By Chengxin, Brazil
By a chance opportunity in 2011, I came to Brazil from China. When I had just arrived, my eyes were overflowing with fresh and new experiences, curiosity, and I had a beautiful feeling about the future. But after a short time, this fresh and new feeling was quickly replaced by the loneliness and pain of finding myself in a far-off foreign land. Every day I went back home all alone, ate by myself, looking at the walls around me every day without anyone even to talk to, and I felt especially lonely in my heart, often crying all alone. When I felt the most pain and helpless, the Lord Jesus brought me into a gathering by means of a friend. Through reading the word of the Lord, singing hymns, and praying in gatherings, my lonely heart received the consolation of the Lord. I learned from the Bible that the heavens and earth and all things were created by God, and man too is God’s creation. The Lord Jesus was crucified for the redemption of mankind, and it was the Lord Jesus who redeemed us from sin, and He is the only Redeemer of mankind. In the face of the Lord’s salvation, which is greater than all else, I felt deeply moved and resolved to follow the Lord for the rest of my life. Because of this I was baptized on Thanksgiving to become a Christian not just in name but in reality. Because I liked singing songs, especially those in praise of God, after I was baptized I took the initiative to join the choir and work as part of it. Through God’s guidance and blessings, I lived in peace and happiness. Every time I went to a gathering or praised God in worship, I felt suffused with energy.
But a good situation didn’t last forever, and as I entered the ranks of the church ministry, I gradually saw that in the concern and care the brothers and sisters in the church showed to each other on the surface they were all seemingly harmonious, but that in their speech and actions they were all actually acting out of self-interest. They didn’t want to suffer any personal loss while working in the ministry of the church, and often gossiped behind others’ backs about who was doing more and who was doing less. Even the pastor was extremely snobby. He treated people based on the amounts of their donations, and when preaching always talked about donations. Every time he came to a gathering, the thing the pastor put the most emphasis on was whether or not people were giving donations and how much they had given, and he didn’t want to hear anything about the lives of the brothers and sisters. He talked about love, but didn’t show a single genuine action. When the brothers and sisters had difficulties, the pastor wouldn’t help them, but what made people even more indignant was that he would still criticize them and that he looked down on those powerless and penniless brothers and sisters…. When I saw this environment of the church, I was disappointed but also confused: How had the church changed so that it was no different than society? Slowly, I lost the love and faith I had had before, and on Sunday when I would go to the church I felt much less invigorated. I didn’t even want to sing. Every week when I went to church, I was either standing outside drinking coffee or taking a quick nap in the pews. When the sermon was over, I’d toss in my donation and head out. There was always a feeling of grief or helplessness in my heart.
One Sunday in August of 2016, I met Sister Li Min in a park who had come from America and who was the classmate of sisters Gao Xiaoying and Liu Fang. They all believed in the Lord. We got to chatting while sitting on the lawn. We talked and talked, and came around to the topic of the church environment, and I said everything I had seen in the church. After Sister Li Min heard that, she nodded thoughtfully and said: “Nowadays, not only has your church become this way, but the whole religious world has lost the work of the Holy Spirit. They’ve fallen into darkness and desolation. The Lord Jesus once prophesied: ‘And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold’ (Matthew 24:12). It’s already the period of the last days, and lawlessness is growing ever more rampant in religion. The pastors and elders don’t abide by the commandments of the Lord Jesus, they don’t carry out the way of the Lord, and they think it is not a big deal to live in sin like that. We all know that the flourishing of the church is the fruit obtained by the work of the Holy Spirit. Today, God has already done new work, and the work of the Holy Spirit has been transmitted to a group of people who accept and obey God’s new work. The pastors and elders in religion don’t lead believers in seeking and investigating God’s work in the last days, but rather resist and condemn God’s new work by disseminating all kinds of rumors and misconceptions to block people from returning to God. They meet with God’s hatred and rejection, so the entire religious world is without God’s blessing and has completely lost the work of the Holy Spirit, and has been cast aside and eliminated by the Lord. So the religion becomes more and more desolate and darkened. It is just like the time when the Lord Jesus became incarnate to perform work. The work of the Lord Jesus opened up the Age of Grace and put an end to the Age of Law. And because those people who followed the Lord Jesus accepted and obeyed the new work of God, they then gained the work of the Holy Spirit, whereas on the contrary the Holy Spirit did not work among those people who did not accept the Lord Jesus and still remained in the temple. So the temple that once was filled with glorification of God and where believers worshiped God became a place for doing business and a den of thieves. That is to say that the reason for the desolation of the church in one respect is caused by the pastors and elders not adhering to God’s commandments nor carrying out the, and their commission of evil acts. In another respect it is because God has performed new work, and that the work of the Holy Spirit has shifted, and people have not caught up to the footsteps of God. However, God’s will is present in the desolation of the church, and there is a truth that can be found therein. Through the desolation of the church, God compelled all those who believe in God with true hearts and who thirst for the truth to leave the religion behind, so that they can leave it to search for the work of the Holy Spirit and to catch up with the footsteps of God and to come into the presence of God to obtain God’s present work and salvation.”
Hearing what Sister Li fellowshiped, I nodded my head and said: “What you said is right. It’s certainly just as you say. I was never able to understand this problem, as the church was originally a place for worshiping God, but there is no difference anymore between the church and society at large. Furthermore, there is no new light in what the pastors preach, nor any enjoyment in listening to them, and people now live in darkness. As it turns out, it is that we have not yet caught up to God’s new work, so what must we now do to catch up to God’s new work?” Sister Li said: “The Lord Jesus has long since returned. In the last days, God is incarnated as a man to express the truth under the name of. He has done a stage of the work of judging and purifying mankind. We have to catch up to God’s work in the last days and accept the judgment of God’s word, and then we can obtain the work of the Holy Spirit….” When I heard that the Lord Jesus had already returned to do a stage of the work of judgment, I was astonished. I thought: “Isn’t judgment to punish a person after he is convicted? God comes in the last days to judge those people who don’t believe in God, and we who believe in the Lord Jesus have already been absolved of our sins and have been graced with salvation. We don’t need to receive God’s judgment, for when the Lord comes He will directly raise us to the heavenly kingdom. How could He come to judge us?” With that thought, I had given rise to my own opinion. At that moment, Sister Liu Fang said, “Brother, I have already been investigating Almighty God’s work of the last days for a week with Sister Gao. From the word of Almighty God, we have recognized it is the voice of God. Almighty God is indeed the returned Lord Jesus. Read the word of Almighty God, and you will understand. The reason why the Lord Jesus returned to do the work of judgment is that, although we who believe in the Lord have been forgiven of our sins, we are living all along amid sin from which we cannot free ourselves. There is no way to free ourselves from the bondage and control of sin, and indeed we really do need God to express the truth to judge and purify us, and to root out our sinful nature and corrupt satanic disposition. Almighty God’s work of judgment in the last days is a new and outstanding work built on the foundation of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus. It completely purifies and saves men through the judgment of the word, and brings people to a wonderful destination.” After this, they patiently fellowshiped about some more truths with me. But no matter what they said, I just couldn’t accept that the Lord was returning to judge those who believed in Him. At the same time I was conflicted, I was also bewildered in my mind: Sisters Gao and Liu were very pious believers, and everyone acknowledged their belief and love for the Lord, so how could they believe that the Lord Jesus was returning to judge us who believe in Him, and that He would not raise us directly into the kingdom of heaven? Could it be that there was some mystery of the truth in this that I did not know?
As I was thinking, Sister Li Min took out a book and said earnestly to me: “Brother, the Lord Jesus said: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3). Don’t jump to a conclusion first, OK? Let us first see if the word of Almighty God is the voice of God, and whether it can provide life for us, and whether it can purify and save us, and then we will know whether Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus. God’s sheep will listen to the voice of God, so let us read God’s word together!” I was a bit unwilling in my heart and didn’t answer her question. The three sisters were a little saddened to see my attitude. Sister Liu suddenly suggested: “First let’s pray, and then read some more from the word of God!” After she said that, the three sisters began to pray, and I had to follow along with them. Still, as I was praying, I could hardly quiet my heart. Even though I couldn’t hear what the sisters were praying about, I was moved by their living out. They treated God with such an attitude of sincerity, and searched for God’s will in everything. They hoped that I would investigate God’s work in the last days, and this also came out of God’s love for me. After the prayer, Sister Li handed me a book and said sincerely to me: “Most of the questions in this book, A Hundred Questions and Answers on Investigating the True Way, exist among people of all denominations. For each question, related passages are chosen from the word of God to explain it. Go ahead and take a look.” I didn’t want to take the book, but seeing how sincere they were, I looked again at Sister Gao and Sister Liu, and how much they hoped I would investigate and seek. I thought how crucial a matter it was indeed to welcome the coming of the Lord, and that I shouldn’t treat it carelessly. At that, I accepted the book and said: “Alright, I’m willing to accept this book. Let’s stop here for today. I will read the book first, and then we’ll talk.”
After I went back home, I set the book to one side and my thoughts were all mixed up. I thought back on what Sister Li Min had fellowshiped and had a feeling that it was all clear and distinct. Every sentence she said was a fact, but what I couldn’t understand was: Why would the Lord perform a stage of the work of judgment upon His return? After contemplating it carefully, I still didn’t understand it. But as for this matter of the Lord’s second coming, since I had heard about it, I couldn’t blindly make up the rules and sit resigned to my fate. I thought it would also be a good idea to take a look at the book and grow a little in my differentiation. At that, I spent six days reading that book from cover to cover. I saw that Almighty God had made known many, many truths and mysteries that I had never heard of before. It allowed me to gain great provision, and also, when I had read the words of Almighty God, I felt that there were many things that were said in the same tone as that of the Lord Jesus. There was authority and power as if it was God’s voice speaking. So, after I finished reading the book, I wanted to understand even more what was behind the work of judgment done by Almighty God. I decided to go find Sister Gao to ask for clarification.
On the next day, I went to Sister Gao’s house, and happened to meet some of her friends. They all accepted the work of Almighty God in the last days and were in a gathering together fellowshiping to each other. We greeted each other, and Sister Li Min got right to the point by asking me: “Brother, what notions do you still hold? What aspects of God’s work in the last days do you still want to understand? We can fellowship together.” I said: “You mentioned that because the work of the Holy Spirit was moving forward in the last days, the church was made desolate. I can accept this, but we who believe in the Lord have already had our sins absolved, and the Lord does not see us as having sin. Why does God want to do a further step of the work of judgment? Aren’t we able to be raised into the heavenly kingdom without going through that step? When God judges a person, is that person not determined to be sinful? Mustn’t they all be punished? How can they still be raised into the heavenly kingdom?” Sister Li Min said: “As far as most people’s notions are concerned, the people whom the Lord returned to judge were those non-believers who did not believe in God. Because God judged people, people were determined as sinful and punished, and those who believed in God had their sins absolved. When the Lord comes, it is to raise them directly into the heavenly kingdom, not to judge them. So they refuse to accept God’s work of judgment in the last days. This is completely misunderstanding God’s will and demonstrates that a person does not know God’s work. Actually, the work of Almighty God in the last days—of expressing the truth and of judging and purifying man—is for the sake of raising believers up to the heavenly kingdom. We all know the Bible says: ‘Judgment must begin at the house of God’ (1 Peter 4:17). This prophecy tells us clearly that God’s work of judgment in the last days begins first with God’s household. That is, it begins with those people who believe in God with true hearts and accept God’s work in the last days. So, we consider the notion to be in error that believing in the Lord Jesus means one does not have to accept God’s work of judgment. In the last days, God uses His words to judge all those who come before His throne, and purifies and saves these people. Before the calamity, He makes a group of overcomers, and afterward when the calamity befalls the world He will reward the good and punish the evil. This is how God’s work of judgment in the last days proceeds. No one is able to escape from God’s work of judgment in the last days, but as for those people who accept and obey God’s judgment, they are purified, saved, and perfected. As for those who refuse and resist God’s work of judgment in the last days, although they can hide from the judgment of God’s word, they still cannot escape the catastrophe in the end. This is a fact! The reason why God wants to judge us in the last days is said very clearly in the word of Almighty God. Let us read together a section from the word of God. Almighty God says: ‘You only know that Jesus shall descend during the last days, but how exactly will He descend? A sinner such as you, who has just been redeemed, and has not been changed, or been perfected by God, can you be after God’s heart? For you, you who are still of your old self, it is true that you were saved by Jesus, and that you are not counted as a sinner because of the salvation of God, but this does not prove that you are not sinful, and are not impure. How can you be saintly if you have not been changed? Within, you are beset by impurity, selfish and mean, yet you still wish to descend with Jesus—you should be so lucky! You have missed a step in your belief in God: You have merely been redeemed, but have not been changed. For you to be after God’s heart, God must personally do the work of changing and cleansing you; if you are only redeemed, you will be incapable of attaining sanctity. In this way you will be unqualified to share in the good blessings of God, for you have missed out a step in God’s work of managing man, which is the key step of changing and perfecting. And so you, a sinner who has just been redeemed, are incapable of directly inheriting God’s inheritance’ (‘Concerning Appellations and Identity’ in The Word Appears in the Flesh). We understand from the word of God that in believing in the Lord Jesus our sins are merely forgiven. This does not mean that we do not sin nor that we are sinless. In reality, we all live in the vicious cycle of committing and then confessing our sin, and we still need God to express His word to judge and cleanse us. Once we are cleansed, we will be qualified to be raised into the heavenly kingdom. It is recorded in the Bible: ‘You shall be holy; for I am holy’ (Leviticus 11:44). ‘Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). God is pure and holy. Defiled and corrupt people may not see God’s face and are unfit to enter God’s kingdom. The work of redemption done by the Lord Jesus only absolved us of our sins, but did not exempt us from our corrupt dispositions and sinful nature. So our arrogance, conceit, deceit and craftiness, selfishness and despicableness, evil and greed, aversion to the truth, fondness for injustice, and other corrupt satanic dispositions still remain. These corrupt dispositions are precisely the source that leads us to sin and to resist God. If they are not disposed of, we will often sin, compete for fame and wealth, have jealousy and strife, lie and deceive, exalt ourselves, bear witness to ourselves, and more. Especially when God’s work doesn’t conform to our notions, we are still able to rely on our notions and imaginations in judging, denying, and accusing God, and resisting God’s work. How can people like this who resist God be raised into the heavenly kingdom? God expresses the truth and does the work of judgment in the last days, and His goal in doing so is to cleanse the corrupt satanic dispositions we hold within ourselves as well as to fulfill our dream of being raised into the heavenly kingdom. When we accept God’s judgment and break free of our corrupt disposition, we attain purification and transformation. We will have the qualification to inherit God’s promise and to be brought by God into the heavenly kingdom.”
After listening to what the sister fellowshiped and to the word of Almighty God, I thought: After one enters belief in the Lord, the fact that his sins are forgiven does not mean that he doesn’t commit sin. This really is true! Looking at those in the church, from the pastors and elders all the way down to the ordinary members including myself, everyone is living in the state of sinning during the day and confessing their sin at night, and the bondage and control of sin cannot be escaped. It seems that people will certainly be unable to see the face of the Lord without going through the judgment and purification of the word of God! When it is phrased like this, it is absolutely necessary for God to come and do a stage of the work of judgment and purification of man! I once believed that if one had faith in the Lord Jesus, he did not have to be judged. I thought that when the Lord comes, He would judge those people who did not believe in Him. Now I understand that this notion is not in keeping with God’s will at all, and that it is erroneous acceptance. Then Sister Gao played for me a video with singing and dancing fromcalled The Happiness in the Good Land of Canaan: “I’ve returned to God’s family, excited and happy. My hands hold my beloved, my heart belongs to Him. Though I’ve passed through the Vale of Tears, I’ve seen God’s loveliness. My love for God grows day by day, God is the source of my joy. Bewitched by the beauty of God, my heart is attached to Him. I can never love God enough, songs of praise well up in my heart. …” The whole song was cheerful and moving, and was especially inspirational. I saw that the faces of every brother and sister in the video were brimming with happiness, and we couldn’t help but join along in singing. We started dancing along with the song and our hearts were really moved. I saw that the brothers and sisters who had the provision of God’s word were blessed and joyful. Though they had gone through the judgment and chastisement of God, they still had no worry at all, but were liberated, free, joyful, and happy. I thought about how my own faith and enthusiasm in the religion had all but disappeared. All I saw was the desolation and darkness of the church, but the brothers and sisters of The Church of Almighty God were full of the work of the Holy Spirit. They fellowshiped about the truth with light and praised God with vigor, and they were bearing witness to God with great excitement and energy…. Comparing the two together, they seemed like two different worlds. At that time, I felt like a drifting orphan who had returned home and was enjoying the warmth of a mother’s embrace. I thought: There really is the truth to be sought here. I must listen well to what the brothers and sisters fellowship about the truth of God’s work of judgment in the last days so that I won’t miss my chance to be raised up into the heavenly kingdom when the Lord returns.
Following that, Sister Li read us two more passages from the word of God: “Through what is God’s perfection of man accomplished? Through His righteous disposition. God’s disposition primarily consists of righteousness, wrath, majesty, judgment, and curse, and His perfection of man is primarily through judgment. Some people don’t understand, and ask why it is that God is only able to make man perfect through judgment and curse. They say that if God were to curse man, wouldn’t man die? If God were to judge man, wouldn’t man be condemned? Then how can he still be made perfect? Such are the words of people who do not know the work of God. What God curses is the disobedience of man, and what He judges are the sins of man. Although He speaks harshly, and without the slightest sensitivity, He reveals all that is within man, and through these stern words He reveals that which is essential within man, yet through such judgment, He gives man a profound knowledge of the essence of the flesh, and thus man submits to obedience before God. The flesh of man is of sin, and of Satan, it is disobedient, and the object of God’s chastisement—and so, to allow man to know himself, the words of God’s judgment must befall him and there must be employed every kind of refinement; only then can God’s work be effective” (“Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh). “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” (“Christ Does the Work of Judgment With the Truth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
Sister Li fellowshiped to us, saying: “After we were corrupted by Satan, we all lived under the domain of Satan and became degenerates who resisted God. On the basis of God’s righteous and holy substance, we were all targets of God’s curse and destruction, but it is not God’s will to destroy mankind but rather to save mankind. So in order to completely rescue people out from under the domain of Satan, God expresses the word in the last days and does the work of judging and purifying man. The work of judgment is actually God using His word to expose people’s words, actions, nature, and essence of being contrary to God and of resisting God. It is to cause people to know the essence and truth of their corruption, and to recognize God’s disposition of righteousness and holiness, in order to reach a point of self-hatred and to truly repent and transform. It is in order to break free of the corrupt satanic disposition and to be obtained by God. In this way people will receive salvation. Only through the judgment and chastisement of the word of God are we able to see that we are filled with corruption. At all times and places, we display the corrupt dispositions of selfishness, arrogance, treachery, and greed. We are filled with notions and imaginations, extravagant desires, and unreasonable demands with respect to God. We don’t have any conscience or reason, nor any loyalty or obedience. The more we accept God’s judgment, the more we recognize how deeply we are corrupted and that we indeed have no humanity. We begin to feel disgusted with ourselves, and to hate ourselves in our hearts. The more we accept God’s judgment, the more we see God’s holiness and righteousness, and the more our hearts will revere God. We will be willing to go against our fleshly desires and live in accordance with God’s word. Subsequently, a transformation will occur in our perspectives on things and our corrupt nature, and we will start to live out some likeness of a real man. It is an enormous love and salvation for us that we have truly tasted the judgment and chastisement of God. Without God’s judgment and chastisement, we would all be targets for destruction.”
I was very moved when the sister had fellowshiped to this point, and I saw how great and true God’s love is. He is the God who loves mankind! It was I who misunderstood God’s good intention in saving people. I had thought that God judged people to determine their guilt and punish them, but never thought that God expressing His word and judging people in the last days was even truer love, or that it was an even greater salvation for us! Thanks be to Almighty God! Through reading the word of Almighty God and from what the sisters fellowshiped, I gained some understanding of God’s work of judgment and eliminated my mistaken notions about God. I came to the firm belief that Almighty God is none other than the returned Lord Jesus, and I became willing to accept God’s work of judgment. I fully emerged from the fog, and my face beamed with a joyous smile. Sister Li said happily: “Thanks be to God for leading you. All this is the fruit attained through God’s word. This lets us see that before understanding the truth even though we come up with notions about God and God’s work, all it takes is for us to search for and accept the truth, and to listen to God’s word, and then we will understand the truth and have knowledge of God’s work, and our notions and imaginations will be blown away like clouds or smoke. We will then be able to understand God’s will, and will no longer misunderstand God.” I nodded my head happily and thanked God for His salvation.
After having accepted God’s work in the last days, I installed a messaging app on my phone so that Sister Gao and the others could often share with me some gospel movies, music videos and hymns of The Church of Almighty God. When I saw the gospel movie of The Church of Almighty God called From the Throne Flows the Water of Life, it had a great impact on me. The desolate situation of the church in the movie was just like our own situation, and the movie showed the origins of this desolation with perfect clarity. Because God’s work had shifted, and God was no longer working inside of churches, the people who refused to accept Almighty God’s work in the last days all were suffering a famine. Those people who accepted the word of Almighty God attained God’s provision of the water of life and were no longer thirsty. They had gotten to a blessed life of being face to face with God. When I watched the movie “Waiting,” I couldn’t help but let out a sigh. The old pastor in the movie believed in the Lord his whole life and thought that his hard work was meritorious. He was just waiting for the Lord to come so he could be raised up. But he stubbornly clung to the belief that when the Lord comes He will descend upon a cloud and will give the revelation to him first. Because of this stubbornness he resisted and refused God’s work in the last days, so in the end he was just staring off at the sky waiting for a cloud and dying regretfully. This bitter lesson really made people think deeply! At the same time, I rejoiced in my heart and gave thanks to Almighty God for saving me, a rebellious son who only sought to gain blessings from Him but was reluctant to accept His judgment and purification. He led me before the throne of God to obtain God’s salvation in the last days.
Now I have entered into life in The Church of Almighty God, and through truly experiencing the judgment and chastisement of the word of God, I have slowly begun to perceive how real and practical it is that God does the work of judgment. When God dissects humans’ treacherous nature, I felt that I myself do not have any lies in my speech and did not admit the actual situation revealed in God’s words. However, when I am faced with God giving me a practical environment to make things revealed, I involuntarily blurt out lies to protect my self-interest and vanity. Moreover, I have treachery and deceit in my heart, and I also have many secrets I do not want to make openly known. This led me to see that everything revealed by the word of God is the truth and the real situation, and that it is man’s nature and essence. Only then was I truly convinced of God’s word, and I had an urgent desire to seek the truth and to transform my own treacherous nature. After this experience, I came to realize that if it weren’t for God’s practical judgment and chastisement in this way, I never would have known my own treacherous nature. I also would not have been able to carry out the truth to gain transformation in my own treacherous disposition. God’s judgment and chastisement were indeed cleansing and salvation for me, and were a different kind of love. I want to cherish this special kind of love well and to accept the judgment and chastisement of God. I want to transform soon to become a new person to satisfy God. All honor and glory be unto God!