3. Why one cannot achieve dispositional change and salvation without self-knowledge
Relevant Words of God:
Changing man’s disposition starts with knowledge of his essence and through changes in his thinking, nature, and mental outlook—through fundamental changes. Only in this way will true changes be achieved in the disposition of man. Man’s corrupt disposition stems from his being poisoned and trampled upon by Satan, from the egregious harm that Satan has inflicted upon his thinking, morality, insight, and sense. It is precisely because the fundamental things of man have been corrupted by Satan, and are utterly unlike how God originally created them, that man opposes God and does not understand the truth. Thus, changes in man’s disposition should begin with changes in his thinking, insight, and sense that will change his knowledge of God and his knowledge of the truth. Those who were born in the most deeply corrupted of all lands are even more ignorant of what God is, or what it means to believe in God. The more corrupted people are, the less they know the existence of God, and the poorer their sense and insight. The source of man’s opposition and rebelliousness against God is his corruption by Satan. Because of Satan’s corruption, man’s conscience has grown numb; he is immoral, his thoughts are degenerate, and he has a backward mental outlook. Before he was corrupted by Satan, man naturally followed God and obeyed His words after hearing them. He was naturally of sound sense and conscience, and of normal humanity. After being corrupted by Satan, man’s original sense, conscience, and humanity grew dull and were impaired by Satan. Thus, he has lost his obedience and love toward God. Man’s sense has become aberrant, his disposition has become the same as that of an animal, and his rebelliousness toward God is ever more frequent and grievous. Yet man still neither knows nor recognizes this, and merely opposes and rebels blindly. Man’s disposition is revealed in expressions of his sense, insight, and conscience; because his sense and insight are unsound, and his conscience has grown supremely dull, thus his disposition is rebellious against God. If man’s sense and insight cannot change, then changes in his disposition are out of the question, as is conforming to God’s will. If man’s sense is unsound, then he cannot serve God and is unfit for use by God. “Normal sense” refers to obeying and being faithful to God, to yearning for God, to being absolute toward God, and to having a conscience toward God. It refers to being of one heart and mind toward God, and not deliberately opposing God. Having an aberrant sense is not like this. Since man was corrupted by Satan, he has come up with notions about God, and he has had no loyalty to God or yearning for Him, to say nothing of a conscience toward God. Man deliberately opposes God and passes judgments on Him, and, furthermore, hurls invective at Him behind His back. Man passes judgment on God behind His back, with clear knowledge that He is God; man has no intention of obeying God, and merely makes blind demands and requests of Him. Such people—people who have aberrant sense—are incapable of knowing their own despicable behavior or of regretting their rebelliousness. If people are capable of knowing themselves, then they have regained a little of their sense; the more rebellious against God people who cannot yet know themselves are, the less are they sound of sense.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God
Every single thing that exists in our hearts is in opposition to God. This includes the things we think are good, and even those we already believe to be positive. We have listed these things as truths, as part of normal humanity, and as positive things; however, from God’s perspective, they are things that He loathes. The gulf between what we think and the truth spoken by God is immeasurable. Hence, we must know ourselves. From our ideas, viewpoints, and actions to the cultural education we have received, each thing is worth delving deep into and thoroughly dissecting. Some of these things come from social environments, some come from families, some come from school education, and some come from books. Some also come from our imaginations and notions. These sorts of things are the most frightening, for they bind and control our words and actions, dominate our minds, and guide our motives, intentions, and goals in what we do. If we do not unearth these things, we will never fully accept God’s words within us, and we will never accept God’s requirements without reservation and put them into practice. As long as you harbor your own ideas and viewpoints, and convictions of things that you believe to be correct, you will never fully or unreservedly accept God’s words, nor will you practice them in their original form; you will surely only put them into practice after first processing them in your mind. This will be how you do things, and it will also be the way in which you help others: You may still fellowship on God’s words, but you will always have your own impurities mixed in, and you will think that this is what it means to practice the truth, that you have understood the truth, and that you have it all. Is man’s state not pitiful? Is it not scary? A word or two cannot suffice to tell these things in their entirety, or to make them plain. There are, of course, many other things in life, such as the more than one hundred poisons of Satan summarized earlier. You have understood the words, but how do you measure yourselves against them? Have you ever engaged in self-reflection? Do you not also have a share in these poisons? They reflect how you think, too, do they not? When you are doing things, do you not also rely on these poisons? You must dig deep into your personal experience, and measure it against those words. If we only casually read or glance over that list of Satan’s poisons and then put it down, just mindlessly reading over God’s words, unable to connect them to reality or see our real states and merely adhering to the letter and the rules of God’s words in our practice while assuming that we are practicing the truth—is it as simple as that? People are living things: They all have thoughts, and the artifacts within their thoughts take root in their hearts. When a person takes action, these artifacts are sure to emerge, for they have already become that person’s life. Therefore, in each thing you do, there is a point of view and a principle that govern how you do it, that steer your course. When you act, you will know whether or not such things exist inside you. Now, of course, as you examine your thoughts and views, you feel as if nothing there is hostile to God; you feel you are honest and loyal, more than willing to do your duty, capable of making sacrifices and expending yourself for God, and that you are quite strong in every area. Yet, were God to test your mettle, or have you undertake a task, or were God to do something that befell you, how would you handle that? At such a time, your thoughts and views would surge implacably outward, as if floodgates had been breached; they would be beyond your control—out of your hands—and, hate them as you will, they would surge outward all the same, a surge of things that are all resistant to God. When you say, “Why couldn’t I do anything about it? I don’t want to resist God, so why would I? I don’t want to pass judgment on God, and I don’t want to have notions about what He does, so how could I have such notions?”—that is when you should endeavor to know yourself, to examine what there is inside you that resists God, and what inside you is hostile and antagonistic to the work He is currently doing.
—“Only by Recognizing Your Misguided Views Can You Know Yourself” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
There are some states within people that, if they do not understand them and do not feel that they are wrong, then, no matter how earnestly they pursue or how enthusiastic they are, they may fall one day. Only a minority of people can obtain the truth, after all. Understanding the truth is not a simple matter. It takes a long time to understand even a little of it, a long time to gain a little experiential knowledge, to attain something of a pure understanding or to gain a bit of light. If you do not resolve all the impurities within you, then that little bit of light can be drowned at any time or place. Man’s main difficulty now is that every person has within them some imaginings, notions, desires and empty ideals that they are themselves unable to discover. These things constantly accompany people as adulterations inside them. This is indeed very dangerous, and people are liable to voice grievances at any moment. There are so many adulterations inside man. Although people may have good aspirations, wishing to pursue the truth and to believe earnestly in God, they are yet unable to achieve it. This kind of thing happens often in each person’s experience: They encounter a small matter, and others think that they should be able easily to relinquish it. Why is it they cannot? Why do they who are relatively experienced most of the time, who look relatively strong to others, and who have a clear head fall when they encounter a small matter, and fall so quickly? Man is truly subject to the fickleness of fortune; how could he possibly predict it? Inside every person, there are some things they are willing to pursue and obtain, and everyone has their own preferences. More often than not, people cannot perceive this themselves, or they believe these things are fine, that there is nothing wrong with them. Then, one day, something like this comes along and they stumble; they become negative and weak, and they cannot get back up. They may not know themselves what the problem is, feeling that they are justified and that it is God who has wronged them. If people do not understand themselves, they will never be able to know where their own difficulties lie, or in which areas they are liable to fail and fall down. They are pitiful. Therefore, people who do not understand themselves may fall down, fail, and ruin themselves at any moment.
—“Only by Understanding Your Own State Can You Embark on the Right Track” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
Currently, this is the state that most people exist within, the stage of the stature they have: They acknowledge that their ways of doing things are flawed, that they are a bad person, that they are the devil, Satan. But rarely do they admit that their caliber is poor and their understanding skewed, or which areas of their nature and essence match what has been revealed by God. This is lacking true self-knowledge. And can those who do not truly know themselves acknowledge that they are corrupt? (No.) Getting people to acknowledge that they are corrupt is no easy task. The consistent behavior among people is that after doing something wrong they recognize they’ve made a mistake, but if you ask them about their understanding of their corrupt disposition, they say the two are unrelated. They claim it was just a momentary lapse, that they didn’t think things through, they acted on impulse, and it wasn’t intentional. Saying it was a momentary lapse or something unintentional, along with other objective reasons, is often a shield and pretext for not acknowledging their own corrupt disposition. Is this genuine acknowledgment of their own corruption? If you’re constantly making excuses or looking for an escape route for the corrupt dispositions that you reveal, then you are not able to truly face up to your own corrupt disposition or genuinely acknowledge it, much less are you able to know it. … Something happens to you and you reveal a corrupt disposition, but no matter how wrong people say what you did is or how serious the consequences, you do nothing more than admit that you made a mistake. You are not willing to acknowledge that this is a consequence resulting from exposing your corrupt disposition. You are willing only to rectify the error, but never willing to acknowledge the existence of your corrupt disposition. And so, when you encounter the same issue again, though there is a change in your behavior and your approach to things, your disposition remains utterly unchanged. This is the difficulty of changing a person’s disposition. If you acknowledge that what you revealed was because you have a corrupt disposition, which resulted in you doing as you please, being a law unto yourself, failing to work well with others, and your haughtiness, if you admit that this was caused by an arrogant disposition, what will the benefits be for you? Going forward, you will disclose these facts and put effort into resolving the corrupt dispositions that are revealed in you. But what will the consequences be if you merely admit to doing something wrong? You will only focus on and put effort into the way you act; you will correct how you do things, and on the outside, it will look like you do them appropriately. You will obscure the revelations of your disposition. In so doing, you will become ever more crafty, and your techniques for deceiving others ever more advanced. You’ll think, “The reason why everyone witnessed my mistake this time is because I wasn’t careful enough; what I said was too definitive, and I allowed them to see my weak points and find something to use against me. I won’t make the same mistake again—I’ll be vaguer, leave myself more wiggle room.” You’ve changed the way you act and you’ve concealed your disposition, becoming more slippery, more sneaky, more of a Pharisee. You focus on and work on your ways of doing things or saying things; no problems can be detected on the surface, no one can find fault, it’s flawless. However, there hasn’t been the slightest change in your inner disposition. Without accepting and acknowledging it, your corrupt disposition cannot possibly change.
Are corrupt dispositions easy to resolve? This involves one’s nature essence. People have this essence, this root, and it must be dug out bit by bit. It must be dug out from every state, from the intents behind every word you speak. It must be dissected and understood from the words you speak. When such awareness grows ever more clear and your spirit ever more astute, you can then achieve change. Resolving corrupt dispositions requires care and diligence. You must pay great attention and examine your intentions and states little by little. When you constantly examine these things, the day will arrive when you suddenly come to a realization about the way you usually speak: “This is evil, and is not an expression of normal humanity. It is at odds with the truth and I have to change how I speak.” From the day you possess this awareness, you will ever more clearly feel the grave severity of this evil disposition. So, what should you do next? Ceaselessly examine the intentions that exist in that same way you speak, and through the process of your incessant unearthing, you will be ever more able to truly and accurately determine that you have this sort of essence and disposition. When the day comes that you can genuinely admit to yourself that you do have an evil disposition, you will finally be able to loathe and detest it. When someone goes from believing that they are a good person, that they act uprightly and justly, that they are endowed with a sense of justice, that they are honorable and guileless, to recognizing their nature essence as being arrogant, hardened, deceitful, wicked, and with no love for the truth, only then will they be able to accurately know their place, and to know exactly what they are. Merely acknowledging or blithely recognizing that they have such manifestations and states, they are incapable of true hatred; true hatred is only attainable once they have recognized in their actions that they have these dispositions and essences. …
Only when people are able to recognize the various states produced by various dispositions will there begin to be a change in their dispositions. If people do not recognize these states, if they cannot assimilate them and apply them to themselves, can there be a change in their dispositions? (No.) Change in disposition starts from recognizing the various states produced by various dispositions. If one has not begun to recognize this, if one has not entered this aspect of reality, then a change in one’s disposition is out of the question. So, since dispositional change is out of the question, what is the role played by the majority of people over the course of doing their duty? It’s exerting themselves, busying themselves with tasks. They are doing their duty, but most are laboring away. Sometimes when they’re in a good mood they put more into it, and then when they’re not in such a great mood, they put less into it. After the fact, they think it over and feel some regret, so they put a little extra energy in and feel like they’ve repented. In fact, this is not true change; this is not true repentance. True repentance starts from your behavior. If there’s been a shift in your behavior, you are able to forsake yourself and no longer do things that way, your actions appear to be in line with the principles, and bit by bit you manage to be principled in both word and deed, then this is the beginning of a change in disposition.
—“Only When You Know Yourself Can You Pursue the Truth” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
The more capable you are of discovering your own corruption, the more accurate this discovery, and the more you can know your own essence, then the more likely it is you will be saved and the closer you will come to salvation; the more incapable you are of discovering your problems, the more you think you are a good person, a pretty great person, then the further you are away from the path to salvation, and you are still in great danger. Anyone who spends all day parading themselves—flaunting their accomplishments, saying they are silver-tongued, reasonable, that they understand the truth, can practice the truth, and are capable of making sacrifices—is of especially small stature. What kind of person has greater hope of salvation, and is capable of walking the path of salvation? Those who truly know their corrupt disposition. The more profound their knowledge, the closer they come to salvation. Knowing your corrupt disposition, knowing that you are nothing, useless, that you are a living Satan—when you truly know your essence, this is not a serious problem. This is a good thing, not a bad thing. Is there anyone who becomes more negative the more they know themselves, thinking to themselves: “It’s all over, the judgment and chastisement of God has befallen me, it is punishment and retribution, God doesn’t want me and I have no hope of salvation”? Will these people have such illusions? In fact, the more people recognize how hopeless they are, the greater the hope for them; they should not be negative and they should not give up. Knowing yourself is a good thing—it is the path that must be taken to salvation. If you are utterly insensible of your own corrupt disposition and of your essence, which is multifarious in its opposition to God, and if you have not yet any plans to change, then you are in trouble; such people have already grown numb, they are dead. Can the dead be brought back to life? They are already dead—they cannot.
—“Only When You Know Yourself Can You Pursue the Truth” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
Among those who seek life, Paul was someone who did not know his own substance. He was by no means humble or obedient, nor did he know his essence, which was in opposition to God. And so, he was someone who had not undergone detailed experiences, and was someone who did not put the truth into practice. Peter was different. He knew his imperfections, weaknesses, and his corrupt disposition as a creature of God, and so he had a path of practice through which to change his disposition; he was not one of those who only had doctrine but possessed no reality. Those who change are new people who have been saved, they are those who are qualified in pursuing the truth. People who do not change belong to those who are naturally obsolete; they are those who have not been saved, that is, those who are detested and rejected by God. They will not be remembered by God no matter how great their work. When you compare this with your own pursuit, whether you are ultimately the same kind of person as Peter or Paul should be self-evident. If there is still no truth in what you seek, and if even today you are still as arrogant and insolent as Paul, and are still as glib and boastful as him, then you are without doubt a degenerate who fails. If you seek the same as Peter, if you seek practices and true changes, and are not arrogant or willful, but seek to perform your duty, then you will be a creature of God who can achieve victory. Paul did not know his own essence or corruption, much less did he know his own disobedience. He never mentioned his despicable defiance of Christ, nor was he overly regretful. He only offered a brief explanation and, deep down in his heart, he did not completely submit to God. Though he fell on the road to Damascus, he did not look deep within himself. He was content merely to keep working, and he did not consider knowing himself and changing his old disposition to be the most crucial of issues. He was satisfied with merely speaking the truth, with providing to others as a salve for his own conscience, and with no longer persecuting Jesus’ disciples to console himself and forgive himself for his past sins. The goal that he pursued was nothing more than a future crown and transitory work, the goal he pursued was abundant grace. He did not seek sufficient truth, nor did he seek to progress deeper into the truth which he had previously not understood. His knowledge of himself can therefore be said to be false, and he did not accept chastisement or judgment. That he was able to work does not mean he possessed a knowledge of his own nature or essence; his focus was on outward practices only. What he strived for, moreover, was not change, but knowledge. His work was completely the result of the appearance of Jesus on the road to Damascus. It was not something he had resolved to do originally, nor was it work that occurred after he had accepted the pruning of his old disposition. No matter how he worked, his old disposition did not change, and so his work did not atone for his past sins but merely played a certain role among the churches of the time. For someone such as this, whose old disposition did not change—that is to say, who did not gain salvation, and was even more without the truth—he was absolutely incapable of becoming one of those accepted by the Lord Jesus.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Success or Failure Depends on the Path That Man Walks