By Li Cheng
I recollected that when I first started believing in the Lord, my pastor told me, “Spiritual devotion means to read scriptures, to pray, and to sing hymns to praise the Lord every day. Thesaid: ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24). So, as a believer in the Lord, we must practice according to His words; only in this way will He be pleased with us. When we pray, we can pray for our own families, the revival of our church, our weak brothers and sisters, God’s servants, and national leaders. As long as you are able to practice your spiritual devotions properly, then your spiritual condition will become increasingly high and you’ll have a proper relationship with the Lord. Thus, you can bring joy to God.” And so I began to practice according to the pastor’s teachings. Every day I would get up precisely at 5:00 a.m. to practice my spiritual devotions. First I would read two chapters of the Scriptures, sing hymns, and then pray as the pastor said. I did so continuously regardless of whether it was spring, summer, fall or winter.
One day, I went to a sister’s house to study the. When we talked about what spiritual devotion was, I was deeply engrossed in speaking about my experiences of practicing spiritual devotions. Then, she took out a book, found and read to me a passage of words: “A normal spiritual life is not limited to , song, church life, eating and drinking the words of God, and other such practices, but it means to live a spiritual life that is fresh and lively. It’s not about the method, but the result. Most people think that in order to have a normal spiritual life one must pray, sing, eat and drink the words of God, or try to figure out the words of God. No matter whether there is any result, or whether there is a true understanding, these people just focus on going through the motions on the outside, and do not focus on the result—they are people living within the rituals of religion, and are not people living within the church, and even less are they people of the kingdom. This kind of person’s prayers, singing, and eating and drinking of the words of God are all abiding by the rules, they are compelled to do them, and they are done in keeping with trends; they are not done willingly or done from the heart. No matter how much these people pray or sing, there will be no result at all, because all they practice are religious rules and rituals, and they are not practicing the word of God. By only focusing on the method, and taking the words of God as rules to keep, this kind of person is not practicing the word of God, but is satisfying the flesh, and is doing things to show off to others. This kind of religious ritual and rule comes from man, not from God. God does not keep rules, does not abide by any laws; He does new things every day and He does practical work. Like the people in the Three-Self Church who are limited to daily morning watch, evening prayers, giving thanks before meals, expressing thanks in everything, and other such practices, no matter how much these people do, or how long they practice, they will not have the work of the Holy Spirit. If people live within rules, with their hearts poured into practice, then the Holy Spirit has no way to work, because people’s hearts are taken up with rules, are taken up with human conceptions; therefore God has no way to do work; people will just always be living under control of the law, and this type of person will never be able to receive the praise of God” (“Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life”).
This passage of words she read moved my soul. Although I had been to seminary school, had read many spiritual books, past and present, here and abroad, and had listened to lots of sermons of famous preachers, yet I had never read or heard anything like this. Then, she fellowshiped a lot with me. Through these words and her fellowship, I understood that the true spiritual life is not determined by our external actions, or how we follow ceremony, but by the effect; in other words, it is based on what benefits or help it can bring to us. For example: Singing hymns isn’t for the sake of going through the process; rather, it is for the sake of practicing being quiet before God, and giving our hearts to Him to receive the enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is not a case of repeating again and again those worn-out words day after day and year after year, but that of opening our heart to tell God about our innermost thoughts and real difficulties, seeking His will in His presence, understanding His demands, and using His word to solve the practical difficulties in our lives. Reading God’s words does not aim to understand letters and doctrines, but to achieve a clearer knowledge of God’s present will and the work He is doing now. Take nowadays, for example. It’s already the period of the last days, which is the critical moment of welcoming the Lord’s return. So, when we read the Bible during our spiritual devotions, trying to figure out the scriptures prophesying the return of the Lord in the last days more is especially important. When reading them, we can ponder: How will the Lord appear again to work when He returns in the last days? How will the Lord knock to find His sheep? How do the wise virgins listen for the Lord’s voice, welcome the Lord and feast with Him? How will the prophecy in the Book of Revelation about the Holy Spirit speaking to the churches come true? And, where should we go to search for the words of the Holy Spirit spoken to the churches? Only when we seek and pray more in this way, centered around the present work of the Holy Spirit during our spiritual devotions, will we be able to easily obtain the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, understand the Lord’s will and receive His leadership and guidance.
Then I began to self-reflect. Over these years, when practicing my spiritual devotions, I have never sought results but have just kept to the external practices. When singing hymns as usual, I just sang aimlessly. When praying, I always reiterated my former words. I read the Bible only to equip myself with Bible knowledge and to understand letters and doctrines. Although I knew that it is now near the end of the last days, that the prophecies about the Lord’s return have basically been fulfilled, and that the Lord is most likely to have already appeared somewhere to work, yet I have never tried to figure out God’s actual intentions and the present work of the Holy Spirit during my spiritual devotions, so I seldom gained the enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Spirit. All I did was completely comply with rules and engage in religious ceremonies. That wasn’t true spiritual devotion at all. For so many years, not only have I gained nothing, but I have led my brothers and sisters astray, causing them to only focus on the external process during their prayers in their spiritual devotions, and to exclusively read the letters of the apostles but seldom earnestly ponder the Lord’s words or prophecies when reading the Bible during their spiritual devotions, to the point that their spirits withered. What was more, with regard to how to welcome the Lord, because I had no enlightenment and guidance of the Lord, I couldn’t ponder His will, nor did I search for the words of the Holy Spirit spoken to the churches. How could I expect my spiritual devotions to achieve results when following doctrine like this? I continued to ponder over these words. I saw they not only revealed the deviations in my spiritual life and the root of this problem, but showed me the way of practice. Therefore, I borrowed this book from the sister.
After I returned home, I read a few more pieces of words. I saw a passage of words that said: “People, love God, and satisfy God by touching the Spirit of God with their heart, thereby obtaining His satisfaction; when engaging with God’s words with their heart, they are therefore moved by the Spirit of God. If you wish to achieve a proper spiritual life and establish a proper relationship with God, you must first give your heart to Him, and quiet your heart before Him. Only after you have poured your whole heart into God can you gradually develop a proper spiritual life. … If your heart can be poured into God and keep quiet before Him, then you will have the opportunity and the qualifications to be used by the Holy Spirit, to receive the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, and even more, you will have the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to make up for your shortcomings. When you give your heart to God, you can enter more deeply into the positive aspect and be on a higher plane of insight; in the negative aspect, you will have more understanding of your own faults and shortcomings, you will be more eager to seek to satisfy , and you will not be passive, and will actively enter in. This will mean that you are a correct person” (“Establishing a Proper Relationship With God Is Very Important”). Pondering over these words, I understood: If we want to have a normal spiritual life, we must first quiet our hearts before God, and then read God’s word with an honest heart. Only by doing so can we establish a normal relationship with God, gain the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, and discover our deficiencies in real life. After that, we can find a way to practice in God’s words and then bring God’s words into real life to practice to solve our actual problems which concern our belief in the Lord and which we encounter in life. Only when we achieve such effects will our spiritual life be true spiritual devotion. I felt these words communicated very clearly what true spiritual devotion was and how to achieve it.
I also had some understanding about such aspects of the truth from the book as what true spiritual life is, how to establish a proper relationship with God, and what true church life is. I felt more and more brightened through pondering the pieces of words I read in the past few days. Moreover, I understood many scriptures I didn’t understand before, as if I saw the sunlight after clouds had passed. For example, during my spiritual devotions, when I read the Bible, I tried and tried to fathom the Lord’s prophecies about His return in the last days to seek God’s practical will and the real work of the Holy Spirit, and then I received the enlightenment and guidance of the Lord, and much new light. I read these words spoken by the Lord Jesus, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come” (John 16:12–13). “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the middle of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). From these verses I saw that, when the Lord returns in the last days, He will utter truths, speak to the churches, and reveal all the mysteries of the truth which allow man to gain life,and . Also, He will knock at the door by means of uttering words. By hearing God’s voice, the wise virgins will be able to welcome the Lord, and to be raptured to go with Him to the feast. I thought, “Only God is the truth, the way and the life, so the most pressing matter now is finding what the Spirit says to the churches, finding all the truths expressed by the returned Lord in the last days, and hearing God’s voice. That way, I can follow the footprints of the Lamb and welcome the Lord’s return.”
Contemplating the Lord’s words, and then reading the truths and mysteries this book reveals, I thought, “Could it be that these words are the words of the Holy Spirit to the churches?” Realizing this, I could not sit still even for a moment. I must go find the sister to ask for clarification. After praying to the Lord, I took the book and rushed over to her house …