68. Why Have I Taken the Path of the Pharisees?
By Suxing, Shanxi Province
I am a person with an arrogant and conceited nature who cares too much about position. For many years in my faith, I have been bound by reputation and position and have not been able to free myself from it. Time and time again I have been promoted and then replaced; I have had many setbacks in my position and have had many bumps along the way. After many years of being dealt with and refined, I felt that I was no longer so preoccupied with my position. I didn’t want to be like I had been in the past, thinking that as long as I was a leader I could be perfected by God and that if I was not a leader, then I had no hope. I understood that regardless of what duty I was fulfilling, I only needed to pursue the truth and I would be perfected by God, and that pursuing reputation and position is the way of the antichrist and offends God’s disposition. Then I thought: Regardless of what duty I am fulfilling, I can accept and obey not having a position. At times, when the corruption of pursuing fame and position was exposed, I could resolve it by seeking the truth. No matter what difficulties I encountered while fulfilling my duty, I was willing to pay the price. Therefore, I thought that I had already stepped onto the path of pursuing the truth. I thought I had regained some humanity and reason. But through what was revealed by the facts, I saw that I had not truly stepped onto the path of pursuing the truth. I was very far off the mark.
In late June of 2013, the leader here was replaced because he didn’t do the practical work, and when leader nominations were being carried out, my brothers and sisters chose me to be the new leader. When I heard that I would be assuming such a great responsibility, I became a little concerned, feeling that I did not possess the reality of truth and that I wouldn’t be able to do the work. I thought: “The scope is so big and there are so many brothers and sisters. How can I lead them? Those who are of higher caliber than I have been replaced. How can I do any better? I am afraid I will end up being replaced as well; I am no longer willing to pursue such a high position. As long as I can fulfill my duty, that’s just fine.” So, I declined on the spot: “No, I am not competent for this work.” I came up with all kinds of reasons and excuses. I fully believed that I was being rational in doing this and that it was the truth. Later, I was able to recognize through the fellowship of my brothers and sisters that I was afraid of being exposed if I became a leader again because I was holding to the poisons of Satan inside of me; that is, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” and “It’s lonely at the top.” I always felt that being a leader was a dangerous thing. Even though I knew in theory that the reason for those people being removed was that they did not pursue the truth, their natures were too wicked, and they did all kinds of evil, deep in my heart I believed that if I was not a major leader, then there would be no opportunities to do evil. I was just protecting myself. It then occurred to me that because of my faith and preaching the gospel, I was being hunted by the CCP and couldn’t go back home. I had no way out. If I became a major leader and ended up offending God’s disposition and being expelled because I lacked the truth and did evil, then I really wouldn’t be able to go on living. I lived in darkness and torment, bound by these notions and poisons. In my pain all I could do was cry out to God: “Oh God, facing this responsibility, I know that You have exalted me. I know that refusing it is betraying You. But right now I am living bounded by Satan’s poisons and am unable to free myself from it. I am deeply afraid that after bearing this great responsibility, I will be punished for doing a great evil that offends Your disposition because my nature is dangerous and I do not possess the truth. Oh God! I am in pain and bewildered. I don’t know how to submit to You. I beg You, God, to help me and save me.” During my prayer, God enlightened me to think of a passage of God’s words: “And your knowledge of Me does not stop at these misunderstandings; even worse is your blasphemy against God’s Spirit and vilification of Heaven. This is why I say that such manner of faith as yours will only cause you to stray further from Me and be in greater opposition against Me. Throughout many years of work, you have seen many truths, but do you know what My ears have heard? How many among you are willing to accept the truth? You all believe that you are willing to pay the price for the truth, but how many have truly suffered for the truth? All that exists in your hearts is iniquity, and hence you believe that anyone, no matter who he may be, is deceitful and crooked” (“How to Know the God on Earth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). God’s words of judgment turned my bewilderment and pain into fear and trembling. In particular, the words “blasphemy against God’s Spirit,” “vilification of Heaven,” and “All that exists in your hearts is iniquity” were like a sword piercing my heart, making me feel the righteousness, majesty, and wrath of God’s disposition. I saw that my condition at the time was truly resisting and blaspheming God, and that its nature was very grave! Only at that moment was my rebellious heart able to turn around. I prostrated myself before God to examine and dissect my corruption, seeking to submit to Him. I thought back to all those years of believing in God. I had undergone His judgment and chastisement many times and had gained a deeper understanding of my own corrupt disposition and essence. However, not only did I not recognize God’s love and salvation within all of that, but I actually misunderstood and guarded against Him more and more. I blamed God for everything that was unjust as if God’s work was too bothersome for man. After many years of experiencing God’s work, my relationship with God had not become any closer or more proper. Rather, I was becoming more estranged and distant from God, which had become a large chasm that I couldn’t cross. Was that what I had reaped after all those years? I then became able to recognize that my selfish and deplorable nature was driving me to betray my conscience. I had forgotten the price God had paid for me, His salvation and cultivation of me over the years. At that time, I was full of self-reproach and remorse, and I prayed to God again: “Oh God, I will not live by the poisons of Satan anymore; I will not wound Your heart again. I am willing to accept Your judgment and chastisement and turn away from my mistaken viewpoints and perform my duty well to comfort Your heart.” Then I read a passage of a sermon: “Everyone who does not love God is on the path of the antichrist and will ultimately be exposed and eliminated. God’s work of the last days is saving and perfecting people and every wicked person who is not saved will be exposed and eliminated. Therefore, each person will follow its own kind. Why are so many people exposed doing all kinds of evil with their position and power? It is not because their position hurts them. The fundamental problem is the essence of man’s nature. A position can certainly expose people, but if a good-hearted person has a high position, they will not commit various evils. Some people will not commit evil when they don’t have a position, they seem to be good people on the surface, but once they do obtain a position they will do all kinds of evil” (“You Must Experience and Enter the Reality of Truth of God’s Word in Order to Obtain God’s Perfection” in Collection of Sermons—Supply for Life). Through this fellowship, I was able to see how absurd and preposterous the notions that existed in my heart were. In fact, whether or not someone is able to walk the path of pursuing the truth is not contingent upon whether or not they have a position and it is not that having a position makes it difficult to walk that path. The key lies in whether or not the nature of a person is fond of the truth and whether or not they love God. I thought that through my many years of “being tempered,” I had come to be less concerned with my position, thinking that I was like a blade of grass that would not seek to grow into a great tree, and that I was able to be honest in pursuing the truth and fulfilling my duty. I thought I wouldn’t be like before, feeling pain, weakness, negativity and despair when I saw the church promoting other people instead of me. Because of these manifestations, I believed that my disposition had been transformed to some degree and that I was already walking the path of Peter. But then, in light of facts and the truth, I was able to clearly see my true colors: I was not really letting go of position, but instead I was just being cleverer and craftier; my corrupt disposition had just become more hidden. Even after being dealt with many times, I still was not giving my heart to God and honestly seeking to love God. Rather, I learned how to analyze and observe, and had become more focused on preserving myself. My future prospects were always weighing on my mind. I had planted the absurd notion in my heart that “High positions are not safe.” Wasn’t that misunderstanding and guarding against God? How could that be showing love for God and walking the path of Peter?
Regarding my mistaken views, I read “The Principles of Determining One’s Duty and Place” as well as “The Principles of Spending for God” in “Practice and Exercises for Principled Behavior.” I read Peter’s prayer: “You know what I can do, and You further know what role I can play. Your wish is my command and I will dedicate everything I have to You. Only You know what I can do for You. Although Satan fooled me so much and I rebelled against You, I believe You do not remember me for those transgressions, that You do not treat me based on them. I wish to dedicate my entire life to You. I ask for nothing, and neither do I have other hopes or plans; I only wish to act according to Your intention and to do Your will. I will drink from Your bitter cup, and I am Yours to command” (“How Peter Came to Know Jesus” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “There is no correlation between the duty of man and whether he is blessed or cursed. Duty is what man ought to fulfill; it is his bounden duty and should not depend on recompense, conditions, or reasons. Only then is that doing his duty. A man who is blessed enjoys goodness upon being made perfect after judgment. A man who is cursed receives punishment when his disposition remains unchanged following chastisement and judgment, that is, he has not been made perfect. As a created being, man ought to fulfill his duty, do what he ought to do, and do what he is able to do, regardless of whether he will be blessed or cursed. This is the very basic condition for man, as one who seeks after God. You should not do your duty only to be blessed, and you should not refuse to act for fear of being cursed. Let Me tell you this one thing: If man is able to do his duty, it means he performs what he ought to do. If man is unable to do his duty, it shows the rebelliousness of man” (“The Difference Between the Ministry of the Incarnate God and the Duty of Man” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). It can be seen from God’s words that Peter sought to truly be able to love God all his life and that he obeyed God’s arrangements in everything. He didn’t make his own choices or requirements. No matter how God arranged things, he always submitted. In the end, he fulfilled his duty as a creature, achieving obedience unto death and supreme love of God. The reason Peter had success in his belief in God was not because of the duty he fulfilled. Based on my own perspective, Peter was the primary apostle out of the twelve, and in such a high position it was easy for him to do evil and he was prone to being exposed and eliminated. But Peter took the right path and the Lord Jesus gave him the great commission of shepherding the churches. He didn’t work in his position as an apostle—he was obscure, he was industrious and conscientious in fulfilling his duties as a creature to love God, and submit to Him. He obtained God’s satisfaction by fulfilling his duties with all his heart, strength and mind. This was the secret to his success. Comparing myself to Peter’s prayer and the judgment and chastisement of God’s word, I felt very ashamed. God’s words struck my heart and allowed me to see that I was not submissive and in opposition to God. In my faith, I always maintained my own choices, requirements, and plans. All those years I had been busy rushing around for my destination, my future prospects, for fame, profit and position. When I only fulfilled some of my duties, I tried to make a deal with God and even wanted God to put His stamp of approval on it to guarantee that I would be saved. My requirements of God to do this for me revealed that my nature was too selfish. I didn’t have the reason and conscience which a creature should have. I rejected the commission because of my deceitful nature. I rejected God’s call in order to preserve myself; moreover, I used a preposterous argument and looked for excuses. I reasoned with God. I was unreasonable. I then read God’s words, “If man is able to do his duty, it means he performs what he ought to do. If man is unable to do his duty, it shows the rebelliousness of man.” My conscience felt very accused; everything I have has been given by God and whatever I am able to do, whatever I experience, is all God’s arrangement. Time and time again, God’s judgment and chastisement have come upon me so that I can regain my reason and conscience, turn around my erroneous thinking, and allow me to become able to truly fulfill my duties as a creature. God’s kind intentions are within all of that! Regardless of what God requires of me, I should offer up myself and repay God’s love. Doing anything else is treason and merits punishment! That commission had not been arranged by any one person. Rather, it was God’s test of the path I had walked and my true stature of all those years. I did not possess the reality of truth and was small in stature. God gave me that responsibility but He didn’t require me to be fully competent at that time; rather, He meant to allow me to improve my pursuit of the truth, to accept the training, to make up for my deficiencies, to become able to put in everything I have, and to enter into the reality of loving God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind. In the past, I was living with absurd notions. I believed I had determined my duties and position. I pondered: Although I was fulfilling my duties with that kind of attitude and backdrop and I wasn’t undergoing much refinement or under much pressure, there wasn’t very much progress in my life and my disposition didn’t change very much. It did reveal my depraved disposition of not pursuing the truth, reveling in leisure and being satisfied with my own situation. It also exposed that the way I performed my duties in my faith was just to obtain blessings and a good destination, but not for the sake of seeking to love and satisfy God. At this time, I finally came to: After all those years, I thought I was already walking the path by which Peter pursued the truth. But that day, the facts revealed that I had attached the most importance to my future prospects. I lacked the slightest degree of love for God and I was unwilling to bear a heavy burden or offer my whole self for God. How could that be in line with Peter’s pursuit?
In the course of my search, I read God’s words: “As a creature of God, man should seek to perform the duty of a creature of God, and seek to love God without making other choices, for God is worthy of man’s love. Those who seek to love God should not seek any personal benefits or that which they personally long for; this is the most correct means of pursuit. If what you seek is the truth, what you put into practice is the truth, and what you attain is a change in your disposition, then the path that you tread is the right one. If what you seek is the blessings of the flesh, and what you put into practice is the truth of your own conceptions, and if there is no change in your disposition, and you are not at all obedient to God in the flesh, and you still live in vagueness, then what you seek will surely take you to hell, for the path that you walk is the path of failure. Whether you will be made perfect or eliminated depends on your own pursuit, which is also to say that success or failure depends on the path that man walks” (“Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
God’s word is the truth, the way, and the life, and has already revealed Peter’s path to success as well as the path of the practice for success. Peter’s path to success wasn’t just not seeking a position or not picking and choosing his duties. It was not just about being conquered in his negative aspects. More importantly, it was about positively seeking to love God and fulfilling the duty of a creature. Moreover, walking on the correct path will bring about many positive and real results such as knowing God better, being increasingly submissive through pursuing the truth and putting it into practice, and no longer having your own requirements, hopes, and impurities. Your disposition will be transformed, and most importantly, you will better enter into the truth and have an increasingly genuine love for God so that you completely offer yourself to God with no other requests, and you faithfully love God for your entire life. But in the facts that were revealed, where was my expression of entering into the reality of the truth? Where was my expression of obtaining the truth and transforming my disposition? Where was my expression of truly loving God? There was nothing of the sort! If I really had entered in, then I would have been able to submit regardless of what arrangements God made and I would have been more willing to offer myself up to God and repay His love. Through these facts and the judgment and chastisement of God’s words, I was able to see that I was walking on the wrong path. I was not walking the path of fulfilling my duties as a creature nor was I seeking to love God. Rather, I was on the path of seeking my own interests and personal hopes. It was the path of cheating God, following Him under duress and expending myself to a limited degree so as to preserve myself. I had always pursued the pleasures of the flesh. In order to satisfy temporary comforts, I was not willing to accept God’s judgment and chastisement and obtain the truth. Deep in my heart, my view was: “Just seek to fulfill my duties peacefully, and don’t offend the disposition of God. In the end, I will obtain a good destination and that will be enough.” God’s word has repeatedly shown that the root cause of Paul’s failure lay in his dealings with God. He worked hard for his future reward and crown but lacked the slightest submission and love for the Lord of creation. Ultimately, it resulted in him failing and bearing God’s punishment. God’s words clearly admonish us: “Those who work for their destination will receive their final defeat, because failures in people’s belief in God happen because of deception” (“On Destination” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). It’s true! This type of investment is not done in sincerity; it is just a pretense and a deception. I had truly stiffened my neck and avoided God’s judgment by walking my own path. When God’s work of salvation came upon me, I was unable to tell good from bad and refused to take up God’s commission. I gave nothing back to God but misunderstandings, resistance and betrayal. It was then that I was able to clearly see how selfish and deplorable my nature was. I had believed in God all those years and enjoyed God yet still schemed against Him, constantly carrying out transactions with Him. I didn’t have the slightest degree of love for God in my heart. That was precisely the reason I was walking down the wrong path and exactly what God was talking about: “Because man is not good at wholly devoting himself to God, because man is not willing to perform his duty to the Creator, because man has seen the truth but avoids it and walks his own path, because man always seeks by following the path of those who have failed, because man always defies Heaven, thus, man always fails, is always taken in by Satan’s trickery, and ensnared in his own net” (“Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). I then read the following from a sermon: “There are people who inevitably have these apprehensions: ‘I am fulfilling my duty, but I am afraid of walking the path of the antichrist; I am afraid of doing something wrong and resisting God.’ Are there many people with these kinds of apprehensions? Especially those who serve as workers and leaders, they have seen that such-and-such a person who sought so diligently in the past, had gifts and a good mind, and then he fell. Such-and-such a person was quite good at preaching, but in the end, he fell as well, unexpectedly. They say: ‘If I do those things, will I end up like them and also fall?’ If you were someone who loves God would you still be afraid of these things? If you had true love for God, would you still be controlled by your apprehensions? People who love God are always considerate of His will and will not do the wrong thing. … If you have true discernment on what walking the path of the antichrist is and what walking the path of pursuing the truth and being perfected is, then why are you afraid of taking the path of the antichrist? Does that fear not prove that you still want to walk it and that you are not willing to abandon the wrong path? Isn’t this the problem?” (“How to Seek to Love God and Testify of God” in Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life IX). From God’s words and this sermon I was able to see more clearly that those who don’t love God are on the path of the antichrist and that not loving God is the source of failure in faith. I also saw more clearly the satanic reasons and excuses I had hidden within me. I was not willing to accept greater responsibilities and I was afraid of walking the path of failure—that revealed that my nature was selfish, deplorable and evil. It revealed that I had too much love for myself and for Satan. I was also able to truly understand that people who had believed in God for many years but still had no love for God lacked normal humanity. You could say that they all had some evil nature; they were all selfish, deplorable and evil people. At the same time, it also led me to genuinely turn my mistaken viewpoints around, gain the release of my soul, and gain the correct direction of pursuit and path of practice. I was no longer willing to live selfishly and deplorably just for myself. I only wished to submit myself to God and obey all of His arrangements; I would pursue the truth and practice love for God while fulfilling my duties.
Praise be to God for His judgment and chastisement that turned around the goal of my pursuit and brought me back from the wrong path. It allowed me to truly recognize the essence of the nature of Satan within me and to find the source of my failure. I had believed in God all those years but I never loved God, and I felt shame and self-blame. My heart longed to develop a true love for God. Peter was perfected because he truly loved God and because he had the will and perseverance to pursue the truth. Even though I am far from that, I will no longer live so vilely and repulsively in order to preserve myself. I am willing to make loving God the goal of my pursuit—I will spare no effort and I will pay the price in fulfilling my duties. I will truly bear the burden of my responsibilities and put the truth into practice and enter into the reality of loving God while fulfilling my duties.