Listen! Who Is This Who Speaks?
By Zhou Li
As a church preacher, nothing is more painful than spiritual impoverishment and having nothing to preach. I felt helpless seeing fewer and fewer brothers and sisters coming to meetings, and I came before the Lord many times to pray earnestly and ask the Lord to strengthen brothers and sisters’ faith. But the desolation of the church did not improve at all and even I lived in weakness and negativity …
I was working at home one day when Brother Wang and Brother Lin suddenly appeared, and I happily let them in. After exchanging pleasantries, Brother Wang said, “Sister Zhou, how is your spirit doing at present?” I sighed and said, “Don’t mention it. I am weak in spirit now and I have nothing to preach in my sermons! Brothers and sisters are all negative and weak too. There is hardly anyone in the church.” Brother Lin asked, “Sister Zhou, do you know why you have nothing to preach about in sermons and why there is hardly anyone in the church?” As soon as he had spoken, I thought: This is exactly what I want to know. Could they really know why? I hurriedly asked, “Why?” Brother Wang said, “Because the Lord has already returned. He has incarnated for the second time and is uttering His words and performing new work. Many brothers and sisters have already accepted God’s work in the Age of Kingdom and live within the stream of the Holy Spirit’s current work. Their lives are getting better and better. Those who have not kept pace with God’s new work have lost the Holy Spirit’s work, and thus they have no words to preach and are negative and weak. We must make haste to keep up with God’s footsteps!” Hearing this, I suddenly remembered the words of my senior co-worker: “If someone says that God has come to do new work and that He has uttered new words, then that is deviating from the Bible, and deviating from the Bible is not believing in the Lord; it is apostasy.” Thinking of this, I very seriously said: “Do senior co-workers not often tell us that to deviate from the Bible is to not believe in the Lord? You should all know this, that deviating from the Bible is deviating from the Lord’s way. How dare you try to preach this way to me!” I angrily stood up as I said this. Brother Lin said, “Sister Zhou, don’t get worked up. We know that you sincerely believe in God and are usually very good at pursuing the truth, and that is why we are telling you about God’s new work. We have believed in the Lord for so many years. Have we not always looked forward to the Lord’s return? Now the Lord has returned and is performing the judgment work of the last days. This is great news. We must seek and investigate diligently and not miss the opportunity to welcome the Lord!” Without waiting for Brother Lin to finish, I put up my hand and loudly interrupted him, “Stop, stop, stop! Don’t say anymore. I will not believe in that which deviates from the Bible. You do not abide by the Lord’s way, but I must.” They saw that I really was not listening and so had no choice but to leave. Later, they came back a few more times, but I just ignored them.
Later on, Brother Wang and Brother Lin came to my house with two sisters to preach the gospel to me. That day, I was picking beans at home while my husband was outside working. He saw them coming and let them into the house. As soon as I saw them, my heart began to race: Why had they come back again and brought two reinforcements with them? The four of them came into the house and said hello to me and then began to fellowship with my husband. I felt even more anxious and thought to myself: “What they are preaching deviates from the Bible so I have to watch my husband and not let him hear it!” I wanted to drive them away, but I was worried that my husband would get upset with me. All I could do was stay silent, although I didn’t take in a word they said. But my husband listened and nodded his head and could not stop himself from saying, “Yeah! That’s right! Yes! That’s how it is. You explain it so well!” Seeing my husband so won over, I suddenly felt furious and poked my husband and snapped: “What is right? How much have you read the Bible? How long have you believed in God? Have you prayed to the Lord? You say, ‘Right, right, right,’ but how much do you understand?” With me making such a racket, the room suddenly fell silent and they all looked at each other. My husband hastily said to me, “Don’t shout. Listen first. It’s good for us. If you do not listen, how can you know whether it’s right or wrong?” Seeing that I couldn’t stop him from listening to them, I angrily pushed the beans back and forth with both hands, deliberately making loud noises, and thought, “Let you listen? I won’t let you hear anything. I’ll put an end to this!” But making loud noises with the beans did not stop my husband from listening to their fellowship. On the contrary, he talked and laughed with the four of them and their fellowship was most harmonious. After a while, my husband said to me happily: “Oh, Li! The Lord has really returned. The words of this book are the personal utterances of God! It’s so great! Li, go and cook something for us.” I gave him a look and did not respond. Later, Brother Lin left some tapes, a book of hymns and a copy of The Word Appears in the Flesh with my husband and then left. I just couldn’t take it anymore and I said to my husband, “How many times have senior co-workers told us that to believe in God we cannot deviate from the Bible, and that deviating from the Bible is not believing in God. Have you forgotten? Why can’t you take a stand on this issue?” My husband said without hesitation: “What they are saying is not deviating from the Bible but elevating the Bible. Moreover, God’s new work that they are spreading fulfills the word of the Lord and the prophecies of the Book of Revelation. After listening to their fellowship, I understand and am clear about many of the things in the Bible that I did not understand before. The gospel of Almighty God that they testify is the true way. Open your eyes and look. There are only a few people left in our church. The church has become desolate. Yet you still do not give up on the words of senior co-workers. Isn’t this too foolish? You’d better hurry and look into this.” Hearing him say this, I angrily said, “What do you know? To deviate from the Bible is to betray the Lord. If you do not abide by the Bible, I will!”
After this, every day as soon as my husband had time, he read the book that Brother Lin had left, The Word Appears in the Flesh. One day, my husband got up before dawn to read that book. In a daze, I heard my husband reading: “Could it be that you have forgotten…? Have you really forgotten…?” (“How Peter Came to Know Jesus” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). Hearing him reading out loud, I felt a little angry and thought: So early in the morning and not letting people sleep! After a while, I faintly heard: “Because before Jesus was crucified He had said to him: ‘I am not of this world, and you too are not of this world.’” Strange! Why is the Lord Jesus mentioned in this book? Could I have heard wrong? Then I clearly heard: “Could it be that you have forgotten…? Have you really forgotten…?” When I heard this, my heart was a little stirred and I could no longer sleep. I said to myself: Who spoke these words? O God! Is it You who is asking me this question? It’s like You are saying these words to me. They are so gentle! I have to quickly get up and make breakfast. After breakfast I will see what is said in that book after all, to see whether or not it actually deviates from the Bible and whether or not these are the words of God.
After breakfast, my husband went to read the book again. I thought to myself: Why did he not ask me to read it with him? I stood at the door for a long time, but my husband kept his head buried in the book and did not notice me. So I paced back and forth in the kitchen. I felt very worried. I really wanted to read what was written in the book. So I poked my head in the room and saw that my husband still had his head buried in the book. I wanted to go and read it too, but when I thought of the many times the brothers and sisters had come to preach to me and how I had always refused, I wondered whether my husband would criticize me if I took the initiative to go and read it. If he criticized me, I’d feel so embarrassed! Thinking of this, I retreated. As I paced back and forth outside, I remembered the words my husband had read out loud in the morning and felt even more anxious. I thought: This won’t do. I have to go in and see what that book is all about. But I backed away again when I got to the door. Like a cat on hot bricks, I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I made my mind up: Oh! God wants me to speak up! Who told me to speak like that and not listen to my husband’s advice? So I braced myself and walked into the room and, plucking up my courage, I said awkwardly, “May I read it together with you?” He glanced up at me and looked very surprised, then delightedly said, “Come, come! Let’s read together.” At this moment, I was extremely moved. My husband hadn’t criticized me as I had imagined! My anxious heart finally settled down and I happily read the book with my husband. However, the words I read in the book were not what I had heard in the early hours of the morning! Just then, my husband went out, and I hurriedly flicked through the pages of the book. All at once, I saw what I was looking for, and I happily read it out loud: “Peter was greatly encouraged by Jesus’ words, because before Jesus was crucified He had said to him: ‘I am not of this world, and you too are not of this world.’ Later, when Peter reached a point of great pain, Jesus reminded him: ‘Peter, have you forgotten? I am not of the world, and it was only for My work that I departed earlier. You too are not of the world, have you forgotten? I have told you twice, do you not remember?’ Peter heard Him and said: ‘I have not forgotten!’ Jesus then said: ‘You once spent a happy time gathered with Me in heaven and a period of time by My side. You miss Me, and I miss you. Although the creatures are not worth mentioning in My eyes, how can I not love one who is innocent and lovable? Have you forgotten My promise? You must accept My commission on earth; you must fulfill the task that I entrusted you with. One day I will certainly lead you to be by My side’” (“How Peter Came to Know Jesus” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I read it several times and the more I read it the more I felt that these words did not deviate from the Bible! They were just clearer and more transparent than the Bible. But my senior co-workers had said, “Whoever spreads the message of God coming to do new work and God uttering new words is deviating from the Bible, and deviation from the Bible is deviation from the way of the Lord.” But what they had said did not tally with the facts, did it? I prayed in my heart: “O God! What does it all mean? May You enlighten and guide me, so that I can understand Your will …”
Later, I saw that the words of Almighty God said: “For many years, people’s traditional means of belief (that of Christianity, one of the world’s three major religions) has been to read the Bible; departure from the Bible is not the belief in the Lord, departure from the Bible is heterodoxy and heresy, and even when people read other books, the foundation of these books must be the explanation of the Bible. Which is to say, if you say you believe in the Lord, then you must read the Bible, you must eat and drink the Bible, and outside the Bible you must not worship any book that does not involve the Bible. If you do, then you are betraying God. From the time when there was the Bible, people’s belief in the Lord has been the belief in the Bible. Instead of saying people believe in the Lord, it is better to say they believe in the Bible; rather than saying they have begun reading the Bible, it is better to say they have begun believing in the Bible; and rather than saying they have returned before the Lord, it would be better to say they have returned before the Bible. In this way, people worship the Bible as if it were God, as if it were their lifeblood and losing it would be the same as losing their life. People see the Bible as being as high as God, and there are even those who see it as higher than God” (“Concerning the Bible (1)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words really touched my heart. Was this not actually speaking of me? Thinking back to when I started believing in the Lord, this was how I upheld my belief. I treated the Bible as my lifeblood. I had to put it somewhere high up after every time I read it, for fear of the children touching it. I had regarded the Bible as being above all else and had even thought that deviating from the Bible was a betrayal of the Lord. Had I been wrong to do this? With a seeking heart, I continued reading, from “Concerning the Bible (1)” up to “Concerning the Bible (4).” The more I read, the more enlightened I felt. The words of Almighty God made me fully understand. It turned out that the Bible was just a historical record of God’s work and a testimony of the first two stages of God’s work. Just as the Old Testament records the work done by Jehovah God from the creation of the world to the end of the Age of Law, the New Testament records the work of the Lord Jesus in the Age of Grace. God’s work is always new, never old and always moves forward. Now God has done new work outside of the Bible—the work of the Age of Kingdom. This stage of work is the last stage of work of God’s salvation for mankind. From the Age of Law, to the Age of Grace and then to the Age of Kingdom in the last days, the three stages are all done by one God. It was a big eye-opener for me to read the words of Almighty God, and I feasted my eyes on the words! Yes, God is so almighty and wise, how could He only do the limited work recorded in the Bible? And from the words of Almighty God, I truly saw that God’s last days’ words and work did not repudiate the Bible. Instead, they elevated and deepened the work of the Age of Law and the Age of Grace as recorded in the Bible, and everything God does now is more in line with people’s present need. One passage of God’s words says: “You must understand why, today, you are asked not to read the Bible, why there is another work that is separate from the Bible, why God does not look for newer, more detailed practice in the Bible, why there is instead mightier work outside of the Bible. This is all what you should understand. You must know the difference between the old and new work, and even though you do not read the Bible, you must be able to dissect it; if not, you will still worship the Bible, and it will be difficult for you to enter into the new work and undergo new changes. Since there is a higher way, why study that low, outdated way? Since there are newer utterances, and newer work, why live amid old historical records? The new utterances can provide for you, which proves that this is the new work; the old records can’t sate you, or satisfy your current needs, which proves that they are history, and not the work of the here and now. The highest way is the newest work, and with the new work, no matter how high the way of the past, it is still the history of people’s reflections, and no matter its value as reference, it is still the old way. Even though it is recorded in the ‘holy book,’ the old way is history; even though there is no record of it in the ‘holy book,’ the new way is of the here and now. This way can save you, and this way can change you, for this is the work of the Holy Spirit” (“Concerning the Bible (1)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). At this moment, I suddenly saw the light, and I realized why I had always upheld the Bible yet my spirit had become increasingly negative, so much so that I had even run out of things to preach; I realized that brothers and sisters were also getting weaker and weaker, to the point where they did not even attend meetings, whereas those brothers and sisters who had accepted the gospel of the kingdom of Almighty God were full of faith. No matter how I treated them, they were never negative or discouraged, and still they came repeatedly to preach the gospel to me. The reason for this was that what I was clinging to was God’s past work. It was the old way, that had long since lost the work of the Holy Spirit. Yet the brothers and sisters of The Church of Almighty God had accepted the leadership of God’s new work, had received the supply of God’s present words and obtained the work of the Holy Spirit. This was the difference between the new way and the old way! This was the root cause of why the religious world was declining, and The Church of Almighty God was becoming more and more prosperous! “Lord,” I prayed. “Now I finally understand that You have really come back, and You have given us a new way, a new supply of life. I thank You!”
At this time, my emotions were torn between happiness and feeling bad. I was happy that God had not abandoned me, despite me being so rebellious and disobedient, and that He had used this special way of my husband reading out God’s words to make me hear God’s voice. This really was God’s love for me and His salvation to me! I felt bad because I had looked forward to the Lord’s return for many years, but I had never considered the possibility that I would reject the Lord when He returned and knocked on my door. Those brothers and sisters repeatedly came all this way to spread the gospel to me, yet all I did was ignore them. They fellowshiped with my husband and yet I mocked them and deliberately disturbed them…. Thinking of this, my heart felt pained and I couldn’t stop the tears flowing from my eyes. I knelt before God and prayed to Him: “Almighty God! I was wrong. For so many years I have always upheld the Bible and thought that deviating from the Bible was not believing in God. I treated the Bible as God and rejected Your new work again and again, and I rejected Your coming. I was so blind! Now I am willing to put aside the Bible, follow Your new work and listen to Your words of the new age. I will never be hostile to You again and I am not willing to let my entire life be ruined by my notions and imaginings. O God! I wish to make a resolution, to cooperate with You and to bring those in the church who truly believe in You back into Your family to make up what I owe You. Thank You, God!”