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Can One Enter the Kingdom of God Only by Laboring Hard?
After the college entrance examination, I entered a national university as I had expected. After getting into the college, I found that my classmates were all honor students from different schools, and most of them came from prosperous families. Compared with them, I had neither superior family background nor exceptional talents; thus I felt inferior and very perplexed about my future. At this time, a senior talked to me about believing in the Lord. When I learned that the Lord Jesus was nailed to the cross, sacrificed Himself for saving mankind, and redeemed us from sin as a sin offering, I was very moved inside and accepted the gospel. Afterward, I gathered with my brothers and sisters for singing and praising the Lord, enjoying the peace and happiness in my spirit. Before graduating from college, I was baptized a Christian.
In a Lord’s Day meeting, the pastor preached: “Our aim in believing in the Lord is to, but getting into the kingdom of heaven is conditional. We need to read the Bible a lot, work more for the Lord, persist in consecration, and bear good fruits; then the Lord will give us rewards based on the price we’ve paid and take us to the kingdom of heaven when He comes.” Hearing the pastor’s sermon, I felt very excited, thinking: If I can live with the Lord in the heavenly kingdom, that will be such a great blessing! So I decided to do my part in serving the Lord lest I be empty-handed when He returns. Once, our church recruited service workers, and then I attended the training and became one of them. From then on, be it cleaning the church, giving out weekly newspaper, or maintaining order at meetings, I did my best to do whatever I could.
But unknowingly, the church gradually became a place for dinner meetings, making friends and direct sale, and the number of people that attended gradually diminished. Besides, the pastor paid no attention to fellowshiping the truth in the Bible to water the believers’ lives, and neither did he support the weak brothers and sisters; instead, he only focused on expanding the church and preaching about donation, and often asked the believers to donate with various excuses. What’s more, the elder of the church even stood for parliament, and solicited votes in the church, not providing life to the believers in the slightest. And among the co-workers there were some who intrigued against each other, formed gangs and bands, and organized cliques. Seeing these phenomena, many brothers and sisters lacked desire to attend meetings; and I felt increasingly bereft of the work of the Holy Spirit. I could not receive any nourishment of the truth in the church, and even my original peace and enjoyment had disappeared.
While working in the company, I always told lies and committed fraud in pursuit of my interests and face; sometimes, in order to gain status in the company, I would use petty favors to bribe my colleagues into doing something for me. I knew that the Lord took no delight in these things, yet I was incapable of practicing His word, living in the situation of committing sins and confessing them. I felt very distressed and troubled inside. I remembered seeing in the Bible that God did the work of destruction twice: one is destroying the world with a flood in the age of Noah, and the other is destroying the city of Sodom. Then I began to ponder: How exactly does God determine man’s outcome? And could one enter the kingdom of heaven by working hard for the Lord? In an effort to find the answer I gathered some relevant verses together, but I got nothing out of them.
One day, a passage of words shared by a sister named Shulamite on Facebook attracted me: “Blessings cannot be received in a day or two; they must be earned through much sacrifice. That is, you must have refined love, great faith, and the many truths that God asks you to attain; in addition, you must be able to set your face toward justice and never be cowed or submit, and you must have a constant and unabating love for God. Resolution is demanded of you, as is change in your life disposition; your corruption must be remedied, and you must accept all the orchestration of God without complaint, and even be obedient until death. This is what you ought to achieve. This is the final aim of God, and the demands God asks of this group of people.” The words were so well-written! I couldn’t help but think of the stories of Abraham and Job. Abraham was able to listen to God’s words and returned his beloved only son to God; because of his absolute obedience, God blessed his descendants to be a large nation. And Job, when all his wealth and children were taken from him, would rather curse himself than complain against God, and still praised Jehovah’s holy name, so at last, God blessed him greatly. Only after Job and Abraham experienced God’s trails did they gain His blessings. Although I didn’t quite understand the true meaning of these words, I felt they couldn’t be spoken by a normal person. As I continued browsing Shulamite’s page, I found all the MV, hymns videos, and dance and song videos on it are produced to exalt and witness God. I was drawn in by the content on her page and liked her post.
The next day, Sister Shulamite invited me to attend gatherings with them; then I thought in my heart: In our church, brothers and sisters rarely discuss matters relating to the faith in the Lord; they always talk about a life of pleasure. When I encountered some difficulties, I had to look for the notes of some spiritual figures by myself, or listened to the sermons of some pastors my sisters sent me; but I didn’t understand the true meaning contained in them at all. Since Sister Shulamite’s page is full of information about the truth, she is definitely a lover of the Lord and it’s my good fortune to make friends with her; if I can gather with some brothers and sisters who love the Lord, and listen to the light and enlightenment they have gained, perhaps my confusion will be resolved. Thinking of this, I accepted her invitation.
A few days later, I attended a gathering with the brothers and sisters online. After making the introductions, I discovered that they are all Christians from different countries of the world, and I felt very excited. Later, I spoke about the situation of my church to them. Through their sharing, I learned that the church has been desolate, and that the Holy Spirit no longer works in the churches in the Age of Grace because God has already done new work. They also fellowshiped about some truths concerning how the Bible took shape, God’s incarnation, and the mystery of the Trinity which no one can truly unravel for thousands of years, and I felt their fellowship was both clear and deep. After several weeks’ communications, I gained a lot from them and my heart felt brightened. Thank the Lord for arranging these sisters to support me. Although I had never seen them, I could sense their sincerity and goodness.
In another gathering, Sister Chen proposed communing the topic regarding how to enter the kingdom of heaven, which was exactly the question I was eager to understand. In the meeting, Sister Yang fellowshiped that if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must experience God’s work of judgment and chastisement in the last days, and that only in this way will our sins be cleansed and will we be qualified to enter the kingdom of heaven. When I heard that, I felt puzzled: The Lord has absolved our sins and made us righteous through faith, and the pastor and elder always tell us that those who work hard for the Lord can enter the kingdom of heaven. How could this be wrong? Then I spoke my confusion to the sisters, and one of them read me two passages of scripture: “Be you holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). “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).
Sister Yang fellowshiped: “The Lord did forgive our sins, but it doesn’t mean we have been cleansed; we still live by sinning in the day and confessing at night, and often reveal satanic dispositions, such as being conceited, arrogant, selfish and despicable. We know that without holiness no one shall see the Lord. How could those who often sin and resist the Lord enter the kingdom of heaven? The Lord never once said that those who have been absolved from sins may enter the kingdom of heaven, and even less did He say those who labor for Him may enter the kingdom of heaven; rather, He said only those who do the heavenly Father’s will and have been cleansed shall be allowed into His kingdom. So, we should practice our faith according to the Lord’s words instead of the words, conceptions and imagination of man; otherwise, we would be turning to our own way. The Pharisees, though working hard for the Lord, only focused on holding religious ceremonies and explaining the Bible knowledge and theory. They didn’t practice God’s words at all, nor did they carry out His commandments, and everything they did was for the solicitation of blessing, the reward of crown, as well as their status and livelihood; they didn’t have a heart of reverence and love for God at all. From the fact that they furiously condemned and resisted the Lord Jesus, we can see their hypocritical and truth-hating essence. And so, working hard for the Lord doesn’t represent following God’s will, and being possessed of good behavior also doesn’t mean that we have been cleansed.”
Sister Yang fellowshiped a lot, but I just remembered the words that those who work hard for the Lord didn’t necessarily enter the heavenly kingdom, which was difficult for me to accept. I thought to myself: During these years of serving the Lord, I’ve done and suffered so much; could it be in vain? Though there may not have been celebrated achievements, still I have been diligent in my efforts; am I abandoned by the Lord? No, we believers already become righteous through our faith, and when the Lord returns we will surely be raptured into the kingdom of heaven. As it was getting late and I needed to work the next day, I got offline. Lying in bed, I repeatedly tried to figure out those verses the sister read, and thought of the Lord’s commandments: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). Back then, the Pharisees had traveled over land and sea to work and preach, but the Lord condemned them as the ones who did evil and resisted God. On the surface, they worked hard for God and served God, yet when the Lord Jesus came to work, they nailed Him to the cross; ultimately they were cursed and punished by God, leading to the destruction of Israel. Could it be that those who work hard for the Lord really do not conform to the Lord’s will and are unable to enter the kingdom of heaven? When I thought of this, I felt troubled: What the sisters fellowshiped conforms with the Bible and the Lord’s will, but I still don’t want to accept this fact; then, should I continue to gather with them?
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