In the last meeting, Pastor Ma talked about these two verses “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). He said: “It is now the last days, and the prophecies of the advent of the Lord have basically been fulfilled. So we should continue to work hard for the Lord, run around more and spend more, and in this way, we’ll be raptured to the kingdom of heaven at the Lord’s appearing. I remember in the past when there were no churches here, only a few brothers and sisters followed the Lord. Then, I started to run around for spreading the Lord’s gospel. No matter it was rainy, windy, or snowy, nothing could prevent me; sometimes I even had no time to harvest the crops. Some unbelievers laughed at me, but I didn’t care, because I knew the Lord approved of me, and that this was the suffering I ought to bear to enter the kingdom of heaven. …” Hearing Pastor Ma’s fellowship, all the brothers and sisters cast gazes of admiration upon him, and I was secretly pleased, thinking: “Since I began to believe in the Lord, I have been doing my utmost to sacrifice and expend for Him. It seems that my hardships will not be in vain.”
However, Brother Zhen raised doubts about Pastor Ma’s viewpoint that we could enter the kingdom of heaven by working hard. Brother Zhen said: “We believers in the Lord all think if we work tirelessly, following the example of Paul by preaching and expending for the Lord, we’ll be directly raised into the kingdom of heaven at the Lord’s return. Practicing in this way seems right in man’s eyes, and no one disagrees, yet as believers in the Lord we should seek the truth in everything. Though practicing in this way conforms to people’s conceptions, does it conform to God’s will? We should know that God’s words are the principles of our actions, and the standard by which all people, things, and matters are measured. If we practice in accordance with God’s words, we’ll surely gain God’s approval; if we go against His words and practice based on our own conceptions and imaginings, then we’ll definitely be detested and rejected by God.
After listening to Brother Zhen’s interpretation, I felt some resistance in my heart: “While the price I have paid is not as great as that of the pastors and elders, my expenditures and sacrifices are passable. In the church, I’ve enthusiastically participated in various activities and sacrificed a lot for them. I think what I have done is in accordance with God’s will.” When my view was doubted, I could hardly accept it; yet after hearing Brother Zhen’s fellowship, I found his words were reasonable.
Brother Zhen continued with his fellowship: “Thesaid, ‘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. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’ (Matthew 7:21-23). From the Lord’s words we can see the Lord Jesus only said ‘but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ He didn’t say that all those who work hard for Him would be blessed and enter the kingdom of heaven. Think back to the time when the Pharisees traveled over land and sea to spread the gospel, toiling and laboring. They took hard work for God as a capital, making people worship and follow them. When the Lord Jesus came to do His work, they saw that many Jewish people followed the Lord Jesus. Afraid that they would lose their status and livelihood, they fanatically resisted and condemned the Lord Jesus, and finally colluded with the Roman government to nail Him on the cross. So no matter how hard they had labored for God, all they did was resisting God and doing evil. So how could they enter the kingdom of heaven? Let’s look at the people of every denomination and sect today. Many of them can suffer, pay the price, and work tirelessly for the Lord, but they never put the Lord’s words into practice, nor do they exalt or testify to God during their working and preaching. Instead, they often establish themselves to make others admire and follow them. Everything they do is to maintain their own position and income, and even more to enter the kingdom of heaven. Such kind of sacrifices is nothing more than making a deal with God. So how could they be those who do the will of God? It is clear that we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven only through working hard, and that working hard is not the criterion for entering the kingdom of heaven.”
When we were listening attentively, Pastor Ma asked with a defiant look: “Then can you tell us what it means to do the will of God?” Brother Zhen answered calmly: “Doing the will of God means that people obey the work of God, regard practicing God’s word and obeying Him above all else. They can abide by God’s commandments, work for the Lord as required by God, and truly dedicate themselves to the Lord, without thought of what they might gain in return. All they do is not for reward or for laurels, but for practicing the truth, obeying God and loving Him. Those people are the ones who do God’s will. The Lord Jesus once taught us: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment’ (Matthew 22:37-38). This is the Lord’s requirement of us. When we abandon other things and expend ourselves for the Lord, if we can put God’s words into practice, love God and satisfy Him with all our heart and soul, then this is following God’s will. But if we don’t practice the Lord’s words and His commandments, we are certainly not those who do the will of God. We all know Peter recorded in, who gave up everything to work for the Lord. He could sincerely dedicate himself to the Lord, so the Lord Jesus entrusted him with the heavy responsibility of shepherding the churches. From Peter’s letters we can see that he never testified how he sacrificed or spent for the Lord, or how much work he did, but rather, he always testified the Lord Jesus’ redemption, love and salvation for man. Besides, no matter what kind of hardship, sicknesses, persecution or tribulation he experienced, he never forgot the Lord’s instructions, but shepherded the churches with all his heart and mind. In the end, he was nailed upside down on the cross, and was able to love God to the utmost and obey God until death. It can be seen that Peter was a man who obeys God’s will and was qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Pastor Ma was about to open his mouth to speak when Brother Zhen added: “Pastor Ma, whether we believers and followers of the Lord can enter the kingdom of heaven should be based on the words of the Lord, ‘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.’ Doing the will of the heavenly Father is the only criterion for entering the kingdom of heaven, because the Lord Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me’ (John 14:6). Christ is the truth, the gateway to the kingdom of heaven, which none may bypass. Only by practicing God’s words and following His way can we enter into the kingdom of heaven. However, Paul’s words, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: From now on there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness’ (2 Timothy 4:7-8), are not the standard of entering the kingdom of heaven. Paul was just an apostle preaching the gospel, a corrupt person like us. If his words are in keeping with the truth and the words of the Lord, then we can put them into practice; otherwise, we shouldn’t do so. Is this not correct?” Pastor Ma felt awkward about Brother Zhen’s inquiry, and beads of sweat burst out on his face.
Pondering Brother Zhen’s words, I was sunk in deep thought: “What Brother fellowshiped is reasonable. I always want to enter into the kingdom of heaven and gain the reward by sacrificing and expending; am I not following the example of Paul? This kind of expenditures won’t be approved by God. Working hard for the Lord doesn’t mean doing the will of God, and is not the criterion for entering the kingdom of heaven. Only by practicing God’s words, loving God and obeying Him with our whole heart and mind can we abide by His way and His will, and only this is the criterion for entering the kingdom of heaven.” Thank God for His enlightenment and guidance.
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