By Fangxia, United States
There Was Such Enthusiasm in the Church in the Old Days
Our family has been Catholic for generations and I was baptized when I was only a few months old. I remember always being woken with a start to the blaring sound of an alarm, and then having my parents drag me out of bed to hurriedly wash and dress before rushing off to our church to attend mass at night.
My parents said that people who believed in the Lord in China were persecuted, and that priests and believers were often arrested and taken into custody, and so it was only safe for us to attend mass at nighttime. Although it was so dangerous, our brethren in the church were still very enthusiastic and devoted. No matter the weather, wherever a mass was being held, they would pass on the details one to another and they would fall over each other to bring the elderly and the young to attend. Everyone would sing hymns, as excited as if it were New Year, and many believers remained in high spirits despite staying up all night …
Now the Church Has Become a Desolation
In the blink of an eye, I was all grown up, but the church also underwent a great change. People attending mass got fewer and fewer, and most of those who did attend were elderly men and women; very rarely were young faces seen at mass. When the church held the occasional event, mass became lively and bustling, but it was as chaotic as an outdoor food market—there were people engaged in pyramid selling, direct selling, people selling insurance, people who were opening supermarkets and restaurants, and so on. Everyone was pretending to be there to attend mass but they were really there to find customers. When believers got together, they did not talk about how to worship the Lord or how to practice His word, but rather they talked about petty household affairs, or they tried to peddle their family produce; no one was there to sincerely worship the Lord. As time went on, the situation in the church got worse and worse. The priests’ sermons were unenlightening, and they would often wantonly condemn other denominations and would tell the congregation to be on our guard against them. They even split into cliques and separated themselves from other clergy members. Sometimes, because they clung to differing views, they would argue and fight amongst themselves, and the congregation also took sides and judged and verbally attacked each other, and none of the compassion or tolerance that used to be there was there any longer. Witnessing this scene in the church, I couldn’t figure out how it had come to be in such a state, and I felt an inexpressible sadness.
In 2009, while I was studying abroad in Japan, I went to church to attend mass and saw that the church in Japan was just as chaotic as the church in China: The priests and the Catholic faithful spoke and acted like unbelievers, they all followed worldly trends, and they all engaged in one-upmanship and were snobbish with each other. The priests would be all smiles toward those with money and would snub those who had no money and speak to them in a brusque tone. Seeing this go on in a foreign country, I felt incredibly disappointed and confused, and I no longer felt as attached to the Lord as I had before. The morning and evening service I attended every day became a burden, and sometimes I just didn’t want to go to church to attend mass. Afraid that the Lord would condemn me to hell, however, I dared not stop going. Later, although I was forcing myself to go to church, my spirit was not being provided for and my heart felt empty. Sometimes, I would think: “How has the church become like this? Before, there were few believers and the CCP persecuted us, and yet we would still enthusiastically attend mass in the middle of the night. But nowadays, the more comfortable and easier our environment gets, conversely, the lazier people get—could it be because more people are believing in the Lord? Or because people have listened to so many sermons that there is no longer any mystique about it?” I felt so perplexed.
In May 2018, my husband and I emigrated to the US with our daughter who was not yet one year old. After we’d settled down, we started to attend mass at a church near our home. Inconceivably, there were very few people in this huge, lavish church. The priest stood above us giving his sermon, while most people sat below him looked drowsy or were dozing off. Looking at the sparsity of people and the empty seats in such a big church, and seeing the expressionless, blank faces of the people sitting there, I couldn’t even express how I felt.
I wanted to go online and find some good churches, but what I found was that many Catholic churches were filled with memorial plaques for the dead and people just burnt incense and made offerings, and some church priests invited monks to come and chant scriptures, and there were many scandals involving priests and bishops…. Seeing these circumstances, I thought of the words spoken by thein the Bible: “My house shall be called the house of ; but you have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13). From China to Japan to the United States, from terra firma to the Internet, all Catholic churches were just the same. I suddenly felt that the modern-day Catholic church had entirely gone bad. Although it appeared to be quite lavish on the outside, it was no longer a sacred place. I was at a loss. The church had become so chaotic and stagnant, so why didn’t the Holy Spirit do something about it?
In My Bewilderment, a Chance Encounter Reveals the Root Cause of the Church’s Desolation
One day in July this year, I took my daughter with me to attend mass at church and I met Sister Kelly. As soon as we met, we felt like old friends. On the way home, Sister Kelly told me many stories from the Bible, such as the Samaritan woman who, because she listened to the Lord Jesus speak, recognized from His authoritative and powerful words that He was the coming of the Messiah. And she said that the wise virgins spoken of by the Lord Jesus not only referred to being externally diligent in reading the Bible and consistently attending gatherings but that, more importantly, it referred to being able to discern the Lord’s voice, for only by doing that could we welcome the Lord when He returns…. I felt the sister’s fellowship to be new and exciting. I had attended gatherings at Catholic churches for so long and had never before heard anyone give such a fresh, new fellowship. I felt very enlightened and my heart enjoyed it a great deal. The sister then invited me to attend their Bible study class, and I happily accepted.
I met many new Catholics at the Bible study class, as well as many other Christian brothers and sisters and the preacher, Brother Liu. Seeing these brothers and sisters gave me a warm feeling inside. Everyone was exchanging experiences with each other and I felt very liberated. And so, I also opened up in fellowship to them about my own perplexities.
I said, “I’ve been to Catholic churches in several countries and I never felt the Lord’s love in any of them, nor did I feel the work of the Holy Spirit. Some church priests make the congregation place the memorial plaques of their deceased in the church and then worship them. I’ve witnessed the church becoming more and more chaotic and no longer filled with the Lord’s glory. My own faith is waxing colder and colder, and I don’t know why all this is happening!”
Brother Liu then said, “Sister, the problem you raise is very real and it is something that puzzles the vast majority of today’s faithful. Catholics all think that Catholicism is the root of Christianity, but how then can the church lose the Lord’s glory and decline to become the desolate wasteland that it is today? Actually, if we want to know the reason for the church’s current desolation, we first have to recall the reason for the desolation in the temple that occurred several thousand years ago. In the beginning of the Age of Law, the temple was filled with the Lord’s glory, and everyone had to be reverential and respectful before the Holy Spirit. Even the priests served the Holy Spirit in the temple and they had to be very careful and cautious, for the Holy Spirit would smite anyone who offended Him. For example, in the Old Testament it is recorded that there was a king named Ozias. After he had won a great victory in battle and had become powerful, he became proud and arrogant. He would not listen to the priest’s warnings, and he willfully entered the temple to burn incense as an offering to God. Thus, he offended God, and his forehead immediately broke out with leprosy, and he was a leper unto the day of his death (see 2 Chronicles 26:16-21). From this we can see that, while the Holy Spirit was present in the temple, no one dared to break the laws, and not even a king of all the people was exempt. This is because the Holy Spirit is holy and He tolerates no filth—seeing filth, He must then smite it. But when the end of the Age of Law was reached, the common people no longer kept the laws, the priests worshiped idols and offered lame sacrifices, and people dared to openly change money and to buy and sell livestock and fowl in the temple, turning the temple into a den of thieves. And yet the Holy Spirit did not discipline or punish them at all. Why was that? If the Holy Spirit was present in the temple, would He have allowed it to become a den of thieves? This clearly would not have happened. Therefore, by the time the temple had become a den of thieves, the Holy Spirit had long since departed. So why did the Holy Spirit depart from the temple? It was mainly because the Jewish leaders no longer followed the laws of God and no longer had God-fearing hearts. They only observed human traditions that had been passed down to them and they discarded God’s commandments; they strayed wholly from God’s way and lost the work of the Holy Spirit. Besides this, the Holy Spirit departed from the temple because God had already become flesh to perform His work of redeeming mankind in the Age of Grace, and because the work of the Holy Spirit had moved elsewhere. We all know that, at the end of the Age of Law, because the Israelites could not keep the laws, they were subject to being stoned to death or burned by heavenly fire. If the Holy Spirit had not departed from the temple, brought the Age of Law to an end and performed the work of the crucifixion and the redemption of mankind, then mankind would have perished under the laws. It is evident that the Holy Spirit departed from the temple due to the needs of mankind and due to the needs of His work. The work of the Holy Spirit forges ever onward and cannot stop in one age. After the work of the Age of Law had reaped results, the Holy Spirit began His next stage of work. The Holy Spirit brought the old work to an end, left the place of the old work, and went to begin a new work and led and guided man in the new age. If people in the new age were unable to keep up with it, then they would be without the work of the Holy Spirit and would be unable to obtain the provision of the Holy Spirit. Over time, people’s hunger and thirst led them to commit sins without being disciplined and they became increasingly degenerate; oases turned to barren desert, Canaan was struck by famine, and the church became a desolation! Just as God says: ‘I will send forth a famine into the land: not a famine of bread, nor a thirst of water, but of hearing the word of the Lord’ (Amos 8:11). Similarly, the Catholic church today has become a marketplace and a den of thieves. And why does God not discipline or punish the church? There is a hymn that goes: ‘Wherever there is charity, wherever there is love, there God shall be’ (‘Wherever There Is Charity’). And since the church is now embroiled in arguments and infighting, without the slightest modicum of tolerance or patience, where then is God?”
Where Did God Go To?
I nodded. My heart warmed when I heard the brother sing that well-known hymn, but I also felt a little sad. I said, “What you say makes sense. Being unable to feel any love in the church shows that the Lord is no longer present. If the Holy Spirit was present in the church, then no one would dare treat Him with contempt.”
The brother said, “Yes, so if God is no longer present in the modern-day church, where then did God go to?”
The brother’s question started me pondering deeply about this: “That’s right!” I thought. “At the end of the Age of Law, the temple became desolate because the Holy Spirit had departed to do His new work of redeeming mankind. The church now has also become desolate, so where did God go to?” Thinking over the time since I began to, I had followed the prescribed order and read the Bible and attended mass. When I saw how chaotic the church had become, I had many questions, but I very rarely wondered where God had gone to! I really wanted to understand this question, and so I awaited the brother’s answer.
The brother opened the Bible and asked me to read from it. I read: “I also have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon: and the piece whereupon I rained not, withered” (Amos 4:7). He then gave fellowship, saying, “From God’s prophecy, we can see that the times when no rain falls upon our church are the times when it is without the work of the Holy Spirit, showing that the Holy Spirit is already in another place beginning a new work. Actually, the Lord has already returned in the flesh, and He speaks His words and has begun a new work ushering in the new age. The words ‘one piece was rained upon’ mean those churches that accept and submit to the Lord’s work when He returns in the last days and, because they accept the Lord’s current words, they enjoy the watering and provision of the water of life bestowed on them by the Lord. The words ‘the piece whereupon I rained not, withered’ mean that, because the Holy Spirit’s work has moved elsewhere, the Holy Spirit has already concluded the work of sowing seeds in the Age of Grace and has now begun the harvesting work of the Age of Kingdom. The work of the Holy Spirit has been completely withdrawn from the churches of the Age of Grace and is now being performed upon those who follow the Lord’s new work. Without the protection of the Holy Spirit’s work, the priests and bishops of the churches of the Age of Grace wither, they have no worthwhile sermons to give at mass, but can only lead their congregations to follow rules and observe rituals. There is another reason for the desolation in the church, and that is because priests and bishops do not practice the Lord’s word and they do not keep His commandments. When they hear someone preaching theof the Lord’s return, they don’t seek or study it at all. They just reject, resist and condemn the work of the returned Lord, and this leads to the church being detested and rejected by the Lord, it completely loses the work of the Holy Spirit, it can gain no provision from the Holy Spirit’s water of life and it falls into desolation. Therefore, the congregation worship idols and argue amongst themselves; they are not disciplined when they commit sins and they fall asleep during sermons, and the church has become a place of commerce and trade.”
Listening to the brother’s fellowship, I felt amazed: Could it be that the church had now become desolate because the Lord had already returned to perform a new work and we had not kept pace with it? At that moment, I couldn’t help but recall when someone had preached that the Lord had returned to perform a new work, the priest had condemned them and blasphemed against them during mass. Only now did I understand that the church had become desolate and chaotic because priests and bishops were not leading their congregations to seek and study the work of the returned Lord, but instead were resisting and condemning it. They were going against the Lord’s commandments and the teachings of the apostles, and so they were detested and rejected by the Holy Spirit and abandoned and weeded out by the Lord’s work.
How Do We Seek the Work of the Holy Spirit?
Just then, I suddenly felt as though I was having an awakening. As I listened to Brother Liu’s clear and concise fellowship, I became certain in my heart that the Lord Jesus had transferred to another place to perform a new work. But how could I find a church that had the work of the Holy Spirit? And so, I gave voice to this question.
The brother said in all earnestness, “Thank God! That you are able to understand it in this way is entirely by the enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Spirit. If we want to find a church that has the work of the Holy Spirit, we first have to find out what work the returned Lord wants to perform. The Lord Jesus showed us the way long ago in the Bible, so let’s now examine several verses of scripture: ‘I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall shew you’ (John 16:12-13). The Lord Jesus told us that He yet had many things to say to us. Because people’s statures at that time were too small, they wouldn’t have understood Him even if He had said these things to them. Therefore, the Lord Jesus has more to say to us when He returns in the last days, He will tell us all the truths we need for our lives, and these truths are the truths that will expel our sins and purify us. Just as it says in the Bible: ‘Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth’ (John 17:17). And it also says in Revelation: ‘He, that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches: To him that overcometh, I will give the hidden manna’ (Revelation 2:17). The Lord reminds us that He has more to say to us when He returns and that He will give to us the hidden manna. When we find the words of the Holy Spirit, we will find the Lord.
“Let’s read another passage from God’s words, ‘When Jesus came into the world of man, He brought the Age of Grace and ended the Age of Law. During the last days, God once more became flesh, and when He became flesh this time, He ended the Age of Grace and brought the Age of Kingdom. All those who accept the second incarnation of God will be led into the Age of Kingdom, and be able to personally accept the guidance of God. Though Jesus did much work among man, He only completed the redemption of all mankind and became man’s sin offering, and did not rid man of all his corrupt disposition. Fully saving man from the influence of Satan not only required Jesus to take on the sins of man as the sin offering, but also required God to do greater work to completely rid man of his disposition, which has been corrupted by Satan. And so, after man was forgiven his sins, God has returned to flesh to lead man into the new age, and begun the work of chastisement and judgment, and this work has brought man into a higher realm. All those who submit under His dominion shall enjoy higher truth and receive greater blessings. They shall truly live in the light, and shall gain the truth, the way, and the life.’ God’s words tell us clearly that the Lord’s work to save man does not remain at a standstill, but rather that it constantly leads people onward. In the Age of Law, because nascent mankind at that time didn’t know how to live, the Holy Spirit, in light of the needs of people at that time and through Moses proclaiming the laws, personally worked and guided people’s lives, and He made them keep the laws and commandments and live within the blessings of God; at the end of the Age of Law, however, because people could not keep the laws and were committing too many sins, they all faced the danger of being condemned by the laws and put to death. In order to save mankind, God incarnated in the form of the Lord Jesus and performed the work of the Age of Grace, and He was crucified upon the cross as a sin offering for man. As long as we confessed and repented to the Lord, then our sins were forgiven, thus signifying that we would no longer be cursed and condemned by the laws for committing transgressions or violating the laws. Although the Lord does not see us as sinful, this does not mean that we are without sin, for Satan’s sinful nature remains deeply rooted within us. Although we ourselves may appear to do good deeds, we still do them for our own profit and we frequently tell lies and deceive people. As soon as a situation occurs that is not to our liking, we can often misunderstand and blame the Lord. Even if we don’t speak our thoughts aloud, we still feel negative and oppositional within our hearts. Whenever natural disasters and man-made calamities occur, we can even betray the Lord…. These behaviors are sufficient to prove that we are still living in sin. Therefore, in order to purify and save us utterly, the Lord has once again incarnated in the last days to speak His words and to perform a newer, higher work than that performed in the Age of Grace—the work of judgment that begins in God’s house. All who accept and follow the Lord and all who accept the work of words in the Age of Kingdom attend the wedding feast of the Lamb, they gain all the truths bestowed on man by God and they start to live the life of the people of the Age of Kingdom, face-to-face with the Lord, just as it is prophesied in Revelation: ‘Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God’ (Revelation 21:3).”
After listening to the brother’s fellowship, I felt light fill my heart. So the Lord’s work was forging onward and the Holy Spirit had departed from the churches of the Age of Grace and was already performing a new work—He had begun to perform the new work of the Age of Kingdom. And yet when we hear someone preaching the news that the Lord has returned to perform a new work, we instead believe the outright lies of the priests; we don’t listen, we don’t try to get close to it and we don’t seek or study it. We just stick to our churches and we do not keep up with the Lord’s footsteps, and so we are forsaken by the Lord. Now, only by keeping up with the Lord’s footsteps can we find a church that has the work of the Holy Spirit, and only by accepting the new work of the Age of Kingdom performed by the Lord can we obtain the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit and live face-to-face with the Lord.
The Lord Has Already Returned
Over the next few days, Brother Liu fellowshiped with me in detail about the three stages of work of the Lord’s six-thousand-year management plan to save mankind, as well as about the inside story and essence of the work the Lord performs in each age. He also gave me fellowship about the difference between being saved and attaining complete salvation, what the incarnation is, how to discern false Christs, the mystery of God’s name, and so on. My thirsting heart was watered by the water of life, and my spirit was greatly satisfied.
After I’d accepted the work of Almighty God, I finally saw the light. It turned out that Eastern Lightning, which is preached in China and which has elicited much discussion and is condemned by Catholic priests, is the appearance and work of the Lord, and I said with such emotion, “I’m so glad that I’ve heard this way from start to finish, otherwise I’d still be resisting the Lord without even being aware of it! That really was so dangerous!” Afterward, I began to avidly read Almighty God’s words, proactively attend gatherings, watch gospel movies and learn hymns, and I very soon became sure about Almighty God’s work of the last days. In The Church of Almighty God, I truly came to experience the peace and enjoyment that comes from having the work of the Holy Spirit, and I felt the warmth of this large family.
It wasn’t long before a sister and I bore witness to God’s work of the last days to my husband. My husband now also keeps up with Almighty God’s work of the last days, every day we enjoy being nourished and watered by God’s water of life, and our lives are making constant progress. It is the word of Almighty God that reveals all mysteries and that allows us to have discernment. We will never again numbly follow false shepherds along the path of resisting God, and we are finally keeping up with the footsteps of the Lamb.