Christian Experience: The Path to Escape Being a Slave to Sin Is Found
By Sara, United States
- My Inability to Cast Off Sin Causes Me Much Distress
- Will the Lord Perform New Work When He Returns?
- Does Good Behavior Demonstrate That Our Dispositions Have Changed?
- So, This Is How God Judges and Purifies Man
- I Recognize the Voice of God and Joyfully Welcome the Lord’s Return
My Inability to Cast Off Sin Causes Me Much Distress
I am a Christian. As a young woman, before I began believing in the Lord, I always had such a strong drive to excel over others. I always felt that I was more educated than my mom and I always disregarded my mom’s suggestions. My mom was also very self-opinionated, always trying to get me to do what she said, and so the two of us were often at loggerheads because of our differing opinions. I felt very upset about this awkward relationship with my mom, but I felt like there was nothing I could do to change it. After I began to believe in the Lord, my brothers and sisters gave me fellowship, saying, “The Lord Jesus was crucified upon the cross in order to redeem us and He forgave us our sins that we could enjoy His abundant grace. The Lord loves us and teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Therefore, we must learn to love other people….” The Lord Jesus’ love moved me greatly and I wished to practice according to the Lord’s teachings and love my family and those around me. Afterward, whenever I disagreed with my mom about anything, I would let my mom speak first and try my best not to argue with her. If I couldn’t stand to hold my peace at the time and we ended up arguing about something, I would later go to her and admit fault. After a while, I felt as though my temper had improved a great deal, and my relationship with my mom became somewhat easier.
I’d thought then that my relationship with my mom would get better and better, but things didn’t quite turn out that way. As time went on, I was still unable to control my hot-headedness and I started arguing with my mom again. Even though sometimes I wouldn’t say anything to her, I would still be feeling disgruntled inside. My mom also rebuked me, saying, “You believe in the Lord now, so how come you still have such a bad temper?” Hearing her say this made me feel bad and I felt like all my hard work and all the changes I had gone through had come to naught. Thinking about it, however, this was exactly what had happened. Although I wanted to change, I just couldn’t restrain myself from losing my temper all the time. At that time, I inevitably came to have some questions: “Why am I still having frequent arguments with my mom? Why can’t I keep to the Lord’s words? How can I cast off the bonds of sin?”
Later on, I spoke to my brothers and sisters in the church about this matter, and some of them said to me, “You have to learn self-restraint. As our relationship with the Lord becomes closer and closer, we become more and more tolerant of our family members.” And some said to me, “This stage of ups and downs is totally normal, but our change always spirals upward, and what is certain is that we get better the more we change, so don’t have any doubts. The Lord’sis wholly complete and He will begin His work in our lives so that we become newly-created people.” I also comforted myself by thinking, “Perhaps I just don’t work hard enough at it. What’s more, I haven’t believed in the Lord for long and my stature is small, and that’s why I can’t control my temper. When I have believed in the Lord for a long time, I should then be able to put the Lord’s words into practice.” Afterward, whenever I argued with my mom over our differing opinions, I did all I could to restrain myself from getting angry. Practicing in this way did occasionally have some effect, but I was never able to restrain myself for long before I lost my temper again. In my pain, all I could do was come before the Lord to pray: “O Lord! I can never stop myself from getting angry and I cannot restrain myself. I don’t know what to do. Please can You help me? …”
Will the Lord Perform New Work When He Returns?
A fortuitous chance led me to get acquainted with several brothers and sisters online. We often studied the Bible and attended gatherings with each other and would discuss with each other our understanding and knowledge of Bible verses. In particular, the fellowships of Brother Lin were particularly illuminating and enlightening; I reaped much benefit from them and understood many truths I had never understood before. I really enjoyed attending gatherings with these brothers and sisters.
At one gathering, we discussed the topic of the Lord Jesus’ return. Brother Lin sent us two verses from the Bible: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin to salvation” (Hebrews 9:28). “Who are kept by the power of God through faith to salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). He then gave us fellowship, saying, “We can see from these two verses that, when the Lordin the last days, He shall perform a new work to save us utterly from the bonds of sin so that we may be purified and attain the true salvation of God.”
Listening to Brother Lin’s fellowship, I felt like I could not totally accept what he was saying, so I told him my opinion: “Although we are still capable of committing sin, the Lord Jesus’ crucifixion has redeemed us and He no longer regards us as sinners. What’s more, the Lord said, ‘It is finished’ when He was upon the cross, which shows that God’s salvation is already complete and His work to save mankind is finished. So how can you say that God still has new work to do in the last days?”
Brother Lin said, “Sister, what exactly did the Lord Jesus mean when He said, ‘It is finished’ upon the cross? If we go by our own understanding and say that, by saying, ‘It is finished,’ the Lord Jesus meant that God’s work was completely finished, then how would the Lord’s words be fulfilled, when He prophesied, ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come’ (John 16:12–13)? Also, the Lord prophesied that, when He returns in the last days, He shall perform the work of separating the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats and the wise virgins from the foolish virgins. In Revelation 14:6, it says, ‘And I saw another angel fly in the middle of heaven, having the everlastingto preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.’ If the Lord performs no new work in the last days, wouldn’t such prophecies come to nothing? Our belief, therefore, that by saying ‘It is finished,’ the Lord Jesus meant that God’s work to save mankind was totally finished, is surely an understanding that arises from our own conceptions and imaginings, and does not, in fact, accord with the facts of God’s work.”
As I listened to Brother Lin’s fellowship, I couldn’t help but think: “That’s right. If God’s work to save mankind was over already, how then would these prophecies spoken by the Lord Jesus come to pass? The Lord is faithful, and His prophecies cannot possibly come to nothing….”
Brother Lin went on with his fellowship, saying, “In actual fact, when the Lord Jesus said, ‘It is finished’ upon the cross, He meant that God’s work to redeem mankind was completed, and not that His work to save mankind was totally finished. This is because the work of the Lord Jesus was the work of redemption and it was done to absolve us of our sins; it did not, however, remove our sinful nature and satanic dispositions. Therefore, we need God to perform a further stage of work that thoroughly changes and cleanses us. Let’s now read some passages that tackle this issue.” Brother Lin then read: “To man, God’s crucifixion concluded the work of God’s incarnation, redeemed all of mankind, and allowed Him to seize the key to Hades. Everyone thinks God’s work has been fully accomplished. In actuality, to God, only a small part of His work has been accomplished. He has only redeemed mankind; He has not conquered mankind, let alone changed the ugliness of Satan in man. That is why God says, ‘Although My incarnate flesh went through the pain of death, that was not the whole goal of My incarnation. Jesus is My beloved Son and was nailed to the cross for Me, but He did not fully conclude My work. He only did a portion of it’” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Work and Entry (6)). “For all that man may have been redeemed and forgiven of his sins, it can only be considered as God not remembering the transgressions of man and not treating man in accordance with his transgressions. However, when man, who lives in a body of flesh, has not been set free from sin, he can only continue to sin, endlessly revealing his corrupt satanic disposition. This is the life that man leads, an endless cycle of sinning and being forgiven. The majority of men sin in the day only to confess in the evening. This way, even if the sin offering is forever effective for man, it will not be able to save man from sin. Only half the work of salvation has been completed, for man still has a corrupt disposition” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Mystery of the Incarnation (4)).
After he’d finished reading, Brother Lin went on with his fellowship. “These two passages speak very clearly. In the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus appeared in the flesh and performed His work, He expressed the way of ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 4:17), and He taught people to understand many truths. Afterward, He was crucified, thereby completing His work to redeem mankind. When we believe in the Lord, as long as we come before the Lord to repent and confess our sins, then our sins are forgiven. However, we have been so deeply corrupted by Satan that such satanic dispositions as being arrogant and conceited, selfish and contemptible, crooked and deceitful, wicked and greedy, have become our lives; we all crave wealth, status, fame and fortune and, just as worldly people do, we pursue lives of luxury and depravity, and we enjoy the pleasures of sin. When we associate with others, we always think our own views are exceptionally clever and we always try to prevail over others, to make others listen to us, and we have no tolerance or patience for other people. We find it hard even to get along with our own friends and families. Just as the apostle Paul said: ‘For to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do’ (Romans 7:18–19). We are subject to the bonds and fetters of our satanic dispositions and we are frequently unable to stop ourselves from sinning and resisting God. Even were our sins to be forgiven a thousand times, we would remain people who have been deeply corrupted by Satan. Can we then say that God’s work to save mankind is completely finished? If God did not come in the last days to work and save us, how would we—so completely filthy and sordid—be qualified to look upon the face of the Lord and be raised up into the kingdom of heaven? God’s words say, ‘You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:45). God is holy and His disposition is righteous and inviolable. Consequently, God will not bring filthy and corrupt people into His kingdom. Only by accepting God’s appearance and work in the last days, by thoroughly casting off the bonds and fetters of sin and achieving change in our dispositions will we be able to attain God’s complete salvation and be qualified to look upon the Lord’s face and enter into heaven.”
Does Good Behavior Demonstrate That Our Dispositions Have Changed?
After listening to Brother Lin’s fellowship, I thought to myself, “We really do now live in sin and are unable to extricate ourselves, and this is something no one can deny. But we have changed a little….” And so, I said to Brother Lin, “Brother, what you have just fellowshiped is the truth. We certainly do commit sin often now and we have not cast off the bonds of sin. But we have changed a little since we started to believe in the Lord. Some of my brothers and sisters in the church, for example, live out humble lives and never argue with anybody. Some believers had a bad relationship with their spouses before they believed in the Lord, but afterward, their relationships improved. There are also some who used to always be getting into fights or insulting other people, but since they started to believe in the Lord, they have become tolerant and patient—does this not constitute change? I think that as long as we truly trust in the Lord and act in accordance with His words, we can then cast off the bonds of sin little by little and be purified, and when the Lord comes, we can then be raised up into heaven.” One by one, the other brothers and sisters agreed with my view.
Brother Lin went on patiently, saying, “Many people experience some behavioral change after they start to believe in the Lord. For example, they no longer get into fights or insult other people, they can be loving toward others, they can be tolerant and patient and can both give to those in need and dedicate themselves to God, and so on. But having these apparent good behaviors on the outside does not demonstrate that we are casting off the bonds of sin or that our dispositions are changing. Because our sinful nature remains unresolved, we are still in constant danger of resisting God and betraying God.” Having said this, Brother Lin then read us these words: “Changes in nothing more than behavior are unsustainable. If there is no alteration in people’s life disposition, then sooner or later their wicked side will show itself. Because the source of the changes in their behavior is fervor, coupled with some work by the Holy Spirit at the time, it is extremely easy for them to become fervent, or to show kindness for a time. As the unbelievers say, ‘Doing one good deed is easy, what’s hard is doing a lifetime of good deeds.’ People are incapable of doing good deeds their whole life. Their behavior is directed by the life; whatever their life is, so is their behavior, and only that which is revealed naturally represents the life, and one’s nature. Things that are fake cannot last. … Behaving well is not the same as obeying God, much less does it equal being compatible with Christ. Changes in behavior are based on doctrine, and born of fervor—they are not based on the true knowledge of God, or upon the truth, much less do they rest on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Even though there are times when some of what people do is directed by the Holy Spirit, this is not the expression of the life, much less is it the same as knowing God; no matter how good a person’s behavior, it does not prove that they, or that they put the truth into practice” (“The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks).
Brother Lin continued with his fellowship, saying, “This passage shows us that good behavior comes from people’s fervor and kindness, as well as some work by the Holy Spirit. By forsaking our flesh for a time, we are then able to practice good behavior, but this does not demonstrate that we have taken the truth as our life, nor does it demonstrate that our dispositions have changed. If our sinful nature remains unresolved and, through good behavior, we are able to restrain ourselves for a time, then as time goes on we inevitably end up repeating the same transgressions as we have in the past, so much so that we even become capable of doing things against God at any moment, offending God’s disposition, and we then lose our chance to attain true salvation. In our lives, we can all appreciate that, ordinarily, we can practice tolerance and patience in our association with other people, and we can forgo getting into arguments with them. But when other people begin to infringe upon our interests, however, we can make quite a fuss and argue with them, and we can even become bitter enemies. Many brothers and sisters can appear to have some good behavior on the outside, but the moment some man-made or natural disaster comes their way or something bad happens to their family, they then blame and misunderstand God, so much so that they can even deny and betray God. Some church leaders and co-workers may appear humble and patient from the outside, but their natures are arrogant and, when they work and give sermons, they do not exalt God, they do not lead people to practice or experience the Lord’s words, but instead they show off at every opportunity, always talking about their experiences of suffering for the Lord’s sake so that other people hold them in high esteem and look up to them. Some even vie for power and position within the church and they misappropriate church funds. The Pharisees at the time of Jesus appeared to live very piously, they were loving toward others, and they both gave to those in need and dedicated themselves to God—even the tassels on their clothes were covered in written Scriptures. When the Lord Jesus came to perform His work, however, they frantically resisted and condemned Him to the point where they even colluded with the Roman authorities to crucify Him upon the cross. This shows that, no matter how good our behavior may appear to be on the outside, it cannot demonstrate that we know God or obey God, or that we are compatible with God, much less that we have been purified. Therefore, changes in external behavior do not equate to changes in disposition, and our ability to externally practice some of the Lord’s teachings does not demonstrate that we have cast off the bonds of sin.”
After listening to Brother Lin’s fellowship, I found that I agreed with it from the bottom of my heart, and I said, “Brother, your fellowship tallies with what we are really like! Although our external behavior may have changed somewhat, our sinful nature still dominates us from within, and so our good behavior can never last for long. For example, I always tried hard to restrain myself from arguing with my mom and, although from the outside I appeared to be somewhat patient, I still didn’t feel this way in my heart, and I inevitably ended up arguing with her. This shows that I am still under the control of my sinful nature and that I have not been purified. When we look at other people, we just see what’s on the outside; God doesn’t just require us to change what’s on the outside, however. Most importantly, God requires that our inner lives undergo a change.”
Just then, one of the other sisters said, “Yes, it’s true that we have just changed our external behavior and that our lives have not changed at all. Whenever I have a disagreement with my work colleague, I hate her from the bottom of my heart, and I want to have nothing more to do with her. Although I know that the Lord teaches us to be tolerant and patient, and I can restrain myself maybe once or twice, as time goes on, I just can’t restrain myself anymore. It seems as though, if we only change our external behavior and our life dispositions do not change, then we are unable to keep to the Lord’s words for very long and we can still sin frequently.” The other brothers and sisters then took it in turns to talk about their pain of being subject to the bonds of sin throughout their many years of belief in the Lord.
After the discussion was over, Brother Lin went on: “Brothers and sisters, the work of redemption performed by the Lord Jesus absolved us of our sins, but our sinful nature remains unresolved within us. Consequently, no matter how much we read the Bible, how much we confess and repent or how much we try to control ourselves, we are still incapable of casting off the bonds of sin. God knows our needs and, in the last days, He has returned in the flesh with the nameto perform the work of judgment beginning in God’s house to enable us to thoroughly cast off sin and be purified. This precisely fulfills these biblical prophecies: ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come’ (John 16:12–13). ‘And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejects Me, and receives not My words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day’ (John 12:47–48). ‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God’ (1 Peter 4:17). Only by accepting God’s work of judgment in the last days, by experiencing the judgment and chastisement of God’s words and by having our corrupt dispositions changed can we attain true salvation and enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
At this point, the other brothers and sisters and I were astounded, and we asked eagerly, “Has the Lord Jesus returned? Can it be true? It’s inconceivable!” I said, “I feel as though the words we’ve read during this gathering are no ordinary words, but that they are indeed the words of God. I never imagined, even in my wildest dreams, that I would ever be able to welcome the Lord’s return—I’m so blessed! Brother Lin, after listening to God’s words and your fellowship, I now understand that the work of redemption performed by the Lord Jesus absolved us of our sins. But our sinful nature remains unresolved within us, so even though we appear to do good deeds, we’re still capable of constantly sinning and resisting God. If God didn’t perform His work to save us, we would simply be unable to cast off the bonds and fetters of sin through our own power. I used to think that so long as I always held to the Lord’s way then I would be purified, but now I see that that simply isn’t true. You said just now, however, that the Lord Jesus has returned in the last days and is performing the work of judgment in order to utterly change and purify man. How then does God perform this work to purify and change man? Are you able to fellowship with us some more about this?”
So, This Is How God Judges and Purifies Man
Brother Lin laughed and said, “Sister, you’ve raised a crucial issue! As for how God performs His work of judgment in the last days to purify man, let’s read a passage of Almighty God’s words together. Almighty God says, ‘In the last days, Christ uses a variety of truths to teach man, to expose the essence of man, and to dissect the words and deeds of man. 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 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, the 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 a few words; He exposes, deals with, and prunes over the long term. These methods of exposure, dealing, and pruning cannot be substituted with ordinary words, but with the truth of which man is utterly bereft. Only methods such as these can be called 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’” (The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Christ Does the Work of Judgment With the Truth).
After he’d finished reading, Brother Lin gave fellowship, saying, “In the last days, Almighty God primarily expresses the truth to judge and purify man. These truths are not aimed solely at our behaviors, such as how humble we appear, how tolerant and patient, how we don’t get into arguments with other people and how we get along well with others, and so on and so forth. Instead, the truths Almighty God expresses directly reveal the root of our sin, which is the satanic dispositions and the essence of our nature that are hidden within us, such as arrogance and conceitedness, selfishness and being contemptible, crookedness and deceit, greed and wickedness, and so on. We used to believe that, if our external behavior changed a little and we were able to put some of the Lord’s teachings into practice, then that meant we were good people. But through the judgment and revelations of Almighty God’s words, we have finally seen how deeply corrupted by Satan we are, and that we express our satanic corrupt dispositions in everything we do and say. For example, under the domination of our arrogant nature, although we know the Lord requires us to be humble and patient, we still always want to stand on high and be condescending in our relations with other people and we want to have the final say in everything. Under the domination of our selfish nature, we always speak and act with personal motives and aims in our dealings with other people in order to profit ourselves, and when we work and expend ourselves for God, it is not because we love God or because we want to satisfy Him, but it is done to strike a deal with God and to obtain the blessings of the kingdom of heaven in return. Our nature is wicked and we covet physical pleasures; although we know that the Lord requires us to set ourselves apart from worldly people, we are still unable to withstand temptation, we follow the evil trends of the world, we go off in pursuit of fame, fortune and status, and we covet the pleasures of sin. These are just a few examples. Through the judgment and revelations of God’s words, we have finally seen that we express our satanic corrupt dispositions in everything we say and do, that we have been so corrupted by Satan that we are barely human, and that we retain no true semblance of a human being. At the same time, we also understand from God’s words of judgment and revelation that God loves honest people and blesses those who pursue the truth, and who obey and love God, and He hates those who are deceitful. If someone does not pursue a change in their disposition, but instead always lives amidst their corrupt dispositions, resisting God, then that person will necessarily be detested, rejected and punished by God. The judgment and chastisement of God’s words enable us to see the truth of our corruption at the hands of Satan and they enable us to know God’s righteous and holy disposition. A heart of reverence toward God then gradually arises within us and we generate real hatred for our corrupt dispositions, and we become resolved to never again live by the corrupt dispositions of Satan. Instead, we wish to pursue the truth in earnest, to act and conduct ourselves in accordance with God’s words, and we wish to live out a genuine human likeness. Through experiencing the judgment and chastisement of God, little by little we come to be able to forsake our flesh and practice God’s words, we come to understand more and more truths, and our outlook on life and our values gradually change; when we encounter issues, we are then able to seek God’s will, live by His words and, little by little, we generate true reverence and obedience toward God. This is the result of God’s work of judgment in the last days. By experiencing it, we come to appreciate thatand chastisement in the last days actually afford us the greatest protection, and they are full of God’s profound love for us.”
I felt the words that Brother Lin had read out to us were great—they were authoritative and powerful, and I had never heard anything quite like them before. Brother Lin also fellowshiped so clearly. I said, excitedly, “Thank the Lord! So, it turns out that the Lord has returned and is using His words to perform the work of judging and purifying man. Through His words, He exposes our corrupt dispositions and allows us to know our own corruption. Then, through pursuing the truth, our corrupt dispositions are changed, until finally we are able to live by God’s words and we become people who both revere and obey God. This is such a meaningful work!”
Brother Lin said cheerfully, “Thanks be to God for leading us to understand these things!” Afterward, as the time was already quite late, we ended our gathering and agreed on the time of our next gathering. I was very much looking forward to Brother Lin’s fellowship, and I really wanted to hear him read more of Almighty God’s words to us.
I Recognize the Voice of God and Joyfully Welcome the Lord’s Return
When the day came for our next gathering, Brother Lin gave us fellowship on such things as the significance of God taking different names in the Age of Law and the Age of Grace, the mystery of God’s incarnation, God’s three stages of work to save mankind, and the final destination and end for mankind. After I listened to all this, I was very excited, and I said happily, “Although I have previously listened to many sermons in church, I never understood many truths. Now that I am reading Almighty God’s words, the confusion I had in my heart has been dispelled, I now understand many of the truths in the Bible and my spirit has been greatly nourished. These words truly are the voice of God!”
Brother Lin said happily, “Thanks be to God, for His sheep have heard His voice. It is by the grace of God that we are able to recognize Almighty God’s words as the voice of God and come before Him. Now, those who trulywithin all denominations are coming before Almighty God one by one and attending the feast of the Lamb. Through experiencing the judgment and chastisement of God’s words, those who pursue the truth are witnessing changes in their life dispositions to differing degrees, and there are many from brothers and sisters on the website of describing how their corrupt dispositions have changed through experiencing the judgment of Almighty God’s words.” Brother Lin then showed me the website of The Church of Almighty God as well as their mobile phone app. There is such a rich abundance of content: There are the words God has expressed in the last days, videos of recitations of God’s words, hymns in praise of God, gospel films, as well as the experiences and testimonies of God’s chosen people, various variety shows, short sketches, singing and dancing videos, and more. There is everything one could want, and I couldn’t get enough! I felt thrilled. God long ago incarnated and came into the world and He has expressed so many words—it really is too precious! At that moment, I felt filled with gratitude toward God, and I thanked God for spreading the gospel to me through the brothers and sisters, for allowing me to have the fortune to hear His voice, for enabling me to understand the reason why I lived in sin, and for allowing me to find the path to being cleansed.
Afterward, over a period of gatherings and investigation, I became completely certain that Almighty God is indeed the Lord Jesus returned, and I joyfully accepted God’s new work. Thanks be to God!