanic disposition, and I didn’t possess any truth. Any achievements I’d made were thanks to God’s guidance, so all glory should go to Him, and I should do my duty from the place of a created being.

After that, I asked myself, why was I so unreasonable? I read a couple passages of God’s words that helped me understand this. Almighty God says, “Arrogance is the root of man’s corrupt disposition. The more arrogant people are, the more liable they are to resist God. How serious is this problem? Not only do people with arrogant dispositions consider everyone else beneath them, but, worst of all, they are even condescending toward God. Even though, externally, some people might appear to believe in God and follow Him, they do not treat Him as God at all. They always feel that they possess the truth and think the world of themselves. This is the essence and root of the arrogant disposition, and it comes from Satan. Therefore, the problem of arrogance must be resolved. Feeling that one is better than others—that is a trivial matter. The critical issue is that one’s arrogant disposition prevents one from submitting to God, His rule, and His arrangements; such a person always feels inclined to compete with God for power over others. This sort of person does not revere God in the slightest, to say nothing of loving God or submitting to Him. People who are arrogant and conceited, especially those who are so arrogant as to have lost their sense, cannot submit to God in their belief in Him, and even exalt and bear testimony for themselves. Such people resist God the most. If people wish to get to where they revere God, then they must first resolve their arrogant dispositions. The more thoroughly you resolve your arrogant disposition, the more reverence you will have for God, and only then can you submit to Him and be able to obtain the truth and know Him” (God’s Fellowship). “It would be best for you to dedicate more effort to the truth of knowing the self. Why have you not found favor with God? Why is your disposition abominable to Him? Why does your speech arouse His loathing? As soon as you have demonstrated a bit of loyalty, you sing your own praises, and you demand a reward for a small contribution; you look down upon others when you have shown a modicum of obedience, and become contemptuous of God upon accomplishing some petty task. For receiving God, you ask for money, gifts, and compliments. It makes you heartsore to give a coin or two; when you give ten, you wish for blessings and to be treated with distinction. A humanity such as yours is positively offensive to speak or hear of. Is there anything praiseworthy in your words and actions? Those who perform their duty and those who do not; those who lead and those who follow; those who receive God and those who do not; those who donate and those who do not; those who preach and those who receive the word, and so on: all such men praise themselves. Do you not find this laughable? Knowing full well that you believe in God, you nevertheless cannot be compatible with God. Knowing full well that you are utterly without merit, you persist in boasting all the same. Do you not feel your sense has deteriorated to the point that you no longer have self-control?” (“Those Who Are Incompatible With Christ Are Surely Opponents of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words expose the root of people’s boasting. It mainly stems from an arrogant nature, from not knowing yourself. When I accomplished a bit in my work, I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself and brag without any self-knowledge. I got a few things done and entirely lost myself, not thinking about God at all. I thought all my accomplishments were my own, and I shamelessly took credit for God’s work so that the others would adulate me. I thought I possessed the reality of the truth, and had extravagant thoughts of going to every church so everyone could learn some truths from me. I saw I’d become incredibly arrogant. I didn’t know myself at all and didn’t know my own essence or who I am, but I saw myself as a fount of truth. Wasn’t I trying to take God’s place in my words and actions, acting as God Himself? The more I reflected on myself, the more afraid I was of what I’d revealed in myself. This had seriously offended God. That’s a very dangerous state. I never regarded boasting as a big deal before, but now I see it’s a way to mislead and control people, that it’s an antichrist’s path. If it hadn’t been for God’s immediate discipline, I really don’t know how far my arrogance would have gone. Then it would have been too late to repent from whatever evil I did. After realizing all this, I felt some fear and revulsion for my arrogant nature. I also begged God, asking Him to guide me to truly repent and behave conscientiously.

Later, I read this in God’s words: “In the eyes of God, you shall forever be a small creature, and regardless of how great your skills and ability are, regardless of how many gifts you have, you are, in your entirety, under the dominion of the Creator. … 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). God’s words gave me a path of practice. I’m just a regular person, and no matter what gifts God may grant me or what I achieve in my duty, I’ll only ever be a created being before God. My identity and status will never change. I shouldn’t have any ambitions or desires, I should just know my place and do my duty. Realizing this was a big relief for me, and I knew how to proceed.

In our gatherings after that, when I resolved people’s problems, when I achieved some things, I didn’t chalk it up to my own ability, and instead gave all the glory to God. Once, when discussing work with a sister, I gave her a specific suggestion and saw she was listening to me intently. I was wondering if she admired me, thinking I understood the truth and could solve problems. But then I realized that I was able to share a path of practice was all thanks to God’s enlightenment. It was also my duty as a leader, and nothing to brag about. All glory should go to God. After that, I adjusted my mindset and focused on fellowshiping with her to address her issue, trying to do my duty well. After doing so, I felt much better. Having this understanding and change is entirely thanks to the judgment and chastisement of God’s words. Glory be to Almighty God!

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