71. Tear Off the Mask, and Start Life Afresh
Chen Dan Hunan Province
At the end of last year, because I was unable to get the gospel work in my area off the ground, God’s family transferred a brother from another area to take over my work. Prior to this I had not been informed, but rather heard indirectly through a sister I was partnering with. I was very upset. I suspected that the person in charge hadn’t informed me for fear that I would be unwilling to give up my position and put up a fight. As a result, I formed a poor opinion of the sister in charge. Later, the sister met with me and asked about how I felt about being replaced—initially I meant to speak my mind, but I worried that she’d get a bad impression of me and think I was angling for position. So instead, in as relaxed a voice as possible I said, “It’s no problem, I wasn’t able to do constructive work so it makes sense I’d be replaced. I don’t have any particular thoughts on the matter, whatever duty God’s family gives me to fulfill I’ll obey.” In this way I hid my true self while projecting an illusory version of myself to the sister. Afterward, I was sent by God’s family to be a worker. At our first co-workers meeting, our newly transferred leader laid bare with regard to his condition. One particular phrase he used, “lost all standing and reputation” hit me like a ton of bricks: It was as if he were talking about me. I was sitting there feeling really upset and sad—I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes, but I choked them back fearing that others would notice. I wanted to lay myself bare, but I also worried that my co-workers would think less of me. To save face, I once again concealed my true condition, not letting others see to what degree I had already been refined. I even forced a smile to show everyone how normal my condition was. Just like that, I brought my negativity back with me to work, and despite the fact that I didn’t dare slack off and worked every day from dawn till dusk, it seemed the harder I worked the more ineffective I became and all kinds of problems arose. The gospel work was coming to a grinding halt and the first-line director and some of his members had been arrested by the CCP police. Facing all this, I felt I was on the verge of collapse and thought only of my impending replacement. Even then, I refused to lay myself bare, making myself out to be strong and determined in front of my brothers and sisters.
One day during spiritual cultivation I heard the following passage from Christ’s fellowship, “When conversing with their brothers and sisters, some people are deeply afraid of them finding out the difficulties within their hearts. They’re afraid that the brothers and sisters will have something to say about them or look down on them. When they speak, people can always feel their passion, that they really want God, and are really keen to put the truth into practice but in fact, in their hearts they’re really weak, and extremely passive. They pretend to be strong, and no one can see through it. This is also deceit. In sum, regardless of what you do—whether it be in life, serving God, or performing your duty—if you present a false face to people and use it to mislead them, to make them think highly of you or not look down on you, then you are being deceitful!” (“To Be Honest, You Should Lay Yourself Open to Others” in Records of Christ’s Talks). After hearing this passage I was utterly dumbfounded. Christ’s judgment struck me to the core of my being. When I measured my own actions against these words, it appeared that I was just the treacherous person of which God spoke, a true hypocrite. To give the leader and my co-workers the impression that I was someone who was willing to let go of status and follow the arrangements which God’s family prepared for me, I assiduously disguised myself and covered the truth, sacrificing the work of God’s family and my brother’s and sister’s lives without a second thought. I just wasn’t willing to reveal to them how negative my condition and behavior had become after being replaced, so ever since I had been stripped of my leadership position and assigned as a worker, I pretended to be firm and determined even though I felt negative and weak inside. I was living in the deception of Satan. I was living in the misunderstanding and betrayal of God. Even so, I was still unwilling to lay myself bare and seek the truth to resolve my corrupted disposition. How treacherous, how conniving I was! Yet, no matter how well I disguised and hid my true feelings, I could not escape God’s scrutiny. The Holy Spirit used my ineffectiveness in work to reveal everything. I was by no means willing to let go of my status, but rather went to great lengths to save face and preserve my standing by projecting a false image of myself to fool and confuse my brothers and sisters. How couldn’t I have known that, in so acting, not only would I entrap myself, but would also cause great harm to the work of God’s family? How dangerous it was to play around with the work of God’s family and my own life!
At this point, I couldn’t help but ask myself: Why do I always project a false image of myself to others? Is it not because my treacherous nature commands me to always save face and protect my status? Through the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, I came to recognize how Satan’s poison festered within me. The phrases, “As a tree lives for its bark, a man lives for his face” and “A man leaves his name behind wherever he stays, just as a goose utters its cry wherever it flies” had already rooted themselves so deep in my soul that all my actions were deeply influenced and orchestrated by them. I thought back to how this had manifested in the past: How many times had I acted counter to the principle of truth in fulfilling my duties, hiding the reality of the situation to save face and for fear that, if I told others, they would criticize me? How many times did I cause severe damage to my life because, despite being painfully aware that my condition was in bad shape and knowing I ought to lay myself bare in communion with others, I chose instead to suffer in silence rather than opening up and seeking out the path of light for fear that I would be looked down upon? In essence, whenever my face and reputation were on the line, I would treacherously disguise myself and project a false image to fool God and confuse others. Even as God sought to save me through countless revelations, my treacherous nature still commanded me to construct a false image, hoodwink God and confuse others. How, in this way, could God work through me? If I continued down this path, how would I come to receive salvation? How would all this not trigger God’s wrath? Seized by fear, I prostrated myself before God: Almighty God, I do not deserve to stand before You! My treacherous nature has caused great harm to the work of God’s family, but You have not dealt with me according to my misdeeds and have even given me a chance to reform. I don’t ask, now, that You tolerate me or that others think highly of me, I only ask that Your chastisement and judgment stay with me always. Through Your chastisement and judgment allow me to see Your righteous disposition and come into a fuller understanding of my treacherous nature, so that I may cast off my disguise and live honestly.
Later, I read the following passage of God’s words: “Honesty means to give your heart to God; to never play Him false in anything; to be open with Him in all things, never cover the truth; to never do that which deceives those above and deludes those below; and to never do that which is done merely to ingratiate yourself with God. In short, to be honest is to refrain from impurity in your actions and words, and to deceive neither God nor man. … If you have many unspeakable confidences and are very unwilling to lay bare your secrets—your difficulties—to others so as to seek the way of the light, then I say that you are one for whom salvation will not be easily received and who will not easily emerge from the darkness. If seeking the way of truth pleases you well, then you are one who lives often in the light” (“Three Admonitions” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). From God’s words, I saw that those who are unwilling to share their confidences and lay bare their difficulties to seek the truth are treacherous. Because God hates and detests the treacherous, treacherous people do not have the work of the Holy Spirit within them and no matter how many years they practice faith in God, they will never receive His salvation and will ultimately be eliminated. Thanks to the enlightenment of God’s word, I was able to realize that the reason I had failed in service to God was due to my own treacherous nature. I was never willing to give my heart to God, lay myself bare before God or my brothers and sisters and receive God’s chastisements and judgments to purify myself. As a result, I was living within an improper condition, had lost the work of the Holy Spirit and had fallen into darkness. If I had communed with regard to my actual condition during fellowship with the sister in charge, she certainly would have communed the truth with me and my condition would have immediately improved. If I had always simply laid myself bare, my relationship with God would be normal and I wouldn’t have harbored prejudices against her or caused such great harm to the work of God’s family. I give thanks to God for revealing to me His righteous disposition. Through God’s word I was revealed and judged and thus came to recognize my treacherous nature and the root cause of my failures. God’s revelation and judgment also showed me a path to practice: No matter how many difficulties I meet, or how poor my condition, only by laying myself bare and using truth to reach resolution and going by God’s word will I receive the work of the Holy Spirit. Only by casting off my disguise and behaving honestly will I attain God’s salvation.
In God’s words I found hope and my heart was deeply moved. Even though my actions have been deeply hurtful to God, He never abandoned me, but was always there quietly working His salvation. Behind this seemingly stern chastisement and judgment, God’s earnest consideration is thoroughly apparent. I truly experienced what is meant by, “love as profound as that expressed in a father’s guidance of his son.” The essence of God is not just in faithfulness, but also beauty and goodness. All that He proclaims is truth and should be treasured by all man, because no member of corrupt mankind possesses this God-essence. Though my true nature is treacherous and despicable and everything I have done has run counter to the truth, I vow to return to God and do my utmost to seek the truth, seek change in my disposition and never again disguise myself in the name of protecting my worthless status and face. In the future, no matter what sort of difficulties or bad conditions I face, I vow to lay myself bare with others in seeking the truth and live honestly to comfort God’s heart!