18. What is a false leader or false shepherd? How can a false leader or false shepherd be discerned?
Relevant Words of God:
Those who can follow the present work of the Holy Spirit, and who are able to follow the footsteps of God, such that they follow God wherever He leads them—these are people who are blessed by God. Those who do not follow the present work of the Holy Spirit have not entered into the work of God’s words, and no matter how much they work, or how great their suffering, or how much they run about, none of it means anything to God, and He will not commend them. Today, all those who follow the present words of God are in the stream of the Holy Spirit; those who are strangers to the words of God today are outside of the stream of the Holy Spirit, and such people are not commended by God. Service that is divorced from the present utterances of the Holy Spirit is service that is of the flesh, and of conceptions, and it is incapable of being in accordance with God’s will. If people live among religious conceptions, then they are unable to do anything that is fit for God’s will, and even though they serve God, they serve in the midst of their imagination and conceptions, and are totally incapable of serving in accordance with the will of God. Those who are unable to follow the work of the Holy Spirit do not understand the will of God, and those who do not understand the will of God cannot serve God. God wants service that is after His own heart; He does not want service that is of conceptions and the flesh. If people are incapable of following the steps of the Holy Spirit’s work, then they live amid conceptions. The service of such people interrupts and disturbs, and such service runs contrary to God. Thus those who are unable to follow the footsteps of God are incapable of serving God; those who are unable to follow the footsteps of God most certainly oppose God, and are incapable of being compatible with God.
from “Know the Newest Work of God and Follow the Footsteps of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Work in the mind of man is too easily achieved by man. Pastors and leaders in the religious world, for example, rely on their gifts and positions to do their work. People who follow them for a long time will be infected by their gifts and be influenced by some of what they are. They focus on people’s gifts, abilities and knowledge, and they pay attention to some supernatural things and many profound unrealistic doctrines (of course, these profound doctrines are unattainable). They do not focus on changes to people’s disposition, but rather they focus on training people’s preaching and working abilities, improving people’s knowledge and rich religious doctrines. They do not focus on how much people’s disposition is changed or how much people understand the truth. They do not concern themselves with the substance of people, much less try to know people’s normal and abnormal states. They do not counter people’s notions or reveal their notions, much less mend their deficiencies or corruptions. Most of the people who follow them serve by their natural gifts, and what they express is knowledge and vague religious truth, which are out of touch with reality and are completely unable to confer people with life. In fact, the substance of their work is nurturing talent, nurturing a person with nothing into a talented seminary graduate who later goes on to work and lead.
from “God’s Work and Man’s Work” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
You serve God with your natural character, and according to your personal preferences; what’s more, you keep thinking that God delights in whatever you wish to do, and hates whatever you do not wish to do, and you are guided entirely by your own preferences in your work. Can this be called serving God? Ultimately, your life disposition will not be changed by one iota; rather, you will become even more stubborn because you have been serving God, and this will make your corrupt disposition deeply ingrained. This way, you will inwardly develop rules about service to God that are primarily based on your own character, and the experience derived from your serving according to your own disposition. This is lesson from human experience. It is man’s philosophy of life. People like this belong to the Pharisees and the religious officials. If they never wake up and repent, then they will ultimately turn into the false Christs who will appear in the last days, and will be deceivers of men. The false Christs and deceivers that were spoken of will arise from among this kind of person.
from “Religious Way of Service Must Be Banned” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Why is it that most people have spent much effort reading God’s words, but merely have knowledge and cannot say anything about a real path afterward? Do you think that possessing knowledge amounts to possessing the truth? Is that not a confused point of view? You are able to speak as much knowledge as there is sand on a beach, yet none of it contains any real path. In this, are you not fooling people? Are you not making an empty show with no substance to back it up? All such behavior is harmful to people! The higher the theory and the more it is devoid of reality, the more it is incapable of taking people into reality; the higher the theory, the more it makes you defy and oppose God. Do not treat the loftiest theories like precious treasure; they are pernicious, and serve no purpose! Perhaps some people are able to talk of the loftiest theories—but these contain nothing of reality, for these people have not personally experienced them, and therefore have no path to practice. Such people are incapable of taking humanity onto the right track, and will only lead people astray. Is this not harmful to people? At the very least, you must be able to solve their present troubles and allow them to achieve entry; only this counts as dedication, and only then will you be qualified to work for God. Do not always speak grandiose, fanciful words, and do not use a bunch of unsuitable practices to bind others into obeying you. Doing so will have no effect, and can only increase their confusion. Leading people this way will result in many pieces of regulation, which will cause people to loathe you. This is humanity’s shortcoming, and it truly is mortifying.
from “Focus More on Reality” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Some people work and preach and, although on the surface it looks as though they are fellowshiping on God’s word, all they are talking about is the literal meaning of God’s word, but nothing substantive is mentioned. Their sermons are like teaching from a language textbook; God’s words are arranged item by item, aspect by aspect, and when they are done everyone sings their praises, saying: “This person possesses reality. They preached so well and in such detail.” After they are done preaching, they tell others to put it all together and send it out to everybody. Their actions become deception of others and all that they preach are fallacies. On the surface, it looks as though they are preaching only God’s word and it appears to conform to the truth. But with more careful discernment, you will see that it is nothing but letters and doctrines and false reasoning along with some human imaginings and notions as well as some portions that delimit God. Isn’t this kind of preaching an interruption of God’s work? It is service that opposes God.
from “Without the Truth It Is Easy to Offend God” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Your knowledge can only provide for people for a certain period of time. As time goes on, if you keep saying the same things, some people will discern that; they’ll say you’re too superficial, too lacking in depth. You’ll have no option but to try and deceive people by preaching on doctrines. If you always carry on like this, those below you will follow your methods, steps, and model of faith and of experiencing and putting into practice those words and doctrines. Ultimately, as you keep on preaching and preaching, they’ll all come to use you as an exemplar. In your leadership of others you speak of doctrines, so those below you will learn doctrines from you, and as things progress you will have taken the wrong path. Those below you will take whatever path you do; they will all learn from you and follow you, so you will feel: “I am powerful now; so many people listen to me, and the church is at my beck and call.” This nature of betrayal within man unconsciously makes you turn God into a mere figurehead, and you yourself then form some sort of denomination. This is how various denominations arise. Just look at the leaders of every denomination—they are all arrogant and self-righteous, and they interpret the Bible out of context and according to their own imagination. They all rely on gifts and erudition to do their work. If they were incapable of preaching anything, would those people follow them? They do, after all, possess some knowledge, and can preach on some doctrine, or know how to win over others and how to use some artifices. They use these to bring people before themselves and deceive them. Nominally, those people believe in God, but in reality they follow their leaders. If they encounter someone preaching the true way, some of them say, “We have to consult our leader about our faith.” Their faith has to go through a human being; is that not a problem? What have those leaders become, then? Have they not become Pharisees, false shepherds, antichrists, and stumbling blocks to people’s acceptance of the true way?
from “Without the Truth It Is Easy to Offend God” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Sermon and Fellowship Excerpts for Reference:
Serving in a religious way means to serve completely according to religion’s traditional ways and practice of service, firmly adhering to all kinds of religious rituals, and to lead people only by the knowledge of the Bible. It is vigorous and full of religious flavor on the outside, completely in conformance with human’s conceptions, and people have no criticism about it, but there is none of the Holy Spirit’s work. People who serve in this way give sermons that are all religious doctrines and biblical knowledge, full of religious conceptions, with none of the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment. And the meetings they hold are lifeless. Over many years of this type of service, God’s chosen people cannot receive the truth, cannot know or obey God, nor enter onto the right track of believing in God. Because what people are pursuing is not salvation, but grace and blessings, consequently changes in people’s life disposition cannot be seen, and they end up empty-handed. This is the consequence of the religious way of service. It is evident that this type of person serving God really does not understand God’s work, nor do they understand God’s intentions. They do not know what cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s work is and this is purely the blind leading the blind. They lead God’s chosen people astray. They believe in God yet resist and do not know God. Like the Pharisees, they cannot be saved.
from “Only by First Entering the Right Track of Belief in God Can One Walk the Right Track of Serving God” in Selected Annals of the Work Arrangements of The Church of Almighty God
The pastors and leaders in the religious world have all been trained within seminaries, and they are just certified to be pastors. They do not have proof of the Holy Spirit’s work or God’s permission at all. This is a fact. Understanding something of the Bible is required, but what is most critical is that one must know the work of God in order to be qualified for the work of shepherding the church. The Bible is the record of God’s first two stages of work, so without reading the Bible, it is impossible to understand the historical facts of God’s appearance and His work. It is also impossible to know which truths God expressed in His previous two stages of work, and there is no way to gain clear answers regarding the many mysteries of the truth that people must understand. This is why reading the Bible is indispensable for faith in God, but relying on nothing more than knowledge of the Bible cannot make us achieve knowledge of God. One must undergo the enlightenment, illumination, guidance, training, and perfection of the work of the Holy Spirit in order to truly understand God’s words and the truth, and achieve knowledge of God. Achieving an understanding of the truth is dependent on experiencing God’s work and the enlightenment and illumination by the Holy Spirit. It’s not gained just based on researching and mastering biblical knowledge. Many pastors in religious circles have a very thorough understanding of the Bible, but they have absolutely no understanding of God’s work. This is primarily because they do not have the work of the Holy Spirit. Why is it that when some people read God’s words, they come away with the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, but when other people read God’s words, they have none of His work? This exposes whether people’s faith is genuine, and whether or not they love the truth. Many people attend seminary to be pastors, and whether they have the right motive or not, what is most important is that they must love and pursue the truth. This is the only way to gain the work of the Holy Spirit. Only by undergoing several years of the Holy Spirit’s work can a person truly understand the truth and be able to enter into the reality of the truth. This is the only way to be qualified to lead and shepherd God’s chosen people. Just relying on certification as a pastor to lead God’s chosen people is an entirely human concept and it is a world apart from God’s own requirements. For example, when the Lord Jesus came why did He not go into the temple and call on the Jewish chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees, but instead went out among the people to seek out those who loved and pursued the truth to find apostles? God’s will can be understood from within this. Those who do not love the truth are completely unable to gain the truth, so they are also unable to shepherd God’s chosen people. This is how which people God actually likes, which He will actually save, which He will actually use, and which He actually hates will all become clear. Most of the pastors in religious circles lack the work of the Holy Spirit, which shows that they are not those who love or pursue the truth, and they have no way to gain the work of the Holy Spirit. This is also one of the primary reasons the religious world lacks the work of the Holy Spirit.
from “Why the Religious World Has Always Resisted God While Serving Him” in Collection of Sermons—Supply for Life
Now I shall give fellowship on the five principles of how to discern a false leader: The first principle is that most false leaders do not love the truth and they do not pursue the truth, and therefore they are without the work of the Holy Spirit. A minority of them, or some individuals, with good humanity may be without the work of the Holy Spirit because they have only believed in God for a short time, because they do not know how to pursue the truth or they are unable to pursue the truth normally because they are constrained by certain things. Anyone who has served as a leader for three to five years and who still does not have the work of the Holy Spirit is absolutely not someone who loves the truth or pursues the truth, and they are most certainly a false leader. The second principle is that false leaders only preach letters and doctrines, they are completely without the reality of the truth, they are absolutely incapable of using the truth to resolve problems, and they are unable to convince people in heart and by word. The third principle is that, because they are without the reality of the truth, false leaders are unable to perform any real work and are unable to lead God’s chosen people into the reality of the truth. They always do their work perfunctorily and, if they are forced to do something, then they constrain others to do what is beyond them, and they rebuke and deal with others at random. Because they are without the truth, they cannot convince others by having the truth, and so false leaders use the methods of pruning and dealing. They grab onto the faults of others and constantly oppress them, wishing to subdue them through reprimands and punishments in order to show their authority as a leader—this is a false leader. A true leader uses the truth to convince people, uses the truth to resolve problems and is admired by others; a false leader oppresses others, grabs onto the faults of others and constantly rebukes them and gets them to check themselves against God’s word, and makes them feel constrained to do what is beyond their ability. In the end, the false leader brings them under his control and makes them think, “I really do not have the reality of the truth. I am so lacking, and I do not pursue the truth. What my leader says is right.” They are convinced in heart and by word by the false leader, but they are not actually convinced because the false leader has the truth, but because the false leader has dealt with them and tormented them. This is a specific means employed by false leaders, to use hypocrisy and to dress falsehood up as truth. Because they cannot convince people by having the truth, they have to employ another method, thinking, “I shall grab hold of your problems at random and deal with you, convince you, and I shall use my dealing with you to show that I have the truth. I’ll deal with you so much that you’ll be beaten down, and I will make you believe wrongly that I have the truth and that you do not have the truth, and you will then be convinced.” When someone is without the truth, they will be deceived by false leaders, and will think, “He can deal with me in this way so he must surely understand the truth better than I, and he must certainly have the reality of the truth.” And so, they end up deceived and controlled by the false leader. The fourth principle is that false leaders are without a loving heart toward God’s chosen people and they are unable to truly know themselves, much less seek the truth to resolve problems or lead people to enter into reality. They just deal with people and oppress them blindly, they make others submit to them by using the means of pruning and dealing with them, and they show their own status and show that they are the leader—this is a false facade. The fifth principle is that all false leaders pursue status and reputation, they covet the blessings of status and they covet vanity. They perform no real work, yet they still believe they have the qualification to enjoy God’s offerings, and this makes them quite without shame. Do they deserve to enjoy God’s offerings when they do not perform any real work? Some people find the wealthiest host families to stay with, and every day they ask for roast chicken and fried fish—do they deserve this? What provision have they given for the lives of God’s chosen people, and what work have they performed? They absolutely must have meat and fish to eat every day, but do they then not become parasites? Are those who covet status and pleasure not shameless? Do people like this possess conscience and reason?
from “To Attain Salvation, One Must Resolve the Problems of Following and Worshiping Other People” in Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life IX