29. An Officer’s Repentance
By Zhenxin, China
Almighty God says, “From the creation of the world until now, all that God has done in His work is love, without any hatred for man. Even the chastisement and judgment you have seen are also love, a truer and more real love, a love that leads people onto the right path of human life. … All the work He has done is for the purpose of leading people onto the right path of human life, so that they may live as normal people, for people do not know how to live, and without this guidance, you will only live empty lives; your life will be devoid of value or meaning, and you will be utterly incapable of being a normal person. This is the deepest significance of conquering man” (“The Inside Truth of the Work of Conquest (4)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). These words of God are really moving for me, and I can’t help but think of His salvation of me.
I was born in the countryside. My parents were honest and hardworking farmers. Other villagers always scorned us and picked on us because we were poor. I thought, “One day I’ll show them. One day they’ll look at me differently.” I joined the army when I was in my teens. I’d take on any task, no matter how filthy or exhausting, hoping to get promoted. But for years I remained a private. Then I realized, it was giving gifts, not hard work, that earned a good assessment and won promotions. It was distasteful to me, but I wanted a promotion, so I steeled myself and gifted my superior with all my savings. Sure enough, I was soon “qualified” for the military academy. Back in my unit after graduation, I was sent to work as a cook since I didn’t have money for gifts. I well knew that “Officials do not make things difficult for those who bear gifts,” and “One accomplishes nothing without fawning and flattery.” If I wanted to get anywhere, I’d have to do whatever it took to find money for gifts, otherwise I’d get nowhere no matter how competent I was. I wanted to get ahead, so I did everything I could to make money, and I fawned on my superiors and gave them things I knew they liked. I knew what I was doing was illegal, and I was afraid of being caught and sent to jail. My heart was in my throat the whole time, but the thought of becoming an officer kept me going. After a while, I finally made battalion commander. Whenever I went back home, the villagers would crowd around me, flattering and fawning. This hugely fed into my vanity, while my ambitions and desires also swelled. As they say: “Becoming an official is for the sake of fine food and clothes” and “Use power when you have it, because after it’s gone, you can’t use it.” I started reveling in the privileges of being an officer, just getting whatever I wanted without cost. Anyone who needed something from me had to treat me to a meal or give me a gift. I even used my position as the commander’s and political commissar’s favorite to get subordinates to give me this or that. I went from being a simple farmer’s son to being an insatiable, sly, deceitful man.
I not only acted like a tyrant in my job but I treated my wife badly at home too. I accused her of having affairs for no reason, deepening the rift between us. In the end, she’d had enough and told me she wanted a divorce. My happy family was about to be broken, and our son would suffer too. I felt terrible and kept thinking back over my life: I’d been determined to stand out since I was a kid, to be better than others. My wife and I both had good careers, and we lived a comfortable life. Everyone admired us, so I should have been happy and fulfilled. Why did I still feel so empty and live in such pain? Was this the life I’d wanted? How should we live, really? I felt confused and lost, but I couldn’t find any answers. My wife later accepted the kingdom gospel of Almighty God and would gather and fellowship with brothers and sisters all the time. Before long, she became a really positive person. She no longer argued with me, and she stopped talking about divorce. Seeing the change in my wife, I figured faith in God must be great. I also gained faith in Almighty God by reading His words.
I began to live the church life, and I found that The Church of Almighty God was totally different from the world. Brothers and sisters read God’s words and fellowship on the truth. They seek to conduct themselves by God’s words and the truth, to be honest and open, and be sincere. It felt like I’d come into a place of purity, and I felt a freedom and release I’d never felt before. By attending gatherings and reading God’s words, I learned that God is holy and righteous, and that He hates man’s filth and corruption most of all. I’d gotten into a lot of bad habits in the army and if I didn’t repent, I knew God would despise and eliminate me. I then read these words of God: “Born into such a filthy land, man has been severely blighted by society, he has been influenced by feudal ethics, and he has been taught at ‘institutes of higher learning.’ The backward thinking, corrupt morality, mean view on life, despicable philosophy for living, utterly worthless existence, and depraved lifestyle and customs—all of these things have severely intruded upon man’s heart, and severely undermined and attacked his conscience. As a result, man is ever more distant from God, and ever more opposed to Him. Man’s disposition becomes more vicious by the day, and there is not a single person who will willingly give up anything for God, not a single person who will willingly obey God, nor, moreover, a single person who will willingly seek the appearance of God. Instead, under the domain of Satan, man does nothing but pursue pleasure, giving himself over to the corruption of the flesh in the land of mud” (“To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Reading this showed me why I was so deeply corrupted. I thought over my years in the army. I’d followed the unwritten rules of the world to get ahead, doing so many bad things and getting ill-gotten gains. I’d become so corrupted and depraved, living in sin without shame. God’s words showed me the difference between good and evil, and they allowed me to see the root of my corruption and depravity. It turns out that Satan is at the bottom of it all. Satan, the king of devils, has used all kinds of education and influences to corrupt our society into a seething vat of sin. People with power run rampant, riding roughshod over ordinary people, while regular, honest people just get pushed around and get nowhere in life. Our society is full of fallacies and heresies, such as “Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Those who toil with their minds govern others, and those who toil with their hands are governed by others,” “Stand out above the rest, and bring honor to your ancestors,” “Man struggles upwards; water flows downwards,” “Officials do not make things difficult for those who bear gifts; one accomplishes nothing without fawning and flattery,” “Becoming an official is for the sake of fine food and clothes,” and “Use power when you have it, because after it’s gone, you can’t use it.” Being taken in by these things and the pressures around me caused me to lose my way without even knowing it. I’d stopped at nothing to become an officer, abusing my power for my own personal gain. I’d become an utterly corrupt man, intent on profiteering. I really regretted my evil deeds. Thank God for saving me, as He gave me a chance to start again. Otherwise, I would have been cursed and punished for my behavior. I felt so grateful to God, I resolved to change my ways, leave the army, and find a new career. But my superior kept trying to get me to stay, saying that he would promote me to deputy regimental commander. I hesitated, thinking, “Deputy regimental commander? That would be a dream come true!” For a moment I struggled to let go of that title, and I didn’t know what to do, so I came before God to pray and seek. I then read these words of God: “If you are of high station, of honorable reputation, possessed of abundant knowledge, the owner of plentiful assets, and supported by many people, yet these things do not prevent you from coming before God to accept His calling and His commission and to do what God asks of you, then all that you do shall be the most meaningful cause on earth and the most righteous undertaking of mankind. If you reject the call of God for the sake of status and your own goals, all that you do shall be cursed and even despised by God” (“God Presides Over the Fate of All Mankind” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “People come to the earth and it is rare to encounter Me, and it is also rare to have the opportunity to seek and to gain the truth. Why would you not prize this beautiful time as the right path to pursue in this life? And why are you always so dismissive toward the truth and justice? Why are you always trampling on and ruining yourselves for that unrighteousness and filth that toys with people?” (“Words for the Young and the Old” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Every word hammered at my conscience. I was awakened. I thought, “My good fortune to meet God incarnate, who has come to earth to express the truth and save man, and have the chance to pursue the truth and expend myself for God is God’s great elevation and grace!” What could be more meaningful than expending oneself for the Creator? No matter how high I rose in the ranks, would I ever be happy? So many powerful people act as they please and do all manner of evil, but they all get what they deserve in the end. And so many high officials have been rich and celebrated for a time, but the moment they lose a power struggle, some end up in prison with nothing, and some take their own lives. … This sort of thing happens all the time. As for me, I’d been clawing my way up the ladder, but I just became so arrogant, selfish and deceitful! Now, God has bestowed so many truths upon me and He’s showed me the right path in life. How could I carry on as before? I’d been harmed and fooled by Satan for most of my life until I hardly resembled something human. I wanted to live differently from then on, to follow God, practice the truth, and conduct myself by God’s words. So I decided to change career and cut all ties to the army. But since Satan had corrupted me so deeply, its poison of “Standing out above the rest, and bringing honor to your ancestors” had become my very life. In the church, I was always vying for a position, and only God’s revelation and judgment corrected my pursuit.
After doing my duty in the church for a while, I saw there was a really young church leader and another I had been friends with before. I was unsettled, thinking, “You were both below me out in the world, but here in the church you’re my superiors. I’d be a much better leader than you!” I started going after that with everything I had. First, I drew up a plan: I’d get up at 5 a.m. every day to read God’s words, then listen to sermons for two hours, and learn three hymns of God’s words per week. I became more proactive in my duty, and took the lead in anything I could do in the church, no matter how hard or tiring. In gatherings, I’d talk about my experiences in the army, flaunt my abilities, and turn my nose up at the church leaders’ fellowship. Sometimes, I’d subtly disparage their thinking and actions as though I could do a better job. This is how I lived within the struggle for fame and status, always hoping to become a church leader. Once, I noticed a leader hadn’t handled something properly. I gave her a dressing down for not being able to handle things, and insinuated she should resign. I hoped to be chosen as a leader at the next election. When the brothers and sisters found out, they analyzed my behavior, saying I was deceitful, ambitious, and I wanted to take control of the church. I was dismissed from my duty as a group leader. This really upset me, and I thought, “I used to be a dignified battalion commander, but now I can’t even be a group leader in the church.” After several months of this, I was having none of it, and I couldn’t stand the sight of my brothers and sisters. I clammed up in gatherings. My spirit grew dark and I couldn’t feel God anymore. Only then did I begin to feel afraid, so I rushed to pray and call on God to lead me out of this darkness.
I later read these words of God: “In your seeking, you have too many individual notions, hopes, and futures. The current work is in order to deal with your desire for status and your extravagant desires. Hopes, status, and notions are all classic representations of satanic disposition. … You are now followers, and you have gained some understanding of this stage of work. However, you have still not put aside your desire for status. When your status is high you seek well, but when your status is low you no longer seek. The blessings of status are always on your mind. … The more you seek in this way, the less you will reap. The greater a person’s desire for status, the more seriously they will have to be dealt with and the more they will have to undergo great refinement. Such people are worthless! They must be dealt with and judged adequately in order for them to thoroughly let go of these things. If you pursue this way until the end, you will reap nothing. Those who do not pursue life cannot be transformed, and those who do not thirst for the truth cannot gain the truth. You do not focus on pursuing personal transformation and entry, but focus instead on extravagant desires and things that constrain your love for God and prevent you from drawing close to Him. Can those things transform you? Can they bring you into the kingdom?” (“Why Are You Unwilling to Be a Foil?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words pierced my heart and I felt so ashamed. I’d been vying for position, then was exposed and dealt with by brothers and sisters, and dismissed from my duty. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it wasn’t because someone had it in for me. Instead, it was God’s righteous judgment and timely salvation. God’s work in the last days is to change our old thinking and notions, to save us from Satan’s influence, so that we can gain the truth and life from God, and live in the light. I hadn’t been walking the right path, nor had I focused on pursuing the truth, but pursuing position and reputation. I’d played tricks and used underhanded means to get a position. Wasn’t that entirely contrary to God’s will to save mankind? Going on like that would mean I’d never gain the truth and would be eliminated. To stop me from going astray and to put me back on track, God pruned and dealt with me through brothers and sisters, exposing my ambitions and desires, and taking my position away so I’d reflect on myself and change my ways. I saw that God truly does see deep into our hearts. I also came to have some real understanding of God’s righteousness, holiness, almightiness and wisdom. I was no longer negative or distressed about losing my position, but instead wanted to pursue the truth and submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements.
Six months later, I went to live the church life in another church, where they were about to elect leaders. I was happy to learn that no one there had believed in God for as long as I had, so I thought I’d have a chance. In life experience and years of faith, I had them beat. I should be the clear choice for a church leader, I thought. Just as I was getting ready to make a good show for myself, a sister from my old church fled to this church as she was being hunted by the Chinese Communist Party. I thought, “She knows how I used to vie for position in my old church. If she sees me vying to be church leader again, will she expose my old scandalous behavior? My reputation would really suffer if she does that.” Left with no choice, I abandoned my plans and weighed the situation up: “First I’ll become a group leader and then climb the ladder from there.” To my surprise, however, I didn’t even get chosen as a group leader. The church didn’t have enough people for some routine duties, so the church leaders asked if I wanted to do the duties. Afraid I’d seem disobedient, I reluctantly agreed. I’d been a dignified battalion commander yet was doing such a low duty. It all felt wrong to me. Before long, the police began to watch our gathering place, so we couldn’t gather there anymore. The church leader assigned me to another group to gather with brothers and sisters doing hosting duties. This was too much for me. Not only was I doing a lowly duty, but now I had to gather with brothers and sisters doing hosting duties. I felt like this was so degrading. How could I have fallen so far? If things went on that way, what kind of prospects would I have? I became more and more upset, and all I could do was pray urgently to God, asking Him to enlighten and guide me.
Then, I read these words of God: “For many years, the thoughts that people have relied upon for their survival have been corroding their hearts to the point that they have become treacherous, cowardly, and despicable. Not only do they lack willpower and resolve, but they have also become greedy, arrogant, and willful. They are utterly lacking any resolve that transcends the self, and even more, they don’t have a bit of courage to shake off the strictures of these dark influences. People’s thoughts and lives are so rotten that their perspectives on believing in God are still unbearably hideous, and even when people speak of their perspectives on belief in God it is simply unbearable to hear. People are all cowardly, incompetent, despicable, and fragile. They do not feel disgust for the forces of darkness, and they do not feel love for the light and the truth; instead, they do their utmost to expel them. Are not your current thoughts and perspectives just like this? ‘Since I believe in God I should just be showered with blessings and it should be ensured that my status never slips and that it remains higher than that of nonbelievers.’ You have not been harboring that kind of perspective within you for just one or two years, but for many years. Your transactional way of thinking is overdeveloped. Although you have arrived at this step today, you still have not let go of status but struggle constantly to inquire about it, and observe it daily, with a deep fear that one day your status will be lost and your name will be ruined. People have never put aside their desire for ease” (“Why Are You Unwilling to Be a Foil?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “As you walk the path of today, what is the most suitable kind of pursuit? In your pursuit, what kind of person should you see yourself as? It behooves you to get to know how you should approach all that befalls you today, be it trials or hardships, or merciless chastisement and cursing. Faced with all of these things, you should reflect carefully on them in every case” (“Those Who Do Not Learn and Remain Ignorant: Are They Not Beasts?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Contemplating God’s words, I reflected on myself, “What kind of person should I see myself as, in my pursuit?” I’d always thought of myself as a battalion commander, someone with standing. Only a duty with some rank to it was fitting for me, and only people with status deserved to gather with me. I looked down on brothers and sisters who did hosting duties, thinking that being with them showed that I was of no account. Without status, I became negative and resistant, and even felt that life was meaningless. Status, name and gain had addled my brain and I lost my humanity. What a despicable, ugly man I was! How could someone like me be worthy of being a church leader? The church is not like society. In the church, the truth holds sway. A leader must be of good humanity and pursue the truth. But all I did was pursue status and vie to become a leader. How could I be so unreasonable, so shameless?
I later read these words of God: “I decide the destination of each person not on the basis of age, seniority, amount of suffering, and least of all, the degree to which they invite pity, but according to whether they possess the truth. There is no other choice but this. You must realize that all those who do not follow the will of God shall also be punished. This is an immutable fact” (“Prepare Sufficient Good Deeds for Your Destination” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I understood from God’s words that He doesn’t determine our destination based on our status or on how much we work. What’s key is whether we have gained the truth, and whether we obey God. I saw that God’s disposition is righteous to all, and no matter what duty we do, we must always pursue the truth. With the truth, a person can still be saved even without any status. But without pursuing the truth, no one can be saved no matter how high their status. I thought how silly it was for me to pursue status so desperately. I had hated those corrupt army officers, but as I rose through the ranks, I myself grew worse, ultimately becoming a corrupt official just like them. Some powerful people are honest and down-to-earth before they have status, but as soon as they get power they begin to abuse it, and their sins pile up. I thought about the antichrists who had been expelled from the church. When they were lacking status, they appeared not to be doing anything evil, but as soon as that changed, they started constraining and bearing down on others condescendingly, saying and doing things to keep their positions, doing evil, and disrupting the work of God’s house. This showed me that without the truth, we always live by our corrupt dispositions. The moment we get power and status, we become perverse and do evil, that ultimately means punishment! Struggling and striving to climb the ladder in the army all those years, I was filled with satanic disposition. I was arrogant, deceitful, evil, and vicious. If I found myself in a high position, my ambitions only grew apace, just like when I’d abused my power as an officer in the army. I could only have ended up doing evil, offending God’s disposition, and being punished. Thinking of these things, I felt both afraid and grateful. God had brought about setbacks and failures time and again, stopping my ambitions and desires from being fulfilled. This was His salvation and protection for me! Thank God for His enlightenment that let me see the essence and consequences of pursuing fame and status. Even more, I finally saw how important pursuing the truth is.
Ever since then, I’ve focused on pursuing the truth to resolve my corruption. No matter what duty the church delegated to me, rank was no longer my focus. Instead, I focused on seeking the principles of the truth and doing my duty well. I could feel God’s presence and guidance when I began to practice in this way, and I felt an inexpressible sense of peace and joy. After some time, I found that I was much humbler around other people, and I no longer flaunted having been an army officer. When brothers and sisters pointed out my faults, I mindfully prayed to God and submitted, then reflected and tried to know myself. I could get along with others on an equal footing, and no longer thought I was a cut above. Before I knew it, my views on pursuit had transformed. Status, fame and gain had faded for me so much. They no longer held me back. When I saw people become church leaders who’d had faith for less time than me, I still felt a little jealous, but by praying and seeking the truth, I was able to quickly let it go. Now I do my duty at home with my wife. It may not be anything showy, but I’m really content. In our lives, we practice allowing God’s words to hold sway, and we listen to whoever speaks correctly and conforms with the truth. I have truly experienced that Almighty God has changed me. He saved my marriage, my family, and He saved me, such a depraved person. I was so arrogant, conceited, obsessed with status and gain, wicked and greedy. Without God’s salvation, I never would have been able to walk the right path in life. I’d only have become more corrupt and depraved, ultimately doing so much evil that God would have cursed and punished me. I’ve truly felt God’s salvation and love through these experiences. Being able to practice some truth and live out a bit of a human likeness is all down to God’s judgment and chastisement! Thanks be to God!