On Christmas Day, many brothers and sisters who usually don’t attend meetings come to the church. The church is extraordinarily bustling and there is no empty seat available. However, Christian Liu Qiming sees this different from everybody else: Is this praising and worshiping the Lord? Is this following the Lord’s way? What on earth is the will of the Lord? He feels very confused about this …
A Special Christmas “Present”
This Christmas is of extraordinary significance for Liu Qiming. The reason for this is because he receives a special present.
On Christmas Day, there is no empty seat available in the church. Brothers and sisters are engaged in celebrations, such as receiving Eucharist, and giving performances. Except Liu Qiming who sits in the corner, every one of them is beaming with great joy. This is because he has seen a painful phenomenon: For these past few years, the church has become more and more desolate. Many brothers and sisters follow the things of the world and are indulgent in the pleasures of the flesh, struggling for fame and fortune and pursuing wealth. Some are even totally assimilated and possessed by the evil trends of the world, being Christians in name but the same as unbelievers in substance, and having cast the Lord’s teachings to the back of their minds. Ordinarily, there are just a few brothers and sisters who attend meetings, but on every festival, many who haven’t attended meetings for a long time come to the church too.
At this moment, Liu Qiming raises his head and sees that brothers and sisters on the stage are standing in four rows and are singing in chorus a hymn: “O Lord, I Praise You”: “O Lord, I praise You, because You have chosen me. In the vast sea of humanity, it’s You who have found me. O Lord, I praise You, because You have loved me, and Your love fills the entire universe and the mountains and rivers …” With a beautiful melody of the hymn, brothers and sisters happily move along with the beat. But Liu Qiming has a different feeling: We are singing our praise to the Lord, yet where are our practical actions of praising the Lord and where is our normal living out? Does this accord with the Lord’s teachings? Liu Qiming cannot help thinking of the Lord’s word, “This people draws near to me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Aren’t we the ones that the Lord talks about? …
Finally, with the announcement of the priest, this Christmas celebration comes to a successful conclusion. The believers leave one by one with smiles on their faces, yet Liu Qiming drags himself to take the bus and returns back home. Lying on the sofa, Liu Qiming feels very hopeless and sad, with his heart filled with confusion and puzzlement. He thinks in his heart: Can such behavior of ours gain the Lord’s approval? At that moment, the doorbell rings, which disrupts his thought. He doesn’t know who will come at this time. After opening the door, he sees Brother Song Tao whom he hasn’t seen for years. Feeling surprised and excited, Liu Qiming says, “How come you are here?” Song Tao smiles and says, “To bring you a big Christmas present. Am I not welcome?” Liu Qiming answers, “Of course you are welcome!” Then they enter the hall and chat on the sofa happily.
During their chatting, Liu Qiming talks about the confusion and difficulty in his heart. Song Tao says with a great sigh, “Ah, to tell the truth, I have also realized this issue. The present condition of churches is really worrisome! Normally, the church is bleak, and there are only a few brothers and sisters who attend meetings, like lukewarm water, neither cold nor hot. However, when it’s time for such an important festival, each of them actively behaves with great love and praises the Lord in a loud voice. Outwardly, the church is very bustling, yet after the festival, the enthusiasm of believers cools down instantly, and the church also returns to its original condition. So, I am thinking, is our celebration worshiping and praising the Lord or not? Later, I see the words of the Lord, ‘But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (John 4: 23-24). God asks us to worship Him in spirit and in truth, not in word. He doesn’t expect us to go through the formalities to worship Him either. Therefore, comparing against the words of the Lord, I think our celebration in this way is not truly worshiping God but external praise and worship. It does not accord with!”
Hearing Song Tao’s words, Liu Qiming nods his head repeatedly and says, “What God wants is our worshiping Him in spirit and in truth. But we are focusing on the external praise and worship, holding all kinds of activities and celebrating festivals. All of these have nothing to do with the Lord’s teachings, and indeed do not accord with the will of the Lord!”
Song Tao drinks some water, then continues to say, “Later, I listened to a preacher’s sermon. He said worshiping God mainly refers to praising God from the bottom of our hearts. Which is to say, when we behold God’s glory and appearance as well as His almightiness, and taste God’s greatness and that God’s majesty and wrath is unoffendable, we thus give real praise to God in our hearts. This is precisely worshiping God. At the same time, he also said the key to believing in and worshiping God is to listen to God’s word and practice according to His word as well as follow His way. This is worshiping God practically. Just as thesays, ‘If a man love me, he will keep my words.… He that loves me not keeps not my sayings’ (John 14:23-24). ‘If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed’ (John 8:31). In addition, he also gave me a book. In the book, there is a paragraph of words, ‘In every age, God bestows some words upon man when He works in the world, telling man of some truths. These truths serve as the way to be adhered to by man, the way that is to be walked in by man, the way that enables man to fear God and shun evil, and the way that people should put into practice and adhere to in their lives and over the course of their life journeys. It’s for these reasons that God bestows these words on man. These words that come from God should be adhered to by man, and to adhere to them is to receive life. If a person does not adhere to them, does not put them into practice, and does not live out God’s words in their lives, then this person is not putting truth into practice. And if they’re not putting truth into practice, then they’re not fearing God and shunning evil, nor can they satisfy God. If someone can’t satisfy God, then they cannot receive God’s praise; this kind of person has no outcome.’
From these words, I gradually understand God’s will. Since weand read His word, we should follow His word and live out the reality of His word in our daily life. Meanwhile when encountering matters, we can act according to God’s teachings and bear witness for God as well as pursue to love and satisfy God with all our heart and mind. Only in this way can we be approved of by God. However, thinking about ourselves, nominally we believe in God and call upon the Lord Jesus, and we read the , attend meetings and listen to the sermons, but have we practiced the Lord’s word? When it comes to our own interests, can we put them aside to strictly practice according to God’s word? When we encounter hardship or things that do not match our conceptions, our hearts are filled with conflict and complaint, and we feel disobedient to and discontented with the environment that God arranges for us. And what’s worse, many brothers and sisters even follow the evil trend of the world to chase wealth and all kinds of material enjoyments, with little place for God in their hearts. They have long cast the Lord’s teachings to the back of their minds. Let’s think about it: Is such behavior of ours following God’s way? How can we be approved of by the Lord?”
Liu Qiming goes to the window, seeing the extraordinarily bustling atmosphere outside and hearing the noise of people celebrating the festival. Liu Qiming says with emotion, “If we do not practice according to the Lord’s word in daily life, and have no place for God in our hearts, even if we hold all kinds of activities in such festival, we cannot satisfy God! This outward, temporary enthusiasm, doesn’t mean we are practicing the truth and following the Lord’s way! If we don’t follow the Lord’s way, in the end, we will surely be abandoned by the Lord! For these years, I have been confused about this issue, but I couldn’t seem to figure it out. Through your fellowship, I can understand more clearly. In believing in and following God, the most critical thing is to practice the Lord’s word and do the will of the heavenly Father. This is what it means to truly worship and glorify God, and only in this way can our faith be approved of by the Lord!”
Song Tao also comes to the window. At this point, there is a firework sparkling in the sky. Seeing the sparkling firework, Song Tao says, “We people don’t know God’s will, and never think about how God thinks and views these things, but only consider how we think and how to be happy! In this way, how can what we do be approved by the Lord? I read a paragraph of words, ‘Without genuine knowledge of God, humanity will not have genuine worship and surrender, only blind idolization and superstition; without genuine knowledge of God, humanity cannot possibly act in accordance with the way of God, or fear God, or shun evil. Conversely, every activity and behavior in which man engages will be filled with rebellion and defiance, with slanderous imputations and calumnious judgments about Him, and with evil conduct running contrary to the truth and to the true meaning of God’s words.’ Without understanding of God’s will and knowledge of God, our worship to God is merely going through the formalities and a kind of slogan, which doesn’t have any practical meaning. And what’s more, we never abide by God’s teachings but still persist in our old ways; as to Satan’s temptation and plots, as well as the evil things, we do not have true discernment of them, thus we cannot abandon and get away from them. If these fundamental problems haven’t been solved, it proves that we are still rebelling against and resisting God, incompatible with the truth. Aren’t all of these evil? So, now what we should focus on most is how to pursue to have true knowledge of God, how to make our living out accord with God’s will, and how to obey and love God, so that we can become ones who do the will of the heavenly Father, and in the end, can be taken into the!”
Liu Qiming says, “That’s true! Because we have no knowledge of God and understanding of God’s will, we all act based on our preferences and notions as well as imaginations. Maybe, outwardly, we are not committing any great sins, but in substance we are violating the truth and not doing the will of God, which is the most serious problem! This reminds me of the Lord’s word, ‘Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 7:21). The most important thing in our faith is to pursue in accordance with the Lord’s will, which is the only way to! Brother Song, I feel your fellowship is filled with the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit. Especially those words you read touch me a lot. Can you lend me the book to read for several days?”
Song Tao smiles, “This is precisely the ‘present’ I brought to you!”
Saying this, Song Tao hands the book to Liu Qiming. Liu Qiming beholds the cover of the book, with a big surprise registering on his face …