39. What are the differences between dispositional change and good behavior?
Relevant Words of God:
A transformation in disposition mainly refers to a transformation in your nature. Nature is not something you can see from outside behaviors; nature directly involves the worth and significance of people’s existence. It directly involves the values of human life, the things deep within the soul, and the essence of people. If people couldn’t accept the truth, then they would have no transformations in these aspects. Only if people have experienced God’s work and have fully entered into the truth, changed their values and outlooks on existence and life, viewed things the same way as God, and become capable of completely submitting and devoting themselves to God can their dispositions be said to have changed. You may appear to put forth some effort, you might be resilient in the face of hardships, you might be able to carry out the work arrangements from the above, or you might be able to go wherever you are told to go, but these are only small changes in your actions, and they are not enough to be a transformation in your disposition. You might be able to run down many paths, and you might be able to suffer many hardships and endure great humiliation; you might feel very close to God, and the Holy Spirit is working in you, but when God requests you to do something that doesn’t conform to your notions, you still don’t submit, you look for excuses, and you rebel against and resist God, even to the point that you blame God and protest against Him. This is a serious problem! This proves that you still have a nature to resist God and that you have not transformed in the slightest degree.
from “What You Should Know About Transforming Your Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
What do you know about changes in disposition? The essences of changes in disposition and changes in behavior are different, and changes in practice are also different—they are all different in essence. Most people place special emphasis on behavior in their belief in God, as a result of which there are changes occurring in their behavior. After believing in God, they stop contending with others, they stop fighting with people and insulting them, they stop smoking and drinking, they do not steal any public property—whether it be but a nail or a plank of wood—and they even go so far as to not take it to the courts when they suffer losses or are wronged. Without doubt, some changes do occur in their behavior. Because, after believing in God, accepting the true way makes them feel especially good, and because they have also tasted the grace of the work of the Holy Spirit, they are particularly fervent, and there is even nothing that they cannot forsake or do. Yet in the end—after having believed for three, five, ten, or thirty years—because there has been no change in their life disposition, they slide back into old ways, their arrogance and haughtiness grows, and they begin to fight for power and profit, they covet the money of the church, they do anything that serves their interests, they crave status and pleasures, they become parasites of the house of God. Most of the leaders, in particular, are abandoned. And what do these facts prove? Changes in nothing more than behavior are unsustainable. If there is no alteration in people’s life disposition, then sooner or later their wicked side will show itself. Because the source of the changes in their behavior is fervor, coupled with some work by the Holy Spirit at the time, it is extremely easy for them to become fervent, or to be good for a time. As the unbelievers say, “Doing one good deed is easy, what’s hard is doing a lifetime of good deeds.” People are incapable of doing good deeds their whole life. Their behavior is directed by the life; whatever their life is, so is their behavior, and only that which is revealed naturally represents the life, and one’s nature. Things that are fake cannot last. When God works to save man, it is not to adorn man with good behavior—God’s work is in order to change people’s dispositions, to make them reborn into new people. Thus, God’s judgment, chastisement, trials, and refinement of man are all in order to change his disposition, so that he may achieve absolute obedience and faithfulness to God, and the normal worship of God. This is the aim of God’s work. Behaving well is not the same as obeying God, much less does it equal being compatible with Christ. Changes in behavior are based on doctrine, and born of fervor—they are not based on the true knowledge of God, or upon the truth, much less do they rest on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Even though there are times when some of what people do is directed by the Holy Spirit, this is not the expression of the life, much less is it the same as knowing God; no matter how good a person’s behavior, it does not prove that they obey God, or that they put the truth into practice. Behavioral changes are a momentary illusion, they are the manifestation of zealousness, and they are not the expression of the life. … People can behave well, but that does not necessarily mean they are possessed of the truth. People’s fervor can only make them abide by doctrine and follow regulation; people who are without the truth have no way of resolving substantive problems, and doctrine cannot stand in for the truth. Those who have changed their dispositions are different. They have truth within, they are discerning on all issues, they know how to act in accordance with God’s will, how to act in accordance with the principles of the truth, how to act to satisfy God, and they understand the nature of the corruption they reveal. When their own ideas and conceptions are revealed, they are able to be discerning and forsake the flesh. This is how a change in disposition is expressed. The main thing about a change in disposition is that they have both truth and clarity, and when carrying things out, they put the truth into practice with relative accuracy and their corruption is not revealed as often.
from “The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Those who do not possess truth absolutely have not had a change in disposition. That is not to say that someone who is mature in their humanity will necessarily have a change in disposition; it most probably happens when some of satanic poisons within a person’s nature change due to their knowledge of God and their understanding of the truth. That is to say, those poisons are cleansed and the truth expressed by God takes root within the person, becomes his life, and becomes the foundation of his existence. Only then does he become a new person, and his disposition therefore changes. This is not to say that their outer disposition is meeker than before, that they used to be arrogant but now their words are reasonable, that they used to listen to no one but now they can listen to others—these external changes cannot be said to be changes in disposition. Of course changes in disposition do include these situations, but the most key thing is that their inner life has changed. The truth expressed by God becomes their very life, some of satanic poisons within have been eliminated, the perspective of the person has completely changed, and none of it is in line with that of the world. He sees the schemes and poisons of the great red dragon clearly; he has grasped the true essence of life. So his life values have changed—this is the most fundamental change and the essence of a change in disposition. On what basis did people live before that? All people live for themselves. Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost—this is the summation of man’s nature. Believing in God is done for oneself, and obtaining blessings is even more so. Casting things away for God, expending oneself for God, and being faithful to God—all of these are done for oneself. In sum, it is all for the purpose of gaining blessings for oneself. In the world, everything is for personal benefit. Believing in God is to gain blessings, and it is to obtain blessings that one casts off everything, and one can withstand much suffering in order to obtain blessings. This is all empirical evidence of man’s corrupt nature. However, those who have a change in disposition are different. How they should live meaningfully, how they should fulfill the duties of a person to be worthy of being called human, how they should worship God, and how they should obey and satisfy God—they believe that this is the foundation of being a person and is their obligation in accord with the unalterable principles of heaven and earth. Otherwise, they will not be worthy of being called human, there will be no point, and they will be full of emptiness. People should live in order to satisfy God, to perform their duty well, and to live a meaningful life, so that even when they die, they will feel satisfied without the slightest regret, and they will not have lived in vain. From comparing these two kinds of situations, we see that the latter is a person whose disposition has changed, and since his life disposition changed, outlook on life has certainly changed. With different values, he will never again live for himself, and his belief in God will never again be for the purpose of gaining blessings for himself. He will be able to say, “After knowing God, what is death to me? Knowing God has allowed me to live a meaningful life. I have not lived in vain and I will not die with regrets—I have no complaints.” Isn’t this a changed outlook on life? Therefore, the main cause of a change in one’s life disposition is having truth within, and having knowledge of God; one’s outlook on life is changed, and values are different from before. The change starts from within, and from the life; it is surely not just an external change. Some new believers, after believing in God, have left the secular world behind; when they meet unbelievers they have nothing to say, and they rarely meet with their relatives and friends, and the unbelievers say, “This person has really changed.” So they think, “My disposition really has changed—the unbelievers say I’ve changed.” In fact, has their disposition really changed? It has not. These are merely external changes. There has been no change in their life, and their old nature remains rooted within them, completely untouched. Sometimes, people are gripped by fervor because of the work of the Holy Spirit; some external changes occur, and they do a few good deeds. But this is not the same as changes in disposition. You are without the truth, your view of things has not changed, even no different from that of unbelievers, and your values and outlook on life have not altered. You don’t even have a heart that reveres God, which is the very least that you should possess. Nothing could be further from changes in your disposition.
from “The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Faith in God does not mean that He requires you to be a good person, to be someone who is well-behaved, or law-abiding, or just someone who is unable to think for themselves or use their own brain. People used to think that changes in disposition that came from the belief in God meant being a decent person, that it meant having some human likeness outwardly, well brought-up and patient, seeming pious or loving, or willing to help others and charitable. In short, it meant being the kind of good person that existed in their conceptions and imagination. Just like how there are people in the world who say: “If you’re rich, you should give to the poor or beggars.” So these kinds of notions exist within each and every person’s concepts—they all have these sorts of things, and it is one type of poison. For people who believed in God before, there was no one to clearly explain this kind of issue, and everyone was unfamiliar with matters of believing in God. It is not that people could understand these things right after being born, nor that they could understand them after a few years of believing in Christianity. This is because before, God Himself had not fully explained this, and He Himself had not performed work in this aspect. Thus, many people believed that belief in God was nothing more than a few changes in one’s external behavior, thinking, and actions, and there were even some people who believed that faith in God meant suffering much hardship, not eating fine foods, and not wearing fine clothes. In the West, for example, there was a Catholic nun (Catholicism is also a religion; to the nuns, it is also a kind of faith) who believed that belief in God meant spending her whole life suffering more, eating less fine food, not allowing herself to enjoy so many of the finer things in life, and giving money to the poor or needy when she had it—or else doing more good deeds, being more charitable toward people, and being more helpful to others. Throughout her whole life she did nothing but suffer, and did not allow herself to eat any good food or wear any fine clothes. When she died, she wasn’t wearing anything that cost more than two dollars; her daily living expenses, too, amounted to but a few dollars. Her story probably appeared as a general or major news piece across the world. And what does this show? In the eyes of mankind, only someone like this is a good and kind person, only they are one of those whom the religious community believes to do kind things and good deeds, only they have changed, and truly have faith in God. And so it’s possible that you are no different: You undoubtedly believe that believing in God and having faith is about being a good person. It is about being a person who does not fight with others, or curse them, or swear, someone who does not do bad things, someone who looks as if they believe in God; there are some who say being a person that brings glory unto God.
God wishes to save man, He has spoken many words, and done much work—and so what does He wish people to be like? He wishes for their thoughts to be guided by the truth, and for them to live their lives by the mottos of the truth. He does not ask that you be as thoughtless as a puppet, much less does He want you to be as even-tempered as a vegetable, devoid of any normal emotions. Instead, He wishes for you to be a normal person who loves that which He loves, and hates that which He hates, who can delight in what delights Him, and despise and reject that which He despises. … It is because of this that I say you do not know what is meant by changes in disposition. You merely place limits on yourselves in your behavior, in your external actions, and in your temperament and character. It will be impossible for you to achieve changes in your disposition in this way. Where in God’s words does it say you should place limits on yourselves, that you should watch your words, keep a hold of your emotions, and guard your temper, and that you should be wary of exposing your natural selves, and should be restrained in the clothes that you buy and wear? Has He ever said such words? Even where there are references to such things, they are not the crux of His words, nor are they the main truths that bring about changes in people’s disposition. The majority of God’s words speak of man’s corrupt substance, of how to know man’s corrupt substance, how man can achieve changes in his disposition, how he can truly know his corrupt substance, and how he can get free from his corrupt disposition to act according to the requirements of God and be someone who is after God’s own heart, and satisfies God’s desire. If you understand this, will you still put your efforts into external actions? Will you still tie yourselves in knots over such superficial matters? Thus, if you don’t understand the meaning of changes in disposition, you’ll never grasp the substance of changes in disposition, and will never achieve changes in your disposition. In particular, some from the religious community who have just accepted this stage of work have yet to fully make the transfer from religious ceremony and religious thinking and viewpoints in their mindset and outlook toward the belief in God; they still try to be spiritual, and pious, and patient, to be someone who is naturally decent, who loves to do good and give to others. This is utterly wrong! …
A change in disposition doesn’t refer to changes to ceremonies or rules, and it particularly doesn’t refer to changes to what you wear, your superficial actions, your character, or your temper. It’s not changing your slow temper to a faster one or vice versa, or changing an introvert to an extrovert or into someone who loves to talk, or someone who loves to talk into a quiet person. It’s not like that—that is very far off, very different from God’s requirements. … It turns out that when God has people change their disposition, He first has them know themselves, know their own corrupt essence and dig up its root, work on it, and discover its source.
from “What a Change in Disposition Is and the Path to a Change in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
The Man’s Fellowship:
In the religious world, there are many devout people, they say, “We have changed due to our faith in the Lord Jesus. Look, we are able to make an effort for the Lord, do work for the Lord, endure prison for the Lord, and we do not deny His name in front of others. We are able to do many virtuous things, give to charity, donate and help the poor. These are big changes! We have changed, that is why we are qualified to wait for the Lord to bring us into the kingdom of heaven.” What do you think about these words? (They are wrong.) Do you have any discernment when it comes to these words? … What does it mean to be cleansed? Do you think that if your behavior has changed and you do good deeds then you have been cleansed? Are these words correct? (They are not correct.) Someone says, “I have cast aside everything. I even cast aside my job in the world, my family and the desires of the flesh in order to make an effort for God. Is this the equivalent of getting cleansed?” Even if you have done all this, this is not solid evidence that you have been cleansed. So, what is the key point? … In which aspect can you obtain cleansing that can be considered real cleansing? (The cleansing of the satanic disposition that resists God.) Now, what are the manifestations of satanic disposition that resists God? What are the most obvious manifestations? A person’s arrogance, conceit, self-righteousness and self-pride, as well as his crookedness, treachery, telling lies, deception and hypocrisy. When these things are no longer part of someone, then they have been truly cleansed. We have previously talked about man’s satanic disposition in a sermon. There are 12 key manifestations. Let’s take a look at each one of these 12 manifestations: considering oneself to be the most honorable; Letting those who comply with me thrive and those who resist me perish; thinking only God is superior to you, submitting to no one else, having no regard for others; creating an independent kingdom once you have power; wanting to be the sole wielder of power and the master of all things and to decide things all by yourself. All of these manifestations are satanic dispositions. These satanic dispositions must be cleansed before someone experiences a change in his life disposition. A change in one’s life disposition is a rebirth because his essence has changed. Before, when he was given power, he was able to create his own independent kingdom. Now, when he is given power, he serves God, bears witness for God and becomes a servant for the chosen people of God. Isn’t this a genuine change? (Yes, it is.) Before, he showed off himself in all situations and wanted other people to think highly of him and worship him. Now, he bears witness for God everywhere, he is no longer focused on himself, and he thinks, “No matter how people treat me, it is fine. No matter how people comment about me, it is fine. I do not care. I only want to exalt God, bear witness for God, help others gain an understanding of God, and help others obey in the presence of God.” Isn’t this a change in life disposition? (Yes, it is.) “I will treat the brothers and sisters with love. I will fulfill my duties. In all matters, I will provide benefit for others. I will be compassionate of others in all situations. I will help others obtain the truth and understand the truth. In all matters, I will not think about myself, I will only think about others. I will help others advance their lives and fulfill my own responsibilities.” This is what it means to love people, to love others as yourself! When it comes to Satan, you can discern it, have principles, draw a demarcation line with it and thoroughly reveal the evils of Satan so that God’s chosen people will be spared from its harm. This is protecting God’s chosen people, and this is even more loving others as yourself. Additionally, you should love what God loves and hate what God hates. What does God hate then? He hates antichrists, evil spirits and wicked people. That means we also have to hate antichrists, evil spirits and wicked people. We must stand on God’s side. We cannot compromise with them. Who does God love? God loves those who He wants to save and bless. For these people, we must be responsible, treat them with love, help, lead, provide and support them. Isn’t this a change in one’s life disposition? (Yes, it is.) Additionally, when you have committed some transgressions or mistakes, or neglected the principles in doing something, you can accept the brothers and sisters’ criticism, reproach, discipline, dealing and pruning; you can receive all of these things from God, accept it with tolerance, harbor no hatred, and seek the truth to resolve your own corruption. Isn’t this a change in your life disposition? (Yes, it is.) What is the difference between a change in life disposition and a change in behavior? Externally, some people are able to cast aside their possessions and endure suffering but there is no change to their life disposition. There are some people who have had a change in their life disposition; externally, they are the same as everyone else and they can also cast aside their possessions. These two kinds of people can both cast aside their possessions and externally, they are the same. However, not both of them have had a change in their life disposition. Is this right? (Yes, it is right.)
Can the change in behavior that is talked about in the religious world represent a change in life disposition? (No, it cannot.) Why is it that a change in one’s behavior cannot represent a change in his life disposition? The main reason is because he still resists God. You can see that externally, the Pharisees were very devout, they prayed, they explained the scripture and they followed the regulations of the law very well. It could be said that externally, they were beyond reproach. People were unable to pick out any faults. However, why were they still able to resist and condemn Christ? What does this indicate? They did not have the truth and they did not know God. Externally, they were very good, yet they did not have the truth, that is why they were able to resist God. If externally, they were so good, why does this not count as a change in life disposition? It is because they were still arrogant, conceited and especially self-righteous. They believed in their own knowledge, theories and understanding of the scriptures. They believed that they understood everything and that they were better than other people. This is why they resisted and condemned the Lord Jesus when He was preaching and doing His work. That is why when the religious world heard that Christ of the last days has expressed all of the truth, they condemned Him even though they knew it is the truth. What kind of error did they commit? Externally, they went through such a big change, how was it that they were still able to resist God? How was it that they were still able to be crazily hostile toward Christ? What kind of issue is this? Can a person that opposes and resists Christ enter the kingdom of heaven? Can God bring people who are the enemies of Christ into the kingdom? God would not do this sort of thing.
from Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life (Series 138)