“Have You Truly Repented?” Introduction:
Thesaid, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Once, Zhang Ming’en was a preacher at a house church. He believed in the Lord for many years, and for all that time, he preached, worked, suffered, and expended for the Lord. After he accepted God’s work of the last days, he was able to accept and submit to any duty arranged for him by the church, and he believed that through these good deeds, he had achieved genuine and change. But, in a church election, Zhang Ming’en watched as other brothers and sisters were chosen as church leaders and deacons, while he was given the duty of hosting meetings. Although outwardly he appeared to accept and submit, he was very unhappy with it. When his wife exposes the fact that he hasn’t sincerely repented and changed, Zhang Ming’en is deeply confused: If behavioral change can’t be called genuine repentance and change, then just what is genuine repentance and change? Watch the skit Have You Truly Repented? to find out the answers.
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By Hua Mei Part One: Years of Working for the Lord Lu Xunguang staggers to the window. The moonlight gently sprinkles on his body. At this time, he is in a whirlwind of thought, and the scenes of serving the Lord with Brother Liu constantly surface in his mind. Lu Xunguang thinks in his heart: When he and Brother Liu were young, they served the Lord with enthusiasm in the church, preaching everywhere and shepherding the churches. Until now, many years have passed. At that time, they suffered illegal arrest of the Chinese Communist Party police when preaching the gospel, being imprisoned forcibly for eight years. When they felt weak in their hearts, they encouraged each other to take up the cross to follow the Lord. And they all surely believed they could wear the crown of righteousness that the Lord bestowed upon. Many years have gone by in the blink of an eye, he doesn’t know how Brother Liu is doing now … At this time, his son Tian Ci pushes open the door of the study and asks, “Dad, Xueqin just told me that you are finding me. What’s the matter?” His son’s word drags him back from the infinite memories. Lu Xunguang turns around, walks to his son and says, “Oh, you come back! Tomorrow, Brother Liu will be back from outside. I want you come with me to pick him up.” Tian Ci asks happily, “Is this Uncle Liu who was arrested and imprisoned when preaching the gospel with you? I often hear you mention him. Now, I finally have the chance to fellowship with Uncle Liu.” Lu Xunguang nods his head and says, “Yes, your Uncle Liu is also one who truly loves the Lord. At that time, owing to the requirements of the work of the church, he went to other places. Now I haven’t seen him for ten years and don’t know how he has experienced for these years. This time, we ought to commune with him.” Tian Ci says in agreement, “Yeah! That’s great.” Then Lu Xunguang asks, “Ah, Tian Ci! For these days, you have been busy working late. You have handled the church affairs well? As a preacher, you need to take care of the church and do more work for the Lord. Only in this way, are we qualified to be brought into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord comes.” Tian Ci responds, “Yes, dad. I get it!” Tian Ci keeps talking with his father. The night is becoming calmer and calmer. And at this point, the moonlight looks especially beautiful … Part Two: Disputes After a Reunion When driving back home, due to the traffic congestion, Lu Xunguang, Tian Ci and Brother Liu don’t arrive at home until midday. Lin Xueqin, his daughter-in-law, has cooked a huge dinner. After lunch, Lu Xunguang chats with Brother Liu in the hall, while Tian Ci is helping Xueqin wash the dishes. Tian Ci hears Brother Liu saying, “For these years, we always think laboring for the Lord and preaching everywhere as well as spreading the gospel more are doing the will of God, and such suffering of us can get the approval of the Lord, and thus we will qualify to be brought into the kingdom of heaven when the Lord comes. Therefore, these years, we have expended with enthusiasm and labored for the Lord outwardly, and we have never doubted whether our view is right and whether it is in accordance with the Lord’s word. And we just singularly pursued in this way. During all these years, I have met many preachers. Once, I met a fellow villager who was also a preacher. When we fellowshiped together, he said the view of working hard for the Lord to enter the kingdom of heaven was actually derived from man’s notions, not came from God, for the Lord Jesus has never said such words. If we pursued according to man’s notions, how could we enter the kingdom of heaven? At that time, I felt surprised at what he had said, thinking: Did this view come from man’s notions? How could this be possible? For these years, all believers in the Lord have pursued in this way, how could this possibly be wrong? Hasn’t the Lord Jesus told this? In order to figure this out, I closely studied the Bible later only to find the Lord Jesus has never told the word, ‘those who work hard for Me can enter the kingdom of heaven,’ but just said, ‘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). I repeatedly contemplated this verse ‘But he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven,’ then what on earth is doing the will of the heavenly Father? We have worked hard for the Lord to preach the gospel, was this not doing the will of the heavenly Father? In order to be able to understand this issue clearly, I prayed to the Lord to seek His guidance. Later, through the fellowship of my fellow villager, I did realize that our expending and labouring for the Lord outwardly is not truly doing the will of the heavenly Father and cannot be approved by the Lord. …” Hearing their communication, Tian Ci thinks in his heart: My father often says working hard for the Lord is doing the will of the heavenly Father, and I also agree with him. However, why does Uncle Liu’s understanding of this differ from ours completely? Thinking of this, Tian Ci touches his wife with arms and says, “Xueqin, let us hurry to do the dishes. Then we can listen to what our father and Uncle Liu are fellowshiping about!” Soon, Tian Ci and his wife finish washing the dishes, and then they sit to the side silently. At this point, the atmosphere in the room is somewhat tense. Lu Xunguang says with a little dissatisfaction, “Brother Liu, for these years of believing in the Lord, we have always expended and worked hard for the Lord, paying the price of suffering and preaching everywhere as well as shepherding churches, how can you say this is not doing the will of the heavenly Father? Moreover, the disciple Paul also said, ‘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). This also shows that working hard for the Lord and running around to preach the gospel are precisely doing the will of the heavenly Father, how could this possibly be wrong?” Tian Ci feels very confused and says, “Yes! Uncle Liu, we have always thought that as long as we labor for Paul, work for the Lord as hard as we can and overcome our bodies, this should be definitely doing the will of God. Isn’t that the case?” Brother Liu answers, “Tian Ci and Brother Lu, calm down, listen to me explain it. In the past, I also thought if I labored and worked for the Lord I’d obtain His approval, and then I could surely enter the kingdom of heaven. But when the preacher read a passage of words to me, I did realize my thought was wrong. I will read to you, ‘Why do you believe in God? Most people are confounded by this question. They always have two entirely different viewpoints about the practical God and the God in heaven, which shows that they believe in God not in order to obey, but to receive certain benefits, or to escape the suffering of disaster. Only then are they somewhat obedient, but their obedience is conditional, it is for the sake of their own personal prospects, and forced upon them. So: why do you believe in God? If it is solely for the sake of your prospects, and your fate, then you’d best not believe. Belief such as this is self-deception, self-reassurance, and self-appreciation. If your faith is not built upon the foundation of obedience to God, then you will ultimately be punished as a result of opposing God. All those who do not seek obedience to God in their faith oppose God. God asks that people seek the truth, that they thirst for God’s words, and eat and drink God’s words, and put them into practice, so that they may achieve obedience to God. If your motivations are truly thus, then God will surely raise you up, and will surely be gracious toward you. No one can doubt this, and no one can change it. If your motivations are not for the sake of obedience to God, and you have other aims, then all that you say and do—your prayers before God, and even your every action—will be in opposition to God. You may be soft-spoken and mild-mannered, your every action and expression may look right, you may appear to be one who obeys, but when it comes to your motivations and your views about faith in God, everything you do is in opposition to God, and evil. People who appear as obedient as sheep, but whose hearts harbor evil intentions, are wolves in sheep’s clothing, they directly offend God…’ (‘In Your Faith in God You Should Obey God’). Hearing this passage of words, I felt pricked in the heart. Each and every word of this passage was revealing my intents and goals of faith in God, and that’s indeed true! Although we can expend and labor for the Lord, forsaking everything to preach the gospel and establish churches, our intents are not to care for the Lord’s will and perform our duty as a creature of God, much less to obey and love the Lord. In contrast, we want to exchange our suffering and sacrifice for the blessings of the heavenly kingdom. For the sake of the interests of our flesh, we expend and labor for the Lord, can this obtain the approval of the Lord? Have we examined this issue? Brother Lu, and Tian Ci, let me give an example: Like our children, they can keep house for us, and even take us to the hospital when we are old and sick. If what they do is not out of their filial heart, but for receiving our inheritance, do we like such kind of children? Can this still be said to be showing their filial piety and respect to us? (Xueqin shakes her head and says, ‘No!’) If we work hard for the Lord to gain a crown of righteousness, it is obvious that we think of paying the price of suffering as bargaining chips for our entry into the kingdom of heaven, and that we are making a deal with God and in exchange for the blessings of the kingdom of heaven. Is this doing the will of the heavenly Father? What’s more, the Lord has never said that those who work hard for Him can certainly enter the kingdom of heaven, and He has never said Paul is in the kingdom of heaven either. Therefore, Paul’s word cannot be the basis for us to enter the kingdom of heaven. Don’t you think so? In fact, as to the important matter of entering the kingdom of heaven related to our fate and destination, following the word of the Lord is the most precise and accurate. Because only the word of the Lord is the truth, the word of man or disciples in the Bible can only be used as reference. If we treat the word of man as the criterion of our entry into the kingdom of heaven, but put aside the word of the Lord, is this not somewhat allowing the subordinate to supersede the dominant?” Xueqin says in agreement, “Yes, the Lord Jesus has never said as long as we work hard for Him, we can surely enter the kingdom of heaven. The Lord said, ‘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). Those who preached the gospel and worked in the name of the Lord were condemned by the Lord when the Lord came. This proves that working hard for the Lord is not doing the will of the heavenly Father or the criterion of entering the kingdom of heaven.” Brother Liu nods and continues fellowshiping, “Although the Pharisees suffered and paid the price outwardly, they could resist God and even nail the Lord onto the cross. It is enough to prove the outward suffering and paying the price and doing good deeds do not represent doing the will of the heavenly Father or knowing and obeying God! (Pausing for a while and having a look at Xunguang) Similarly, today we have suffered for the Lord and done some good deeds outwardly, but we can often commit sins and resist God. When faced with trials, we complain and blame God, judge Him; even if we sacrifice something, that will only be obtaining blessings, demanding grace and making a deal with God. This is not true obedience to God! We possess the behavior of committing sins and resisting God, and also have our despicable intentions in our faith in God, how can our faith in God like this be considered as doing the will of the heavenly Father? How can we be approved by the Lord? (Xueqin shakes her head and says, ‘No!’) Therefore, we can see that we are still not the ones who do the will of the heavenly Father, and we are not qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven!” When hearing this, Lu Xunguang feels very surprised in his heart, with a cold sweat breaking out on his face, thinking: For these years, I have abandoned everything to work for the Lord, and followed the example of Paul. And I have thought I am doing the will of the heavenly Father and have never doubted it. But Brother Liu’s fellowship indeed makes sense. How can it … Oh, Lord! May You lead me! Tian Ci bows his head and thinks deeply. Part Three: What Is Doing the Will of the Heavenly Father? Lu Xunguang wipes the sweat from his face lightly and hurries to say to Brother Liu, “Brother Liu, the passage of words you read is so astounding! I have never realized the issue of my making a deal with the Lord! Now I know the expending and laboring for the Lord with our tradeoff is not out of our true obedience to God, and we all have our own selfish plans in it. That’s indeed true! But I still have a question. The Lord Jesus said, ‘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). What on earth is doing the will of the heavenly Father?” Brother Liu smiles and says, “In fact, doing the will of the heavenly Father is referring to that our hearts can love God, we can practice the word of the Lord and follow His commandments. Not only can we expend for the Lord outwardly, but there are no transaction with and demands of God in our hearts. Even if faced with trials, we don’t complain God, but stand testimony to God and submit to God’s sovereignty and arrangement. Just as the Lord Jesus said, ‘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). Only when one has no intentions and desires in his faith in God, and completely obeys God and truly loves God whatever God says can he be considered as doing the will of God! Like Abraham, he could have complete obedience to God and listen to God’s word, truly returning his only son to God and standing testimony to God in trials. So he is one who does the will of the heavenly Father; Job, he could follow God’s way, fearing God and shunning evil, and in trials of losing all wealth and his children, he didn’t complain about God but still extolled God’s name and held on to His way, in the end he became one who was approved by God; Peter, he focused on caring for God’s will in all things and obeying God’s requirements, and ultimately he was nailed upside down on the cross for God, achieving supreme love of God and obedience onto death. They are ones who practice God’s word, follow His commandments and fear and obey God, and they have born beautiful and resounding testimonies to God. People like these are the ones who truly do the heavenly Father’s will.” Hearing Brother Liu’s fellowship, Lu Xunguang feels like he is waking up from a dream. He stands up and gets some water, pondering silently, “Brother Liu’s fellowship is really practical! Recalling my belief in the Lord for many years, although I have done preaching work everywhere in the name of the Lord in storm and rain, endured some hardship and paid some price, when I did preaching work, I often showed off myself to let people look up to me, and often went against the Lord’s requirements by acting according to my own ideas. By sacrificing something, enduring some hardship, and paying some price for the Lord, I thought that I was the one who loved the Lord most, and I was most faithful to the Lord, yet I never knew that I had been making a deal with God and demanding the blessings of the kingdom of heaven from God. In my laboring for the Lord, there is no reality of practicing the Lord’s word and obeying Him, therefore, I still lived in a vicious cycle of sinning and repenting. That’s indeed not implementing the heavenly Father’s will. Think about that the Pharisees traveled to the ends of the earth to spread the gospel and worked for the Lord, but they eventually became the ringleaders of opposition against God when the Lord came. It’s no wonder that the Lord Jesus condemned them, ‘And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity’ (Matthew 7:23).” After hearing Brother Liu’s fellowship, Tian Ci comes to a sudden realization, and he says: “Truly doing the will of God is implementing God’s words, God’s commandments and God’s instructions. If we cannot practice according to the Lord’s word, but rely on our wishful thinking to go down a path that has hardships, this will go without saying we implement the will of the heavenly Father.” Lu Xunguang returns to his seat, composes himself and says, “Your fellowship is really very enlightening! I am totally convinced. In the past, I thought one who labored for the Lord was implementing the will of the heavenly Father. Now, I do see clearly there are too many intentions in us when we follow and serve the Lord. This runs completely counter to the Lord’s will! It’s very dangerous for us to continue pursuing in this way!” Xueqin pours Brother Liu some water and says, “Yes, the Lord Jesus put it very clearly. If we still believe in the Lord according to our notions and imaginations, and think laboring for the Lord is implementing the will of God, in the end, we will surely be condemned by the Lord like the Pharisees. Then our faith in God will come to naught!” Through the window, the light of the setting sun shines into the room, where it seems very peaceful. They are exploring, with joy on their faces … Part Four: Realization After the Parting After seeing Brother Liu off in the evening, Lu Xunguang comes back to the study. Recalling the fellowship with Brother Liu: At first, he was joyful to meet Brother Liu again, then he was dissatisfied with his fellowship. And eventually they together seek the will of the Lord and find the way to practice. This process is really full of twists and turns! Lu Xunguang raises his head and sees the painting on the wall, where it writes, “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). Lu Xunguang is overcome with emotion: Yes! Entering the heavenly kingdom is not as easy as we thought. We can’t get it just by working hard for the Lord. Because it doesn’t represent that we are following the Lord’s way. We must work hard to practice the word of the Lord, and follow His commandments. This is what it means to implement God’s will. Only in this way can we enter the kingdom of heaven! You may be interested in: Can Sinners Enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Here’s the Answer Do You Know the 3 Standards for Measuring Whether One Can Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
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