Tear Off the Mask and Start Life Afresh
By Chen Dan, Hunan Province
At the end of last year, the church transferred a brother from another area to take over my work because I wasn’t doing practical work, leading to a lack of results in various aspects of the church’s work. Prior to this I had not been informed, but rather heard indirectly through a sister I was partnering with. I was very upset. I suspected that the sister in charge hadn’t informed me for fear that I would be unwilling to give up my position and would put up a fight. I formed a poor opinion of her as a result. That sister later met with me and asked how I felt about being replaced—initially I had intended to speak my mind, but I was concerned she’d get a bad impression of me and think I was angling for a position. So instead, in as relaxed a voice as possible I said, “I don’t have any particular thoughts on the matter. I wasn’t able to do substantive work, so it makes sense that I’d be replaced. Whatever duty the church gives me to fulfill I’ll obey.” In this way I hid my true thoughts while projecting an illusory version of myself to the sister. Afterward, the church arranged for me to be a deacon. At our first co-workers’ meeting, our newly transferred leader laid himself bare with regard to his state. One particular phrase he used, “lost all standing and reputation” hit me like a ton of bricks: I felt as if he were talking about me. I was sitting there feeling really sad—I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes, but I choked them back fearing that others would notice. I wanted to lay bare my own state, but I also worried that my co-workers would think less of me. In order to save face, I once again concealed my true state, not wanting others to see to what degree I had suffered from this refinement. I even forced a smile to show everyone how normal my state was. Just like that, I brought my negative state into my work. Despite the fact that I worked hard every day from dawn till dusk and didn’t dare drag my feet, because I was living within a negative state, did not have a proper relationship with God, and could not gain the work of the Holy Spirit, it seemed that the harder I worked the more ineffective I became. All kinds of problems arose. Various aspects of the work practically came to a grinding halt and the leader of the gospel group was arrested by the CCP police. Facing all this, I felt as if I were on the verge of collapse. I thought only that my replacement was impending. Even then, I refused to lay bare my true state, making myself out to be strong and determined in front of my brothers and sisters.
One day during spiritual devotions I heard the following passage from God’s fellowship, “When interacting with their brothers and sisters, some people are afraid of them finding out the difficulties within their hearts, and that the brothers and sisters will have something to say about them or look down on them. As they speak, they always try to give the impression that they’re really zealous, that they really want God, and are really keen to put the truth into practice, but in fact, in their hearts, they’re extremely weak and passive. They pretend to be strong, so that no one can see through them. This is also deceit. In sum, regardless of what you do—whether it be in life, serving God, or performing your duty—if you present a false face to people and use it to mislead them, to make them think highly of you or not look down on you, then you are being deceitful” (“The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person” in Records of Christ’s Talks). After hearing this passage I was utterly dumbfounded. God’s judgment struck me to the core of my being. Comparing them to my own actions, I was precisely the deceitful person revealed in God’s words who uses superficial illusions to mislead and deceive brothers and sisters. I thought of the fact that since being replaced, I had been incredibly weak and negative and had continuously lived within a state of misunderstanding and betraying God. But I threw myself into disguising myself and pretending to be strong so that the leader and co-workers would see me as someone who can let go of status and obey the church’s arrangements. I wasn’t willing to open up and shed light on my true state with brothers and sisters, or to seek the truth to resolve my own problems and come out from my negative state. As a result, not only did I harm myself, but I particularly incurred losses in the work of the church. I was so deceitful! Yet, no matter how well I disguised and hid my true state, I could not escape God’s scrutiny. The Holy Spirit used my ineffectiveness in work to expose everything. How could God not hate and be disgusted by someone like me, who did not take the church’s work into consideration just to protect my own face and status?
At that point, I couldn’t help but ask myself: Why do I always project a false image of myself to others? Is it not because my deceitful nature commands me to always save face and protect my status? Through the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, I came to recognize that Satan’s poisons expressed in the phrases, “As a tree lives for its bark, a man lives for his face” and “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies” had already rooted themselves so far in me that all my actions were deeply influenced and orchestrated by them. I thought back to how this had manifested in the past: How many times had I behaved counter to the principle of truth in fulfilling my duties, hiding the reality of the situation to save face and for fear that, if I told others, they would have a poor appraisal of me? How many times did I cause severe damage to my life because, despite being painfully aware that I was in a very poor state and knowing I ought to lay myself bare in communion with others, I preferred instead to go through the refinement myself rather than opening up and seeking out the path of light, for fear that I would be looked down upon? In essence, whenever my face and reputation were on the line, I would deceitfully disguise myself and project a false image to fool God and confuse others. Even as God sought to save me through countless revelations, I did not reflect upon and come to know myself, and turn back toward God. I never stopped living relying upon my deceitful nature. How could all that not trigger God’s wrath? How could God work on me that way? How could I possibly achieve good results in my duty? If I continued down this path, how would I come to receive salvation? Seized by fear, I prostrated myself before God and prayed to Him remorsefully: Almighty God, I do not deserve to come before You! My deceitful nature has caused such great harm to the church work, but You still gave me chances to repent. I no longer ask that You tolerate me, just that Your chastisement and judgment stay with me always. Allow me to see Your righteous disposition and come into a fuller understanding of my deceitful nature through Your chastisement and judgment, so that I may cast off my disguise and live honestly.
I later read the following passage of God’s words: “Honesty means giving your heart to God, being genuine with God in all things, being open with Him in all things, never hiding the facts, not trying to deceive those above and below you, and not doing things only to curry favor with God. In short, to be honest is to be pure in your actions and words, and to deceive neither God nor man. … If you have many confidences that you are reluctant to share, if you are highly averse to laying bare your secrets—your difficulties—before others to seek the way of the light, then I say that you are someone who will not attain salvation easily, and who will not easily emerge from the darkness. If seeking the way of the truth pleases you well, then you are someone who dwells always in the light” (“Three Admonitions” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). From God’s words, I saw that those who are unwilling to share their confidences and lay bare their difficulties to seek the truth are deceitful. Because God hates and detests the deceitful, deceitful people do not have the work of the Holy Spirit within them and no matter how many years they practice faith in God, they will never receive His salvation and will ultimately be eliminated. Thanks be to the enlightenment of God’s word, which made me realize that the reason I had failed in service to God was due to my own deceitful nature. I was never willing to give my heart to God, accept God’s chastisement and judgment to purify myself, nor was I willing to lay myself bare before my brothers and sisters to seek the truth and resolve my problem. As a result, I was living within an improper state; I had lost the work of the Holy Spirit and had fallen into darkness. If I had fellowshiped on my actual state with the sister in charge, she certainly would have communed the truth with me and my state would have immediately improved. If I had always simply laid myself bare, my relationship with God would be proper and I wouldn’t have harbored prejudices against her or caused such great harm to the church work. I give thanks to God for revealing to me His righteous disposition. I was exposed and judged through God’s words and thus came to know my deceitful nature and the root cause of my failures. God’s words also showed me a path to practice and made me understand: No matter how many difficulties I meet or how much I am in a poor state, as long as I can lay myself bare and seek the truth, and go by God’s words, I will be able to receive the work of the Holy Spirit. Then those problems can be resolved. Only by casting off my disguise and behaving honestly will I attain God’s salvation.
In God’s words I found hope and my heart was deeply moved. Even though my actions had been deeply hurtful to God, He never abandoned me, but was always there quietly saving me. Behind this seemingly stern chastisement and judgment were full of God’s kind intentions. This gave me a deep understanding that God’s judgment and chastisement are “love as profound as that expressed in a father’s guidance of his son.” Now I vow to return to God and do my utmost to pursue the truth, seek a change in my disposition, and never again disguise myself in the name of protecting my worthless status and face. In the future, no matter what sort of difficulties I face or poor state I am in, I vow to lay myself bare to my brothers and sisters in seeking the truth and live honestly to comfort God’s heart!