By Ruth, United States
I used to be a genuine atheist, but due to the predestination and orchestrations of the Heaven, after coming to America in 2014, I met and married my husband whose family had been believers in the Lord for generations. Under his influence, I began to believe in the Lord and serve in the church with other sisters.
Gradually, I discovered that the majority of what my pastor was saying was outdated and repetitious, and sometimes he even got off topic, unable to provide for the spiritual life needs of us believers at all. During meetings, most brothers and sisters would doze off, I was no exception, and sometimes I found my pastor’s sermons so dry and would play on my phone to pass the time. Fewer and fewer people came to attend church gatherings, and other believers would only come but just for fun at Christmas, the Mid-Autumn Festival, or the Spring Festival, when there were big shows and dinner parties. Once these holidays passed, the church would become stagnant again.
My pastor led us to pray for the church, but as time went by, despite our tireless efforts to do so, there was never any real improvement in the condition of the church. This made me very anxious and confused: Why didn’t the Lord hear our prayers? In order to revive the church, I constantly preached the gospel to my colleagues and friends and brought them to the church. However, as they saw the desolate and lifeless church and were unsatisfied with making a donation in each meeting, they gradually didn’t come. Out of burden to the church, I gave some advice to my pastor and discussed with him how to preach to retain believers. However, he disregarded my suggestions and even revealed in his words that his sermons had the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Seeing that he stubbornly clung to himself and didn’t listen to my advice, I felt desperate and I thought, “If our church really had the work of the Holy Spirit, it wouldn’t be in such a mess now and believers wouldn’t doze off during meetings. If this carries on, then the church will be finished.” Afterward, some brothers and sisters suggested merging our church with the one that had split from ours, but our pastor refused with the excuse that some coworkers in that church had wronged him. At this time, I saw clearly that although he always preached at meetings about being tolerant and patient and forgiving others’ transgressions, he actually didn’t practice these things; he was deceiving others. He would rather let the church remain desolate and continue to lose believers than put aside his personal grudges to care for the Lord’s will—he was truly too selfish and despicable. What could I gain from gathering in such a church?
In order to look for a church with the Holy Spirit’s work, I went to other churches that had many Chinese members, but I found the condition there was more or less the same. The sermons there were also cut from the same cloth, and aside from interpreting the Bible attime and worship time, pastors and elders would spend the rest of the meeting time leading believers to sing hymns. Later, I went to an English-speaking church which had a lot of people. I saw that the choir there would sing on each worship day, like a concert was going on; pastors there only preached for half an hour but their speaking was humorous and jestful. So, with a sliver of hope, I once again suggested my pastor form a choir and learn from other churches’ strengths, but he rejected my suggestion again. Moreover, after learning that I was looking everywhere for a church with the Holy Spirit’s work, my pastor’s wife said very emphatically at a Bible study, “We must stick to our own church. All those who don’t do so and go to other churches at will are spiritual whores and prostitutes, and God won’t save them.” Although these words made me feel quite restrained and afraid, my enthusiasm for reviving the church didn’t change.
One day, I read online a spiritual essay, saying that pastors should obey the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and if they did everything their own way and never sought the will of the Holy Spirit, they would certainly be forsaken by the Holy Spirit. I thought this essay very good and so shared it with my brothers and sisters, and I also told them about our church’s current condition and my suggestions, hoping that the condition of the church could be improved. However, unexpectedly, they not only didn’t understand me, but said that I was attacking and disobeying our pastor and trying to split the church. In an instant, I found myself isolated and excluded, and felt great suffering. I really wanted to leave this church, but I was afraid that if I did so, I would become a spiritual whore and God wouldn’t save me, as my pastor’s wife said. However, I didn’t want to continue to stay in this church, for I had lost hope for my pastor. I felt helpless and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord, I always feel that they are locking You outside, not letting You in. If this continues, the church will be finished. Lord, what should I do, leave or stay? If I leave, where should I go?” During that period, I lived in great pain and felt caught between a rock and a hard place.
One day in May 2018, I met Sister Li on Facebook. After that, we often talked about belief together and I gained a lot of new knowledge from her fellowship. We regretted that we had not met before. Later, I opened up to her and told her about how I wanted to find a church with the Holy Spirit’s work and what I had encountered. And I asked her, “Why is the church lifeless now? Why does the Lord Jesus not listen no matter how we pray?”
Sister Li fellowshiped, “Sister, your questions are actual problems that all the religious churches are faced with, and they are also important issues for all true believers in the Lord. Speaking of the churches’ desolation, let’s recall the reason for the desolation of the temple at the end of the Age of Law. The temple in the beginning was filled with Jehovah God’s glory. Those who served Jehovah God in the temple had to be respectful and reverential, no one would have dared to act wantonly in any way, and even the priests were no exception; otherwise, they would definitely be burned to death by fire falling down from the pinnacle of the temple. At the end of the Age of Law, the Jewish leaders strayed from God’s way, didn’t adhere to God’s commandments and went against, the priests made poor sacrifices, and the temple became a marketplace and a den of thieves; especially when the Lord Jesus appeared to do His work, the Jewish leaders wildly judged and condemned Him. This is the main reason why the temple became desolate and lost the work of the Holy Spirit. The other reason is because God had incarnated and begun the work of redemption in the Age of Grace, God’s work progressed upon the basis of His work in the Age of Law, and the focus of the Holy Spirit’s work had shifted to the work of redemption in the Age of Grace. All those who accepted and followed the Lord Jesus gained the provision of the water of life and found new paths of practice. Those who refused to accept the Lord Jesus’ work and even condemned and resisted Him, however, were eliminated by God’s work and fell into darkness and desolation. The desolation of the temple completely fulfills this biblical prophecy, ‘And also I have withheld the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain on one city, and caused it not to rain on another city: one piece was rained on, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. So two or three cities wandered to one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have you not returned to Me’ (Amos 4:7–8). In this prophecy, the phrase ‘to rain on one city’ refers to the church led by God Himself, and the phrase ‘not to rain on another city’ refers to the temple without God’s guidance.”
As I listened to the sister’s fellowship, I kept nodding my head and felt bright in my heart; I had never heard such a sermon before.
Sister Li continued, “Nowadays, the situation in the religious churches is far beyond that in the temple at that time. Nominally, the church is a place to worship God, but pastors and elders don’t testify to God or exalt God at all, nor do they practice God’s words. Instead, they just explain biblical knowledge and theological theories to show themselves off, build themselves up and make people look up to and worship them. They are completely unable to supply believers’ spiritual needs, nor can they bring people before God. The more they preach that way, the further believers grow from God. Ultimately, believers have no place for God in their hearts—they lose their faith and love, are unwilling to attend gatherings, and can’t live out the Lord’s teachings. As can be seen, the churches’ desolation is caused by the religious leaders. Especially, when seeing some believers leave their church and go out to look for one with the Holy Spirit’s work, some pastors and elders use some fallacies and heresies to obstruct them, saying that they should stick to their own church and not carelessly listen to other sermons or go to other churches, vainly hoping to keep a tight hold on believers. They would rather let believers die of exhaustion than allow them to search for the Holy Spirit’s work. This kind of service has completely deviated from the Lord’s way, and because of all of their actions and deeds, they have been detested and rejected by God. This is the main reason for the religious churches being desolate and having lost the Holy Spirit’s work. Another reason is that the Lord Jesus has returned in the flesh to perform His judgment work of the last days beginning in God’s house, opening up the Age of Kingdom and concluding the Age of Grace, and the Holy Spirit’s work has shifted to God’s work of the last days. Almighty God,of the last days, has expressed all truths for the salvation of mankind to purify and perfect all those who accept God’s work of the last days. Those who have kept up with Almighty God’s work of the last days have received the Holy Spirit’s work and gained the watering and provision of the water of life. But those who are stuck in the religious churches and have refused to accept God’s work of the last days have fallen into darkness and desolation. So, no matter how people pray or how they use various means such as singing hymns, holding festival activities or organizing all sorts of rituals to raise spirits and attract believers, it is of no use and is just ‘treating the symptoms but not the root cause.’ Just as God’s words say, ‘God will accomplish this fact: He will make all people throughout the universe come before Him and worship the God on earth, and His work in other places will cease, and people will be forced to seek the true way. It will be like Joseph: Everyone came to him for food, and bowed down to him, for he had things to eat. In order to avoid famine, people will be forced to seek the true way. The entire religious community will suffer severe famine, and only the God of today is the wellspring of living water, possessed of the ever-flowing wellspring provided for the enjoyment of man, and people will come and depend on Him.’
“God’s will is behind the churches’ desolation. This is so that those who truly believe in God and yearn for the truth will seek God’s new work. So, we must leave the churches in the Age of Grace and follow God’s new work. Only in this way can we receive the Holy Spirit’s work.”
Hearing the sister’s fellowship, deep inside me I felt the same way. I thought, “The current condition of most of the religious churches is indeed like this. Pastors and elders have nothing to preach, believers can’t gain any sustenance from gatherings and many have run off into the world. No matter how people pray, this situation can’t be turned around. It turns out that the Holy Spirit’s work has departed from the religious churches.” But then another thought occurred to me, “Some other churches appear very fervent and have many people attending gatherings, so can such churches be said to lack the Holy Spirit’s work? Is Almighty God really the returned Lord Jesus?” I felt uncertain in my heart. However, I recalled how I felt so bright in my heart after listening to the sister’s fellowship these days. She could thoroughly explain the root of some problems; I gained more in these days than I had done in all my years of faith, and my heart felt enjoyment and was filled with peace and joy—all these were facts. Thinking of this, I couldn’t help but pray to the Lord, “O Lord Jesus, today Sister Li said that You have come back and are performing new work. I don’t know whether this is from You. If so, please guide me to understand her following fellowship. If not, please prevent me.” After this prayer, I no longer felt conflicted or afraid, and instead felt calm and confident.