2. Whether suffering and paying a price for God the same thing as following God’s will
Bible Verses for Reference:
“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” (Mat 7:21–23).
Relevant Words of God:
Someone who serves God should not only know how to suffer for Him; more than that, they should understand that the purpose of believing in God is to pursue a love of God. God makes use of you not just to refine you or for the sake of making you suffer, but rather He makes use of you so that you may know His actions, know the true significance of human life, and in particular, so that you may know that serving God is not an easy task. Experiencing God’s work is not about enjoying grace, but rather about suffering for your love of Him. Since you enjoy God’s grace, you must also enjoy His chastisement; you must experience all of this. You can experience God’s enlightenment in you, and you can also experience how He deals with you and judges you. In this way, your experience will be comprehensive. God has carried out His work of judgment and chastisement upon you. God’s word has dealt with you, but not only that; it has also enlightened and illuminated you. When you are negative and weak, God worries for you. All of this work is to let you know that everything about man is within God’s orchestrations. You may think that believing in God is about suffering, or doing all manner of things for Him; you might think that the purpose of believing in God is so that your flesh may be at peace, or so that everything in your life runs smoothly, or so that you may be comfortable and at ease in all things. However, none of these are purposes that people should attach to their belief in God. If you believe for these purposes, then your perspective is incorrect, and it is simply impossible for you to be perfected. God’s actions, God’s righteous disposition, His wisdom, His words, and His wondrousness and unfathomableness are all things people ought to understand. Having this understanding, you should use it to rid your heart of all personal demands, hopes, and notions. Only by eliminating these things can you meet the conditions demanded by God, and it is only by doing this that you can have life and satisfy God. The purpose of believing in God is to satisfy Him and to live out the disposition He requires, so that His actions and glory may be manifested through this group of unworthy people. This is the correct perspective for believing in God, and this is also the goal that you should seek. You should have the right viewpoint about believing in God and you should seek to obtain God’s words. You need to eat and drink God’s words and you must be able to live out the truth, and in particular you must be able to see His practical deeds, His wonderful deeds throughout the entire universe, as well as the practical work He does in the flesh. People can, through their practical experiences, appreciate just how God does His work on them and what His will is toward them. The purpose of all of this is to eliminate people’s corrupt satanic disposition. Having cast out all the uncleanliness and unrighteousness inside you, and having cast off your wrong intentions, and having developed true faith in God—only with true faith can you truly love God.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Those Who Are to Be Made Perfect Must Undergo Refinement
Many people have certain outward behaviors, such as being able to cast aside their families and careers and fulfill their duties, and therefore they believe they are practicing the truth. However, God does not recognize that they are practicing the truth. If everything you do has a personal motive behind it and is adulterated, then you are not practicing the truth; you are simply exhibiting superficial conduct. Strictly speaking, your conduct will probably be condemned by God; it will not be praised or remembered by Him. Dissecting this further, you are doing evil and your conduct is in opposition to God. From the outside, you are not interrupting or disturbing anything and you have not done real damage or violated any truth. It appears to be logical and reasonable, yet the essence of your actions pertains to doing evil and resisting God. Therefore, you should determine whether there has been a change in your disposition and whether you are putting the truth into practice by looking at the motives behind your actions in light of God’s words. It does not depend on a human view of whether your actions conform to the human imagination and human intentions, or whether they are suited to your taste; such things are not important. Rather, it depends on God saying whether or not you are conforming to His will, whether or not your actions possess truth reality, and whether or not they meet His requirements and standards. Only measuring yourself against God’s requirements is accurate. Transformation in disposition and putting the truth into practice are not as simple and easy as people imagine. Do you understand this now? Do you have any experience with this? When it comes to a problem’s essence, you might not understand it; your entry has been overly superficial. You run about all day long, from dawn until dusk, rising early and going to bed late, yet you have not achieved transformation in your life disposition, and you cannot grasp what such a transformation involves. This means your entry is too shallow, does it not? Regardless of how long you have believed in God, you might not sense the essence and deep things to do with achieving transformation in disposition. Can it be said that your disposition has changed? How do you know whether God praises you or not? At the very least, you will feel exceptionally steadfast regarding everything that you do, and you will feel the Holy Spirit guiding and enlightening you and working in you while you are fulfilling your duties, doing any work in God’s house, or ordinarily. Your conduct will fit hand-in-hand with God’s words, and once you have gained a certain degree of experience, you will feel that how you acted in the past was relatively suitable. If, however, after gaining experience for a period of time, you feel that some of the things you did in the past were not suitable, and you are dissatisfied with them, and feel that indeed there was no truth in the things you did, then this proves that everything you did was done in resistance to God. It is evidence that your service was full of rebelliousness, resistance, and human ways of acting.
—“What Should Be Known About Transforming One’s Disposition” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
In religion, many people suffer a great deal throughout their lives: They subdue their bodies and bear their cross, and they even continue to suffer and endure when on the very verge of death! Some are still fasting on the morning of their death. All their lives they deny themselves nice food and clothing, focusing only on suffering. They are able to subdue their body and forsake their flesh. Their spirit for enduring suffering is commendable. But their thinking, their notions, their mental attitude, and indeed their old nature, have not been dealt with in the slightest. They lack any true knowledge of themselves. Their mental image of God is that traditional one of a vague God. Their resolve to suffer for God comes from their zeal and the good character of their humanity. Even though they believe in God, they neither understand Him nor know His will. They merely work and suffer blindly for God. They place no value whatsoever on discernment, care little about how to ensure that their service actually fulfills God’s will, and much less are they aware of how to achieve the knowledge of God. The God they serve is not God in His inherent image, but a God they have imagined, a God of whom they have only heard, or of whom they have only read legends in writing. They then use their fertile imaginations and piousness to suffer for God and undertake God’s work that God wants to do. Their service is too inexact, such that practically none of them are truly able to serve in accordance with God’s will. Regardless of how gladly they suffer, their original perspective on service and their mental image of God remain unchanged, because they have not undergone God’s judgment, chastisement, refinement and perfection, and nor has anyone guided them using the truth. Even if they believe in Jesus the Savior, none of them has ever seen the Savior. They only know of Him through legend and hearsay. As a result, their service amounts to no more than serving randomly with eyes closed, like a blind man serving his own father. What, ultimately, can be achieved by such service? And who would approve of it? From beginning to end, their service remains the same throughout; they receive only man-made lessons and base their service only on their naturalness and their own preferences. What reward could this bring? Not even Peter, who saw Jesus, knew how to serve in accordance with God’s will; he only came to know this in the end, in his old age. What does this say about those blind people who have not experienced the slightest bit of being dealt with or of being pruned, and who have had no one guiding them? Is not the service of many among you today like that of these blind people? All those who have not received judgment, not received pruning and dealing, and who have not changed—are they not all incompletely conquered? Of what use are such people? If your thinking, your knowledge of life, and your knowledge of God show no new change and you do not truly gain anything, then you will never achieve anything remarkable in your service! Without a vision and a new knowledge of God’s work, you are not conquered. Your way of following God will then be like those who suffer and fast: of little value! It is precisely because there is little testimony in what they do that I say their service is futile! Throughout their lives, those people suffer and spend time in prison; they are ever forbearing, loving, and they ever bear the cross, they are ridiculed and rejected by the world, they experience every hardship, and although they are obedient to the very end, they are still not conquered, and can offer no testimony to being conquered. They have suffered a great deal, but inside they do not know God at all. None of their old thinking, old notions, religious practices, man-made knowledge, and human ideas have been dealt with. There is not the slightest hint of new knowledge in them. Not one bit of their knowledge of God is true or accurate. They have misunderstood God’s will. Does this serve God? Whatever your knowledge of God in the past, if it stays the same today and you continue to base your knowledge of God on your own notions and ideas no matter what God does, which is to say that if you possess no new, true knowledge of God and if you fail to know God’s true image and disposition, if your knowledge of God is still guided by feudal, superstitious thinking and is still born of human imagination and notions, then you have not been conquered. All the many words I now speak to you are meant to let you know, to have this knowledge lead you to a newer, accurate knowledge; they are also meant to eradicate the old notions and the old knowledge in you, so that you may possess new knowledge. If you truly eat and drink My words, then your knowledge will change considerably. As long as you eat and drink God’s words with a heart of obedience, then your perspective will be reversed. As long as you are able to accept the repeated chastisements, your old mentality will gradually change. As long as your old mentality is thoroughly replaced with the new, your practice will also change accordingly. In this way, your service will become increasingly on-target, increasingly able to fulfill God’s will.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Inside Truth of the Work of Conquest (3)
Serving God is no simple task. Those whose corrupt disposition remains unchanged can never serve God. If your disposition has not been judged and chastised by God’s words, then your disposition still represents Satan, which proves that you serve God out of your own good intentions, that your service is based on your satanic nature. You serve God with your natural character, and according to your personal preferences. What’s more, you always think that the things you are willing to do are what are delightful to God, and that the things you do not wish to do are what are hateful to God; you work entirely according to your own preferences. Can this be called serving God? Ultimately, there will not be the slightest change in your life disposition; instead, your service will make you even more stubborn, thus deeply ingraining your corrupt disposition, and as such, there will be formed within you rules about service to God that are primarily based on your own character, and experiences derived from your service according to your own disposition. These are the experiences and lessons of man. It is man’s philosophy of living in the world. People like this can be classed as Pharisees and religious officials. If they never wake up and repent, then they will surely turn into the false Christs and the antichrists who deceive people in the last days. The false Christs and the antichrists that were spoken of will arise from among such people. If those who serve God follow their own character and act according to their own will, they run the risk of being cast out at any time. Those who apply their many years of experience acquired to serving God in order to win the hearts of others, to lecture them and control them, and to stand on high—and who never repent, never confess their sins, never renounce the benefits of position—these people shall fall before God. They are of the same kind as Paul, presuming upon their seniority and flaunting their qualifications. God will not bring people like this to perfection. Such service interferes with the work of God. People always cling to the old. They cling to the notions of the past, to everything from times gone by. This is a great obstacle to their service. If you cannot throw them off, these things will throttle your whole life. God will not commend you, not in the slightest, not even if you break your legs running or your back with labor, not even if you are martyred in your service of God. Quite the contrary: He will say that you are an evildoer.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Religious Service Must Be Purged
Many who follow God are only concerned with how to gain blessings or stave off disaster. As soon as God’s work and management are mentioned, they fall silent and lose all interest. They think that understanding such tedious issues will not help their lives to grow or provide any benefit. Consequently, although they have heard about God’s management, they pay it little heed. They do not see it as something precious to be accepted, much less do they receive it as part of their lives. Such people only have one simple aim in following God, and that aim is to receive blessings. Such people cannot be bothered to pay heed to anything else that does not directly involve this aim. To them, there is no goal more legitimate than believing in God to receive blessings—it is the very value of their faith. If something does not contribute to this aim, they remain completely unmoved by it. This is the case with most people who believe in God today. Their aim and intention seem legitimate, because as they believe in God, they also expend for God, dedicate themselves to God, and perform their duty. They give up their youth, forsake family and career, and even spend years away from home busying themselves. For the sake of their ultimate goal, they change their own interests, their outlook on life, and even the direction they seek; yet they cannot change the aim of their belief in God. They run about for the management of their own ideals; no matter how far the road is, and no matter how many hardships and obstacles there are along the way, they remain persistent and unafraid of death. What power compels them to continue dedicating themselves in this way? Is it their conscience? Is it their great and noble character? Is it their determination to battle the forces of evil to the very end? Is it their faith to bear witness to God without seeking reward? Is it their loyalty in being willing to give up everything to achieve God’s will? Or is it their spirit of devotion to always forgo extravagant personal demands? For someone who has never understood the work of God’s management to still give so much is, quite simply, a miracle! For the moment, let us not discuss how much these people have given. Their behavior, however, is highly worthy of our analysis. Apart from the benefits that are so closely associated with them, could there be any other reasons why people who never understand God would give so much for Him? In this, we discover a previously unidentified problem: Man’s relationship with God is merely one of naked self-interest. It is a relationship between a receiver and a giver of blessings. To put it plainly, it is akin to the relationship between employee and employer. The employee works only to receive the rewards bestowed by the employer. There is no affection in such a relationship, only transaction. There is no loving or being loved, only charity and mercy. There is no understanding, only suppressed indignation and deception. There is no intimacy, only an uncrossable chasm. Now that things have gotten to this point, who can reverse such a course? And how many people are capable of truly understanding how dire this relationship has become? I believe that when people immerse themselves in the joy of being blessed, none can imagine how embarrassing and unsightly such a relationship with God is.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Man Can Only Be Saved Amidst God’s Management
People say that God is a righteous God, and that as long as man follows Him to the very end, He will surely be impartial toward man, for He is most righteous. If man follows Him to the very end, could He cast man aside? I am impartial toward all men, and judge all men with My righteous disposition, yet there are suitable conditions to the requirements I make of man, and that which I require must be accomplished by all men, regardless of who they are. I care not how your qualifications are, or how long you have held them; I care only whether you walk in My way, and whether or not you love and thirst for the truth. If you lack the truth, and instead bring shame upon My name, and do not act according to My way, merely following without care or concern, then at that time I will strike you down and punish you for your evil, and what will you have to say then? Will you be able to say that God is not righteous? Today, if you have complied with the words I have spoken, then you are the kind of person whom I approve. You say you have always suffered whilst following God, that you have followed Him through thick and thin, and have shared with Him the good times and the bad, but you have not lived out the words spoken by God; you wish only to run about for God and expend yourself for God each day, and have never thought to live out a life of meaning. You also say, “In any case, I believe God is righteous. I have suffered for Him, run around for Him, and devoted myself for Him, and I have worked hard despite not receiving any recognition; He is sure to remember me.” It is true that God is righteous, yet this righteousness is untainted by any impurities: It contains no human will, and it is not tainted by the flesh, or by human transactions. All who are rebellious and in opposition, all who are not in compliance with His way, will be punished; none is forgiven, and none is spared! Some people say, “Today I run around for You; when the end comes, can You give me a little blessing?” So I ask you, “Have you complied with My words?” The righteousness that you speak of is based on a transaction. You think only that I am righteous and impartial toward all men, and that all those who follow Me to the very end are sure to be saved and gain My blessings. There is inner meaning to My words that “all those who follow Me to the very end are sure to be saved”: Those who follow Me to the very end are the ones who will be fully gained by Me, they are those who, after being conquered by Me, seek the truth and are made perfect. What conditions have you achieved? You have only achieved following Me to the very end, but what else? Have you complied with My words? You have accomplished one of My five requirements, yet you have no intention of accomplishing the remaining four. You have simply found the simplest, easiest path, and pursued it with an attitude of just hoping to get lucky. Toward such a person as you My righteous disposition is one of chastisement and judgment, it is one of righteous retribution, and it is the righteous punishment of all evildoers; all those who do not walk in My way will surely be punished, even if they follow to the very end. This is the righteousness of God.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Experiences of Peter: His Knowledge of Chastisement and Judgment
You might imagine that, having been a follower for so many years, you have put in hard work no matter what, and you should be granted a bowl of rice in God’s house just for being a service-doer. I would say that the majority of you think this way, for you have always pursued the principle of how to take advantage of things and not be taken advantage of. Thus, I am telling you now in all seriousness: I do not care how meritorious your hard work is, how impressive your qualifications, how closely you follow Me, how renowned you are, or how much you have improved your attitude; as long as you have not met My demands, you will never be able to win My praise. Write off all those ideas and calculations of yours as soon as possible, and start treating My requirements seriously; otherwise, I will turn everyone to ash in order to bring an end to My work and, at worst turn My years of work and suffering into nothing, for I cannot bring My enemies and those people who reek of evil and have Satan’s appearance into My kingdom or take them into the next age.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Transgressions Will Lead Man to Hell
Peter’s work was the performance of the duty of a creature of God. He did not work in the role of an apostle, but worked whilst pursuing the love for God. The course of Paul’s work also contained his personal pursuit: His pursuit was for the sake of nothing more than his hopes for the future, and his desire for a good destination. He did not accept refinement during his work, nor did he accept pruning and dealing. He believed that as long as the work he did satisfied God’s desire, and all that he did was pleasing to God, then a reward ultimately awaited him. There were no personal experiences in his work—it was all for its own sake, and not carried out amid the pursuit of change. Everything in his work was a transaction, it contained none of the duty or submission of a creature of God. During the course of his work, there occurred no change in Paul’s old disposition. His work was merely of service to others, and was incapable of bringing about changes in his disposition. Paul carried out his work directly, without having been made perfect or dealt with, and he was motivated by reward. Peter was different: He was someone who had undergone pruning and dealing and had undergone refinement. The aim and motivation of the work of Peter were fundamentally different to those of Paul. Although Peter did not do a large amount of work, his disposition underwent many changes, and what he sought was the truth, and real change. His work was not carried out simply for the sake of the work itself. Although Paul did much work, it was all the work of the Holy Spirit, and even though Paul cooperated in this work, he did not experience it. That Peter did much less work was only because the Holy Spirit did not do that much work through him. The quantity of their work did not determine whether they were made perfect; the pursuit of one was in order to receive rewards, and that of the other was in order to achieve an ultimate love for God, and fulfill his duty as a creature of God, to the extent that he could live out a lovely image in order to satisfy God’s desire. Externally they were different, and so too were their essences different. You cannot determine who of them was made perfect based on how much work they did. Peter sought to live out the image of one who loves God, to be someone who obeyed God, to be someone who accepted dealing and pruning, and to be someone who fulfilled his duty as a creature of God. He was able to devote himself to God, to put the entirety of himself in the hands of God, and obey Him until death. That was what he resolved to do and, moreover, that was what he achieved. This is the fundamental reason why finally his end was different to that of Paul. The work that the Holy Spirit did in Peter was to make him perfect, and the work that the Holy Spirit did in Paul was to use him. That is because their natures and their views toward pursuit were not the same. Both had the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter applied this work to himself, and also provided it to others; Paul, meanwhile, only provided the entirety of the work of the Holy Spirit to others, and gained nothing from it himself. In this way, after he had experienced the work of the Holy Spirit for so many years, the changes in Paul were close to non-existent. He still remained almost in his natural state, and he was still the Paul of before. It was merely that after enduring the hardship of many years of work, he had learned how to “work,” and had learned endurance, but his old nature—his highly competitive and mercenary nature—still remained. After working for so many years, he did not know his corrupt disposition, nor had he rid himself of his old disposition, and it was still clearly visible in his work. In him there was merely more work experience, but such little experience alone was incapable of changing him and could not alter his views about existence or the significance of his pursuit. Though he worked many years for Christ, and never again persecuted the Lord Jesus, in his heart there was no change in his knowledge of God. This means that he did not work in order to devote himself to God, but rather he was compelled to work for the sake of his future destination. For, in the beginning, he persecuted Christ, and did not submit to Christ; he was inherently a rebel who deliberately opposed Christ, and someone who had no knowledge of the work of the Holy Spirit. When his work was almost concluded, still he did not know the work of the Holy Spirit, and merely acted of his own accord pursuant to his own character, without paying the slightest attention to the will of the Holy Spirit. And so his nature was in enmity to Christ and did not obey the truth. Someone like this, who had been forsaken by the work of the Holy Spirit, who did not know the work of the Holy Spirit, and who also opposed Christ—how could such a person be saved? Whether or not man can be saved does not depend on how much work he does, or how much he devotes, but is instead determined by whether or not he knows the work of the Holy Spirit, whether or not he can put the truth into practice, and whether or not his views toward pursuit are in conformity with the truth.
Although natural revelations did occur after Peter began to follow Jesus, in nature he was, from the very beginning, someone who was willing to submit to the Holy Spirit and seek after Christ. His obedience to the Holy Spirit was pure: He did not seek fame and fortune, but was instead motivated by obedience to the truth. Though there were three times when Peter denied knowing Christ, and though he tempted the Lord Jesus, such slight human weakness bore no relation to his nature, it did not affect his future pursuit, and it cannot sufficiently prove that his temptation was the act of an antichrist. Normal human weakness is something shared by all people in the world—do you expect Peter to be any different? Do people not hold certain views about Peter because he made several foolish mistakes? And do people not so adore Paul because of all the work he did, and all the epistles he wrote? How could man be capable of seeing through to the substance of man? Surely those who truly have sense can see something of such insignificance? Though the many years of painful experiences of Peter are not recorded in the Bible, this does not prove that Peter did not have real experiences, or that Peter was not made perfect. How can the work of God be fully fathomed by man? The records in the Bible were not personally selected by Jesus, but compiled by later generations. That being so, was all that was recorded in the Bible not chosen according to the ideas of man? Moreover, the ends of Peter and Paul are not expressly stated in the epistles, so man judges Peter and Paul according to his own perceptions, and according to his own preferences. And because Paul did so much work, because his “contributions” were so great, he won the trust of the masses. Does not man concentrate only on superficialities? How could man be capable of seeing through to the substance of man? Not to mention, given that Paul has been an object of worship for thousands of years, who would dare to rashly deny his work? Peter was just a fisherman, so how could his contribution be as great as that of Paul? In terms of the contributions they made, Paul should have been rewarded before Peter, and he should have been the one who was better qualified to gain God’s approval. Who could have imagined that, in His treatment of Paul, God merely made him work through his gifts, whereas God made Peter perfect. It is by no means the case that the Lord Jesus had made plans for Peter and Paul from the very beginning: They were, rather, made perfect or put to work according to their inherent natures. And so, what people see are merely the outward contributions of man, whereas what God sees is man’s substance, as well as the path that man pursues from the beginning, and the motivation behind man’s pursuit. People measure a man according to their notions, and according to their own perceptions, yet the final end of a man is not determined according to his externalities. And so I say that if the path that you take from the beginning is the path of success, and your point of view toward pursuit is the right one from the beginning, then you are like Peter; if the path that you tread is the path of failure, then whatever the price you pay, your end will still be the same as that of Paul. Whatever the case, your destination, and whether you succeed or fail, are both determined by whether the path you seek is the right one or not, rather than your devotion, or the price that you pay.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks
If you did much work, and others gained your teachings, but you yourself did not change, and did not bear any testimony, or have any true experience, such that at the end of your life, still none of what you have done bears testimony, then are you someone who has changed? Are you someone who pursues the truth? At the time, the Holy Spirit used you, but when He used you, He used the part of you that could be used to work, and He did not use the part of you that could not be used. If you sought to change, then you would gradually be made perfect during the process of being used. Yet the Holy Spirit accepts no responsibility for whether or not you will ultimately be gained, and this depends on the manner of your pursuit. If there are no changes in your personal disposition, then that is because your viewpoint toward pursuit is wrong. If you are granted no reward, then that is your own problem, and because you yourself have not put the truth into practice and are unable to fulfill God’s desire. And so, nothing is of greater importance than your personal experiences, and nothing is more critical than your personal entry! Some people will end up saying, “I’ve done so much work for You, and though I may not have made any celebrated achievements, still I have been diligent in my efforts. Can’t You just let me into heaven to eat the fruit of life?” You must know what kind of people I desire; those who are impure are not permitted to enter into the kingdom, those who are impure are not permitted to besmirch the holy ground. Though you may have done much work, and worked for many years, in the end if you are still deplorably filthy, then it will be intolerable to the law of Heaven that you wish to enter My kingdom! From the foundation of the world until today, never have I offered easy access to My kingdom to those who curry favor with Me. This is a heavenly rule, and no one can break it! You must seek life. Today, those who will be made perfect are the same kind as Peter: They are those who seek changes in their own disposition, and who are willing to bear testimony to God and perform their duty as a creature of God. Only people such as this will be made perfect. If you only look to rewards, and do not seek to change your own life disposition, then all your efforts will be in vain—this is an unalterable truth!
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks