Reflections on Following a Person While Believing in God
By Xiaolu, China
In November 2018, Li Juan, an upper leader, came to our church to oversee our work. At the time, a church member was spreading biases against the leaders and forming a faction to disrupt the church. We fellowshiped with him many times, but he didn’t repent. We weren’t sure if we should define him as an antichrist, so we asked Li Juan. Li Juan used truths about how to discern antichrists to fellowship with us on how to determine this, giving us a way forward. I also learned in our talks that when Li Juan was a new leader, she took care of some chaos in the church in just two weeks that others hadn’t solved in two months. Now as an upper leader, she’d overseen the work of many churches and resolved lots of their issues. Before I knew it, I started looking up to her. After that, my partner and I ran into issues we didn’t understand, so we waited for Li Juan to come give us some guidance. A month later, she finally came back to our church. I shared the issues and difficulties we were facing right away and she quickly fixed things again. I really admired Li Juan after a few encounters with her. I felt she deserved to be an upper leader, that she understood the truth and had discernment. The problems I simply couldn’t resolve were easy for her to take care of. I hoped she could come to guide us more often. To my surprise, Li Juan was dismissed a couple months later. She was arrogant and autocratic in her work, and wouldn’t accept the truth. She was disruptive to the church’s work. Her dismissal was inconceivable to me, but I also thought it could be a good thing for her. If she could learn about herself and change, then she could take on important work again, and that was God’s salvation for her. So even though she’d been dismissed, the place she held in my heart didn’t change at all.
A few months later, the church assigned Li Juan and I to organize materials on people who had been expelled and cleared out. I was thrilled. I wanted to make good use of that chance to learn more from her. Later when we were discussing matters, she was always able to find relevant principles to fellowship and find solutions. She also talked a lot about her becoming a leader shortly after joining the faith, how the work had improved thanks to her hard work, how she’d learned about herself after her dismissal, and said that the church was giving her important work again. Hearing all this made me look up to her even more, and I always went to her with my questions. She always had an answer. Over time, I stopped focusing on prayer and seeking God in my duty, but relied on Li Juan for everything, thinking whatever she said was right. But at the time I thought too much of her. I blindly adulated her, and nearly went along with her in committing a great evil.
One day, I saw an application for expulsion saying that before when Zhang Ping was a leader, she said some judgmental things to her family about her partner, because she was biased against her. Then her family repeated these things in a group gathering. The church leader defined Zhang Ping as an antichrist because of that one thing. Her family felt like handling it that way wasn’t in line with the principles, so they wrote a letter to report it. But then the church leader defined Zhang Ping’s whole family as a gang of antichrists and isolated them. Looking at Zhang Ping’s expulsion documents, I saw that she was just living within a corrupt disposition and said some judgmental things. She wasn’t fighting for status or establishing her own kingdom—she wasn’t an antichrist. Her family wrote that report letter just to point out a problem, but they didn’t form a faction and disrupt church work. They shouldn’t have been called antichrists. Also, I’d interacted with Zhang Ping a few years prior. She had acceptable humanity and didn’t seem like an evildoer. I wondered if the leader had made a mistake in calling her an antichrist and expelling her. That’s not a small issue. I wanted to get Li Juan’s help in thinking it over again. But surprisingly, she said very decisively, “Zhang Ping was judgmental of her partner, and that’s an evil deed. Her family spoke out on her behalf, so they’re a gang of antichrists. We can take a look at whether they did any other evil things.” I felt like it wasn’t proper for her to be so conclusive, but then I thought if Li Juan was that certain, she must really have a handle on things. After all, she’d served as an upper leader, had a lot of experience, and great discernment. She must know the truth and see things better than me. So I changed my tune, saying, “I haven’t been in contact with Zhang Ping for a few years. I don’t know if she’s committed other evil. Let’s look into it and then decide.” Before long I got more information on Zhang Ping. She hadn’t done any other evil, and after judging her partner she self-reflected and learned about herself. Her family wasn’t spreading judgment everywhere or getting others to advocate for Zhang Ping. Based on their behavior, they shouldn’t have been defined as antichrists and expelled. She was really disdainful and thought defining Zhang Ping as an antichrist wasn’t wrong. She also said, “If we leave antichrists in the church and they keep doing evil and being disruptive, we have a part in their evil!” Another sister didn’t agree with Li Juan, either. She also said that they weren’t a gang of antichrists, but had just shown some corruption, and we should take them back into the church. Li Juan still said confidently, “Even if Zhang Ping isn’t an antichrist, she’s an evildoer. She maligned her co-worker to her family and her family shared that in a gathering and then wrote a report letter. Isn’t that disrupting the church? We can’t re-admit them, but we have to learn more about their evildoing.” But I felt kind of hesitant after hearing what Li Juan had to say. Since she was so certain Zhang Ping should be expelled, did I have a limited perspective on this? Was Zhang Ping really an evildoer? Li Juan had been a leader for so long, so she had to have a broader view on things than me. I figured I lacked discernment and we could keep looking into what Zhang Ping had done. So, though I didn’t feel entirely at ease, I still steeled myself and had some brothers and sisters inquire into it further. I felt really uneasy after arranging that, and felt a spiritual darkness. I can’t really describe how it felt. I prayed to God, asking Him to guide me to know myself through this, and to be able to act in line with His will.
I read this inafter my prayer: “Every church and every individual is watched by God. No matter how many people there are performing a duty or following God in a church, the moment they depart from God’s words, the moment they lose the work of the Holy Spirit, they cease to experience the work of God, and thus they—and the duty they are performing—have no connection to and no part in God’s work, in which case this church has become a religious group. Wouldn’t you say these people are in great danger? They never seek the truth when faced with problems and they don’t act according to the principles of the truth, but are subject to the arrangements and manipulations of human beings. There are even many who, while performing their duty, never pray or seek the principles of the truth; they only ask others and do as others say, acting on cues from others. Whatever people tell them to do, that’s what they do. They feel that praying to God about their problems and truth-seeking is vague and difficult, so they look for a simple, easy solution. They figure that relying on others and doing what others say is easy and most practical, and so they simply do what other people say, asking others and doing as they say in everything. As a result, even after believing for many years, when faced with a problem, they have never once come before God, praying and seeking His will and the truth, and then achieving an understanding of the truth, and acting and behaving according to God’s will—they’ve never had such an experience. Do such people really practice faith in God?” (“Only With Fear of God Can One Tread Upon the Path of Salvation” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words show that when He doesn’t have a place in someone’s heart, they don’t seek the principles of the truth, but just listen to other people and follow their plans. That’s not practicing faith in God, and God doesn’t acknowledge that kind of belief. Wasn’t that precisely my state? In the matter of Zhang Ping’s family, Li Juan said she was certain they were a gang of antichrists. I felt like that wasn’t in line with the facts, but I held her in such high esteem, I didn’t seek the principles of the truth. I went along with whatever she told me to do. I realized from the results of our inquiry that they’d been improperly defined, but seeing how persistent Li Juan was, I totally disregarded my own views. Even though I felt uncomfortable, I still didn’t seek the principles of the truth. I just forced myself to do what Li Juan said. God had no place in my heart. How was that having faith? I was feeling worse and worse. I’d always thought of myself as a true believer. I never imagined I would adore and follow a person. I felt uneasy. I’d already disgusted God, so if I didn’t repent I could really be cast out. This thought left me feeling scared, so I said a prayer, asking God to guide me to turn my state around, to seek the truth and be able to treat Zhang Ping and her family in a principled way.
After that I looked for relevant principles of the truth relating to Zhang Ping’s issue, and learned the difference between an antichrist and someone with a regular corrupt disposition. The main trait of antichrists is that they see power as life, and always want to control God’s chosen. They punish people to gain the power. They do so much evil, and seriously disrupt the work of God’s house. Also, antichrists are in essence evil people who lack all humanity. They don’t feel regret, much less repentance, no matter how much evil they’ve done. Regular corrupt people can’t help but speak and do things for the sake of name and status, but they have reason and conscience, they can accept the truth and self-reflect. After taking the wrong path, they can show repentance through brothers’ and sisters’ dealing and God’s judgment and chastisement. Just as God’s words say, “No matter who it is, no matter how much evil they have committed, or how great the mistakes they have made, whether they are an antichrist or someone with an antichrist’s disposition is determined based on whether they are able to accept the truth, whether they are able to accept pruning and being dealt with, and whether they are truly remorseful. If they can accept the truth, accept pruning and being dealt with, are truly remorseful, and gladly give a life of service to God, then they do have some intention of repenting, and such people must not be classed as antichrists” (“Item Nine: 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 Three)” in Exposing Antichrists). Now I knew in my heart that Zhang Ping wasn’t an antichrist, and her family wasn’t a gang of antichrists. I couldn’t keep vacillating and blindly listening to a person.
I continued seeking. When Li Juan and I saw things differently, why didn’t I seek the principles but I just blindly went along with her? What was the root of the problem? I remembered this from God’s words: “What you admire is not the humility of Christ, but those false shepherds of prominent standing. You do not adore the loveliness or wisdom of Christ, but those libertines who wallow in the filth of the world. You laugh at the pain of Christ who has no place to lay His head, but you admire those corpses that hunt for offerings and live in debauchery. You are not willing to suffer alongside Christ, but you gladly throw yourself into the arms of those reckless antichrists, though they only supply you with flesh, words, and control. Even now, your heart still turns toward them, toward their reputation, toward their status, toward their influence. And yet you continue to hold an attitude whereby you find the work of Christ hard to swallow and you are unwilling to accept it. This is why I say that you lack the faith to acknowledge Christ” (“Are You a True Believer in God?” in). Reading God’s words, I saw that I adored and followed a person because in my faith, Christ wasn’t paramount, but I adored status and power. Since Li Juan had been an upper leader and she had some good solutions when she was overseeing work, I thought she knew the truth so I looked up to her, admired her. That’s why I didn’t have my own ideas or opinions in our cooperation. I’d do whatever she said, entirely taking her words as the truth. Even in something as important as whether Zhang Ping and her family should be expelled, I blindly followed Li Juan, which delayed that family from being taken back into the church and delayed their life entry. God cherishes each and every person’s life. Those oppressed by false leaders are unable to live a life of the church for long. They live in darkness, are helpless and in pain. But I wasn’t considering God’s will—I wasn’t taking responsibility for others’ lives. In the matter of Zhang Ping’s family, I always listened to a person. I was incredibly muddled. Without that spiritual darkness and pain I wouldn’t have woken up, but would have kept doing wrong. I prayed to God in repentance, “God! I don’t want to keep adulating and following a person. I want to honor You as great and act according to the principles of the truth.” When I saw Li Juan later, I shared my opinion with her, and she said curtly, “Let’s discuss it later.” Then she changed the topic. I could see she was sticking to her own view and didn’t care about others’ lives. I was incensed. I resolved that no matter what, I had to tell our leader about the situation with Zhang Ping’s family. The leader came to carry out some work a few days later and revealed that Li Juan had been autocratic in the clean-up work, that she’d arbitrarily defined people against principles, seriously disrupting church work, and she dismissed Li Juan. Apparently in Zhang Ping’s case, Li Juan was well aware she was wrong, but didn’t want to admit it. She personally arranged for people to get information on Zhang Ping to find fault with her, dead set on getting her and her family expelled as antichrists. I was so angry. To protect her status, she didn’t care about the brothers’ and sisters’ lives. It was incredibly evil. Thinking back on my time with Li Juan, she was always talking about all her hard work, so I took her for someone who pursues the truth. I didn’t dissect the motives and essence of her actions based on the truth. Really sharing experience means talking about what you’ve come to know through God’s judgment, what truths you’ve learned, and how you’ve practiced the truth to satisfy God. But Li Juan couldn’t talk about true understanding. Those tough times she talked about were all to exalt and bear witness to herself, to gain admiration. She was on an antichrist’s path. Then I gained some discernment over Li Juan and I hated myself even more. I’d been a believer for years, but didn’t look at things through God’s words. I just looked at people’s gifts and caliber, and adored status and power. I nearly went along with Li Juan in doing evil, ruining brothers’ and sisters’ lives. That would be irredeemable. I was so blind and foolish! At that thought I started to feel afraid.
Later, I read another passage of God’s words. “When someone is chosen to be a leader by the brothers and sisters, or is promoted by the house of God to do a certain piece of work or perform a certain duty, this does not mean that they have a special status or identity, or that the truths they understand are deeper and more numerous than those of other people—much less that this person is able to submit to God, and will not betray Him. It does not mean, either, that they know God, and are someone who fears God. They have attained none of this, in fact; the promotion and cultivation is merely promotion and cultivation in the most straightforward sense, and is not equivalent to them having been destined and validated by God. Their promotion and cultivation simply means they have been promoted, and await cultivation. And the ultimate outcome of this cultivation depends on whether this person pursues the truth, and on whether they are capable of choosing the path of pursuing the truth. Thus, when someone in the church is promoted and cultivated to be a leader, they are merely promoted and cultivated in the straightforward sense; it does not mean that they are already a qualified leader, or a competent one, that they are already capable of undertaking the work of a leader, and can do real work—that is not the case. Most people do not see clearly about these things, and they look up to these promoted ones relying on their imaginings, but this is a mistake. No matter how many years they may have believed, do those who are promoted really possess the reality of truth? Not necessarily. Are they able to bring to fruition the work arrangements of the house of God? Not necessarily. Do they have a sense of responsibility? Are they possessed of commitment? Are they able to submit to God? When they encounter an issue, are they able to search for the truth? All of this is unknown. Do these people have a heart that fears God? And just how great is their fear of God? Are they liable to follow their own will when they do things? Are they able to seek God? During the time that they perform the work of leaders, do they regularly and frequently come before God to search for the will of God? Are they able to guide people in entry into the reality of the truth? They are certainly incapable of such things right away. They haven’t received training and have too little experience, so they are incapable of these things. This is why promoting and cultivating someone doesn’t mean they already understand the truth, nor is it saying that they are already capable of performing their duty satisfactorily. … What is the point of Me saying this? In order to tell everyone that they must correctly approach the promotion and cultivation of various types of talents in God’s house, and must not be harsh in their demands of these people. Naturally, people must not be unrealistic in their opinion of them either. It is foolish to be overly appreciative or reverential of them, nor is it humane or realistic to be overly harsh in your demands toward them. So what is the most rational way to act toward them? To think of them as ordinary people and, when there is a problem that needs to be searched, to fellowship with them and learn from each other’s strengths and complement each other” (Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers). God’s words are very clear. Being selected as a leader doesn’t mean that person knows the truth and can do their duty adequately. They’re corrupt, too. They may go by their own whims and experiences, and may violate the principles. We have to discern people according to the principles of the truth, not blindly follow anyone. On top of that, even though leaders’ fellowship on the truth can be illuminating, that’s the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and it has to be accepted from God. We shouldn’t blindly adore and follow a person. If there are errors or oversights in a leader’s work, or if they violate any principles of the truth, it should be handled properly. Pointers and help can be offered with love so they can change and do things according to principle. But since I adored status and power, I mistakenly thought since she’d been an upper leader, Li Juan had to know the truth better than me. My thinking was so off-base. She’d been a leader for years and had some work experience, she could speak of some doctrines and resolve some issues, but that didn’t mean she understood the truth. Looking at Li Juan in this light, her fellowship and understanding usually sounded great, and she said when we didn’t understand things, we should seek the truth, not cling to our own views. But in the face of problems, she always went her own way. She wouldn’t remotely accept others’ suggestions and she didn’t seek at all. She just talked about doctrine, without any realities. She didn’t have any reflection or understanding of her arrogant, satanic nature and was ready to casually expel people to maintain her own status. It was clear that she was a false leader and an antichrist.
Zhang Ping and her family were reinstated to the church after that. Thinking of how they hadn’t been able to live a life of the church for over two months and all the spiritual pain they must have suffered, I felt awful in a way I can’t describe. I hated myself for not seeking the truth, but just listening to a person. If I’d sought the principles of the truth and taken them back into the church right away, their life entry wouldn’t have been so delayed. At that point I realized that blindly adoring someone makes you so likely to do evil and resist God along with them. I also hated how muddled and blind I was, that I followed someone in doing such great evil. I read this in God’s words later on: “The simplest way to describe belief in God is trusting there is a God, and, on this foundation, following Him, obeying Him, accepting His dominion, orchestrations, and arrangements, listening to His words, living in accordance with His words, doing everything according to His words, being a true created being, and fearing Him and shunning evil; only this is true belief in God. This is what it means to follow God” (“One Cannot Be Saved by Religious Belief or Engaging in Religious Ceremony” in The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days). God’s words showed me that in faith, fearing God, revering Him as great, and seeking the principles of the truth is the least that we should uphold. No matter who it is, as long as what they say is in line with the truth, follow it. Staunchly reject anything from human notions and imaginings. Everything should go by God’s words. That is true faith, truly following God. Thank God! I felt clear on my future path of following God.
One day when I was discussing training people with the church leader, Sister Wang, she mentioned that Sister Gao was good at experiencing things, and her fellowship on the truth was practical, so she could be cultivated as a leader. But in my interactions with Sister Gao, I found she lacked caliber and didn’t have a pure understanding of the truth. She was really passive in her duty and wouldn’t get good results for months at a time. She wasn’t a good candidate. But since Sister Wang recommended her, I wondered if I wasn’t seeing things correctly. Sister Wang had been a church leader for years, so her discernment should surpass mine. I figured I should just go with what she said. But I felt guilty when I thought about it that way. I realized I was focusing on Sister Wang’s status and the years she’d served as a leader. Wasn’t I adulating status and power, following a person again? I thought about the matter of Zhang Ping and her family. The consequences of me adoring power and not upholding principles were distressing for me. Facing this sort of thing again was a test from God. If I still couldn’t uphold principles, and helped promote an unsuitable person, that would hold up brothers’ and sisters’ life entry. Sister Wang was a leader, but that didn’t mean she knew the truth or understood people perfectly. Her suggestion was just something for me to consider. I had to consider whether Sister Gao should be cultivated based on the principles. Later, I gathered some assessments of Sister Gao, which confirmed she lacked caliber and didn’t do practical work, so she wasn’t a good candidate. I shared my opinion with Sister Wang and she expressed agreement. I felt in my heart that the only way to be at peace is to not blindly follow anyone, but to practice the truth. It’s been over three years since the incident with Zhang Ping and her family, but it’s been engraved on my heart. This unforgettable lesson let me see the consequences of following a person while having faith. I also experienced that seeking the truth and doing things according to the truth is the only way to follow God and gain His approval.