When the Lord returns, how can we recognize His voice and welcome Him?
By Sarah, Philippines
Baffled Once and Again During My Search
I was born into a Catholic family, and since I was little I had followed the rules of Catholicism. But later I found that keeping these rules couldn’t make me understand the Lord’s will, or solve my various confusions in belief and in life, nor could it provide for my life. Thereupon, I constantly searched for Christian videos to watch, and hungrily, thirstily read, wanting to solve my confusions. However, when I saw more, my questions also increased. From then on, I went to other denominations to serve and to look for someone who could solve my confusions. I sought and explored in many churches, yet I didn’t know which church was the one that was really after God’s heart. I remember, in a church, the dean said that their church was a true one, but at the same time, he deliberately vilified and judged other churches, and even sometimes said some words of condemnation and curse, and he also lashed out at the people from other churches. All this was so hard for me to accept that I left the church.
Later I went to another church, where they focused on spreading the gospel of theand bringing glory to Him. I thought that I had found a true church, but after a while, I found out that many believers there adored and looked up to their pastor. Once, an elderly woman even rose from her seat to express her respect for the pastor. The pastor smilingly gave his thanks to her, but he said nothing to prevent her praise. I thought: The pastor only has his eyes on enjoying the believers’ praise for him. Why does he not stress that the Lord Jesus is our Savior and is the truth, the way and the life? Why does he not exalt the Lord? Given this, I prayed to the Lord and asked Him to guide me in measuring whether the church was after His heart.
In the later meetings, I discovered many times that what the pastor preached was different from what I understood. For example, the pastor said, “In believing in the Lord, we don’t need to seek to sin no more, because it is normal and understandable for us humans to sin.” But the Bible clearly says, “Be you holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16), so, in our belief in the Lord, we should seek to break away from sin and to be cleansed. Why did what the pastor preached differ from my understanding of the verse? Which was right? If the Lord Jesus could be among us and lead and guide us, we would easily know which was right. It was too difficult for us to look for answers on our own. At the thought of all this, I couldn’t stop myself from sobbing, and I felt very perplexed and couldn’t help praying, “O Lord, if only I had been born into the time when You were performing Your work. You personally led us people and could directly answer our questions, and this would enable me to follow You more easily. O Lord, where are You? …” Because I didn’t know in which church my life could gain sustenance, I decided to go on attending meetings in that church. This continued until one day when I saw that the pastor asked us believers to offer a lot of money in the name of buying chairs for the church, and said that the money donated before wouldn’t be spent in doing that. I wondered: Why do we need new chairs? Is there something wrong with the present ones? Where will the tithes we previously offered up go? … These questions made me again become lost. And so I no longer went to church but read the Bible alone at home.
Since then, my spiritual state always varied: For a while it was good, and for a while it was not. I didn’t read the scriptures so thirstily as before, and working, eating, sleeping and watching TV series were all I had left in the world. Day after day passed and I felt my life was empty. I longed to regain my confidence and so I again started to attend gatherings. However, I still didn’t progress in spirit, for in every meeting, the content communicated was either the same as before, or didn’t have a center and couldn’t give me a practical path. I ended up losing my way again. I often thought in my heart, “O Lord, where are You? When will You come back? I can’t feel Your presence. I so much want You to return …”
After I Met My Church Friend Kirsten, My Many Years of Confusions Were Undone
The Lord really heard my prayers! In September, 2018, I got in touch with a fellow church member Kirsten who I had looked for a church with several years before. Speaking of the belief, she said, “Over the past several years, I have visited many churches, but I feel I haven’t obtained provision for my life and my spirit is still parched. Besides, the believers do business there and seldom fellowship the Lord’s words. This all illustrates that there has been no work of the Holy Spirit within such churches. In this situation, we should hasten to seek out a church with the work of the Holy Spirit, and this requires understanding the principles of discerning real and false churches.” Hearing this, I thought: “This topic is good. We indeed need to understand the principle.” I very much wanted to listen and wished to find the answers to my questions.
Kirsten continued fellowshiping to me, “Whether or not a church is real is mainly determined by whether or not it has the work of the Holy Spirit. If there is the work of the Holy Spirit, we’ll gradually understand truths, our spirits can gain provision, our lives will make progress constantly, and we’ll have a greater knowledge of God and have a closer. Let’s take a look at the church today. What pastors preach are only letters, and can’t resolve the practical difficulties of the believers; they have listened to their sermons for many years, but they don’t grow in life, their faith becomes colder and colder, and they even aren’t willing to gather together. Moreover, some pastors and elders exalt and testify to themselves as much as possible in meetings, which causes the believers to worship and look up to them. Not only that, but some, in order to rope people into their churches, attack and judge other denominations, and some even embezzle the church’s money in the name of all manner of things. All these are the manifestations of violating the Lord’s teachings, committing sins and resisting the Lord. It is evident that these pastors and elders have no place at all for the Lord in their hearts and don’t treat the Lord’s teachings seriously. So, the Holy Spirit doesn’t work within them. Under their leadership, the believers all have deviated from the Lord’s will and are living in the state of committing sins and resisting the Lord. If it is a true church, the leaders will have hearts that fear God, and when working and preaching, they should pay attention to leading people to understand the Lord’s will and to practice His teachings in life, and what the believers live out will become more and more normal and their knowledge of God will also increase. Contrarily, if our lives can’t gain sustenance in a church, but instead we get further and further away from God and what we live out is not much different to what the unbelievers do, this will prove that the church has no work of the Holy Spirit and is a false church. Then we should leave it as soon as possible, and go to find one with the work of the Holy Spirit.”
Hearing Kirsten’s fellowship, I felt it was very enlightening. Over these years, I had visited different churches and had been looking for a true one, yet I couldn’t say for sure what it was. At that moment, I came to understand: A true church has the Holy Spirit’s work. It can satisfy our spirits, make our relationship with God become ever closer and enable us to live out His teachings. When I thought about what the pastor had said—“It is normal and understandable for us humans to commit sins”—I realized this couldn’t point out the way to not commit sins, but instead would make believers indulge themselves, not thirst to break away from the bondage of sin, and instead drift along so that they would become further and further away from God. I thought of how, in the past, I was perplexed, my spiritual condition wasn’t good, and I went to take part in church life yet couldn’t obtain new light. The pastors all preached the same old things, and after hearing them, we believers couldn’t receive any enjoyment and our spiritual hunger couldn’t be resolved. So, such churches weren’t real ones.
I emotionally said to Kirsten, “Your fellowship today is very good, and is able to supply my spiritual needs. Could you fellowship more with me?”
Read more on our Return to God page, or in the recommended articles below.