Seeing Through the Pastor’s Evil

January 18, 2022

By Xiaoci, Myanmar

I met a sister online in September 2020. She told me the Lord Jesus has returned as Almighty God, and He’s expressing truths to do the work of judgment. I was thrilled to hear of the Lord’s return and started attending online gatherings and looking into Almighty God’s work. By reading Almighty God’s words, I learned about the root of man’s corruption by Satan, God’s three stages of work to save man, mysteries of the incarnation, God’s last days’ judgment work, and more truths I’d never even heard of before. Through a period of seeking and investigating, I became sure that Almighty God is the Lord Jesus returned, and joined The Church of Almighty God. I loved the sustenance of reading God’s words daily and I felt spiritually nourished like I never had before. By comparison, my pastor’s sermons were all about the same old things, dry and boring, lacking any light. They weren’t edifying at all, so I stopped attending church services.

Then in February 2021, there was a military coup in Myanmar, and the internet was cut off. I couldn’t attend online gatherings anymore. Before long, a couple of brothers came to my village and said they wanted to set up local gatherings. We had 20 people attending them at the time. Surprisingly, after just a few gatherings, someone reported us to our local pastor. He started telling people in the church that we were going to online gatherings instead of the church, and we wouldn’t listen to the clergy. He lied, saying we were organizing our own faction. He told everyone to not have anything to do with us. Pretty much everyone in our village was a Christian, and they all adored the pastor and listened to him. Because of his attacks and judgments, news of our faith in Almighty God tore through town, and everyone, even our relatives, friends, and neighbors, starting scolding us for not going to church or listening to the pastor anymore, saying it was awful. Everywhere I went, people were wagging their fingers at me and my family went along, opposing my faith in Almighty God. I was really distraught. I’d always had a great relationship with my friends and neighbors, we always helped each other out, but now they treated me like a thorn in their side, like an enemy. Faith is a personal freedom. We were just practicing our faith without doing anything illegal at all. Why would the pastor judge and condemn us and get the villagers to reject us? I fell into depression before I knew it, and prayed to God: “God, the pastor is lashing out at us and even everyone I’m close to is rejecting me. I’m really miserable. God, I don’t understand why they’d treat us this way. Please enlighten me to better understand this and escape my depression.” Then I thought of a passage of God’s words. Almighty God says, “God does His work, God cares for a person, looks upon this person, and all the while Satan dogs His every step. Whomever God favors, Satan also watches, trailing along behind. If God wants this person, Satan would do everything in its power to obstruct God, using various evil ploys to tempt, disrupt and wreck the work God does, all in order to achieve its hidden objective. What is this objective? It does not want God to gain anyone; all those that God wants it wants for itself, it wants to occupy them, control them, to take charge of them so they worship it, so they join it in committing evil acts. Is this not Satan’s sinister motive? … In warring with God, and trailing along behind Him, Satan’s objective is to demolish all the work God wants to do, to occupy and control those whom God wants to gain, to completely extinguish those whom God wants to gain. If they are not extinguished, then they come to Satan’s possession, to be used by it—this is its objective” (“God Himself, the Unique IV” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). This helped me see that the pastor trying to keep us from following Christ of the last days was actually a spiritual battle. God expresses truths to judge and cleanse people in the last days. It’s to save and gain a group of true believers. But Satan is God’s enemy, and it uses all sorts of tactics to obstruct and harm God’s work so people will leave God, betray Him, and live under its power. Then it can control them and ultimately they’ll be punished in hell along with it. I saw the church clergy were actually Satan’s minions. They heard the Lord had returned, but instead of looking into it, they kept others from doing so. Their sermons weren’t spiritually nourishing, but they wouldn’t let people seek the true way. Seeing we stopped going to church and following them, they condemned and slandered us, wanting us to betray Almighty God and go back to their church, back under their control. Then we’d lose God’s salvation of the last days. Realizing this, I told myself that I couldn’t fall for Satan’s trick. I couldn’t give up Almighty God to follow them, but I had to stand strong.

After that, some of the new believers and those exploring God’s last days’ work weakened and pulled away. Though everyone around us was protesting, the rest of us didn’t stop having gatherings. The pastor was incensed when he found out about it and got some church coworkers to keep coming to my home, insisting I go to the pastor’s house. I was angry about that, thinking that I was just worshiping God and fellowshiping, and that was my freedom. Why would the pastor keep trying to stand in my way? I kind of wanted to go hear him out, to see what he thought I’d done wrong. That evening, I went to the pastor’s house along with a few other brothers and sisters. Some other clergy were there. The pastor said, “I’ve heard about your online gatherings. As your clergy, it’s our responsibility to warn you against taking another path.” I responded, “We are listening to their sermons, but we’re not betraying the Lord. The Lord Jesus has returned and is doing a new step of work—” Before I could finish, he interrupted me angrily, “That’s enough! We’re not going to listen to another word of this. You have to make a choice today. Are you going to keep believing in another God, or come back to our church?” As he spoke, he got out a notebook that had all of our names written in it. He said commandingly, “If you’re going to keep listening to their sermons, put a check by your name, otherwise cross it out. You’ll be in a world of pain if you don’t listen to me! We won’t do anything at all for marriages, deaths, or births in your family, any of those things. We won’t help with any arrangements.” No one said anything. I hesitated a bit, thinking that if I didn’t write anything, the pastor would still find ways to stand in the way of my faith. If I checked off my name, the clergy wouldn’t ever help my family with any arrangements. These were old village customs, and they were really important to everyone, and couldn’t be ignored, and everyone in the village listened to the clergy. If they didn’t show up, no one else would either, and no one would help out. Was everyone going to reject me? But I knew the Lord had returned, so if I crossed my name out and rejoined the church, wouldn’t that be denying and betraying God? In the moment, I didn’t know what to do, so I prayed for God’s guidance. Then I remembered something Lord Jesus said: “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). It’s true. I’m a believer, a follower. In faith, we have to revere God, submit to His work, and keep pace with Him. How could I call myself a believer if I valued the pastor more than God? How could I be fit for the kingdom? At that, I prayed, “Oh God, I want to stand witness for You today. No matter what happens, I want to follow You.” I felt a lot calmer then and resolutely put a checkmark by my name. Some of the others checked their names, too, and just one sister crossed her name off. Angry, the pastor said, “This is your choice, and from now on we’re on different paths. Your affairs are none of our concern now.”

After getting home, my worries resurfaced. Generally, whatever happened with families in our village, we’d ask for the pastor to pray for us and to preside over religious rites. We couldn’t do any of that if the pastor wouldn’t pay us any mind, and everyone would spurn us and lash out at us. I didn’t know what other tactics they’d employ to keep us from practicing our faith, or when it would all come to an end. Thinking about all that was really painful for me and I didn’t know how to get through it. I immediately said a prayer, “God, I can see how meager my stature really is. I’m always worried about others’ slander and rejection. I’m afraid to face this and I’m feeling weak. God, please guide me to get through this.” After that, I sought out a sister online for watering and told her what I was going through. She sent me a passage of God’s words. Almighty God says, “After receiving testimony from Job following the end of his trials, God resolved that He would gain a group—or more than a group—of people like Job, yet He resolved to never again allow Satan to attack or abuse any other person using the means by which it had tempted, attacked, and abused Job, by betting with God; God did not permit Satan to ever again do such things to man, who is weak, foolish, and ignorant—it was enough that Satan had tempted Job! Not permitting Satan to abuse people howsoever it wishes is the mercy of God. For God, it was enough that Job had suffered the temptation and abuse of Satan. God did not permit Satan to ever again do such things, for the lives and everything of people who follow God are ruled and orchestrated by God, and Satan is not entitled to manipulate God’s chosen ones at will—you should be clear about this point! God cares about man’s weakness, and understands his foolishness and ignorance. Although, in order that man could be completely saved, God has to hand him over to Satan, God is not willing to see man ever played for a fool and abused by Satan, and He does not want to see man always suffering. Man was created by God, and that God rules and arranges everything about man is ordained by Heaven and acknowledged by earth; this is the responsibility of God, and it is the authority by which God rules all things! God does not permit Satan to abuse and mistreat man at will, He does not permit Satan to employ various means to lead man astray, and, moreover, He does not permit Satan to intervene in God’s sovereignty of man, nor does He allow Satan to trample and destroy the laws by which God rules all things, to say nothing of God’s great work of managing and saving mankind! Those whom God wishes to save, and those who are able to bear testimony to God, are the core and the crystallization of the work of God’s six-thousand-year management plan, as well as the price of His efforts in His six thousand years of work. How could God casually give these people to Satan?” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). From God’s words, I saw that whatever we face, God allows it to happen, and everything is in His hands. Without His permission, no matter how savage Satan is or how much it wants to hurt us, it can’t do anything. God was allowing all those disruptive things to happen. It was Him testing me, and saving me, too. He hoped I could be like Job, and stand witness through that situation. It was also so I could lean on God in that environment, and experience His work and words so I could develop true faith in God. But I was caught in Satan’s net. I wanted to protect my interpersonal relationships and not be rejected and slandered. I was always afraid of something bad happening. I hadn’t understood God’s will. I calmed down and prayed, “Oh God, now I understand that You’re allowing all of this. It’s entirely to save and purify me, to perfect my faith. I’m ready to stand witness for You. But my stature is so small, please help strengthen my faith to get through this.”

I figured that since I’d already made my choice to follow Almighty God, the pastor would leave me alone and I could gather normally. But instead, because of the pastor’s aggression and judgments, the other villagers kept being disruptive. They made fun of us, slandered us, and yelled at us right in front of our families, saying we weren’t carrying out religious rites, breaking the village rules. They said if we kept our faith, they’d report us to the government and have us arrested. My family couldn’t bear the stress. They were constantly starting arguments, urging me to give up my faith. The others were pressured by their families too. Some were kicked out, and couldn’t even enter their own homes. The pastor spread lies, saying we were having so many problems at home only because we wouldn’t listen to the clergy or go to church. He also wanted to interrogate the two brothers who had come to water us. I was beside myself with anger. The clergy was really turning the truth on its head. If it hadn’t been for their attacks, we never would have had those problems. A sister later told those two watering brothers to stop coming to avoid any danger. Everyone was feeling negative and weak through that time and we were lacking motivation to have gatherings or do our duty. I also felt some weakness when I saw this happening. I didn’t know how to help and support brothers and sisters, and I suddenly felt like that path of faith was too difficult. I couldn’t understand it. We were just believers gathering and reading God’s words. Why wouldn’t they leave us be, but were determined to force us onto a dead-end path? In my pain, I called out to God, “God, I’ve been feeling so weak and I can’t settle my feelings. How can I stay on this path of faith? Please enlighten and guide me.” Then I thought of something the Lord Jesus said: “If the world hate you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18–19). It suddenly dawned on me that they hated and oppressed us because they actually hated God’s coming, and they were actually fighting God. God has incarnated in the last days, expressing truths for His judgment work to cleanse and save mankind. His appearance and work are exposing worldly people. They don’t love the truth, but they hate it, and hate God. They believe in a vague God in the sky, which is why they are judging and condemning the work and words of God in the flesh. Just like when the Lord Jesus came to work, Jewish leaders refused to accept the truths He expressed, doing their utmost to condemn and blaspheme Him. Jewish believers went along with them, rejecting the Lord, and they had Him nailed to the cross in the end. This world truly is evil! But the more worldly rejection and condemnation by religious forces, the clearer it was that it’s the true way, and God’s work. It redoubled my desire to stay on this path!

When brothers and sisters learned about what was happening, they sent me a passage from Almighty God. Almighty God says, “Do not be discouraged, do not be weak, and I will make things clear for you. The road to the kingdom is not so smooth; nothing is that simple! You want blessings to come to you easily, do you not? Today, everyone will have bitter trials to face. Without such trials, the loving heart you have for Me will not grow stronger and you will not have true love for Me. Even if these trials consist merely of minor circumstances, everyone must pass through them; it’s just that the difficulty of the trials will vary from one person to another. Trials are a blessing from Me, and how many of you come often before Me and beg on your knees for My blessings? Silly children! You always think that a few auspicious words count as My blessing, yet you do not recognize that bitterness is one of My blessings. Those who share in My bitterness will certainly share in My sweetness. That is My promise and My blessing to you. Do not hesitate to eat and drink and enjoy My words. When the dark passes, light gathers. It is darkest before dawn; after this time the sky gradually brightens, and then the sun rises. Do not be afraid or timid” (“Chapter 41” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I was so moved when I read this. We were following God’s new work, being hindered by the clergy and treated unfairly by other villagers. That was inevitable. For people are so deeply corrupted by Satan, and the world is so dark and evil. None of them welcome God’s coming. Following God isn’t an easy thing. To get into God’s kingdom and gain His approval, we have to experience that kind of persecution and hardship. God is our backup force and is always with us. There was nothing for me to fear. I just had to pray and rely on God, and He would surely guide us to overcome the pastor’s disruptions. I thought of the Chinese brothers’ and sisters’ experiences I’d seen in movies and videos. They’re oppressed, chased, and monitored by the Chinese government, and face arrest at any moment. Their families are also implicated, and they’re stripped of their property and jobs. Many of them are put in prison and brutally tortured. They suffer so much, but they’re able to lean on God and give testimony of defeating Satan. And then I thought of how God has suffered in His two incarnations. When the Lord Jesus incarnated and came to earth to redeem mankind, He was condemned and blasphemed by the Jewish people, and ultimately crucified. In the last days, God has incarnated again, and He’s expressing truths to save mankind. He is resisted, condemned, rejected and blasphemed by Satan’s regime and the religious world’s antichrist forces. God suffers so much to save mankind and my paltry suffering wasn’t even worth mentioning. God is holy, and all of His suffering is for the sake of our salvation. My suffering was so I could gain the truth and be saved, so it was something I should endure. Although that experience was painful for me, I’d gained some discernment over the clergy and I had more faith in God. God really does use trying environments to impart us with the truth, to perfect our faith. It’s a blessing from God! I felt so much calmer after learning God’s will, and I came out from my cloud of depression. Then I rushed to organize a gathering for all my brothers and sisters who were still stuck in a negative state. Everyone was able to understand God’s will through our fellowship, gained the faith to keep following God, and no longer felt depressed. We started leading a normal church life, sharing the gospel and bearing witness, and everyone felt motivated.

But the clergy kept trying everything to hold us back. Once, when a sister’s husband died of an illness, her entire family was pressuring her to go apologize to the pastor so he would help with prayers and funeral rites. The clergy exploited that opportunity to pressure her to give up her faith in Almighty God and return to the church. I was so angry. She was already grieving her husband, but the clergy were rubbing salt in the wound, pressuring her to admit wrongdoing, just to get her back in the church and following them. It was despicable! A higher-up pastor came to talk to us, and he said lots of things condemning and blaspheming God. He urged us repeatedly to give up our faith. But we already had discernment, so we weren’t impacted. When the clergy and village leaders saw we were steadfast, they got the other villagers to isolate and exclude us, saying “These people refuse to listen to us, so just let them have their own faith. Keep an eye on your kids, keep them far away from these people. Anyone who has contact with them or asks about their faith will have their whole family implicated, and we won’t help them with anything.” They also set up a special youth group that was made up of the young people of the church, primarily to keep an eye on us. Anyone who had contact with us would be called to the pastor’s house for questioning. It helped me see their true anti-God faces more clearly. They had believers tightly controlled within their grasp, not allowing them to come before God and hear His voice. I thought of the Pharisees. When Lord Jesus came, His work and words were full of authority, but they wouldn’t seek or investigate. Afraid of believers following the Lord Jesus and losing their status and living, they put everything into condemning Him and even had Him nailed to the cross. They had believers in their clutches, only letting people worship them, refusing to return God’s sheep to God. They were evil servants, and today’s pastors and elders are no different from them. I remembered the Lord’s words condemning them: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for you neither go in yourselves, neither suffer you them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13). “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). Today’s clergy are just like the Pharisees from before. They’re evil servants blocking the path to the kingdom. It’s just like what Almighty God says. “There are those who read the Bible in grand churches and recite it all day long, yet not one among them understands the purpose of God’s work. Not one among them is able to know God; still less can any one among them accord with God’s will. They are all worthless, vile people, each standing on high to lecture God. They willfully oppose God even as they carry His banner. Claiming faith in God, still they eat the flesh and drink the blood of man. All such people are devils that devour the soul of man, head demons that deliberately get in the way of those trying to step onto the right path, and stumbling blocks impeding those who seek God. They may appear of ‘sound constitution,’ but how are their followers to know that they are none other than antichrists who lead people to stand against God? How are their followers to know that they are living devils dedicated to the devouring of human souls?” (“All People Who Do Not Know God Are People Who Oppose God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Clergy not only won’t investigate God’s new work, but when they find out someone’s looking into it, they do everything to stand in their way, afraid believers will follow Almighty God and stop worshiping and following them, or giving them offerings. They were using old village customs and traditional rites to control people, forcing them back to church. They claimed to be believers, but they didn’t have the slightest reverence for God. By nature, they are demons who hate God and the truth. They are stumbling blocks on our path to the kingdom. I knew God had allowed all of this oppression to help develop our discernment, so we could truly escape the religious clergy’s control. The clergy’s attacks weren’t able to keep me in a negative state, but they actually strengthened my faith. I was also able to escape their strictures and continue sharing the gospel and bearing witness. With time, some of my friends and relatives started to gain discernment over the clergy’s behavior, too, and some of them accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days. This showed me that God’s wisdom is exercised based on Satan’s tricks. The pastors’ oppression and roadblocks helped separate the goats from the sheep. Some went along with the clergy in opposing us, but some came to discern their real essence. They heard God’s voice and turned toward God. God’s work is wondrous! This experience taught me that any situation at all has God’s good will. It’s all what we need, and it’s all to save and perfect us. I resolved that no matter what I faced in the future, I was ready to submit to God’s arrangements and lean on Him. Thank Almighty God!

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