22. Realizing That I Walked the Path of the Pharisees
Something we have always discussed in previous gatherings is the paths walked by Peter and Paul. It is said that Peter focused on pursuing the truth, knowing himself and God, and his pursuit was approved by God, while Paul only focused on his work, sought reputation and status, he set foot upon the path of the antichrists of the Pharisees, and he was someone God despised. I have always been afraid of walking Paul’s path, which is why I normally often read God’s words, as well as sermons on entering into life, that concern Peter’s experiences, in order to see how he pursued the truth and experienced God’s work. Then I consciously imitate Peter in my practice and entering. After practicing like this for a while, I felt I had become more obedient than before, my desire for reputation and status had dimmed, and that I had gotten to know myself a little. I believed that even though I was not completely on Peter’s path, it could be said that I had come pretty close to following it, and at least it meant I was not heading down Paul’s path.
One morning, while I was practicing my spiritual devotions, I saw the following words of God: “Peter’s work was the performance of the duty of a creature of God. He did not work in the role of an apostle, but during the course of his pursuit of a love of God. The course of Paul’s work also contained his personal pursuit…. There were no personal experiences in his work—it was all for its own sake, and not carried out amid the pursuit of change. Everything in his work was a transaction, it contained none of the duty or submission of a creature of God. During the course of his work, there occurred no change in Paul’s old disposition. His work was merely of service to others, and was incapable of bringing about changes in his disposition. … Peter was different: He was someone who had undergone pruning and dealing, and had undergone refinement. The aim and motivation of the work of Peter were fundamentally different to those of Paul. Although Peter did not do a large amount of work, his disposition underwent many changes, and what he sought was the truth, and real change. His work was not carried out simply for the sake of the work itself” (“Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words stirred my heart and I fell silent. I couldn’t help but examine my conscience and ask myself: “Peter worked to fulfill his duty as a created being and worked through the process of seeking to love God; he did not work using his position as an apostle. Do I work to fulfill my duty as a created being or just to do my job as a leader?” At this time, I thought back to my various expressions when I’d performed my duty: When the church had a lot of work to take care of, and some brothers and sisters saw that my partner sister and I had visited the church to solve people’s problems from dawn till dusk, they would say: “You truly shoulder the burden of the church’s work.” I would then blurt out: “We leaders have no choice but to deal with it.” Sometimes, in front of my brothers and sisters or co-workers, I would want to be considerate to my physical body and relax myself, but then I would think: “No, I’m a leader, I must set a good example and not be dissolute.” When I was in a bad state and didn’t feel like reading the words of God, I would think: As a leader, if I don’t equip myself with God’s words, then how will I be able to resolve other people’s problems? So I had to forsake myself and read God’s words. Sometimes I would go with a co-worker to the host family she was staying with, and when I saw that the way the host sister treated me was not as warmly as she treated her, I would get upset and couldn’t help revealing my thought: “You might not know who I am, but I am her leader.” Sometimes, for whatever reason, I would not feel like fellowshiping with host brothers and sisters, but then I would think: I’m a leader, so what will people think of me if I come to visit but don’t fellowship with them? Since I am a leader I have to fellowship with others. And so on. These various behaviors made me see: Whether it was doing my own spiritual devotions, fellowshiping with people, attending meetings, or handling general affairs, it was all because I was a leader that I felt obligated to do some duty and do a bit of work—I was working only because of my position. It was not because I had understood the truth and seen clearly the meaning behind performing my duty, or because I had recognized the responsibility and obligation of a created being that I worked actively and positively, and moreover I was not working through my process of seeking to love God like Peter had. If the day ever came that I would be dismissed from my duty and replaced, and would lose my position as leader, I perhaps would not expend myself for God the way I do now. It was only then that I realized that I was not a person who practiced the truth or was considerate to God’s will. Instead, I was a profit-obsessed, hypocritical and despicable villain who only worked for reputation and status. It was impossible to be devoted to God working the way I had because I was not willingly practicing the truth and being considerate to God’s will, but instead, like the revealing words of God, “[His work] was all for its own sake, and not carried out amid the pursuit of change.” How could such service possibly conform to God’s will? Paul was working in his position as an apostle; he testified to the great suffering he underwent and the compassion he had for others, and he even belittled Peter and exalted himself as the leader of all the apostles, saying also that he was living as Christ, and he always led people before him. And I was also working and expending in my position as a leader, and everything I did was done to protect the position and image I kept in the hearts of my brothers and sisters. How are such intentions and purposes any different to Paul’s?
At this point, I couldn’t help but feel extremely ashamed for my actions and behavior, and I fell down before God, praying: “Oh God! Thank You for the judgment and chastisement of Your word that have awoken me from my stupor, made me realize my real state, and see that my work and the performing of my duty have been exactly the same as Paul. The path I’m walking is precisely the path of Paul resisting God, which indeed disgust You. Oh, Almighty God! I am willing to turn around my wrong intentions and viewpoints under the guidance of Your word. I am willing to take my position as a created being and fulfill my duty to satisfy You, and do my utmost to seek and move forward toward Peter’s path!”