6. How Do You Tell the Difference Between True and False Leaders, and True and False Shepherds?
Relevant Words of 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 actual words of God are in the stream of the Holy Spirit; those who are strangers to the actual words of God are outside of the stream of the Holy Spirit, and such people are not commended by God. Service that is divorced from the actual 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, and the service of such people interrupts and disturbs. Such service runs contrary to God, and 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. “Following the work of the Holy Spirit” means understanding the will of God today, being able to act in accordance with the present requirements of God, being able to obey and follow the God of today, and entering in accordance with the newest utterances of God. Only this is someone who follows the work of the Holy Spirit and is in the stream of the Holy Spirit. Such people are not only capable of receiving God’s praise and seeing God, but can also know God’s disposition from the latest work of God, and can know man’s conceptions and disobedience, and man’s nature and substance, from His latest work; furthermore, they are able to gradually achieve changes in their disposition during their service. Only people such as this are those who are able to gain God, and who have genuinely found the true way. Those who are eliminated by the work of the Holy Spirit are people who are incapable of following the latest work of God, and who rebel against the latest work of God. That such people openly oppose God is because God has done new work, and because the image of God is not the same as that in their conceptions—as a result of which they openly oppose God and pass judgment upon God, leading to their loathing and rejection by God.
from “Know the Newest Work of God and Follow the Footsteps of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Do many people not oppose God and obstruct the work of the Holy Spirit because they do not know the varied and diverse work of God, and, furthermore, because they possess but a smidgeon of knowledge and doctrine with which to measure the work of the Holy Spirit? Though the experiences of such people are superficial, they are arrogant and indulgent in nature, and they regard the work of the Holy Spirit with contempt, ignore the disciplines of the Holy Spirit and, moreover, use their trivial old arguments to confirm the work of the Holy Spirit. They also put on an act, and are wholly convinced of their own learning and erudition, and that they are able to travel across the world. Are such people not those who are despised and rejected by the Holy Spirit, and will they not be eliminated by the new age? Are not those who come before God and openly oppose Him myopic little people, who are merely trying to show how clever they are? With but a meager knowledge of the Bible, they try to straddle the world’s “academia,” with but a superficial doctrine to teach people, they try to reverse the work of the Holy Spirit, and attempt to make it revolve around their own thought process, and short-sighted as they are, they try to behold in one glance 6,000 years of God’s work. Do these people have any reason to speak of? In fact, the greater people’s knowledge of God, the slower they are to judge His work. Furthermore, they only talk a little of their knowledge of God’s work today, but they are not rash in their judgments. The less people know of God, the more arrogant and overconfident they are, and the more wantonly they proclaim God’s being—yet they only talk of theory, and offer no real evidence. Such people are of no value whatsoever. Those who see the work of the Holy Spirit as a game are frivolous! Those who are not cautious when they encounter the new work of the Holy Spirit, who run their mouths off, are quick to judge, who give free rein to their natural instinct to deny the rightness of the Holy Spirit’s work, and also insult and blaspheme it—are such disrespectful people not ignorant of the Holy Spirit’s work? Are they not, furthermore, the ones of arrogance, inherently proud and ungovernable? Even if a day comes when such people accept the new work of the Holy Spirit, still God will not tolerate of them. Not only do they look down upon those who work for God, but also blaspheme against God Himself. Such foolhardy people will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come and they shall forever perish in hell! Such disrespectful, indulgent people are pretending to believe in God, and the more they do so, the more likely they are to offend God’s administrative decrees. Do not all those arrogant ones who are innately unbridled, and have never obeyed anyone, all walk upon this path? Do they not oppose God day after day, He who is always new and never old?
from “Knowing the Three Stages of God’s Work Is the Path to Knowing God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Such a person always retains hostility against the new work of God, shows no intent to submit, and has never gladly obeyed or humbled himself. He exalts himself before others and never submits to another. Before God, he considers himself the most proficient in preaching the word and most skillful in working on others. He never discards the treasures already in his possession, but treats them as family heirlooms to be worshiped, to be preached to others, and used to lecture those fools who adore him. There are indeed some such people in the church. It can be said that they are “indomitable heroes,” generation after generation sojourning in the house of God. They think preaching the word (doctrine) to be their highest duty. One year after another and one generation after the other, they perform their holy and sacred duty. None dare touch them and none dare openly reproach them. They became “king” in the house of God, acting tyrannically through the ages.
from “The Truly Obedient Shall Surely Be Gained by God” 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 loves whatever you like, and that God hates whatever you do not like, and your work is guided entirely by your own preferences. Can this be called serving God? Ultimately your life disposition will not be changed one iota. In fact, you will become more stubborn because you have been serving God, and it will make your corrupt disposition deeply ingrained. Inside yourself, you will develop doctrines of service to God based on nothing more than your own character, and the experience derived from your serving according to your own disposition. This is human experience and lessons. It is man’s philosophy of life. People like this are among the Pharisees and the religious officials.
from “End Religious Service” 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 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 all hat and no cattle? Acting in this way is harmful to people! The higher the theory, the more it is devoid of reality, and 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 most lofty theories like precious treasure; they are pernicious, and serve no use! Maybe some people are able to talk of the most lofty theories—but such theories contain nothing of reality, for these people have not personally experienced them, and thus they have no path to practice. Such people are incapable of taking man 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 the present troubles and allow people to achieve entry; only this counts as devotion, and only then will you be qualified to work for God. Do not always speak grandiose, fanciful words, and do not bind people and make them obey you with your many unsuitable practices. Doing so will have no effect, and can only increase people’s confusion. Leading people this way will produce many pieces of regulation, which will make people loathe you. This is man’s shortcoming, and it is really insufferable.
from “Focus More on Reality” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Your knowledge can only provide for people for a while. As time goes on, if you keep saying the same thing, some people will be able to tell; they’ll say you’re too superficial, too lacking in depth. You’ll have no option but to try and deceive people by speaking doctrines, and if you always carry on like this, those below you will follow your methods, steps, and model for believing in God and experiencing, and they’ll put those words and doctrines into practice, and ultimately, as you talk in this way, they’ll use you as an exemplar. You lead people to speak doctrines, and those below you will learn doctrines from you, and as things progress you will have taken the wrong way. Those below you all follow you…. Look at the leaders of every denomination and sect. They are all arrogant and self-right, 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 learning, and can speak a little of doctrine, or know how to win over others and how to use some artifices, through which they have brought people before themselves and have deceived them. Nominally, those people believe in God—but in reality they follow their leaders. If they encounter those who preach the true way, some of them would say, “We have to consult him about our belief in God.” See how they require someone’s consent to believe in God; 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 “Only the Pursuit of the Truth Is the True Belief in God” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Your “summing up the truth” is not done to let people obtain life or attain changes in their dispositions from the truth. Instead, it is done so people can master some knowledge and doctrines from within the truth. They seem as though they understand the purpose behind God’s work, when actually they have only mastered some words of doctrine. They don’t understand the implied meaning of the truth, and it is no different from studying theology or reading the Bible. You are always sorting out these books or those materials, and so become in possession of this aspect of doctrine or that aspect of knowledge. You are a first rate speaker of doctrines—but what happens when you are done speaking? People are then incapable of experiencing, they have no understanding of God’s work and no understanding of themselves either. In the end, all the things they will have gained are formulas and rules. … By asking question after question about those words, then answering, you form an outline or a summary, and you think that those below can then easily understand them. Apart from being easy to remember, they are clear about these questions at a glance, and you think it is great to do things in this way. But what they are understanding is not the real implied meaning; it is at variance with reality and is just doctrinal words. So it would be better if you didn’t do these things at all. You do these things to lead people to understand knowledge and master knowledge. You bring others into the doctrines, into religion, and make them follow God and believe in God within religious doctrines. Are you not then just the same as Paul? … In the end they would be brought to a place where they cannot experience the truth and cannot experience the word of God, a place where they can only equip themselves with and discuss doctrines and where they cannot understand God. All they could then speak would be pleasant-sounding doctrines, correct doctrines, but there would be no reality within them and they would have no path to walk on. This kind of leading really does grievous harm!
from “Without the Truth It Is Easy to Offend God” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Some people only arm themselves with some truths for emergencies or to forsake themselves and help others, not to solve their own troubles; we call them “selfless people.” They regard others as puppets of the truth and themselves as the masters of the truth, teaching others to hold fast to the truth and not to be passive, while they themselves are spectators on the sidelines—what kind of people are they? Armed with some of the words of truth only to lecture others, while doing nothing to prevent themselves from meeting their own destruction—how pathetic! If their words can help others, why can they not help themselves? We should call them hypocrites who have no reality. They supply words of truth to others and ask others to practice them, but make no effort to practice them themselves—aren’t they despicable? They clearly cannot do it themselves, yet they force others to put the words of truth into practice—what a cruel method this is! They are not using reality to help others; they are not providing for others with a heart of maternal loving; they are just deceiving people and corrupting people. If this carries on—with each person passing the words of truth onto the next—won’t everyone end up with only speaking the words of truth while being incapable of practicing the truth?
from “Those Who Love the Truth Have a Way to Follow” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Those who read the Bible in grand churches recite the Bible every day, yet not one understands the purpose of God’s work. Not one is able to know God; moreover, not one is in accord with the heart of God. They are all worthless, vile men, each standing on high to teach God. Though they brandish the name of God, they willfully oppose Him. Though they label themselves believers of God, they are ones who eat the flesh and drink the blood of man. All such men are devils who devour the soul of man, demons who purposefully disturb those who try to step onto the right path, and stumbling blocks that impede the path of those who seek God. Though they are of “robust flesh,” how are their followers to know that they are antichrists who lead man in opposition to God? How are they to know that they are living devils who specially seek souls to devour?
from “All Who Do Not Know God Are Those Who Oppose God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Why do I say that those in the religious world do not believe in God and are evildoers, who are of the same kind as the devil? When I say they are evildoers, it is because they do not understand the will of God or see His wisdom. God at no time reveals His work to them; they are blind men, who do not see the deeds of God. They are those forsaken by God and do not possess at all the care and protection of God, much less the work of the Holy Spirit. Those without the work of God are evildoers and stand in opposition to God.
from “All Who Do Not Know God Are Those Who Oppose God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The Man’s Fellowship:
The responsibility of workers is to perform their duty and lead the churches based on God’s will and in accordance with the requirements and arrangements of God. Work such as this is blessed by God. If workers are not possessed of such rationality, and violate God’s will by doing things their own way, standing in the place of the shepherd and teaching people however they wish, releasing their conceptions, imagination, and doctrines and making others accept them, then such workers have become false shepherds. There are many examples of workers becoming false shepherds, and a large number have been eliminated by God in each stage of His work. God once said that in every age there are many people who serve God and yet also oppose Him, until ultimately they make others obey and worship them as if they were God. This is the manifestation of “false shepherds.” We should all take this as a warning; workers must focus on changes in disposition, and if they are inattentive and lax in this, then it is extremely easy for them to become false shepherds. The work of false shepherds has a particular emphasis on leading people according to the false shepherds’ own meaning. All that they do, say, and ask for is of their own design, and they treat this as the purest of all truths, and think that they can teach people to be human beings and allow people to gain the truth according to their own design. These are the manifestations of the supreme arrogance and self-righteousness of false shepherds. For those who are truly rational, when they believe they are right they would particularly seek and commune the truth, and devote their attention on hearing different views and knowledge of others in order to establish whether all that they have understood is correct. All those who have undergone God’s pruning and dealing should be able to put aside some of their self-righteousness and arrogance. When they work, they are cautious in their footsteps in order to avoid violating God’s will and taking the wrong path. The consequences of them becoming false shepherds do not bear thinking about. Every worker has their own practices, they all have their own theories with which they water people; in fact, no one can be completely clear about how much truth or value their own way contains. People lack self-awareness, they are not earnest or deeply contemplative in their knowledge of the truth, and they arbitrarily pick some worthless things and treat them like treasures to be provided to others. Are such practices not suggestive of a false shepherd? Does this not harm both others and themselves? No matter how much work false shepherds do, they are totally incapable of bringing people before God and allowing them to know and obey God. All that is released by false shepherds is but words and doctrines, and conceptions and imagination, and nothing interrupts God’s work or opposes Him more.
from “The Meaning of ‘False Shepherds’” in The Fellowship From the Above
Service according to religious methods means doing everything according to religion’s traditional methods and practices for service, rigidly abiding by various religious ceremonies, and only leading people according to the knowledge of the Bible. In appearance, it seems vigorous and potent, it smacks of religion, it fits perfectly with people’s conceptions, and they have no objections. Yet it is completely devoid of the work of the Holy Spirit, what is preached is nothing but religious doctrines and the knowledge of the Bible, it is full of religious conceptions, it contains nothing of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, and the assemblies are stagnant and lifeless. With service such as this, as the years go on the chosen people of God still remain bereft of the truth, they have no knowledge of God or obedience toward God, and they have not entered onto the right track of belief in God—for what people pursue is not salvation but graces and blessings, such that there is no hint of changes in their life disposition. Having served for several years, these people are still empty-handed, with nothing to show for themselves. This is the consequence of service according to religious methods. Clearly, people like this who serve God do not know the work of God, they do not understand God’s will, and they do not know what it means to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit. It is purely a case of the blind leading the blind, they lead the chosen people of God astray, like the Pharisees they believe in God and yet oppose God, they do not know God, and they are fundamentally unable to attain God’s salvation.
from “Only Those Who Enter the Right Track of Belief in God Can Take the Right Track of Service to God” in Annals of the Fellowship and Arrangements of the Work of the Church (I)
The pastors of the religious community use every opportunity to show off their level of knowledge and give the appearance of piety. Their aim is to make people look up to them and worship them, and they use their own image to draw people to obey and follow them, with the result that they lead people into worshiping knowledge of the Bible, worshiping status and power, and worshiping proficiency in preaching. In this way, with each step they lead people into the way of opposing God. Those led by antichrists believe in the vague God, they are good at speaking hollow and empty doctrines, and skilled in hypocrisy, and they all believe in God and yet oppose and rebel against God. There is no doubt that the way in which false leaders and antichrists work—the one in which they serve God and yet oppose Him—is deeply harmful to people.
from “Guarding Against Antichrists and the Way of Antichrists Is of the Utmost Importance” in Annals of the Fellowship and Arrangements of the Work of the Church (II)