Breaking Free From Shackles and Returning to the Presence of God
By Yongyuan, USA
In November of 1982, our whole family emigrated to the USA. Because our family had been faithful to the Lord since the generation of my grandfather, we quickly found a Chinese church in Chinatown, New York where we could attend mass after we arrived in the United States. We never missed a single mass since we started attending, and my mother and elder sister were especially good about reading the scriptures whenever they had time to seek the Lord’s blessing. At that time, the priest would often say: “When the Lord comes, He will judge people publicly and divide people into categories: Those who truly repent and confess, and who are of good faith in Him, will be able to go to heaven; those who commit sins but not grave ones will suffer the torment of purgatory but are still able to be saved and ascend to heaven; those who do not believe in the Lord or commit sins that are too grave will suffer the punishment of hell.” These words left an impression on my heart as if they had been branded there. They caused me to believe in the Lord with enthusiasm, and even if I was busy with work, I never stopped going to mass.
In seemingly no time at all, 2014 arrived. One day, a parishioner told me out of the blue, “Your elder sister now believes in Almighty God….” And he said many things besides, slandering and condemning Almighty God and The Church of Almighty God. Hearing this unexpected news, I felt very anxious, and became very worried that my elder sister had gone astray. The news of my sister having accepted the work of Almighty God in the last days quickly spread throughout the whole church. The priest exhorted me to keep my distance from my sister, and there were several other members of the church who also said slanderous and accusatory things against Almighty God to my face. Through all the many times the priest and parishioners “helped” me, I started to believe their words and decided that my sister had gone astray. I told the priest and parishioners that I wouldn’t listen to my sister anymore and that if given the opportunity I would try to bring her back into the fold so she could repent to the Lord. I called my brothers after I got home, and they stood by me. We all tried persuading my sister together, but not only did she continue to firmly believe in Almighty God, she also bore witness to us that Almighty God is the returned Lord. She started trying to persuade us to accept God’s work in the last days so that we wouldn’t miss our opportunity to attain God’s salvation. But my heart had already been filled with negative ideas that were instilled in me by the priest and parishioners. No matter what my sister fellowshiped to me or to what she bore witness, I just would not listen.
Later, my mother and I had several arguments with my sister because of my sister’s belief in Almighty God. Still, no matter what my sister said, I kept believing the priest and the rumors I had read on the Internet, and I never dared to seek or investigate the work and words of Almighty God. Every time we got into an argument it ended unsuccessfully, but I discovered that my mother was gradually starting to agree with what my sister fellowshiped and what she was bearing witness to. She actually came to form a “united front” together with my sister and ended up accepting the work of Almighty God in the last days. When I saw that my mother had also come to believe in Almighty God, I became even more worried. If it really was like the priest and parishioners said and something bad happened to our family, what would I do? Desperate, I went to find Sister Qianhe who was on good terms with both my sister and me. I got her to try and persuade my mother and sister. What I never expected was that not only did this sister fail to persuade my sister and mother, but that she also came to believe in Almighty God. I found something puzzling: This sister’s behavior was upstanding and she was an enthusiastic seeker, so how could she not be able persuade someone, but even come to believe in Almighty God herself? Does the word of Almighty God really have so much power? Could it be that the word of Almighty God can really provide man with life? However, when I thought of the words of the priest and parishioners attacking Almighty God, as well as what I had seen online resisting and accusing The Church of Almighty God, I again felt fear in my heart and didn’t want to be contact with them anymore. After that, I almost never went to see my mother. I would occasionally go just to pay a visit and then leave in a hurry. I refused to listen to what my sister and mother fellowshiped. And so, this “cold war” between myself and my mother and sister went on like this for a year and a half.
One day in March of 2016, I heard that some prominent members of the church had gone to try to persuade my sister, so I went to see whether or not she had changed. When I saw my sister, I asked her what she was thinking. My sister said to me, “I have caught up with the footsteps of the Lamb and affirmed that the way of Almighty God is the truth. Almighty God is the returned Lord and I absolutely will not depart from Almighty God.” My sister’s steady gaze and resounding, forceful answer made my heart waver somewhat and aroused my curiosity. I thought: My sister is the believer in our family who seeks the most ardently, and Sister Qianhe is also someone in the church who seeks well and has discernment. My mother, too, has always had firm faith in the Lord. Now, they were all believers in Almighty God, and their faith had grown all the more after they came to follow Almighty God. They spoke with more insight and no one could shake or contradict them. What power was it that could allow them still to have such great faith in the face of the opposition of so many people? Could the work of Almighty God in the last days really be the true way? Could Almighty God really be the returned Lord? Thinking about it again, my sister, Sister Qianhe, and my mother had accepted the work of Almighty God for almost two years, but when I saw that everything in their lives was just as it had been before, I could see that the alarmism and scare tactics of the priest, and what I had read online had not come true in their case…. When I thought about this, my heart softened a bit and I wanted to investigate the words and work of Almighty God. I shared my thoughts with my sister. She responded with positivity and invited me to my mother’s house to listen to the sisters of The Church of Almighty God fellowship about Almighty God’s work in the last days.
On the weekend, I drove to my mother’s house. My sister, Sister Qianhe, and a sister of The Church of Almighty God named Zhang Xiao were all there. Sister Qianhe was especially happy to hear that I wanted to seek and investigate. She fellowshiped to me: “In the last days, the Lord has come mainly to express the word and do the work of judging and cleansing people in order to save us from the bondage of sin. At present, the people in the Age of Grace are living in a cycle of committing and then confessing sin. Even though we persevere in attending mass and reading the scriptures, as well as confessing to the priest, we still continue to lie and deceive and to live in our corrupt dispositions such as arrogance, greed, and selfishness. In spite of ourselves, we sin against and resist God, and there is no one who is able to break free of the bondage of this sinful nature, nor anyone able to attain to purity through reliance on confession and repentance. Therefore, we still must accept the work the Lord returned to do in the last days of judging and cleansing people. Only by doing so can we completely break free from the bondage of sin, be cleansed and transformed, and attain salvation from God.” Perplexed at having heard this, I asked: “The priest often said: ‘If people commit minor sins, then when the Lord comes again to publicly judge mankind, after completing their suffering in purgatory they will be able to ascend to heaven. Those who commit major sins go straight to hell to be punished.’ But how can you say that the work of judgment God returns to do is to cleanse and save people?” Sister Qianhe said: “I too used to believe the words of the priest. I had the same notions as you about how God will return to do the work of judgment, but thinking about it now, does what the priest said actually accord with the Bible? Is it based on the word of the Lord? Did the Lord Jesus say anything about purgatory? Did He say anything about people who commit minor sins being able to ascend to heaven after concluding their suffering in purgatory, and that only those who commit major sins go to hell? Of course not! So where do these words come from? They obviously come out of people’s notions and imaginations and are the speculation and conjecture of man. They do not accord whatsoever with the words of God, nor do they accord with the reality of God’s work. What use is it for us to persist in this?” I nodded in silence after hearing what Sister Qianhe fellowshiped. She continued: “We are, at present, filled with sin, and there is no one who is clean. Based on what the priest said, when the Lord returns to publicly judge all peoples, those who commit minor sins will go to purgatory whereas those who commit major sins go to hell. In that case, wouldn’t we all have to be condemned and suffer the punishment of going to hell? Wouldn’t God’s work of saving mankind be all for naught? Would there be any point in the Lord’s return?” What the sister fellowshiped touched my heart, and I thought: It’s true, even if we believe in the Lord, all we do is commit sins and confess them all day, and no one is clean. Indeed, no one is fit to see God, and if God has come to openly judge, condemn, and punish people, then everyone will have to go to hell. No one could attain salvation…. It was only then that I realized how impractical the words are that “When the Lord comes again to openly judge all peoples, those who commit major sins go directly to hell whereas those who commit minor sins go into purgatory, and after completing their suffering they will ascend into heaven.” It is not at all in keeping with God’s intention of saving man. Sister Qianhe then said: “As for God’s work of judgment in the last days, let us all take a look at how it is described in the word of Almighty God! Almighty God says: ‘God has not come to kill, or destroy, but to judge, curse, chastise, and save. Prior to the conclusion of His 6,000-year management plan—before He makes plain the end of each category of man—God’s work on earth is for the sake of salvation, it is all in order to make those who love Him totally complete, and bring them into submission to His dominion. No matter how God saves people, it is all done by making them break away from their old satanic nature; that is, He saves them by making them seek life. If they do not seek life then they will have no way to accept God’s salvation’ (‘You Should Put Aside the Blessings of Status and Understand God’s Will for the Salvation of Man’ in The Word Appears in the Flesh). ‘In the last days, Christ uses a variety of truths to teach man, expose the essence of man, and dissect his words and deeds. These words comprise various truths, such as man’s duty, how man should obey God, how man should be loyal to God, how man ought to live out the normal humanity, as well as the wisdom and the disposition of God, and so on. These words are all directed at the essence of man and his corrupt disposition. In particular, those words that expose how man spurns God are spoken in regard to how man is an embodiment of Satan and an enemy force against God. In undertaking His work of judgment, God does not simply make clear the nature of man with just a few words; He exposes, deals with, and prunes it over the long term. These methods of exposure, dealing, and pruning cannot be substituted with ordinary words, but with the truth that man does not possess at all. Only methods of this kind are deemed judgment; only through judgment of this kind can man be subdued and thoroughly convinced into submission to God, and moreover gain true knowledge of God. What the work of judgment brings about is man’s understanding of the true face of God and the truth about his own rebelliousness. The work of judgment allows man to gain much understanding of the will of God, of the purpose of God’s work, and of the mysteries that are incomprehensible to him. It also allows man to recognize and know his corrupt substance and the roots of his corruption, as well as to discover the ugliness of man. These effects are all brought about by the work of judgment, for the substance of this work is actually the work of opening up the truth, the way, and the life of God to all those who have faith in Him. This work is the work of judgment done by God’” (“Christ Does the Work of Judgment With the Truth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
After reading the word of God, Sister Zhang Xiao fellowshiped: “The word of Almighty God makes precisely clear the meaning of the work of judgment in the last days, the exact nature of judgment, and the effect of the work of judgment among man. God’s work of judgment is not killing and punishing people like in our notions and imaginations. Instead, this work makes use of the word to expose people’s thoughts, speech, and actions, to root out the deep-rooted satanic and corrupt nature that resists God. It allows us to know the truth of our corruption by Satan. At the same time, it allows us to know God’s righteous and holy disposition. When we get an understanding of these things, we begin to hate ourselves, and this produces true repentance and a heart that truly reveres God. In the judgment of the word of God we can better understand and gain the truth. We will be able naturally to live in reliance on the truth, and this way whatever satanic things we hold within will gradually be thrown off. We will be able to be in harmony with God, and from that moment on will no longer go against or resist God. We will be able to truly obey God, and only this is attaining salvation. After being corrupted by Satan, we no longer have human likeness and we lose the conscience and sense that normal people ought to have. What takes their place are the satanic dispositions such as arrogance, self-righteousness, selfishness, and craftiness which fill us. Our attitudes and notions toward things are also not compatible with God. For example: When faced with God’s work of judgment in the last days, we will all have our own understanding and will all cling to our own views regardless of whether there is a basis in God’s word. We will not seek God’s will, but blindly believe that our own way of thinking is correct. When God’s work doesn’t conform to our notions and imaginations, we will make our own judgments about God, and we will deny, attack, and accuse Him. This is caused by our arrogant nature. With such a satanic nature it is too easy for us to resist God, so we are in urgent need of God doing a stage of the work of judgment, and of Him cleansing and changing our satanic disposition. Without that, no one will break free of corruption and receive salvation.”
After listening to the word of Almighty God and what the sister fellowshiped, my heart suddenly became clear at once and felt that these words were spoken very well. Although there were some things I didn’t understand, these words made me feel that God’s work is so wise and that the Lord really does love man so much. In the past, when it came to God coming to judge people, I thought that people would go to hell or suffer the torment of purgatory. In fact, God’s work of judgment is not what we imagined, but rather it is that God comes incarnate to practically express the truth and do the work of judgment. This way, He cleanses and saves people! God’s work of judgment is so full of meaning. It is exactly what we corrupt mankind need!
When I was listening to all this with keen interest, my husband suddenly called to say he wanted to use the car. My mother noticed that I would then listen to the word. Right when I was about to leave, she gave me a book called The Scroll Opened by the Lamb and said that the words within it were the voice of God Himself. She also told me that when I went back I had to read the word of Almighty God. After I got home, I would read the book whenever I had time. Through reading the word of Almighty God, I understood many truths and gained a lot of knowledge. At the same time, I also distinctly felt God observing the depths of man’s heart. Every word of Almighty God pierced straight to my heart, revealing my inner corrupt nature. Sometimes, I saw how the word of God reveals our corruption, and I felt that God feels particular contempt for our corruption. It is as if God is angry with us, and my numb and unfeeling heart was stirred immediately. I had awe for God in my heart, and I was no longer like I had been before, when I had committed sins without fear. Through many experiences and the enlightenment and guidance of God’s words, I saw that the work of judgment of Almighty God could indeed save people from sin and allow them to break away from sin. How practical is God’s work! When I thought back on how I had resisted God’s work in the last days throughout the last two years, I felt a lot of remorse. I hated myself and had been so foolish and ignorant to not seek to understand or investigate a matter as great as the second coming of the Lord, but instead I listened blindly to those rumors, I shut the Lord out, I condemned God, and I resisted God. I almost missed the Lord’s salvation in the last days. How could I have been so blind! I saw clearly that the slander, judgments, and blasphemy against Almighty God and the defamation of The Church of Almighty God were all just falsehood from Satan. Those are tricks used especially by Satan to confuse, entrap, and obstruct people from accepting God’s work in the last days. No longer would I believe the falsehoods of Satan. No matter what I encounter or hear in the future, I will always judge right from wrong according to the word of God and to reality. I would no longer listen to Satan’s lies and deceit, and only in so doing can one be in accord with the will of God. With this in mind, I sincerely gave thanks to Almighty God for the mercy and salvation He provided me. God did not treat me on the basis of my transgressions, but continuously arranged for people to spread the gospel to me and bring me back into the house of God. How great is God’s love! Every time I hear the lyrics of the music video “Song of Heartfelt Attachment,” which go: “There is One who is God incarnate. All He says, all He does, is the truth. I love well His righteousness, His wisdom. To see Him, to obey Him, is truly a blessing,” my heart is particularly touched and inspired. I feel how fortunate I am to welcome the return of the Lord and to encounter the word of God directly. What a great fortune this is to receive!
I later participated in the life of The Church of Almighty God. The brothers and sisters would sing hymns and dance to give praise to God together. They would read the word of God, and if there was any corruption revealed, they would open wide their hearts and fellowship it. Everyone would discuss their knowledge and experience of the word of Almighty God and seek a path to enter and carry out. This kind of life in the church made me feel especially liberated and provided for. I truly realized that only such a church in which the Holy Spirit is at work could be the house of God. This is where I belong. I was now entirely determined that Almighty God is the returned Lord. I determined to follow Almighty God to the end!