The Lord Has Returned: I No Longer Live a Life Filled With Religious Rituals
- Editor’s Note:
For two thousand years, all believers in the Lord have been abiding by a lot of rituals, including sacraments, confessing, attending mass, praying, reading scriptures, and observing holy days. They think that only by clinging to these rituals can they bring the Lord joy. Brother Gengxin had never doubted that this was in line with God’s heart. It was not until after he accepted God’s work of the last days that he gained new insight into how God views Catholic rituals. Let’s take a look at his experiences.
- Quick Navigation
- Enthusiasm for Abiding by Rituals Grew Cold
- Joyfully Welcoming the Lord’s Return
- Coming to Know God’s Work Is Always New and Alive
- It Turns Out That Satan’s Tricks Are Hidden Behind Religious Rituals
- I Have Lived a Grand New Church Life
Enthusiasm for Abiding by Rituals Grew Cold
I was born into a Catholic household, and read prayers with my parents from a young age. At that time, Catholics were persecuted by the CCP government. We faced the danger of being reported to the police and being arrested at any time. Despite the danger, no matter where the priest delivered mass, we tried our best to attend. We read prayers each day, and by the church’s rules, we said different prayers associated with particular holidays, fasted and prayed Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. Besides, we also needed to observe many holy days, for example, Theophany, Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas. The priest told us observing these rituals was worshiping the Lord. He said that by doing so, we were pious believers and were pleasing to the Lord, and then we could be taken up into heaven when the Lord returned.
In the beginning, when I practiced the rituals, I was full of faith and enthusiasm. I could feel the work of the Holy Spirit and was moved when doing these things. However, as many years passed, I found that the priest’s sermons were boring. He just preached on the same old things, without anything fresh. I could not feel any enjoyment in my heart by listening to them, but instead, I felt they were kind of tiring and annoying. Sometimes when I read scriptures and prayed Stations of the Cross, I could hardly quiet my heart. While reading scriptures, I often thought about my business, just wanting to finish reading quickly so that I could do my business. When I was too busy with work, I just skipped these rituals, thinking I would make up for them later when I was free. I just treated the rituals as formalities. But sometimes I would think of the priest’s words: “We must observe the Catholic rituals, otherwise, we are not truly believing in the Lord.” In order to be a good believer and enter heaven, I had to force myself to continue observing all of these ceremonies.
Joyfully Welcoming the Lord’s Return
One day, my sister called me, saying a friar had just finished his studies abroad and that his sermon was quite insightful. She invited me and my wife to listen to his sermon and said it was a rare opportunity. Then I thought: “My sister is quite good at pursuing life. Since she thinks this friar’s sermon is enlightening, I can’t miss this chance.” So I agreed.
The next day, my wife and I went to my sister’s house. The friar, Brother Zhang, greeted us very enthusiastically. He talked about the desolation of different churches at home and abroad. I quite agreed with him. Then Brother Zhang shared some words of God andand fellowshiped with us about God’s 6,000-year management plan. He said: “In the Age of Grace, the was crucified as a sin offering. He only redeemed man from sin, but our sinful nature is still deeply rooted. To fully free man from sin, the Lord would do another stage of work to judge and purify man in the last days. We believers must accept His work of judgment and chastisement in the last days, and only this way can we break free from the bondage of sin and return before the Lord.” Hearing his fellowship, I was very excited. I had believed in the Lord for so many years, but I had never heard any sermon that was so practical. My heart felt especially happy.
Then Brother Zhang fellowshiped with us about the mystery of God’s names, the mystery of the incarnation, the destination and outcome of mankind, and other truths. He told us: “Our long-awaited Lord Jesus has already come back! He is the incarnate Almighty God. I didn’t understand these mysteries before, and I learned them from the truths expressed by Almighty God. Almighty God has expressed all truths that allow us to be purified. As long as we read Almighty God’s words and put His words into practice, we can attain full salvation.” Hearing this, I was so surprised and excited. Yes! If it had not been the Lord personally speaking, who else could have uncovered all of these mysteries! I confirmed in my heart that Almighty God is the Lord returned, and my wife also felt the same. So we accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days happily and took part in the life of the church.
Coming to Know God’s Work Is Always New and Alive
One day, Brother Zhang came to my home. In the evening when we had dinner, he saw my wife and I made the sign of the cross and offered prayers of gratitude. He told us: “Observing these rituals is the Lord’s requirements of us in the Age of Grace. Now that we are in the Age of Kingdom, we don’t need to abide by them anymore. We just need to read God’s words and put them into practice.” I didn’t agree with him, so I said, “For two thousand years, all believers in the Lord have been abiding by many rituals, such as sacraments, confessing, attending mass, praying, reading scriptures, and observing holy days. These are what we must observe. How can we abandon them? Otherwise, aren’t we committing apostasy?”
Brother Zhang replied, “It is normal that you think this way. When I just accepted God’s end-time work, I also thought the same. I believed that we observe the Catholic rituals according to the Bible, that generations of Catholics do these things, and that only by doing so can we bring the Lord joy. Not until I read some of Almighty God’s words did I know that the Lord’s requirements of man vary with the age and period. They are not immutable. We cannot apply God’s requirements in the Age of Grace to the Age of Kingdom when God does the end-time work. Let’s see what God’s words say about it. God says, ‘What is asked of man this day is unlike that in the past and even more unlike that asked of man in the Age of Law. Now, what was asked of man under the law when God was doing His work in Israel? It was no more than that man should keep the Sabbath and the laws of Jehovah. No one was to labor on the Sabbath or transgress the laws of Jehovah. But it is not so now. On the Sabbath, man works, gathers, and prays as usual, and no restrictions are imposed on him. Those in the Age of Grace had to be baptized, and they were further asked to fast, break bread, drink wine, cover their heads and wash the feet of others for them. Now, these rules have been abolished, but greater demands are made of man, for the work of God grows ever deeper and the entry of man reaches ever higher. … The Holy Spirit works in accordance with the age, neither at random nor in conformity to set rules. The age has changed, and a new age necessarily brings with it new work. This is true of every stage of work, and so His work is never repeated.’ ‘God’s intention has always been for His work to be new and alive, not old and dead, and what He has man adhere to varies with the age and period, and is not everlasting and immutable. This is because He is a God who causes man to live and be new, rather than a devil who causes man to die and be old. Do you still not understand this?’
“God’s words make it clear: The Lord is a real and living God, and His work is always new and alive rather than old, dead, and immutable. God never clings to old ways or repeats His work. In different ages, God’s requirements of man are different. When an old age ends and a new age comes, we don’t have to abide by the old practices. We need to practice God’s new teachings in the new age. If we stick to the outdated practices of the past, we cannot gain the work of the Holy Spirit, and our lives will stagnate. For example, in the Age of Law, Jehovah God asked people to keep the Sabbath and make offerings. As long as people did these things, they could gain. However, in the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus did new work and brought people new requirements. He asked people to be baptized, fast, receive sacramental bread, drink sacramental wine, and more. If believers in the Lord Jesus acted according to His new requirements, they could gain the work of the Holy Spirit and feel peace and joy in their hearts. On the contrary, if they clung to the old practices of the Age of Law, they would live in a situation of death, and more than that, they would be condemned and abandoned by the Lord. Now we are in the Age of Kingdom, and the Lord has returned to do new work. He has expressed words to judge and purify man. Meanwhile, He has dispensed with the old rules and rituals. He just asks us to read God’s words, practice God’s present requirements, and pursue changes in disposition. Only by doing these things can we be after God’s heart. But if we still stick to the outdated rules and rituals of the past, no matter how much and how well we observe these things, we cannot gain the work of the Holy Spirit or obtain God’s approval. Think about this: In the past, before God came to do the end-time work, when we observed the rituals, we could feel peace and joy and the Holy Spirit’s work. But why did we feel different later? It was because God’s work had moved and that the Lord had already come back and done new work. If people still abide by the rituals and rules, they cannot feel enjoyment anymore, and they even feel tired and annoyed. This is a fact most pious believers have verified in their spirits. However, those who have followed Almighty God’s work of the last days have rid themselves of the bondage of religious rituals. They focus on reading God’s words and thus have regained the work of the Holy Spirit, living free and liberated lives. Therefore, we accept God’s new work and practice God’s new requirements in the new age—this is not betraying the Lord, but obeying God’s present work, and this is approved by God.”
God’s words and Brother Zhang’s fellowship made me understand: God makes different demands of people in different ages. After accepting God’s new work, we cannot cling to the old rituals and rules, but should keep to God’s new requirements in the present age, and this is pleasing to God. In the past, I didn’t understand, so I was worried that if I didn’t observe the rituals, I would rebel against God. Now I knew God’s work is always new and alive. God has opened up the Age of the Kingdom, so His demands of people have also changed. I needed to abandon my old practices, read God’s words more often, and put His words into practice. This is being after God’s heart. Having this knowledge, I finally put my worry and concern aside.
It Turns Out That Satan’s Tricks Are Hidden Behind Religious Rituals
Brother Zhang continued his fellowship: “In fact, among the festivals and rituals we observe, many are not what God asked, but were arranged and handed down by many people from the past and came from human thinking and imagination. We should have discernment. Let’s read some words of God on this aspect. Almighty God says, ‘Even the Spring Festival and Christmas Day, which are known to everyone, are not decreed by God, let alone the toys and decorations for these festive holidays such as couplets, firecrackers, lanterns, Holy Communion, Christmas gifts, and Christmas festivities—are they not idols in the minds of men? The breaking of bread on the Sabbath, wine, and fine linen are even more emphatically idols. All the traditional festival days popular in China, such as the Dragon Heads-raising Day, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Laba Festival, and New Year’s Day, and the festivals in the religious world, such as Easter, Baptism Day, and Christmas Day, all of these unjustifiable festivals have been arranged and handed down from olden times to today by many people. It is humanity’s rich imagination and ingenious conception that have allowed them to be passed down to today. They appear to be free of flaws, but are in fact tricks Satan plays on humanity. The more a place is thronged with Satans, and the more obsolete and backward that place is, the more deeply entrenched are its feudal customs. These things bind people tight, allowing absolutely no room for movement. Many of the festivals in the religious world seem to display great originality and to create a bridge to the work of God, but they are actually the invisible ties with which Satan binds people and prevents people from coming to know God—they are all Satan’s cunning stratagems. In fact, when a stage of God’s work is finished, He has already destroyed the tools and the style of that time, without leaving any trace. However, “devout believers” continue to worship those tangible material objects; meanwhile they consign what God has to the back of their minds, studying it no further, seeming to be full of the love of God when they actually pushed Him out of the house long ago and placed Satan on the table to worship. Portraits of Jesus, the Cross, Mary, Jesus’ Baptism and the Last Supper—people venerate these as the Lord of Heaven, all the while repeatedly crying out “Lord, heavenly Father.” Is this not all a joke? To this day, many similar sayings and practices that have been passed down amongst humanity are hateful to God; they seriously obstruct the way ahead for God and, furthermore, create huge setbacks to humanity’s entry.’
“Almighty God’s words clearly tell us: Many religious festivals, such as Easter and Christmas Day, and tangible material objects, including the portrait of Jesus and the Last Supper, did not come from God’s work, nor did they stem from what God asked. But rather, they came from man’s imaginations and were formulated by man. Actually, Satan’s tricks are hidden within. They are a means Satan uses to obstruct people from knowing God. In fact, God is faithful, and He hopes that we can worship Him in spirit and in truth, and the outward manners do not matter. When we focus on the ceremonies or activities, we just get together to keep ourselves entertained. We even worship tangible material objects, thinking we are worshiping the Lord. But we have no place for God in our hearts. No matter how many rituals we have observed, they cannot allow us to understand God’s will. Instead, bound by the rituals, we feel tired and dark in spirit. God is the truth, the way, and the life. All of God’s work brings people nothing but freedom and release. But the rules and rituals can only bring people bondage and constraint; they can never help people know God, but make them stray from God and even resist God. Just like the Pharisees in the Age of Law, they stuck to the laws and rules, thinking that people must worship God in the temple and that keeping the Sabbath meant being loyal to God. When the Lord Jesus came to work, He did not preach in the temple, and on the Sabbath day, He healed the sick and allowed His disciples to pick and eat the heads of grain. When the Pharisees saw these, they denied the Lord Jesus as the coming Messiah for the reason that He did not obey the law. It can be seen that clinging rigidly to religious rituals can lead to people’s rebelling against and resisting God. Today, we have followed God’s new work. If we still stick to the rules and rituals but do not pay attention to seeking God’s will and reading His words, we cannot gain the provision of living waters from God, and our spiritual lives will not grow. This is the result of being afflicted by Satan. So we should know that these religious rituals and etiquette are the tricks Satan plays on us. They restrict our thinking and obstruct us from knowing God. We must abandon them and not be constrained by them anymore. Then we can live before God freely.”
After he said this, I suddenly saw the light. I said, “Brother, I understand now. I have observed these rituals for dozens of years. I never questioned whether there was something wrong. Today, Almighty God’s words gave me a clear understanding. It turns out that the rules and rituals come from Satan. Satan uses these things to control and afflict people. Actually, when we pray Stations of the Cross, we are worshipping the images. This kind of worship could not allow us to know the Lord’s disposition and new work. It cannot solve our corrupt dispositions, and our words and behaviors are full of deception and perfunctoriness toward the Lord. The religious rituals cannot let us get closer to the Lord at all. Just as the Lord Jesus said, ‘Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips glorify me, but their heart is far from me, and they have feared me with the commandment and doctrines of men’ (Isaiah 29:13). So our imaginations and notions are not in line with God’s will but instead are condemned by God. If we continue to cling to these rules and rituals, we will be the modern Pharisees who resist God.” My wife nodded in agreement.
I Have Lived a Grand New Church Life
Later, I saw these words of God: “Faith in God necessitates a normal spiritual life, which is the foundation for experiencing God’s words and entering into reality. Does all your current practice of prayers, of drawing near to God, of hymn-singing, praise, meditation, and pondering the words of God amount to a ‘normal spiritual life’? None of you seems to know. A normal spiritual life is not limited to such practices as praying, singing hymns, participating in church life, and eating and drinking of God’s words. Rather, it involves living a new and vibrant spiritual life. What matters is not how you practice, but what fruit your practice bears. Most people believe that a normal spiritual life necessarily involves praying, singing hymns, eating and drinking the words of God or pondering His words, regardless of whether such practices actually have any effect or lead to true understanding. These people focus on following superficial procedures without any thought to their results; they are people who live in religious rituals, not people who live within the church, and much less are they people of the kingdom.”
“A normal spiritual life is a life lived before God. When praying, one can quiet one’s heart before God, and through, one can seek the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, know God’s words, and understand God’s will. By eating and drinking of His words, people can gain a clearer and more thorough understanding of God’s current work. They can also gain a new path of practice, and will not cling to the old; what they practice will all be to achieve growth in life.”
From God’s words, I understand: To live a true spiritual life, outward practices do not matter. Whether we read God’s words, pray, sing hymns, or praise, all of this is done to establish a normal relationship with God and get closer to God. If we want to achieve effects in our spiritual lives, we cannot just go through the motions, but should quiet our hearts before God and ponder over God’s words. From God’s words, we seek to understand God’s will and requirements and what we need to practice and enter into. We need to put aside the outdated practices and act according to God’s new requirements. By practicing this way, we can gain the work of the Holy Spirit; our relationship with God will become ever more normal; we will gradually grow in our lives. Now I am not bound and constrained by the rules and rituals anymore. I can ponder over God’s words, get close to God, and pray to Him anytime and anywhere. Each week, I gather with my brothers and sisters. We share our understanding and knowledge of God’s words, and share how we seek and practice the truth in our lives. This kind of gathering and fellowship makes me extremely free and liberated. I know how to live a normal spiritual life, how to speak to God sincerely and from the heart, and how to pray in a reasonable way. My relationship with God has grown normal and I’m experiencing continual growth in my life. Thanks be to God! It was the truth expressed by God in the last days that brought me out of the religious rules and rituals. Now I’m living a grand new church life.