What It Means to Pursue the Truth (2) (Part Three)
Pursuing the truth is directly related to attaining salvation, so the subject of pursuing the truth is not a small one. Though it may be a common topic, it touches on very many truths. In fact, this subject is closely bound up with man’s prospects and destiny, and though we fellowship about it often, people are still not very clear on the various truths and problems that they need to understand regarding the pursuit of the truth. Instead, in a muddled way, they just take various behaviors and approaches that people regard as good, as well as some thoughts and views that people see as relatively active, upward-looking, and positive, and pursue them as the truth. This is a terrible mistake. There are many things which people see as good, right, and correct that, to put it accurately, are not the truth. Some of them may, at the very most, accord with the truth, but one cannot say that they are the truth. Most people have profound misunderstandings about the pursuit of the truth, and they harbor quite a few erroneous understandings and biases toward it. That is why it is necessary for us to fellowship on this clearly, and to make people understand the truths within it that they ought to understand and the problems that they ought to resolve. Do you have any thoughts about the specific content relating to the pursuit of the truth that we just fellowshiped on? Do you have any plans or intentions? Now that we have given a more specific definition of what it means to pursue the truth through our fellowship, many people are a bit puzzled about the things they used to do and pour forth, as well as what they intend to do in the future. They are upset, and some even feel that they have no hope, and that they are in danger of being cast out. If the truth has been fellowshiped on clearly, and yet people feel listless, is their state correct? Is it normal? (No, it’s not normal.) If you had pursued the truth before and received confirmation of that by listening to this fellowship, would you not feel more energized? (Yes.) So why would people feel listless? What is the root of that listlessness? The more transparently and clearly the truth is fellowshiped on, the more of a path people ought to have—so why, if people possess more of a path, would they feel more listless? Is there not a problem here? (There is.) What problem? (If someone knows that it’s good to pursue the truth but is unwilling to pursue it, it’s because they do not love the truth.) People do not love the truth or intend to pursue it—that is why they feel listless. And what of their previous actions? (They are condemned.) “Condemned” is not quite the right word—to put it precisely, their previous actions have not been recognized. What sort of outcome is that, to not have one’s actions recognized? What is happening, when one’s actions go unrecognized? What does it mean? That is simple—if a person’s actions are not recognized, it shows that they are not pursuing the truth, and that they are instead pursuing things that man regards as right and good, and that they are still living by their notions and imaginings. Is this not what is happening? (It is.) That is what is happening. When people’s actions are not recognized by God, they feel upset. At such times do they not have something of a positive and correct path of practice? Would it be right for someone to become negative, to abandon their duty, and to give up themselves as hopeless just because their actions were not recognized? Is that the right path of practice? (No.) It is not the right path of practice. When something like this befalls a person, and they discover their own problems, they should promptly reverse their course. If you discover, through our fellowship about what it means to pursue the truth, that your previous actions and behaviors had nothing to do with the pursuit of the truth, then regardless of whether it upsets you or not, the first thing you should do is reverse your old, mistaken ways and methods of practice, as well as the incorrect path of your pursuit. You should reverse those things right away. When their previous actions are dismissed and not recognized by God, when God says that these actions were just labor, and that they have nothing to do with pursuing the truth, some people will think, “Oh, we humans are indeed foolish and blind. We don’t understand the truth and cannot see things for what they are—and this whole time, we believed that we were practicing the truth, and pursuing the truth, and satisfying God. Only now do we learn that the things we did in our so-called ‘pursuit of the truth’ were just good human behaviors—they were just things that people do based on the various instinctive abilities, calibers, and talents of their flesh. They are far removed from the essence, definition, and requirements of the pursuit of the truth; they simply have nothing to do with it. What should we do about this?” This is a major problem, and it should be resolved. What is the way to resolve this? The question has been raised: Given that the behaviors and approaches that people previously held to be good have uniformly been dismissed, and God does not remember them, nor has He defined them as the pursuit of the truth—what, then, is the pursuit of the truth? To answer this, one must carefully pray-read the definition of the pursuit of the truth, and find a way to practice from that definition, and turn it into the reality of their life. People did not practice the pursuit of the truth in the past, so from now on they must take the definition of the pursuit of the truth as their basis, and as the foundation of their comportment. So, what is the definition of the pursuit of the truth? It is this: To view people and things, and to comport oneself and act according to, with the truth as one’s criterion. This could not be put more clearly or explicitly. What were all of man’s previous actions and behaviors? Were they in accordance with God’s words, with the truth as their criterion? Think back—were they? (No.) It may be said that such actions and behaviors are found once in a blue moon, they are virtually nowhere to be found. So, has man truly achieved nothing at all in so many years of believing in God, and reading and fellowshiping of His words? Have people not practiced a single thing according to God’s words? What is the definition, “To view people and things, and to comport oneself and act according to God’s words, with the truth as one’s criterion,” that we spoke of here directed at? What problem is it meant to resolve? Which of man’s problems and which aspects of the essence of man’s disposition is it directed at? People may now understand the definition of pursuing the truth, but when it comes to why their previous actions were not recognized, and why they were defined as not being the pursuit of the truth, these things remain unclear, incomprehensible, and obscure to them. Some will say, “We have given up so much since we accepted the : We gave up our families and our work, and we abandoned our prospects. Some of us resigned from good jobs; some of us abandoned happy families; some of us had great careers that were well-paid with boundless prospects, and let go of it all. These are the things that we’ve renounced. Since coming to believe in God, we have learned to be humble, patient, and tolerant. We do not get into arguments with others when we interact with them, we do our best to handle any matters that come up in the church, and we do our utmost to lovingly assist our brothers and sisters whenever they have any difficulties. We avoid inflicting harm upon others and we avoid damaging the interests of other people as much as possible. Do these approaches really have nothing to do with pursuing the truth?” Think carefully, now: What are man’s renunciations, expenditure, exertions, tolerance, patience, and even suffering related to? How are these things achieved? What are they based upon? What motivating force drives people to do these things? Reflect on this. Are these things not worthy of deep thought? (They are.) Well, since they are worthy of deep thought, let us explore and investigate them today; let us see whether or not these things that man has always held to be good, right, and noble have anything to do with the pursuit of the truth.
We will begin by looking at man’s renunciations, exertions, and the prices that man pays. Regardless of the context or environment of these renunciations, exertions, and prices, where does the prime motivating force for these things come from? In My summation, there are two sources. The first is when people, in their ideas and notions, think, “If you believe in God, you should renounce, and expend yourself, and pay a price for Him. God likes it when people do that. He doesn’t like it when people indulge in comfort and pursue worldly things, or when they remain indifferent and continue living their own lives after they have claimed to accept His name, and become His followers. God doesn’t like it when people do that.” In terms of people’s subjective will, this thought is a certainty. Whatever someone’s reason for accepting God and His new work, their subjective will agrees to act in this way, believing that God only likes it when people act like that, and that they will only receive God’s happiness and satisfaction by acting in this way. They think that so long as people assiduously struggle and make an effort, and exert without asking for anything in return, and that so long as people disregard their own weal or woe to pay a price, and keep exerting, and paying a price, and expending and offering themselves up to God, then God will surely be happy. And so, once someone believes this, they bow their head without a second thought, and regardless of all else, they renounce everything they can renounce, and offer up everything they can offer up, and endure any suffering that they can endure. People carry out these approaches, but have any of them raised their heads to ask God, “God, are the things that I’m doing what You need? God, do You recognize my expenditures, my exertions, my suffering, and the prices I’ve paid?” People never ask this of God, and without knowing what God’s reaction or His attitude is, they go on optimistically exerting, and offering up, and expending themselves, believing that God will only be happy and satisfied if they suffer in this way. Some people go so far as to give up eating dumplings, fearing that God would be unhappy if they did. Instead, they eat steamed cornbread, believing that eating dumplings is indulging in comfort. They only feel at ease when they are eating steamed cornbread, stale flatbreads, and pickled vegetables, and when they feel at ease, they think that God must surely be satisfied. They mistake their own feelings, their own joy, sorrow, anger, and happiness for God’s feelings, for His joy, sorrow, anger, and happiness. Is that not absurd? Many people treat things that man holds to be correct as the truth, and they impose them upon God, describing them as God’s requirements of man, because that is what all people believe. And so long as people hold such a belief, it is very likely and natural that they will unconsciously characterize those statements and behaviors and approaches as the truth. And as people have determined that those things are the truth, they will think that they must be the principles of practice that man is required to abide by, and that if someone practices and abides by them in this way, they are practicing God’s words, pursuing the truth, and, of course, doing His will. And since people are “doing God’s will,” are their hardships not worthwhile? Are they not paying this price correctly? Is this not something that God is satisfied by and remembers? People would think that it certainly is. This is the distance and distinction between what man believes to be the “truth” and God’s words. People uniformly categorize everything that, in their notions and imaginings, accords with human moral character and is good, noble, correct as the truth, and then they go on to act and endeavor to practice in that direction, while making strict demands of themselves. They believe that they are thus pursuing the truth, that they are nothing short of a person who pursues the truth, and that, of course, they are also absolutely someone who can be saved. The fact is that God’s words and the truth have nothing to do with those things that people hold in their notions to be good, right, and positive. Yet even as people read and hold God’s words in their hands, they take everything that—in their notions—is good, right, beautiful, kind, positive, and advocated for by man to be the truth, to be positive things, and they tirelessly pursue them, not only requiring themselves to pursue and achieve them, but also that others pursue and achieve them. People tirelessly mistake things that man sees as good for the truth, and then they pursue according to the standards and direction demanded by those things, and thus believe that they are already pursuing the truth and living out the reality of the truth. This is one facet of the mistaken understandings that people have about the pursuit of the truth. This mistaken understanding is people taking what they believe—in their notions—to be good, right, and positive as their standards, superseding God’s requirements of man, and the demands and standards of His words. People mistake these things that they believe to be right and good in their notions for the truth, and not just that—they abide by these things and pursue them, too. Is this not a problem? (It is.) It is a problem with man’s thoughts and views. What are people motivated by, when they do these things? What is the root cause that leads them to have these ideas and mistaken understandings? The root cause is that people believe God likes these things, so they impose them upon Him. For instance, traditional culture tells people to be diligent and thrifty; diligence and thriftiness are human merits. “You have to endure great suffering in order to come out on top,” is another such merit, as is, “Do as your master commands, or you won’t gain anything from even your most painstaking efforts,” and other such ideas. In every race and group, people believe that everything they regard as good, right, positive, active, and upward-facing is the truth, and they treat these things as the truth, supplanting all of the truths that God has expressed. They mistake things that man firmly believes, which are of Satan, for the truth and the standards of God’s requirements. They point their pursuit toward the ideals, directions, and goals that they imagine and believe to be right. This is a terrible mistake. These things that come from man’s notions and imaginings are not at all in line with God’s words, and they are entirely contrary to the truth.
I will give a few examples of people mistaking things that, in their notions, they hold to be good and right for the truth, so that this idea will not be so abstract, and you will be able to understand it. For instance: Some women stop wearing makeup and jewelry after coming to believe in God. They set their makeup and jewelry aside, thinking that believers in God ought to behave themselves, and that they cannot wear makeup or dress up. Some people own cars but do not drive them, they ride bicycles instead. They think that driving is indulging in comfort. Some people have the means to eat meat, but do not do so, thinking that if they always ate meat, and a time came when circumstances did not allow them to eat it anymore, they would become negative and weak, and betray God. So, they learn to suffer without it preemptively. Others think that, as a believer in God, they must appear well-behaved, so they take stock of their flaws and bad habits, and they work hard to alter their tone of speaking, they restrain their temper, and they do their best to make themselves refined, and not vulgar. They think that once a person has come to believe in God, they must restrict and restrain themselves, that they must be a good person in the eyes of others and well-behaved. They think that in doing so, they are paying a price, satisfying God, and practicing the truth. Some people get dressed up and go out shopping from time to time, and feel guilty when they do so. They think that now they believe in God, they cannot wear makeup and get dressed up, and that they cannot wear nice clothes. They believe that if they do their makeup, dress up, and wear nice clothes, God will loathe and dislike it. They believe that God likes primitive humankind, that God does not like industry, or modern science, or any trends. They think that they are only pursuing the truth if they let go of the pursuit of these things. Is this not a warped comprehension? (It is.) Have these people read God’s words carefully? Have they taken His words as the truth? (No.) And since they have not taken God’s words as the truth, are they pursuing the truth? (No.) That is why these approaches and manifestations are simply people mistaking things that they hold in their notions to be right and good for the truth, and using those things to supplant the truth. They optimistically practice these things, after which they think that they are pursuing the truth, and that they are people who possess the reality of the truth. For example, there are people who have not watched a television show, or watched the news, or even gone out shopping since they came to believe in God. They have slept many nights in haystacks and spent many days staying beside kennels because they have been spreading the gospel and performing their duties. They have gotten many stomachaches from eating cold food, they have lost many pounds and suffered a lot from lack of sleep and a meager diet. They know all of these things very well, they tally them up, one by one. Why do they keep such clear records of these things? The reason is that they believe these behaviors and approaches are practicing the truth and satisfying God, and that if they achieve all of these good behaviors, God will approve of them. And so, people do not complain, and they practice these things without hesitation. They never tire of harking on about them, and replaying them, and recalling them, and their hearts feel very full. And yet, when they meet with God’s trials, when the environment that He arranges is not as they wish it to be, when what He requires of them and His actions do not conform to their notions, then the things that these people hold to be right, as well as the prices that they pay and their practices, will be of no use at all. These things will not help them, in even the slightest way, to submit to God or to know Him within the environments they are faced with. On the contrary, they will become stumbling blocks and obstacles to them entering into the reality of God’s words and submitting to God. The reason for this is that people have never learned that the things they believe to be right are fundamentally not the truth, and that what they practice is not the pursuit of the truth. What, then, do people stand to gain from these things? Merely a kind of good behavior. People will not gain the truth and the life from them. And yet they mistakenly believe that these good behaviors are the reality of the truth, and they feel even more resolved in their determination that these things that they hold to be right in their notions are the truth and positive things, and consequently, that determination takes root in their hearts. The more that people worship and blindly believe in these things which they hold to be right in their notions, the more they reject the truth, and the further they grow from God’s requirements and His words. And at the same time, the more prices that people pay, the more they think that they are gaining capital, and the more they believe that they are qualified to be saved and to receive God’s promise. Is this not a vicious cycle? (It is.) What is the root of this problem? What is the main culprit? (People mistaking their notions for positive things and supplanting God’s words with them.) People replace God’s words with their own notions, they put God’s words aside, and they essentially ignore them. In other words, they do not take God’s words to be the truth at all. It is safe to say that people, after coming to believe in God, may read God’s words, yet what they pursue, choose, and practice is still based on man’s notions and imaginings, and they have not embarked on the path of belief in God according to His words and requirements. Where, exactly, does the problem of people believing in God based on their own notions and imaginings stem from? From where do man’s notions and imaginings arise? Where do they come from? It can be said that they primarily come from traditional culture, and from man’s inheritance, as well as from the conditioning and influence of the religious world. Man’s notions and imaginings are directly related to these things.
What other things do people, in their thoughts and views, believe to be good, right, and positive? You can go ahead and name a few, as examples. People often say, “The good have peaceful lives,” and “Guileless people ever prevail”—these are a few, no? (They are.) And there are also: “Good is repaid with good, and evil with evil; if not today, it’s on its way,” “Persisting in evil brings about self-destruction,” “Whom God would destroy, He first drives mad,” “You have to endure great suffering in order to come out on top,” “Other pursuits are small, books excel them all,” and so on. All this nonsense is sickening. I become seized with fury when I hear such words, yet people say them so easily. Why can they say these words so easily? Why is it that I cannot seem to say them? I do not like these words, these sayings. The fact that you have them at the ready, that they flow right off your tongues, and the way that you recite them so smoothly prove that you especially adore and worship these things. You worship these empty, illusory, unreal things, and at the same time, you take them as your mottos, and as the principles, criteria, and basis for your actions. And then, you even think that God also believes these things, and that His words are just a different approach to these same ideas, and that these things are the general meaning of His words: a call for people to be good. Is this view correct? Are these things the meaning of God’s words and the truths that He expresses? Not at all; what God means has nothing to do with these things. Therefore, people’s attitude toward the truth must be reversed, and their recognition of the truth needs to be corrected—which means that the standard by which they position the truth needs to be corrected and reversed. Otherwise, it will be hard for them to accept the truth, and they will have no way to embark on the path of pursuing it. What is the truth? Broadly speaking, all of God’s words are the truth. More specifically, then—what is the truth? I have told you before. What did I say? (“The truth is the criterion for people’s comportment, actions, and worship of God.”) That is right. The truth is the criterion for people’s comportment, actions, and worship of God. So, does the truth have anything to do with the things that people, in their notions, believe to be right and good? (It does not.) Where do those human things come from? (From Satan’s philosophy for living, and from some thoughts that are instilled in man by traditional culture.) That is right. To be precise, these things stem from Satan. And who are the eminent, famous people who instilled these things in man? Are they not Satan? (They are.) All those patriarchs of yours are Satan—they are Satan, living and breathing. Just look at those sayings that Chinese people espouse: “What a joy it is, when a friend comes from afar,” “Once you have arrived, you might as well stay,” “Do not travel far while your parents yet live,” “Filial piety is a virtue to be held above all else,” “Of the three filial impieties, having no heir is the worst,” “Respect the dead,” “When a person draws close to death, their words are true and kind.” Analyze these words carefully—are any of them the truth? (No.) They are all nonsense and fallacies. Tell Me, how foolish must people be to mistake these fallacies and nonsense for the truth after they have accepted God’s work? Do these people have the ability to comprehend the truth? (No.) Such people are absurd types and they are entirely incapable of comprehending the truth. And you—having now read so many of God’s words, do you not possess a bit of knowledge of the truth? (We do.) Where does the truth come from? (It comes from God.) The truth comes from God. Do not believe any words that are not spoken by God. Those satanic philosophies for living and those ideas from traditional culture are not the truth, and one must not view people and things, or comport themselves and act according to them, or with such things as their criteria, because they do not come from God. So long as something comes from man, it does not matter whether it is from traditional culture or some famous person, or whether it is a product of learning or society, or what dynasty or race of people it hails from—it is not the truth. Yet these are precisely the things that people take to be the truth, that they pursue and practice in lieu of the truth. And all the while, they think that they are practicing the truth and that they are close to satisfying God’s will, when in fact, exactly the opposite is true: When you pursue and practice based on these things, you grow ever further from God’s requirements and ever further from the truth.
It is inherently absurd for people to mistake things that man sees as good and positive for the truth, and to pursue them as though they were the truth. How is it that people who have accepted God’s work and read many of His words can still persist in mistaking those things that man sees as good for the truth, and pursuing them as though they were the truth? What is the problem here? This suffices to show that people do not understand what the truth is, and that they have no real knowledge of the truth. This is one factor in the question that I just asked: “Given that these things are not the truth, how can people go on practicing them and think that they are practicing the truth?” I will speak about another factor, one that touches on man’s corrupt disposition. People believe that the things they hold to be good, right, and positive in their notions are the truth, and upon this foundation, they form a plot, believing that when they have satisfied God and God is happy, He will bestow upon them the blessings that He has promised man. Is this plot not an attempt to strike a deal with God? (It is.) In one respect, people uphold and pursue these things while harboring an incorrect, absurd understanding, and at the same time, they try to strike a deal with God with their own desires and ambitions. Is that not another factor? (It is.) We have frequently fellowshiped about this factor in the past, so we will not speak on it in detail now. So, I ask you: When someone who believes in God renounces, suffers, expends themselves, and pays prices for God, do they not have an intent and goal in doing so? (They do.) Is there anyone who says, “I desire nothing and ask for nothing. I will renounce, and expend myself, and pay a price, no matter what the circumstances are. That is all there is to it. I do not have any personal desires and ambitions. However God treats me is fine. He may reward me, He may not—in any case, I’ve acted in accordance with His requirements, I’ve offered myself up, I’ve renounced everything, I’ve paid a price and suffered”? Are there such people? (No.) To date, a person like this has not been born. Some may say, “A person like that would have to live in a vacuum.” Even if a person lived in a vacuum, they would not be like this: They would still have a corrupt disposition and ambitions and desires, and they would still attempt to strike a deal with God. So, the second factor in this question is that once people treat things that they, in their notions, believe to be right as the truth, they form a plot. And what is that plot? To practice these things in order to exchange them for the blessings that God has promised man, and for a beautiful destination. They believe that so long as something is regarded by man as positive, it must be right, so they do and pursue whatever they believe to be right, and they think that by practicing in this way, they are bound to be blessed by God. That is man’s plot. This second factor purely concerns people trying to satisfy their own ambitions and desires and attempting to strike a deal with God. If you do not believe this, try forbidding people from making deals, and strip them of their desires and ambitions—have them let go of their desires and ambitions. They will immediately lose the energy to suffer and pay prices. Why will they lose the energy to do these things? Because they will feel that they have lost their prospects and their destiny, that there is no longer any hope of them being blessed, and that they have nothing to gain. What they practice is not the truth, and what they pursue is not the truth, but things that they imagine to be positive, and yet, when their desires and ambitions are dashed, they are no longer willing to even pay forth these things. Tell Me, what do people have? Do they have true faith? (They do not.) To take this a step further, are people loyal? Some may say, “Whatever God says now, we follow Him. No matter what He says, we do not become negative or discouraged, and we do not back down, much less do we give up. Even if God doesn’t want us, and He says that we are service-doers and laborers, that we are not people who pursue the truth, and that we have no hope of being saved, we will still follow Him without hesitation and persist in performing our duties. Is that not loyalty? Is that not having faith? Is being loyal and having faith not the same as pursuing the truth? Does it not mean that we are pursuing the truth, to some extent?” Tell Me, is that pursuing the truth? (No.) What does it mean, to say that it is not pursuing the truth? It means that all of man’s “lifelines” have been sealed off, that they do not even have any straws to clutch at. What is to be done then? Is there anything that can be done? Regardless of whether there is anything they can do about it or not, how do people feel after hearing this? They feel extremely disappointed: “Does this really mean that I have no hope of being blessed? What on earth is happening?” People completely lose their bearings in these circumstances. Now that My words have stripped you of all your “lifelines,” I will see where you go from here. Some say, “It’s not right to labor, or to try to strike deals, or to have warped understandings, or to suffer and pay a price—so what on earth is the right thing to do? Whatever God says, we will not leave Him. We will keep on performing our duties. Does that not amount to practicing the truth?” This question must be understood clearly. Because people do not understand the truth and always harbor warped understandings of what it means to practice the truth, they believe that renouncing, expending, suffering, and paying prices is practicing the truth and submitting to God. This is a terrible error. To practice the truth is to practice God’s words, but people must practice them with principles—they absolutely must not do so based on man’s notions and imaginings. What God wants is a sincere heart, a heart that loves Him, a heart that satisfies Him. Only practicing God’s words in this way is practicing the truth. If one always wishes to strike a deal with God when they expend themselves for Him, and to satisfy their own ambitions and desires, they are not practicing the truth, they are playing games with it and trampling on it, and they are a hypocrite. So, if someone is able to accept God’s words of judgment, and does not leave God and persists in performing their duty despite having their intents and desires to gain blessings dashed, and despite having nothing to look forward to and nothing to motivate them, does this amount to pursuing and practicing the truth? As I see it, if we measure this based on the definition of what it means to pursue the truth, then this is still not pursuing the truth, and it falls entirely short of the standard of pursuing the truth. Now that we have an accurate definition of the pursuit of the truth, we should strictly adhere to it when evaluating people’s actions, conduct, and manifestations. What evaluation can be made based on someone’s ability to remain with God and persist in performing their duty, though they have no blessings to look forward to? That people, as created beings, are born with two commendable things in their humanity, and that if you can make use of them, it will ensure that you—to the most minimal degree—follow God. Do you know what those two things are? (Conscience and reason.) Correct. There are two things that are most valuable within man’s humanity—when people do not understand the truth, when they have very poor caliber, and they are devoid of any knowledge or entry regarding God’s requirements and the truth, and they can still stand fast in their station, what is the basic precondition that allows them to achieve this? They must have the conscience and reason of normal humanity. The answer, then, is clear. Since people do not pursue the truth, and have no desire or ambition to be blessed, since they have been stripped of their desire to be blessed, if they can still follow God and fulfill their duties, on what basis do they do so? What is motivating them? There is no basis or motivation for their actions—so long as people possess the conscience and reason of normal humanity, they can do these things. This is how things stand now: You do not understand the truth, that is a fact—and your understanding of doctrines is useless, it does not mean that you have entered into the reality of the truth. You know that attempting to strike a deal with God in order to pursue prospects and destiny for yourself is wrong, but what would be really remarkable is if you were still happy to follow God and perform your duty after the pursuit of prospects and destiny, and the desire to be blessed have been condemned and stripped from you. If you were able to follow God without having gained the truth, what would that depend on? It would depend on your conscience and reason. A person’s conscience and reason can sustain their normal existence, life, and treatment of people and things. So, what is the gap between performing your duty based on your conscience and reason and practicing the truth? The manifestation of a person who pursues the truth is that they view people and things, and comport themselves and act according to God’s words, with the truth as their criterion, whereas those who just act based on their conscience and reason may not pursue the truth, but they can still labor, perform their duties, and remain in God’s house, without any bad marks on their record. What does that depend on? They view people and things, and they comport themselves and act, based on the criteria of their conscience and reason, rather than doing so according to God’s words, with the truth as their criterion. So, with that in mind, if you merely perform your duty based on your conscience and reason, is there not a gap between that and pursuing the truth? (There is.) To perform a duty based on one’s conscience and reason is to be content with just laboring; it is to take as one’s standards things such as laboring well, not causing disruptions or disturbances, obeying and submitting, possessing good behaviors and good relationships with other people, and having no bad marks on one’s record. Does that rise to the level of pursuing the truth? It does not. No matter how many good behaviors a person possesses, if they do not have any knowledge at all of their corrupt dispositions, nor any knowledge of their rebelliousness, notions, misconceptions about God, and their various negative states; and if it is impossible for them to resolve these things; if it is impossible for them to understand the principles of practicing the truth; and if not one of their outpourings of corrupt dispositions has been resolved; and if they are still arrogant and self-righteous, arbitrary and reckless, crooked and deceitful, and there are times when they even grow negative and weak and doubt God, and so on—if these things still exist within them, can they achieve true submission to God? If there are still these corrupt dispositions inside them, will they be able to truly experience God’s work? If a person merely possesses good behaviors, is that a manifestation of the pursuit of the truth? (It is not.) What are the best things in man? Merely man’s conscience and reason; these are the only two positive things, and they are what is commendable in man. However, neither of them is related to the truth; they are no more than the most basic preconditions for man’s pursuit of the truth, meaning that if you possess the normal conscience and reason of humanity, and you are able to understand the truth, you will be able to make the correct choices when things befall you. The conscience and reason that man possesses is this: God is the Lord of creation, and you are a created being; God has chosen you, so it is only right that you devote yourself and expend yourself for God, and it is only right that you listen to His words. This “only right” is determined by your conscience and reason—but have you listened to God’s words? What are the principles and methods behind your actions? You have a corrupt disposition—have you forsaken it? Have you resolved it? Such things have nothing to do with what is “only right.” If you do not go any further than this foundation of what is only right to do and how it is only right to act, and you live amid the parameters of what is “only right,” is that not an effect of your conscience and reason? (It is.) Your conscience tells you, “God has saved me, so I should expend myself for Him. God has saved my life and given me a second one, so it is only right that I repay His love. God is the Lord of creation, and I am a created being, so I ought to submit to His arrangements.” Is this not an effect of your conscience and reason? (It is.) The various behaviors, modes of practice, attitudes, and views that arise in people due to the effect of their conscience and reason go no further than the parameters of what their conscience and reason are naturally capable of, and they fall short of practicing the truth. Is that not so? (It is.) Some people may say, for instance, “God’s house has exalted me by allowing me to perform a duty, and God’s house feeds me, clothes me, and sees to my housing. God’s house takes care of every aspect of my life. I’ve enjoyed so much of God’s grace, so I should repay His love; I shouldn’t deceive God by being perfunctory in my duty, much less should I do anything disruptive or disturbing. I am willing to submit to whatever God’s house arranges for me. Whatever God’s house has me do, I won’t complain.” This kind of declaration is fine; is it not quite easy for someone with conscience and reason to do this? (It is.) Can it rise to the level of practicing the truth? (It cannot.) It falls short of practicing the truth. Therefore, no matter how noble of conscience or normal of reason someone is, or whether they are able to do everything under the governance of their conscience and reason, and regardless of how proper and decent their actions are, or how much others admire these actions, they go no further than being good human behaviors. They can only be classified within the realm of good human behaviors; they fundamentally fall short of being the practice of the truth. When you base your interactions with others on your reason, you will be a little more gentle in speech, and you will not attack others, or get angry, you will not suppress, or control, or bully, or seek leverage over other people, and so on—these are all things that can be achieved by the reason of normal humanity—but are they related to practicing the truth? No, they are not. They are things that can be achieved by man’s reason, and there is a certain distance between them and the truth.
Why do I say that acting based on one’s conscience and reason is unrelated to practicing the truth? I will give an example. Say that a person has been kind to you, and you are on good terms with them, and they accept God’s work of the last days, and then spread the gospel to you—which is the same as God using them to spread the gospel to you. After you have accepted God’s new work, you feel even more grateful toward them, and always wish to repay them. So, you give them a bit of leeway in whatever you do, and in whatever you say to them, you are always particularly polite. You are especially respectful, deferential, and tolerant toward them, and no matter what bad things they do, or whatever their character is like, you are patient and accommodating toward them, so much so that whenever they reach out to you for assistance when they are facing a challenge, you help them unconditionally. Why would you do this? What is affecting your actions? (My conscience.) This is done as an effect of your conscience. This effect of your conscience cannot be called positive or negative; all one can say is that you have a conscience and a bit of humanity, and that when someone is kind to you, you are grateful and repay them. From that perspective, you are an alright person. But if we were to measure this using the truth, we might come to a different conclusion. Suppose that one day, that person does evil and they are going to be cleared out by the church, and you still measure them using your conscience, and say, “They were the one who spread the gospel to me. I won’t forget their kindness as long as I live; if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Even though they did evil today, I can’t expose them. Even though I saw that what they did was wrong, I can’t say so, because they have helped me so much. I may not be able to repay them, but I can’t attack them. If someone else wants to report them, they can go ahead, but I won’t. I can’t rub salt into their wounds—if I did, what sort of person would that make me? Wouldn’t it make me a person without a conscience? Isn’t a person without a conscience simply a beast?” What do you think? What is the effect that conscience has in circumstances like that? Is the effect that conscience has there not in violation of the truth? (It is.) We can see from this that sometimes, the effects of one’s conscience are constrained and influenced by their feelings, and as a result, their decisions conflict with the principles of the truth. As such, we can see one fact clearly: The effect of one’s conscience is inferior to the standard of the truth, and sometimes people violate the truth while acting based on their consciences. If you believe in God, but do not live by the truth, and instead act based on your conscience, can you do evil and resist God? You will truly be able to do some evil things—it absolutely cannot be said that it is never wrong to act based on one’s conscience. This shows that if one wishes to satisfy God and conform with His will, merely acting based on one’s conscience is greatly insufficient. One must act based on the truth in order to fulfill God’s demands. When you treat your conscience as the truth and regard it as superior to all else, where have you placed the truth, then? You have replaced it with your conscience; is that not resisting the truth? Is that not opposing the truth? If you live by your conscience, you can violate the truth, and to violate the truth is to resist God. There are many people who take their consciences as the standards for their speech and actions after coming to believe in God, and comport themselves based on their consciences, too. Is acting based on one’s conscience practicing the truth, or is it not? Can one’s conscience stand in for the truth? In what way, exactly, is acting based on one’s conscience different from acting based on the truth? Some people always insist on acting based on their consciences, and think that they are a person who pursues the truth. Is that view right? (It is not.) Can the feelings of a person’s conscience stand in for the truth? (They cannot.) What mistake are these people making? (Contravening the truth, which is resisting God.) That is right. They equate the feelings of their consciences with the truth, which makes them liable to violate the truth. This kind of person always views people and things, and comports themselves and acts based on the standard of their conscience, with their conscience as their criterion. They are entangled and controlled by their conscience, and at the same time, their reason is controlled by it too. If someone is controlled by their conscience, can they still seek the truth and practice according to it? They cannot. Can conscience stand in for the truth, then? It cannot. Some may ask, “Since we can’t use our consciences to measure how we treat other people, and we can’t treat our consciences as the truth, is it right to use the standards of our consciences to measure how we treat God?” This question is worthy of consideration. In any case, a person’s conscience cannot stand in for the truth. If you do not possess the truth and you approach God based on your conscience, that would be considered fine according to human standard, but you will not be able to achieve love or submission toward God by relying on this standard—at the very most, you will be able to avoid violating the truth or resisting God, which is quite good in itself. Some may say, “You don’t need to use your conscience with other people, and you don’t need to use your conscience with God, either.” Is that right, or not? From the perspective of doctrines and theory, it seems wrong, does it not? Then, use the truth to measure it—does it look right to you? Does God tell people to approach Him using their consciences? What does God require of man? How does He require man to approach Him? You may have a conscience, but are you sincere? If you have a conscience but are not sincere, that just will not do. What God requires is that man approaches Him with sincerity. It is written in the Bible, “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). What does God require? (That people love God with all their hearts, and with all their minds, and with all their souls.) What does God want from people? (Their sincerity.) Correct. Has God said, “You must love Me with your consciences and reason, and your instincts”? Did God say that? (No, He didn’t.) Why does God not say that? (Because conscience is not the truth.) What is conscience? (The lowest standard of humanity.) That is right, conscience and reason are the lowest and most basic standards of humanity. How can you tell whether a person is good, and whether they have humanity? How can you measure this? With what do you measure this? The lowest and most basic standard is whether that person has a conscience and reason. That is the standard by which you can measure whether a person possesses humanity. What, then, is the standard for measuring whether a person pursues the truth? You can tell if a person pursues the truth or not based on whether they have a conscience and reason—are these words the truth? Are they right? (No.) Then what is it God wants from man? (Sincerity.) God wants man’s sincerity. What is that sincerity made up of? What should one do to demonstrate sincerity? If one merely says when they pray that they offer their sincerity up to God, but afterward, they do not sincerely expend themselves for God or perform their duty loyally, is that sincerity? That is not sincerity—that is deception. So, what behavior is a manifestation of sincerity? What is the specific practice? Do you know? Is it not an attitude of submission toward God? (It is.) A person is only sincere if they have an attitude of submission. Is this not far superior to conscience? Man’s conscience and reason are not even close to sincerity, there is a distance between them. People’s consciences and reason are no more than the most basic conditions for maintaining their existence, their normal lives, and their relationships with other people. If people were to lose their consciences and reason, they would not be capable of existing, or having normal lives, or relationships with other people at even the most basic level. Just look at those people who have no conscience or reason, those evil people—would anyone in a group willingly interact with them? (No.) No one would willingly interact with them. What do people feel while interacting with them? Disgust, loathing—they may even feel afraid, constrained, and bound by them. Such people do not even possess the conscience and reason of normal humanity, and no one would willingly interact with them. Tell Me, would God save these people? (No.) If an evil person responds to anyone who offends them by saying: “Should the circumstances ever permit it, I’ll kill you—I’ll destroy you!” then regardless of whether they are actually capable of doing those things, does the fact that they could say such things not make them an evil person? (It does.) So, what sort of person are they, whose words invoke fear in others? Are they someone with conscience and reason? (No.) And do those without conscience and reason have humanity? (No.) Who would dare to interact with the sort of evil person that has no humanity? Do those evil people have normal relationships with other people? (They do not.) What is the condition of their relationships with other people? Everyone fears them, everyone is restricted and constrained by them—they wish to bully every person that they meet, and to punish everyone. Do such people have normal humanity? No one dares to interact with this sort of person, who does not possess conscience and reason. They cannot even live a normal human life, so they are no different from devils and beasts. In groups, they are always lashing out at others, punishing one person and then another. In the end, everyone keeps their distance from them, everyone avoids them. How frightening they must be! They are even incapable of normal human relationships and they cannot gain a foothold within a group—what sort of thing are they? Such people do not even possess humanity—can they pursue the truth? (No.) What sort of person has no humanity? Beasts, devils. God bestows the truths that He expresses upon humankind, not on beasts and devils. Only those with conscience and reason are fit to be called human. Tell Me again: Is being possessed of conscience and reason all that it takes for a person to completely live out normal humanity? One may say that there remains a gap, because people have corrupt dispositions. They must pursue the truth before they can get rid of their corrupt dispositions and live out normal humanity. Some may say, “I have conscience and reason. So long as I make sure to do no evil, I’ll possess the reality of the truth.” Is that right? If someone has conscience and reason, that does not mean that they are already pursuing the truth—and neither does the fact that they are living by their conscience and reason. So, what are conscience and reason, exactly? Man’s conscience and reason are merely the most basic markers and qualities of humanity that people must possess to pursue the truth. Living by these two things does not mean that a person is pursuing the truth, and less still does it prove that they possess the reality of the truth. From the example that I just spoke about, it can be seen that when one views people and things, and comports themselves and acts based on their conscience and reason, they are liable to violate the truth and the principles. They fall far short of the standard of doing those things according to God’s words, with the truth as one’s criterion. Therefore, no matter how much conscience you possess, and no matter how normal your reason is, if you cannot view people and things, and comport yourself and act according to God’s words, with the truth as your criterion, you are not pursuing the truth. Likewise, no matter how much you suffer and labor within the scope of the instincts of your conscience and reason, it cannot be said that you are pursuing the truth.
We just analyzed three things, all of which were biases and misunderstandings that people have about the pursuit of the truth. Tell Me, what were those three things? (The first was that people mistake things that they hold in their notions to be good, right, and positive for the truth, and use them as their standards—supplanting God’s requirements of man, and the requirements and standards of His words—after which, they pursue and practice those things. The second was that, upon the foundation of people clinging to fallacious understandings, they try to strike deals with God while harboring desires and ambitions. People believe that once they have satisfied God and God is happy, God will bestow His promise upon them. The third was that people believe that by comporting themselves and acting based on their consciences and reason, they are already practicing the truth.) Putting those three things aside, what exactly does it mean to pursue the truth? Let us return to our definition of the pursuit of the truth: “To view people and things, and to comport oneself and act according to God’s words, with the truth as one’s criterion.” These words are enough to make people understand what it means to pursue the truth and how to do so. We have already spoken a lot about what it means to pursue the truth. How, then, does one pursue it? We have fellowshiped a great deal about that, both right now and previously: Whether you are viewing people and things, or comporting yourself and acting, it must be according to God’s words, with the truth as your criterion. That is the pursuit of the truth. Anything else that is unrelated to these words is not the pursuit of the truth. Of course, if, “to view people and things, and to comport oneself and act according to God’s words, with the truth as one’s criterion,” is not directed at man’s corrupt dispositions, it does address some of man’s thoughts, views, and notions. And if it addresses these things, and it is meant to achieve the goal of enabling man to practice according to the principles of the truth, and to submit to God’s words and the truth, then naturally, that will be its ultimate effect. “To view people and things, and to comport oneself and act according to God’s words, with the truth as one’s criterion,” is quite clear and explicit. The path that it ultimately gives people enables them to cast off their biases in their practices, and to let go of their desires and ambitions. At the same time, people must not live in hiding behind a belief that they are superior, that they possess humanity, and conscience and reason, and use this to supplant the principle of practice of taking God’s words as one’s basis, and the truth as one’s criterion. Whatever justifications you have, whatever strengths and advantages you possess, they are not sufficient to supplant viewing people and things, and comporting yourself and acting according to God’s words, with the truth as your criterion. That is an absolute certainty. By contrast, if the starting point for your views on people and things, and your comportment and actions is completely according to God’s words, with the truth as your principles of practice, then you are practicing the truth. Otherwise, you are not. In sum, people living amid human notions and imaginings, acting with the intent to strike deals, or constantly supplanting the pursuit of the truth and its practice with the belief that they possess a great deal of good moral conduct—such approaches are all foolish. None of them are manifestations of the pursuit of the truth, and ultimately, the outcome of these foolish approaches will be that people do not understand the truth, that they are unable to comprehend God’s will, and that they are incapable of embarking on the road of salvation. Do you understand? (Yes.) Of course, among those who do not pursue the truth—apart from those who cannot be saved—there are some who are willing to be service-doers that will survive. This is quite fine, it can be regarded as a good alternative to not pursuing the truth. Which path you choose in particular is up to you. Perhaps some people will say, “After all that fellowship, You still haven’t told us how to view people and things, or how to comport oneself and act.” Did I not? (You did.) What should one view people and things, and comport themselves and act according to? (According to God’s words.) And with what as one’s criterion? (With the truth as one’s criterion.) What are God’s words, then? Where is the truth? (God’s words are the truth.) There are so many words of God, they tell people about every aspect of how to view people and things, and how to comport themselves and act, so we will not go into detail about these things now. Read once again what it means to pursue the truth. (What does it mean to pursue the truth? To view people and things, and to comport oneself and act according to God’s words, with the truth as one’s criterion.) You must inscribe these words in your hearts, and use them as your life motto. Take them out often so that you may think about them and consider them; hold your behavior, your attitude in life, your views on things, and your intents and goals up against them for comparison. You will then be able to clearly feel what your true state is, and what the essence of the dispositions you pour forth is. Compare them to these words, and take these words as your principles of practice, and as the path and direction for your practice. When you pursue in this way, when you are able to completely enter into and live out these words, you will understand what it means to pursue the truth. Naturally, when you enter into the reality of these words, you will have already embarked on the path of pursuing the truth. When you embark on the path of pursuing the truth, what would come of it? The distress caused by the disturbance, control, and constraints of your corrupt disposition will become increasingly lighter. Why is that? Because you will feel that you have a path for resolving your corrupt disposition, and that there is hope for you to be saved. Only then will you feel that a life of truly believing in God and eating and drinking of His words is fulfilling, peaceful, and joyful. After many years of believing in God, those who do not love the truth still feel that life is very hollow, and that there is nothing for them to rely on. Often, they even feel that it is truly painful to live within a corrupt disposition, and though they wish to cast it off, they cannot. They remain forever constrained, fettered, and bound by their corrupt disposition, which causes them great distress, yet they have no path at all to follow. These bitter days of theirs are endless. If they could accept the truth and attain salvation, then these bitter days would pass. However, the results of all this depend on your future pursuit and entry.
January 29, 2022