Shortly after China came under Communist rule in 1949, the government initiated a political movement within the country's Christian church. This movement, called the "Three-Self Renovation Movement", was later renamed "Three-Self Patriotic Movement". On the surface, its aim was for the churches to break off relations with overseas missions and to practice "Three-Self" - self-governing, self-supporting and self-preaching. In reality, however, the movement was a means to manipulate the churches with the aim to ultimately eradicate Christianity in the nation.
From the spiritual standpoint, this was a rigorous battle: a case of a group of atheists setting out to replace Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church and to place their own policies, ordinances and documents above the Holy Bible. This was something that we who fear God could not bring ourselves to compromise with or to withdraw from. Instead, we were prepared to pay any cost necessary to maintain that Christ was the Head of the Church and that the Holy Bible was the supreme basis of Christian living and service. Whereas we followed the teaching: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God ( Rom. 13:1)", we also knew better that we were "to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). We held on to our belief that no authority was absolute apart from that of the Most High and Ever-living God, and that the authority of men was only relative; no one, not even apostles and elders within the Church, had any right to demand absolute submission from anyone.
The "Elimination of Counter-Revolutionaries Movement" that began in the latter half of 1955 sparked off a series of Christian persecutions that spanned from July 1955 to the spring of 1957. Starting with the arrests of brothers Zhen-qing Hu (in Zhejiang) and Ming-dao Wang (in Beijing), the persecutions reached their peak by mid-1956.
We bow down before the Lord and worship Him "the Most High who rules in the kingdom of men" and whose authority reigns over all; the Almighty Creator who, in His superb wisdom and perfect will, allowed these unprecedented, fiery trials to befall the desolate and disorderly churches in the vast continent of China. Through a prolonged period of seeking His enlightenment and studying His words, as well as constant reflections, we have all the more come to the following realizations.
The Lord's return is drawing near, and the fire before the judgment seat of Christ will appear. "The fire will test each one's work (I Cor. 3:13)" to reveal whether it is gold, silver and precious stones or merely wood, hay and straw. Oh, it will be too late and too tragic if we do not find out until that day that all our work is but burnt wood, hay and straw, and that our salvation is "as through fire." Worse yet, the consequences will be eternal!
We are thankful to our gracious Father for having allowed the test of fire to befall China prior to the actual arrival of the Judgment Seat fire. As though put through "an imitation test", our poverty, blindness and nakedness were revealed beforehand. Thus, we were awakened in advance, called to repent and to become purified. In addition, through the testimonies of Christians in China, an alarm is sounded for the global Church to hasten the readiness of the Bride (Rev. 19:7; Matt. 25:4).
Still of greater significance is the fact that, through the fiery trials, the Spirit of God has revealed the genuine path of life - the way of the Cross. It was when we realized that our work was merely, or essentially, wood, hay and straw that we asked ourselves which was the genuine path. Only one path is pleasing to the Lord - the narrow path of the Cross which He Himself trod.
Oh, dear brothers and sisters, this is what the several decades of bloodshed and tearful experiences in China have unveiled: few were "gold, silver and precious stones" who withstood the test of fire whereas numerous others turned out to be wood, hay and straw! Even more heartbreaking is the fact that the end-time is a time of chaos when "fish-eyes are mingled with pearls"1. Many Christians cannot distinguish fish-eyes from pearls, or wood, hay and straw from gold, silver and precious stones, and are consequently misled (Matt. 24:4). You will be shocked to learn, or find it hard to believe, the miserable condition of most of God's servants in China during the fiery trials. Oh, may we often bow down in the ashes, look up to the light before the Judgment Seat, and constantly examine ourselves as to what our work is really like!
The primary purpose of this book is to concretely and vividly illustrate, by the Lord's mercy and grace, the "path of life" through some typical testimonies, both positive and negative. It has been proven that, in the "perilous times" and "the year of drought" of the last days, only those who are "like a tree planted by the waters which spreads out its roots by the river" will flourish with green leaves and never cease from yielding fruit (Jer.17:7,8 - "waters" and "rivers" symbolizing Jesus Christ and His Cross).
All is mercy and grace! Yes, all is mercy and grace! May all glory be to the merciful God on the throne of grace! "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (I Pet.. 5:5)." May the Lord help us grow in humility until the day we see His face.
I thank the Lord for His wonderful leading. After my return to Shanghai from the Labor Camp in 1979, I taught in a university and at the same time served in the House-Church*. At the time, most of the elderly servants of the Lord had already gone to be with Him; so I personally had no intention of leaving the country. Later, however, I was clearly directed to do so by the Lord. Flying over the Pacific Ocean on my way to the United States, I asked the Lord what His will was for bringing me over. I then had a deep conviction: to make known to overseas Christians, according to what I had received, of what God had done in China. This book is part of such an attempt.
Praise the Heavenly Father for His magnificent and boundless capacity and for His infinite love and wisdom! Though I am destitute, He is Lord of all - He could use the colt of Paran and Pharaoh Necho to speak for Him (II Chr. 35:22). For His own glory, may the Lord condescend once more in this end-time to disclose part of His will through this humble, incapable and unworthy servant of His. Let us sincerely and humbly look up to Him for mercy, enlightenment and encouragement. Meanwhile, may He bind up Satan so that I will not be impeded from acting as the Lord has commissioned. May honor and glory be to God, forever and ever, Amen!
Los Angeles, U.S.A.
In mainland China, there is no freedom of belief. The official churches are the so-called "Three-Self Churches" established and controlled by the government. They are forced to accept the atheistic government's policies and regulations as the highest authority and are, therefore, not real Christian churches. For instance, the preaching of some biblical truth is prohibited - such as: the second coming of the Lord Jesus; do not love the world, etc. Also, young people below 18 are not allowed to attend church meetings.
The House-Churches hold Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church and the Bible as the sole authority of Christian living and ministry. Christians of these underground or semi-underground churches usually assemble in their homes, mostly in small groups. They have long been subjected to trials and are in urgent need of fervent prayer support.
An old Chinese saying meaning: the counterfeit is passed for the genuine.