Do you know how to listen to God’s voice and welcome the Lord?
By Pengbo, US
Dear brothers and sisters of Spiritual Q&A,
Greetings! A question has been puzzling me for quite a while. I have sought the help of some pastors and elders, but even they have failed to resolve it. I am writing to share and discuss the matter with you, and hoping you can help.
I am a preacher. I used to have the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit when I read the Lord’s words, I never ran out of things to preach about, and the brothers and sisters of my church enjoyed my sermons and gained some benefit. But somewhere along the line, I no longer felt the Lord’s presence, my sermons became repeats of old topics, and I had nothing new to preach, so my brothers and sisters dozed off during our meetings. Preaching at meetings actually became something I was afraid of doing. Although I continued to preach and work, I was unable to practice the Lord’s words in my life, I didn’t have forgiveness or patience when I dealt with others, and most of my brothers and sisters became busy with business, work, and family. Their faith gradually grew cold and they were unwilling to attend the meetings anymore. When I see so few people coming to the church for the meetings, as a preacher, knowing that I can’t help my brothers and sisters in their spiritual lives makes me feel terrible and indebted to the Lord. We’ve tried to arrange meal activities, group fasting and prayer…but all to no avail. We still can’t feel the Lord’s guidance. So, I want to discuss this problem with you. Why our church has become like this? What should we do to bring the church back to its former self?
From your letter, we can see you are a person who is willing to seek the truth, and who bears burdens and feels responsible for the brothers and sisters and the church. Your query is a common question in most churches today, and it’s worth seeking and discussing together. Thanks be to God for giving us this opportunity today, and may God guide us to a solution to the problem.
I am also a preacher and my church once suffered the same situation as yours did. Just like you, I tried many solutions but to no avail. I came before God many times to pray and seek. Then, I thought of my college classmate Xiang Guangming, who is also a Christian and had previously preached the Lord’s gospel to me. Brother Xiang is quite spiritual, there is always enlightenment and light in his fellowship on the Lord’s words, and he has unique insights into spiritual matters and how to deal with some aspects of church work. Each time I fellowship with him, I always gain a lot. Later, I prayed, asking God to give us a chance to fellowship, and thanks to God’s arrangements, we met. Through my fellowship with Brother Xiang and Brother Yang, I finally received the answer I was looking for. I’d like to share my experience with you in the hope that it will help you.
One day, three months ago, Brother Yang and Brother Xiang came to visit me. I told them about my situation and the condition of the church. After listening to what I had to say, Brother Xiang said, “It’s not just one or two churches in such a condition, it prevails among the whole religious community.” His words reminded me of the desolate situation of the temple described in. Then Brother Xiang shared some Bible verses with me, “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said to them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves” (Mat 21:12-13). He continued: “Here the reprimanded the Jewish leaders, saying, ‘you have made it a den of thieves.’ This was because the Jewish leaders didn’t have hearts that feared God. They didn’t follow Jehovah’s laws and commandments, they did things against the laws in God’s temple, and they allowed people to do business in the temple. As a result, the temple that was once filled with the glory of Jehovah and where believers worshiped God became a place to do business and a den of thieves where money was exchanged and livestock bought and sold. These Jewish leaders replaced God’s commandments with man’s teachings. For example, God required man to be filial toward his parents, but they taught that he didn’t need to do that as long as he gave his parents enough money. They were hypocrites who fooled people with outward good behaviors but secretly didn’t follow the Lord’s words. They enlarged their phylacteries, lengthened the tassels of their clothing, and stood conspicuously at crossroads to make long prayers. They donated one tenth of their earnings every month, but secretly they pocketed widows’ possessions, sacrificed lame animals to God, and stole God’s sacrifices. They didn’t practice the Lord’s words themselves, but to protect their status and reputations, they spoke in letters and doctrines about the Scriptures, exalted themselves, and testified how they suffered hardships and paid a price while barely exalting or testifying the Lord. Because the Jewish leaders disobeyed , lived in sin, and were despised by God, the whole of Judaism was abandoned by the Holy Spirit, and the temple that used to contain God’s glory became a desolate den of thieves.“
Churches are in the same state. The pastors, elders and workers do not have hearts that fear God, nor do they follow the Lord’s teachings. They teach brothers and sisters to love each other and love their neighbors as themselves, but they are envious of their coworkers, fight and scheme with each other, and have no love or tolerance. They speak in letters and doctrines to deceive people, they exalt themselves and testify of how much they have worked and suffered for the Lord, they proclaim that they are the most loyal to the Lord, and declare that the Lord will lift them up into the kingdom of heaven when He returns. In such ways, they entrap believers tightly under their power. The believers they lead are deprived of their supply of life, end up losing the passion for pursuing the truth they once had, and live in a state of negativity and weakness. Thereupon, many people begin to follow worldly trends and seek fleshly pleasures, abandon the teachings of the Lord, and no longer attend meetings. Such churches have become mere religious venues, and have lost the work of the Holy Spirit and. It’s just as the Lord Jesus said: ‘And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold’ (Matthew 24:12). Therefore, the main reason why the religious world has lost the work of the Holy Spirit is that the pastors and elders have deviated from the Lord’s way and God has abandoned them.“
Another important reason for the desolation of the churches is that the work of the Holy Spirit has moved on and God has started new work. If we fail to follow the steps of God’s work, we lose the work of the Holy Spirit and fall into darkness. Let’s read a verse from the Bible. Amos 4:7 says: ‘And also I have withheld the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain on one city, and caused it not to rain on another city: one piece was rained on, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.’ The scripture mentions two cases, one with rain and one without. The city with rain refers to churches with the Holy Spirit’s work, while the city without rain refers to the churches without the Holy Spirit’s work. Whether a city has rain or not is in God’s hands. In the latter period of the Age of Law, people no longer upheld the law and they were all in danger of being stoned to death or burned by the fires of heaven, but God couldn’t bear to see men being condemned to death by the law, so He personally became incarnate and came amongst man to do the work of redeeming mankind in the name of the Lord Jesus. The leaders of Judaism at the time didn’t actively seek and investigate, but instead pushed the common people to oppose, judge, and condemn the Lord Jesus’ work, and even nailed the Lord Jesus to the cross. They didn’t keep up with God’s new work, so they lost the work of the Holy Spirit, fell into darkness, and were finally condemned and eliminated by God. Meanwhile, those who left the temple for the Lord’s redemption work enjoyed the provision and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and lived in the grace and blessings of the Lord.”
As he talked about the reasons for the desolation in the churches, scenes of the desolation of my own church in recent years came into my mind: My brothers and sisters becoming cold in their faith, preachers giving sermons containing nothing but stale truisms, coworkers fighting amongst each other, and so on. I was sure that my church had lost the Lord’s blessings.
I then asked Brother Xiang, “Brother Xiang, your fellowshiping has a biblical basis and complies with the facts. Now I understand the reasons for the desolation of my church. One is that the pastors, elders and workers don’t follow the Lord’s words, but rather disobey them, which makes God detest them. Another is that our church has lost the work of the Holy Spirit and we no longer follow in God’s footsteps. I’m afraid that if we continue like this, we will be abandoned by the Lord just like the people in the temple of the latter period. Thanks be to God! Brother Xiang, what should we do to change the current situation of the church? Is there any path that we can take?”
Brother Xiang said, “Obviously the work of the Holy Spirit is absent from your church. The only way to revive the church is to find the footsteps of God immediately. Wherever the work of the Holy Spirit is present, there too will you find God’s blessings. Only by catching up with God’s footsteps can believers obtain the provision and support that they need.”
Brother Yang nodded and said, “If we believe in the Lord, we should obey the Lord’s words and closely follow in God’s footsteps so that we can be watered and shepherded by God. Only then will we obtain truth and life rather than be abandoned and eliminated by the work of the Holy Spirit. The Lord promised His believers that He would return. Now, there are signs that He has already returned, but we don’t know where He has appeared and works. Therefore, it is imperative for us to seek God’s footprints. Just like in the bible the Lord Jesus says: ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me’” (John 10:27).
Brother Xiang said, “That’s right. We need to follow in God’s footsteps, but what is the most important and most critical aspect of this? Some time ago, I read some words on the internet: ‘Since we are searching for the footprints of God, we must search for, for the words of God, for the utterances of God—for where there are the new words of God, there is the voice of God, and where there are the footsteps of God, there are the deeds of God. Where there is the expression of God, there is the appearance of God, and where there is the appearance of God, there exists the truth, the way, and the life. While seeking the footprints of God, you ignored the words that “God is the truth, the way, and the life.” So when many people receive the truth, they do not believe that they have found the footprints of God and much less acknowledge the appearance of God. What a serious error that is!’ These words are very clear about how to investigate the true way. God is the truth, the way, and the life, and if we are searching for God’s footsteps, we must search for God’s utterances. Only when we find God’s utterances can we follow God’s work. This is the only path to investigate the true way.”
That day, I benefited greatly from the fellowship of Brother Yang and Brother Xiang. I found the path to gain the work of the Holy Spirit. Today, I am seeking and examining the true way with them.
Brother Xunguang, it is imperative for us to seek the work of the Holy Spirit and follow in God’s footsteps. Only when we ourselves catch up with God’s footsteps and then lead other brothers and sisters to follow in God’s footsteps can we avoid being abandoned by God. Instead, we will obtain the work of the Holy Spirit and our church will be truly revived. I believe as long as we have hearts that yearn and seek, God will lead us. As the Lord Jesus once said: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
That is what I have to share with you today, and I hope it will help you. Should you have any questions, please write to us to discuss your concerns.
Do you want to know more about how to welcome Jesus’ return? Learn more on our Prepare for Jesus’ Return page in the section Devotional Topics, or in the following content: