Reflections After Being Rebuked

January 18, 2022

By Yangfu, China

One day, I received a letter from a brother saying he had some problems in his duties and didn’t know what to do, so he wanted to ask my opinion. After I read the letter, I couldn’t help but appreciate myself. I thought to myself, “It’s been almost two years since I left that church, but my brothers and sisters still ask me when they encounter problems they can’t solve. I guess I do have some reality of truth and understand more than them.” I recalled how, during my duties as a leader at that church, although I hadn’t believed in God for long, when my brothers and sisters had problems or difficulties, I was able to find corresponding passages of God’s word to help them. Most of them came to me to seek and fellowship when they had trouble, and they approved of how I performed my duties as leader. That my brother sought my opinion when he had problems and feared practicing incorrectly was reasonable, because his stature was limited, and this proved that I possessed some reality of truth. Thinking about that made me very happy, and I couldn’t help but smile proudly. Brother Wang happened to notice the smile and said, “What makes you so happy that you’re smiling like that?” So I told him about the letter from my brother, and also told him how I wanted to reply. I thought he would approve, but unexpectedly, he said to me very seriously, “Your brothers and sisters at that church think very highly of you! Since I’ve known you, I’ve noticed everyone at that church is very dependent on you. They come to you for everything, ask for your opinion, and you especially enjoy having their support, and you agree to any request. Have you considered the nature and consequences of doing things this way? You need to reflect on yourself. Instead of fellowshiping that they should pray and rely on God to solve problems or telling them how to seek principles of truth, you give your brothers and sisters your solutions so that they look up to you, worship you, and have no place for God in their hearts. You are on the path of the antichrist!” Brother Wang’s words were like a heavy blow. I was stunned. What he said felt especially sharp and piercing. In the moment, I couldn’t accept it. I turned his words over and over in my mind. I thought, “It can’t be that bad. My duty is to solve problems and difficulties for my brothers and sisters, and I am effective. Work at that church originally wasn’t very effective. After I began my duties as leader, most of the brothers and sisters who weren’t performing their duties began doing so, new members started joining the church, and every aspect of work improved. Besides, I didn’t go against the work arrangements and do something else, nor did I attempt to establish my own kingdom. How could he say I’m walking the path of the antichrist? Helping my brothers and sisters of smaller stature solve problems in their duties ought to be a good deed. He says I am exalting myself and walking the path of the antichrist, but isn’t this blowing things out of proportion and mischaracterizing me?” The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I felt. I couldn’t accept what Brother Wang told me. At the time, I thought of how in the past, when I couldn’t accept pruning and dealing, I only ended up humiliating myself. I also thought of this passage of God’s word, “When you are faced with these problems and do not know how to understand, handle, and experience them, what attitude should you adopt to demonstrate your intention to submit, your desire to submit, and the reality of your submission to God’s sovereignty and arrangements? First you must learn to wait; then you must learn to seek; then you must learn to submit” (“God Himself, the Unique III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I realized this pruning and dealing for me contained God’s will. Regardless of whether I understood, I had to accept and obey. If what Brother Wang said was true, that I was bringing my brothers and sisters before me and was walking the path of the antichrist, this was very dangerous. When I thought of that, I no longer resisted in my heart. I prayed to God and accepted it. I told Brother Wang, “Although I haven’t realized how serious my problem is, since you’ve pointed it out, I will seek on the matter.”

After that, I began to calm down and reflect on my actions. I recalled that shortly after I started believing in God, I saw how the brothers and sisters were so happy when leaders and workers fellowshiped on the truth to resolve their problems, and how they wanted to attend such meetings and to ask for solutions. I was very envious, and I hoped I could become like those leaders and workers and fellowship on the truth to resolve my brothers’ and sisters’ problems so that they would think highly of me and approve of me. So, with that intention and desire, I started to focus on God’s word, actively attended meetings, and when my brothers and sisters had problems, I sought the truth to help them. My enthusiastic pursuit won their approval, and everyone said I could practice the truth and suffer and pay a price in my duties. Later, I was chosen as church leader, and I did my duties with even more enthusiasm and effort. In everything, including group meeting attendance and solving people’s problems, I was always first, and never lagged behind. Even though sometimes I felt negative and weak, I always quickly adjusted my state and actively cooperated with church work so that my brothers and sisters could see I was a qualified leader. I remember once, there was a sister who was constrained by her husband. She couldn’t attend meetings or perform her duties, and she felt negative and weak. After I learned about it, I thought, “I happen to have similar experience. I know I can use my practical experience to help her escape her negativity, and it will show my brothers and sisters I can solve problems and have the realities of truth.” So, I looked up passages of God’s word targeted at her state and combined them with my own experience to fellowship with her. To make sure she saw my stature, I only talked about positive aspects in my fellowship and didn’t mention a word of the corruption I exposed, my negativity, or my weakness. My fellowship inspired her, and her state improved greatly. After that, she told everyone at the meeting point, “Brother Yang can practice the truth and has stature. Despite his son’s persecution, he stood firm, and continued to preach the gospel. His fellowship was the only thing that could inspire me.” When I heard that, I secretly felt ecstatic. Later, I spent all my time at the church and helping my brothers and sisters. When I heard of a group leader who was muddling through and did not solve practical problems, or a brother or sister who was in a negative state and couldn’t perform their duties, I would go handle it personally. I braved wind, rain, heat, and cold, I never neglected anything, and I didn’t feel at ease until their problems were resolved and handled.

I recall once, I heard someone was forming a clique in the church and spreading negativity. Some brothers and sisters lacked discernment, and they had prejudices and couldn’t work harmoniously. I immediately went to fellowship with them. I exposed and analyzed that person’s behavior and put a stop to his wickedness. Through my fellowship, the brothers and sisters gained discernment and were no longer deceived and disturbed by him. And so, my brothers’ and sisters’ impression of me continued to improve. Some brothers and sisters even said when they mentioned me, “Brother Yang knows best how to practice the truth, see people accurately, and speak insightfully. You have to admit he can solve any problem!” I was very happy when I heard that, and I felt I was skilled in my role. Before I knew it, I was in a state of self-appreciation. Later, I also deliberately showed off in front of my brothers and sisters, saying, “That person has been very cunning and deceitful and has been spreading specious fallacies in the church. He was impossible to discern without understanding of the truth, but luckily, I saw him for what he is and was able to fellowship and expose his behavior. He might have managed to deceive someone else, but not me.” After hearing my fellowship, a brother thought very highly of me. Later, whenever he had any problems, he came to me to solve them.

I also often spoke in front of my brothers and sisters about how I prayed to God to seek His will in my duties and how I suffered and paid a price, to prove that I had faith and could practice the truth. Once, Brother Zhang and I went to water newcomers, and I thought to myself, “I used to be a leader in my old church, and I understand the state of some religious people, so I’m perfect for this duty.” When I saw the newcomers ask some questions, I spoke more actively and communicate with them on my own experience of changing my notions. But in my fellowship, I only talked about how I sought and accepted the truth, and I didn’t say a word of how I sealed the church and resisted God due to my own notions because I feared they would lose their good impression of me. I saw these newcomers nod approvingly as they listened to my fellowship, and I sincerely felt that how I performed my duties was qualified and acceptable to God. These newcomers said enviously to me after hearing my fellowship, “After this period of contact, I think you bear more of a burden than Brother Zhang, you fellowship in more detail, more understandably and with more passion.” When I heard the newcomers say this, I thought I possessed the realities of truth. Later, because of my duties, I left that church, but those newcomers still talked about me occasionally: “Why isn’t Brother Yang here? His fellowship is very helpful for us.” When I heard about that, I couldn’t help but think, “It looks like, alongside solving life entry problems for my brothers and sisters, I can also resolve the religious notions of newcomers.” I felt like I was an outstanding talent in the church. At the time, I didn’t think to reflect on my path at all. I felt like I really had stature, I could practice the truth, and I was loyal in my duties, which was why my brothers and sisters looked up to and admired me. I lived in a situation of self-appreciation without any self-awareness. After what Brother Wang told me, and after comparing it against my past behavior, only then did I realize I had been too arrogant and irrational. I was always exalting myself and showing off. I didn’t know myself at all!

After that, I read God’s word on showing off and exalting oneself and used it to reflect and understand myself. I read this passage of God’s word, “Exalting and testifying to themselves, flaunting themselves, trying to make people think highly of them—corrupt mankind is capable of these things. This is how people instinctively react when they are governed by their satanic natures, and it is common to all of corrupt mankind. How do people usually exalt and testify to themselves? How do they achieve this aim? One way is to testify to how much they have suffered, how much work they have done, and how much they have expended themselves. They talk about these things as a form of personal capital. That is, they use these things as the capital by which they exalt themselves, which gives them a higher, firmer, more secure place in people’s minds, so that more people esteem, admire, respect, and even venerate, idolize, and follow them. That is the ultimate effect. Are the things they do to achieve this aim—all their exalting and testifying to themselves—reasonable? They are not. They are beyond the purview of rationality. These people have no shame: They unabashedly testify to what they have done for God and how much they have suffered for Him. They even flaunt their gifts, talents, experience, and special skills, or their clever techniques for conducting themselves and the means they use to toy with people. Their method of exalting and testifying to themselves is to flaunt themselves and belittle others. They also dissemble and camouflage themselves, hiding their weaknesses, shortcomings, and failings from people so that they only ever see their brilliance. They do not even dare to tell other people when they feel negative; they lack the courage to open up and fellowship with them, and when they do something wrong, they do their utmost to conceal it and cover it up. Never do they mention the harm they have caused to the house of God in the course of doing their duty. When they have made some minor contribution or achieved some small success, however, they are quick to show it off. They cannot wait to let the whole world know how capable they are, how high their caliber is, how exceptional they are, and how much better they are than normal people. Is this not a way of exalting and testifying to themselves? Is exalting and testifying to yourself within the rational bounds of normal humanity? It is not. So when people do this, what disposition is usually revealed? Arrogant disposition is one of the chief manifestations, followed by deceitfulness, which involves doing everything possible to make other people hold them in high esteem. Their stories are completely watertight; their words clearly contain motivations and schemes, and they have found a way to hide the fact that they are showing off, but the outcome of what they say is that people are still made to feel that they are better than others, that no one is their equal, that everyone else is inferior to them. And is this outcome not achieved via underhanded means? What disposition is behind such means? And are there any elements of wickedness? This is a kind of wicked disposition” (“They Exalt and Testify About Themselves” in Exposing Antichrists). I contemplated God’s words and compared them to my own actions. I saw that I habitually exalted myself and showed off in my duties and I was indeed on the path of the antichrist. I thought back to when I just started believing in God. When I saw how people admired and looked up to leaders and workers for their fellowship, I was jealous. To earn the regard and admiration of my brothers and sisters, I was willing to suffer and work hard. Once my work showed some results, I often testified in front of my brothers and sisters how I suffered and paid a price, how I strove to perform my duties, and how I practiced the truth, but I never talked about my own negativity, weakness, rebelliousness, and resistance because I was terrified people would see through me and call me an unworthy leader. I thought only of how to establish my image in my brothers’ and sisters’ hearts, and used my duty as a chance to exalt myself and show off to bring the brothers and sisters before myself. Wasn’t I resisting God and walking the path of the antichrist? But I wasn’t aware of it at all. I still shamelessly appreciated myself and showed off while thinking I possessed the realities of truth. I had no humanity or reason. What I did was disgusting and sickening to God. When I realized this, I felt a deep sense of self-blame. I felt I really didn’t deserve to live before God, let alone accept God’s salvation.

I started to reflect after I realized these things: “Why do I always involuntarily exalt and testify myself? Why am I walking the path of the antichrist, doing evil, and resisting God? What is the reason?” As I sought, I saw these passages of God’s word, “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). “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). Through what God’s word revealed, I understood that I wanted to be admired in everything and to have a high position in people’s hearts because I was controlled by my arrogant and conceited satanic nature. This is the path of the antichrist and resisting God. From the start of my duties, I had been shamelessly showing off in front of my brothers and sisters how I suffered and paid the price in my duty, how I forsook the flesh, and how I sought the truth to solve problems, with the goal of showing I was above ordinary people and that I was better than others. I wanted people to look up to me and admire me. I thought of Paul, and how he used his preaching and work to display his gifts and knowledge, showed off to make others look up to him, and went to different churches to testify how much he worked and suffered for the Lord to win people over and capture people’s hearts. In his work and letters, he didn’t testify the truth expressed by the Lord Jesus, nor did he testify the loveliness of the Lord Jesus or exhort believers to obey the Lord’s words. Instead, to satisfy his own ambitions and desires, he worked relying on his arrogant disposition to make others worship and admire him. Finally, he shamelessly testified that he lived as Christ and took the place of the Lord Jesus in people’s hearts. He blinded generations of believers in the Lord so that people would listen to his words and not focus on the Lord’s, and walked the path of resisting God. I saw that my actions were the same as Paul’s. Under the control of my arrogant satanic nature, I exalted myself, showed off at every turn, and made people worship me. The result was that my brothers and sisters had no place for God in their hearts, and when things happened, they didn’t rely on God or seek principles of truth. Instead, they relied on me, as if I had the truth. Performing my duties this way was taking the place of God in people’s hearts, and this offended God’s disposition. Once I realized this, fear gripped my heart. I really never imagined performing my duties with my arrogant nature could cause me to do something as evil as resisting God!

Then, I saw another passage of God’s word, “Some people might use their positions to repeatedly testify about themselves, aggrandize themselves, and compete with God for people and status. They use various methods and measures to make people worship them, constantly trying to win people over and control them. Some even intentionally mislead people into thinking that they are God so that they can be treated like God. They would never tell someone that they have been corrupted—that they too are corrupt and arrogant, not to worship them, and that no matter how well they do, it is all due to God’s exaltation and that they are doing what they ought to, anyway. Why do they not say these things? Because they are deeply afraid of losing their place in people’s hearts. This is why such people never exalt God and never bear witness to God” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself I” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Reading God’s words seemed to pierce my heart. God’s house gave me the chance to be a leader, to let me practice fellowship on the truth to solve problems of life entry for my brothers and sisters, and guide people toward understanding the truth, knowing God, and obeying God. But, instead of exalting and testifying God, I used my duties to show off and satisfy my own ambitions and desires. Because of my leadership, my brothers and sisters all worshiped and looked up to me; when things happened, they relied on me instead of God and didn’t seek the principles of truth. Wasn’t I just bringing people before myself? Wasn’t I competing with God for people? God is supreme, holy, and great, yet He endured the great humiliation of coming incarnate to save humankind, He worked in a humble and hidden manner among people, and expressed the truth in obscurity to supply and guide people, giving all for humankind. God never attempted to show off. His essence truly is beautiful. I matter less than a maggot, and am so corrupted by Satan that I have no human likeness, yet I wanted others to admire and worship me. I was so shameless, and didn’t know my proper place! As I looked at what I had done, I felt disgusted and ashamed, as well as self-blame and self-loathing. I failed to live up to God’s grace and exaltation over the past few years. For these wicked deeds, I deserved to be cursed and punished!

Later, I read two more passages of God’s words. I understood what is to exalt and testify God, and found ways of practice to solve the problem of exalting oneself and taking the antichrist’s path. 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). “What should one do in order to not exalt and testify to oneself? In the same matter, if you flaunt yourself, you’ll achieve your aim of exalting and testifying to yourself and inspiring veneration in others—but if you open up and lay bare your true self, the essence is different. This comes down to details, does it not? For example, when you lay bare your motivations and considerations, you must be able to differentiate between phrasing and ways of expressing yourself that are self-knowledge, and those of flaunting yourself so that others venerate you, which constitute exalting and bearing witness to yourself. If you recount how you have prayed and sought the truth, standing witness through trials, then this is exalting and bearing witness to God. Such practice is absolutely not flaunting yourself and bearing witness to yourself. Whether or not you are flaunting yourself and bearing witness to yourself chiefly depends on whether you have truly experienced what you say, and whether the effect of testimony to God has been achieved; so, too, is it necessary to look at what your intentions and aims are when you speak of your experiences and testimony. All these things make it easy to tell the difference. Your intention is also involved when you expose and dissect yourself. If your intention is to show everyone how your corruption was evidenced, how you have changed, and allow others to benefit from this, then your words are earnest and true, and in line with the facts. Such intentions are right, and you are not flaunting yourself or testifying to yourself. If your intention is to show everyone what you have really experienced, and that you have changed and possessed the reality of the truth, and thus earn their admiration and veneration, then these intentions are false—and should be brought to light, too. If the experiences and testimony you speak of are false, if they are emended, and designed to mislead people, to stop them from seeing the true side of you, to prevent your intentions, corruption, weakness, or negativity from being revealed to others, then such words are deceitful and duplicitous; this is false testimony, this is deceiving God, it brings shame upon God, and it is what God despises most of all” (“They Exalt and Testify About Themselves” in Exposing Antichrists). I understood from God’s words that to exalt and testify God, we need to have the right intentions and speak truthfully. In terms of what rebelliousness and corrupt dispositions we expose in our experiences, how we applied God’s word, reflected, and came to know ourselves, how we accepted the judgment in God’s word, and what real knowledge of God we gained, we need to be able to fellowship openly. In addition, we should always reflect on our actions, thoughts, and notions. When we want to exalt ourselves and show off, we should pray and forsake ourselves, have the right intentions, know and keep to our place, open up more with brothers and sisters to expose our own corruption, and use our own experience and knowledge of God’s word to exalt and testify God. This is the reason and duty that created beings should have.

Once I realized this, I told Brother Wang, “Your opinions helped me reflect and come to know myself. This is God’s love for me. Now I have some understanding of my corrupt disposition, I’m willing to repent to God and analyze myself with my brothers and sisters.” Later, when I wrote back to my brother, I revealed how I had exalted myself and shown off over the past few years, my incorrect intentions, and that I had walked the antichrist’s path. I opened up, exposed, and analyzed these things with my brother, so that he could discern my corruption and wickedness and wouldn’t admire or be deceived by me anymore, and to guide him to rely on God in everything and seek paths of practice in God’s word. Even when you fellowship with others, you must have the right intentions, receive all things from God, only accept fellowship that fits with God’s word and the truth, and not worship or follow people. This is the path those who truly believe in God and pursue the truth should take. After I finished my letter, I felt a sense of ease and security I had never had before.

Later, I consciously practiced the requirements in God’s word in my duties. When my work produced results and I was praised by my brothers and sisters, and I wanted to exalt myself and show off, I quickly prayed to God, used God’s word to reflect and understand the antichrist disposition I exposed, forsook my incorrect intentions, and practiced according to God’s word. Slowly, my arrogant satanic disposition was somewhat restrained, and I didn’t exalt myself or show off like before. Once, I went to a meeting, and a brother said, “Your partner’s fellowship doesn’t provide as much of a path as yours. …” When I heard that, I started to feel proud, but I immediately realized my state was wrong and felt a little afraid, so I revealed how I exalted myself and showed off in the past and the consequences it brought about, and how later, I accepted the judgment and chastisement in God’s word and knew myself. I analyzed and revealed all these things to let my brothers and sisters see my true stature and the ugly fact of my corruption, and told everyone I wasn’t better than anyone else, and that the results of my duties were achieved by the work of the Holy Spirit. After my fellowship, my brothers and sisters could treat me correctly, they no longer looked up to or admired me, and I felt a great sense of ease. Although I still have many corrupt dispositions, I believe that as long as I focus on experiencing God’s judgment and chastisement, often reflect on my intentions, seek the truth in all things, and use God’s word as the criteria for comporting myself, I will receive God’s guidance, gradually get rid of my corruptions, and walk the path of salvation.

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