Living Before God
By Yongsui, South Korea
Almighty God says, “In seeking life entry, one must examine one’s own words, deeds, thoughts, and ideas in every matter one encounters in everyday life. One must grasp one’s own states, and then check them against the truth, seek the truth, and enter the reality of the truth one understands. During the process of entering the reality of the truth, one must grasp one’s own states, and frequently come before God to pray to Him and beseech Him. One must also fellowship often with other brothers and sisters with an open heart, search for the path of entry to the reality of the truth, and seek the principles of the truth. Ultimately, one will come to know what dispositions one reveals in everyday life, whether or not God takes joy in them, whether or not the path one practices is accurate, whether or not one has checked the states found within oneself through self-examination against God’s words, whether or not these have been checked accurately, whether or not they accord with God’s words, and whether or not one has truly made an achievement and actually gained entry regarding those states that do accord with God’s words. When you frequently live within these states, these conditions, then gradually, you will come to have a basic understanding of some truths and of your actual states” (“Knowing Dispositions Is the Basis for Changing Dispositions” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words show us the path to life entry, which is to examine our every thought and action in everything that happens in real life, and then hold them up against the revelations of God’s words, reflect on and know our corrupt dispositions and seek to use the truth to resolve them. This is the only way to truly know ourselves and enter into the reality of God’s words. When I practice according to God’s words, I’ve gained some understanding of my corrupt disposition and also tasted the sweetness of practicing the truth.
Brother Chen shared one of his experiences at a gathering six months ago. When he’d finished, I thought that he’d been willful in his duty and had gone against the principles, and so had been pruned and dealt with. He’d just exercised some self-control without making excuses, and he’d appeared to submit. But as for why he’d been willful in his work, what corrupt dispositions had been controlling him or what the root cause was, he hadn’t really reflected on or tried to understand these things, nor had he sought the truth to resolve them. His obedience was just him sticking to rules. It couldn’t be called true submission. I wondered, “Should I mention this shortcoming to him?” But then I thought, “Brother Chen has been a believer longer than I have, and his understanding and experience surpass mine. If I make a suggestion to him, will I be like a child trying to talk big? Will it make me look arrogant? I’d better not say anything.” When he’d finished his fellowship, he asked us to mention any shortcomings we noticed to him. I wanted to point out his issue, but I just couldn’t. I thought, “He’s so much older than me. If I say he hasn’t truly submitted and that he’s just following rules, he’ll lose so much face and I’ll be putting him on the spot. If he doesn’t accept it and says that I’m too arrogant and inexperienced, I’ll be so embarrassed. I don’t really know him, and it’s not worth giving him a bad impression of me.” I hesitated for a long while, and then said, “You have a wealth of experience and some practical understanding …”
I felt uneasy after saying this. I could see his problems clearly but didn’t breathe a word about them. Instead, I just said something nice that went against my conscience. There was nothing sincere or honest about it. I then thought about our gatherings over that period of time where everyone shared fellowship. We were supposed to reflect on and know ourselves every day, to see how many lies or watered-down truths we’d told, how many things we’d said motivated by personal aims, and what things we’d said or done which went against the truth. I realized that I’d done nothing but lie to Brother Chen. I knew that God exhorts us again and again to be honest, to call a spade a spade, to tell it like it is. And yet, I wasn’t able to practice this most basic of requirements. At this point, I felt very upset. I lost no time going before God in prayer to ask Him to guide me to know myself. I then read these words of God: “You are all well-educated. You all pay attention to being refined and understated in your speech, as well as to the manner in which you speak: You are tactful, and have learned not to do damage to the self-respect and dignity of others. In your words and actions, you leave people room to maneuver. You do everything you can to put people at ease. You do not expose their scars or shortcomings, and you try not to hurt them or embarrass them. Such is the principle by which most people act. And what kind of principle is this? It is conniving, slippery, treacherous, and insidious. Hidden behind people’s smiling faces are a lot of malicious, insidious, and despicable things. For example, when interacting with others, some people, as soon as they see that the other person has a bit of status, will start talking in a smooth, nice-sounding, flattering way to make the other person feel comfortable. But is that actually what they are genuinely thinking? Why do they speak like that? They most certainly harbor intentions and ulterior motives. Such people have darkness in their hearts and are so despicable. The way such people conduct themselves in life is disgusting and loathsome” (“Six Indicators of Progress in Life” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words revealed exactly the state I was in. I wasn’t remotely honest in my words, but was incredibly devious. I spoke in a roundabout way so I wouldn’t hurt people, and I always said nice things. From the outside, it looked like I was thinking of others, but my real motives were to get others to speak well of me and to protect my own prestige and status. From listening to his experiences, I well knew that Brother Chen was sticking to rules too much, and I knew that this wasn’t helpful for his life entry. But I thought that mentioning this would embarrass him and give him a bad impression of me, so I kept my mouth shut. Even when he asked me for suggestions, I still wasn’t forthright. Instead I just flattered and deceived him. I was so sly and deceitful! Brother Chen asked us to point out his faults as he wanted to make up for his deficiencies and shortcomings, but not only did I fail in my responsibility to help him, I also just praised him to deceive him and pull the wool over his eyes. Only then did I realize that I sounded nice and tactful, and no one was offended, but in the face of an issue I didn’t practice the truth. That wasn’t really being a good person at all, but being sly and deceitful. I used to think I was young and inexperienced, that I didn’t know the ways of the world. Only when exposed by the facts did I see that I was actually very cunning and I began to detest myself. I didn’t want to be so deceitful and dishonest anymore. I then prayed to God, willing to repent, to tell the truth and be an honest person as He requires.
Later, I planned to write out the problems I’d discovered in Brother Chen and send them to him, but as I wrote I hesitated once again. I worried that I wasn’t wording things appropriately, that it wouldn’t go down well with him, and that he would think I was splitting hairs. What’s more, since I hadn’t mentioned it at the time, if I made a thing of it now, would he think I was making a fuss over nothing? “Perhaps I shouldn’t do anything this time,” I thought, “but do next time.” But that thought left me feeling upset. God hadn’t arranged this situation just for my own understanding, and nothing more. He was hoping that I would accept His words and put them into practice. If I just gave in and let it slide, wouldn’t that be cheating God? I prayed to God again, saying, “I don’t want to worry about Brother Chen’s vanity anymore, or consider what others might think of me. Please God, guide me to practice the truth.” Afterward, I contemplated Brother Chen’s experience and integrated them with God’s words. I wrote down the issues I’d noticed and a bit of my own understanding and sent it to Brother Chen. I felt much more at ease when I practiced in that way. I received a response from Brother Chen the very next day. He said he was very moved when he read my letter, and that writing to him about his issues had come from God’s love. He realized that he hadn’t focused on seeking the truth, and that when he was pruned and dealt with, he’d just muddled his way through it. He wrote that he was ready to rectify the faults in the way he experienced things. When I finished reading his reply, I was so moved. I felt that I didn’t need to worry so much in my interactions with brothers and sisters. I just had to have the right motive behind pointing out an issue, and then they would be willing to accept it. All my worries had been my imagination, and I’d been under the control of my corrupt disposition. I also came to understand that relationships in the church don’t rely on philosophies for living or deceitful tricks, but are built on putting God’s words into practice and mutual honesty. But I’d been so deeply corrupted by Satan and my satanic disposition was so deeply rooted that when my prestige and interests were threatened, I found it hard to practice the truth.
Some time later, I found out that a young sister often read online novels. My heart began to race and I thought, “Most of these online novels are just man-made fictions. If her head gets filled up with them, she won’t want to read God’s words or perform her duty. Then, she’ll lose the work of the Holy Spirit, and that would be such a great loss in her life. I have to raise this issue with her.” But just as I was about to open my mouth, I hesitated: “Will she be put out and think I’m sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong? If she doesn’t accept what I say, then it will be so awkward seeing each other every day. Perhaps I should report it to the church leader and let the leader fellowship about it with her.” But I knew this thinking was wrong. I had a responsibility to fellowship with her about it because I’d been the one to discover it. I shouldn’t just pass the buck on to someone else. I thought about raising the issue with her several times after that, but each time I couldn’t get the words out, and I didn’t know where to start. This went on day after day until one day the church leader asked me about the sister’s state. Only then did I tell the leader about this. To my surprise, the leader said she was busy with something else and asked me to fellowship with the sister. I realized that God was arranging this situation for me to see whether I could forsake my flesh and practice the truth. I thought about how I’d been feeling uneasy for a while. Especially when I saw that sister, I was haunted by not having spoken with her. I hadn’t shown her love or taken responsibility, and my conscience was suffering. I knew the dangers of getting wrapped up in online novels very well. The devil Satan uses these wicked trends to deceive and corrupt people, to control their thoughts and make them shun God, so that they’re more and more degenerate and dispirited, until finally it devours them. I hadn’t given the slightest thought to how the sister’s life could be damaged, or about how her being distracted in her duty could cause harm to the church’s work. I’d been afraid of bringing it up and offending her, and had been walking on eggshells to maintain our relationship. I was being so selfish and despicable!
I then read these words of God: “Many people believe that being a good person is actually easy, and simply requires speaking less and doing more, having a good heart, and not having any ill intent. They believe that this will ensure that they will prosper wherever they go, that people will like them, and that it is good enough just to be such a person. They even go so far as to not want to pursue the truth; they are satisfied just to be good people. They think that the issue of pursuing the truth and serving God is just too complicated; it requires understanding many truths, they think, and who can accomplish that? They just want to take an easier path—being good people and performing their duties—and think that that will be enough. Is this position tenable? Is being a good person really so simple? You will find plenty of good people in society speaking in a very lofty manner, and even though they outwardly seem not to have done any great evil, deep down they are deceitful and slippery. In particular, they are able to see which way the wind blows, and they are smooth and worldly in their eloquence. As I see it, such a ‘good person’ is a false one, a hypocrite; such a person is merely pretending to be good. All those who stick to a happy medium are the most sinister. They try not to offend anyone, they are people-pleasers, they go along with things, and no one can figure them out. A person like that is a living Satan!” (“Only by Putting the Truth Into Practice Can You Cast off the Binds of a Corrupt Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks). God’s words pierced right to my heart as I saw that I was an “agreeable” person who always took the middle road, never offended anyone, and never pointed out anyone else’s problems, exactly what God’s words revealed. If I ever did say anything, I had to consider who I was talking to and the situation. I could never hurt a friendship or allow anyone to find fault with me. I’d seen that this sister had a problem and I’d wanted to tell her about it, but as soon as I thought that it might offend her, I avoided it time and time again, instead passing the buck onto the church leader. I realized that I was only thinking of myself, that I had others take on contentious tasks, and that I didn’t want my own interests harmed in any way. That was how I’d been behaving with my brothers and sisters. Sometimes when I saw that someone was in a bad state or revealing corruption, I would close my eyes to it, not mentioning it or fellowshiping on it. On the surface, I appeared to get on well with everyone. I seemed really considerate. But it was all false, all pretense. I hid away my true, heartfelt words, just putting on a facade. I was such a hypocrite! I’d blatantly deceived my brothers and sisters yet still wanted them to think well of me. I was so shameless! I saw that I was nothing but an insidious and deceitful yes-man, and a phony.
I then read some more of God’s words: “Until people have experienced God’s work and gained the truth, it is Satan’s nature that takes charge and dominates them from within. What, specifically, does that nature entail? For example, why are you selfish? Why do you protect your own position? Why are your emotions so strong? Why do you like those unrighteous things? Why do you like those evils? What is the basis for your liking such things? Where do these things come from? Why are you so happy to accept them? By now, you all have come to understand that the main reason behind all these things is that they contain Satan’s poison. As for what Satan’s poison is, it can be fully expressed with words. For example, if you ask some evildoers why they act that way, they will answer, ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.’ This single phrase expresses the very root of the problem. The logic of Satan has become people’s lives. They may do things for this purpose or that, but they are only doing it for themselves. People all think that since it is every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, they should live for their own sakes, doing everything in their power to secure a good position and what food and clothing they need. ‘Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost’—this is the life and the philosophy of man, and it also represents human nature. This statement is precisely Satan’s poison, and when internalized by people, it becomes their nature. Satan’s nature is exposed through these words; they completely represent it. This poison becomes people’s lives as well as the foundation of their existence, and corrupted humanity has been consistently dominated by this poison for thousands of years” (“How to Take the Path of Peter” in Records of Christ’s Talks). These words gave me some understanding of the root cause of being a yes-man, which was mainly that Satan’s philosophies and poisons were deeply entrenched within me. Having been poisoned by such things as “Everyone for himself and the devil take the hindmost,” “Keeping silent on the faults of friends makes for a long friendship” and “Speak good words in harmony with others’ feelings and reason, as being frank annoys others,” I only ever thought about my own prestige and status. I wanted others to speak well of me in everything I did and I’d become very selfish, sly, and deceitful. Since I was little my mom and dad always told me to listen more than I spoke, and the less said, the better. They told me not to be too direct with others as they wouldn’t like it. I’d been living by these satanic philosophies and was very rarely open and honest with other people. Even with my best friend I very rarely opened up to point out their faults, afraid of displeasing them and ruining their image of me. Instead, I preferred to go along with what they felt and flatter them, but it was all a lie, all a sham! I realized that living by these satanic philosophies could only make me incredibly false, cunning, selfish and vile. I thought only of my own interests and didn’t think of others at all. I wasn’t sincere with people and had no true love for them. Someone like me couldn’t help or benefit anyone in any way at all, and simply wasn’t worth becoming close to. I saw that these philosophies for life were truly absurd and that they should never be principles of conduct. I saw that living by these things can only make us more corrupt, and more lacking in humanity. I thought about how every time I’d noticed a problem and didn’t say anything, I felt guilty later on, and like there was a stone in my heart I couldn’t get rid of. I felt like I knew the truth but couldn’t put it into practice. I’d been such a coward, without any dignity or integrity. I felt that at my age, I still couldn’t be a decent person, and didn’t know the principles for human interactions. Instead, I’d pursued the secular ways taught and propagated by Satan. I really hated myself at that moment. I didn’t want to live by these satanic philosophies any longer. I just wanted to act and conduct myself in line with God’s words.
I then read these words of God: “What is the most important practice of being an honest person? It is that your heart must be open to God. What do I mean by ‘open’? It means giving God a crystal clear view of everything you think, what your intentions are, and what controls you. If what you say is what is in your heart, without the slightest bit of difference and without any concealment, without a dark side, without others having to make guesses or delve deeper by asking questions, and without your needing to beat around the bush, instead just saying what you think, without any other intent, then this means your heart is open. Sometimes your straightforwardness may hurt others and displease them. However, would anyone say, ‘You’re speaking in such an honest way and you’ve really hurt me; I can’t accept your honesty’? No; no one would. Even if you occasionally hurt people, if you can open up to them and make apology, admit that you spoke without wisdom and gave no regard to their weaknesses, they will see you have no hard feelings, that you are an honest person, and that you simply do not pay much attention to the way you speak and are just very straightforward; no one will hold this against you. … The most important part of being an honest person is that your heart must be open to God. Afterward, you can learn to be open to other people, to speak honestly and truly, to say what is in your heart, to be a person with dignity, integrity, and character, and to not speak bombastically or falsely or use words to disguise yourself or deceive others” (Records of Christ’s Talks). As I pondered God’s words, I was incredibly moved. I felt God had taken me by the hand to teach me how to conduct myself as a human being. To be an honest person, to speak and act with honesty, to completely open my heart up to God, to be open with brothers and sisters, and not to have to be a certain way or play tricks—living this way isn’t tiring. I raised that sister’s issue with her later and fellowshiped with her about the dangers and consequences of getting wrapped up in online novels. At first, she did look pretty unhappy, and it was a bit awkward. But by opening up and fellowshiping with her, she came to realize that she was in a dangerous state. She said that she wouldn’t read online novels anymore and would keep her mind on her duty. Hearing her say this, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief, but I also reproached myself. If I’d spoken up sooner then perhaps her state would have been rectified sooner. It was just because I always wanted to be agreeable that I’d given in to myself and not practiced the truth, and things had dragged on. Being a yes-man is really harmful. After that, when I saw an issue in the duties of the brothers and sisters, sometimes I’d still worry about offending them, but by praying to God, mindfully practicing being an honest person, I was always able to point out the problem truthfully later on. Only by the guidance of God’s words was I able to learn how to conduct myself and interact with brothers and sisters. I perceived just how precious God’s words are. They are the principles for our conduct and actions. Whether in our duty or our conduct, we always need God’s words to guide us. As long as we seek the truth when an issue crops up, then we’ll have a path to follow.
Thinking back, I used to agree in theory that I was a yes-man and that I was deceitful, but I never compared myself against God’s words in earnest to examine and dissect my corrupt disposition. I also rarely searched for a path of practice or principles from God’s words, so my selfish and deceitful satanic disposition did not change at all. Although I’ve experienced just some trifling matters in life, when I focus on examining myself and seeking the truth in God’s words, I come to some understanding and reap a harvest. I also feel real inner peace and gain a little of the path to life entry. Coming to this bit of understanding and reaping this little harvest is entirely down to the guidance of God’s words! Thanks be to God!