107. The Principles of Distinguishing Between Practicing the Truth and Good Behavior
(1) Determine whether a practice is based in God’s words or done according to the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, or whether it is an action that relies on man’s feelings, preferences, notions, or imaginings, or on his experience;
(2) Determine whether one is acting based on the truths they understand, in accordance with the principles, or whether they are adhering to rules, going through the motions, focusing on externalities, and living amid notions and imaginings;
(3) Determine whether one truly comes to submit to God in their practice of the truth, or whether they make a great fuss over tiny trivialities and give others a false impression, thereby deceiving them and attempting to trick God;
(4) When one performs their duty, determine whether they expend themselves for God with a true heart, coming to bear witness for Him, or whether their work is careless and perfunctory, going through the motions, and whether they are merely engaging in disguise and trickery with an aim to strike a bargain with God.
Relevant Words of God:
You should understand the word of God and put it into practice accordingly. Be principled in all your actions and deeds, though this does not mean abiding by rules or doing something grudgingly just for show; rather, it means practicing the truth and living by the word of God. Only practice such as this satisfies God. Any course of action that pleases God is not a rule, but the practice of truth. Some people have a penchant for drawing attention to themselves. In the presence of their brothers and sisters, they might say they are indebted to God, but behind their backs, they do not practice the truth and act entirely differently. Are these not religious Pharisees? A person who truly loves God and possesses the truth is one who is loyal to God but does not outwardly show off as such. Such a person is willing to practice the truth when situations arise, and does not speak or act in a way that goes against their conscience. This sort of person demonstrates wisdom when matters arise, and is principled in his or her deeds regardless of the circumstances. This kind of person can provide true service. There are some who often pay lip service to their indebtedness to God; they spend their days with brows locked in worry, putting on an affected air and pretending to be pitiable. How despicable! If you were to ask them, “Can you tell me about how you are indebted to God?” then they would be rendered speechless. If you are loyal to God, then do not talk outwardly about it; instead, demonstrate your love for God by way of actual practice, and pray to Him with a true heart. Those who just deal with God verbally and perfunctorily are all hypocrites! Some speak of indebtedness to God each time they pray, and begin to weep each time they pray, even without being moved by the Holy Spirit. People such as this are possessed by religious rituals and notions; they live by such rituals and notions, always believing that those actions please God and that He favors superficial godliness or sorrowful tears. What good can come of such absurd people? In order to demonstrate humility, some feign graciousness when speaking in the presence of others. Some are deliberately servile when in the presence of other people, acting like lambs without an ounce of strength. Is this a manner befitting people of the kingdom? People of the kingdom should be lively and free, innocent and open, honest and lovable, and be living in a state of freedom. They should have integrity and dignity and be able to stand witness wherever they go; such people are beloved by both God and man. Those who are novices in the faith have too many outward practices; they must first undergo a period of being dealt with and broken. People who have faith in God deep down are not outwardly distinguishable from others, but their actions and deeds are commendable. Only such people can be deemed to be living out the word of God. If you preach the gospel every day to various people in an effort to bring them to salvation, yet in the end are still living by rules and doctrines, then you cannot bring glory to God. Such people are religious figures, as well as hypocrites.
Excerpted from “In Faith, One Must Focus on Reality—Engaging in Religious Ritual Is Not Faith” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Most people place special emphasis on behavior in their belief in God, as a result of which certain changes occur in their behavior. After they have begun to believe in God, they stop contending with others, insulting and fighting with people, smoking and drinking, and stealing 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 whenever they suffer losses or are wronged. Without doubt, they do indeed undergo some behavioral changes. Because, once they believe in God, accepting the true way makes people feel especially good, and because they have also now tasted the grace of the work of the Holy Spirit, they are particularly fervent, and there is even nothing that they cannot forsake or suffer. Nevertheless, after having believed for three, five, ten, or thirty years, because there has been no change in their life dispositions, they end up sliding back into old ways; their arrogance and haughtiness grow more pronounced, they begin to compete for power and profit, they covet the church’s money, they do anything that serves their own interests, they crave status and pleasures, and they have become parasites of God’s house. In particular, most of those who serve as leaders are abandoned by people. And what do these facts prove? Mere behavioral changes are unsustainable; if there is no alteration in people’s life dispositions, then sooner or later, their vicious sides will show themselves. 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 exhibit temporary kindness. 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 throughout their entire lives. One’s behavior is directed by the life; whatever one’s life is, so is one’s behavior, and only that which is revealed naturally represents the life, as well as one’s nature. Things that are fake cannot last. When God works to save man, it is not to adorn man with good behavior—the purpose of God’s work is to transform people’s dispositions, to make them reborn into new people. Thus, God’s judgment, chastisement, trials, and refinement of man all serve to change his disposition so that he may achieve absolute submission and devotion to God, and come to worship Him normally. This is the aim of God’s work. Behaving well is not the same as submitting to 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 upon true knowledge of God or upon the truth, much less do they rest upon guidance from the Holy Spirit. Even though there are times when some of what people do is directed by the Holy Spirit, this is not an expression of the life, much less is it the same as knowing God; no matter how good a person’s behavior is, it does not prove that they have submitted to God or that they put the truth into practice. Behavioral changes are but a momentary illusion; they are but manifestations of zealousness. They cannot be counted as expressions of the life.
Excerpted from “The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Though a person may have done a great number of good works since coming to faith in God, many matters may yet be opaque to them, and less still may they have come to an understanding of the truth—yet, because of their many good works, they feel they have already come to live in God’s words, and have submitted to Him, and have quite satisfied His will. This is because when no adverse circumstances arise, you do whatever you are told; you have no qualms about performing any duty, and you do not resist. When you are told to spread the gospel, it is a hardship you can bear, and you offer no complaint, and when you are told to run here and there, or to do manual labor, you do so. Because of these displays, you feel you are one who submits to God and a true pursuer of the truth. Yet were one to question you more deeply and ask, “Are you an honest person? Are you a person who genuinely submits to God? A person with a changed disposition?” then, thus questioned, thus held up against the truth for scrutiny, you—and, it may be said, anyone at all—would be found wanting, and neither is any person able truly to practice according to the truth. Therefore, when the root of all man’s acts and deeds, as well as the essence and nature of his actions, are held up against the truth, all are condemned. What is the reason for this? It is that man does not know himself; he always believes in God in his own way, performs his duty in his own way, and serves God in his own way. What is more, he feels he is full of faith and reason, and, in the end, he feels he has gained much. Without his knowing it, he comes to feel he is already acting in line with God’s will and has satisfied it completely, and that he has already met God’s requirements and is following His will. If this is how you feel, or if, in your several years of belief in God, you feel you have reaped some gains, then all the more should you come back before God to reflect on yourself. You should look at the path you have walked over your years of faith and see whether all your actions and behavior before God have been entirely after His heart, what you do that resists God, what you do that is able to satisfy God, and whether what you do meets God’s requirements and can be entirely in accord with His will—you should be clear on all these things.
Excerpted from “Only by Recognizing Your Misguided Views Can You Know Yourself” in Records of Christ’s Talks
There are people who believe themselves to be extremely kind-hearted. They never hate or harm others, and they always lend a hand to a brother or sister whose family is in need, lest their problem go unsolved; they have great goodwill, and do everything in their power to help everyone they can. What is the result of such helpfulness? They put their own lives on hold, yet are quite pleased with themselves, and extremely satisfied with all they have done. What is more, they take great pride in it, believing all they have done is surely enough to satisfy God’s will, and that they are true believers in God. They see their natural kindness as something to be capitalized on, and, as soon as they regard it as such, they come inevitably to see it as the truth. In reality, all they do is human good. They have not sought the truth in the least, and all their acts are in vain, for they do them in front of man, and not before God, and less still do they practice according to God’s requirements and the truth. None of the things they do is the practice of the truth, and none is the practice of God’s words, much less are they following His will; rather, they use human kindness and good behavior to help others. In summary, they do not seek God’s will in what they do, nor do they act in accordance with His requirements. Therefore, from God’s vantage, the good behavior of man is condemned, and does not merit His remembrance.
Excerpted from “Only by Recognizing Your Misguided Views Can You Know Yourself” in Records of Christ’s Talks
What do the superficial good deeds of humans represent? They represent the flesh, and even the best of outward practices do not represent life; they can only show your own individual temperament. The outward practices of humanity cannot fulfill the desire of God. You constantly speak of your indebtedness to God, yet you cannot supply the life of others or inspire them to love God. Do you believe that those actions of yours will satisfy God? You feel that your actions are in line with God’s will, and that they are of the spirit, but in truth, they are all absurd! You believe that what pleases you and what you are willing to do are precisely those things in which God delights. Can your likes represent God? Can a person’s character represent God? What pleases you is precisely that which God abhors, and your habits are those which God loathes and rejects. If you feel indebted, then go and pray before God; there is no need to speak of it to others. If you do not pray before God, and instead constantly draw attention to yourself in the presence of others, can this satisfy God’s will? If your actions always exist in appearance alone, then this means that you are vain in the extreme. What manner of humans are those who only carry out superficial good deeds and are devoid of reality? Such people are just hypocritical Pharisees and religious figures! If you do not shed your outward practices and are unable to make changes, then the elements of hypocrisy in you will grow even more. The greater your elements of hypocrisy, the more resistance there is toward God. In the end, such people will surely be eliminated!
Excerpted from “In Faith, One Must Focus on Reality—Engaging in Religious Ritual Is Not Faith” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
It may be that in all your years of faith in God, you have never cursed anyone or committed a bad deed, yet in your association with Christ, you cannot speak the truth, act honestly, or obey the word of Christ; in that case, I say that you are the most sinister and malicious person in the world. You may be exceptionally amiable and devoted toward your relatives, friends, wife (or husband), sons and daughters, and parents, and never take advantage of others, but if you are incapable of compatibility with Christ, if you are unable to interact in harmony with Him, then even if you expend your all in relief to your neighbors or take meticulous care of your father, mother, and members of your household, I would say that you are still wicked, and moreover one full of cunning tricks. Do not think yourself compatible with Christ simply because you get along with others or do a few good deeds. Do you think that your charitable intent can finagle the blessings of Heaven? Do you think that doing a few good deeds is a substitute for your obedience? Not one of you is able to accept being dealt with and pruned, and you all find it difficult to embrace the normal humanity of Christ, notwithstanding which you are constantly trumpeting your obedience to God. Such faith as yours will bring down a fitting retribution.
Excerpted from “Those Who Are Incompatible With Christ Are Surely Opponents of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Some people are able to bear hardships, can pay the price, are outwardly very well-behaved, are quite well-respected, and enjoy the admiration of others. Would you say that this kind of outward behavior can be regarded as putting the truth into practice? Could one determine that such people are satisfying God’s will? Why is it that time and time again people see such individuals and think that they are satisfying God, walking the path of putting the truth into practice, and keeping to God’s way? Why do some people think this way? There is only one explanation for it. What explanation is that? It is that for a great many people, certain questions—such as what it means to put the truth into practice, what it means to satisfy God, and what it means to genuinely possess truth reality—are not very clear. Thus, there are some people who are often deceived by those who outwardly seem spiritual, noble, lofty, and great. As for people who can speak eloquently of letters and doctrines, and whose speech and actions seem worthy of admiration, those who are deceived by them have never looked at the essence of their actions, the principles behind their deeds, or what their goals are. Moreover, they have never looked at whether these people truly submit to God, nor have they ever determined whether or not these people genuinely fear God and shun evil. They have never discerned the essence of the humanity of these people. Rather, beginning with the first step of getting acquainted with them, they have, little by little, come to admire and venerate these people, and in the end, these people become their idols. Furthermore, in some people’s minds, the idols whom they worship—and who they believe can abandon their families and jobs, and who seem superficially able to pay the price—are the ones who are truly satisfying God and who can really attain good outcomes and good destinations. In their minds, these idols are the ones whom God praises. What causes them to believe such a thing? What is the essence of this issue? What are the consequences it can lead to? Let us first discuss the matter of its essence.
Essentially, these issues regarding people’s viewpoints, their methods of practice, which principles of practice they choose to adopt, and what they each tend to focus on have nothing to do with God’s demands of humankind. Whether people focus on shallow matters or profound issues, or on letters and doctrines or reality, they do not adhere to that which they should adhere to most, nor do they know that which they most should know. The reason for this is that people do not like the truth at all; as such, they are not willing to put time and effort into seeking out and putting into practice the principles of practice found in God’s utterances. Instead, they prefer to use shortcuts, summing up what they understand and know to be good practice and good behavior; this summary then becomes their own goal to pursue, which they take as truth to be practiced. The direct consequence of this is that people use human good behavior as a substitute for putting the truth into practice, which also satisfies their desire to curry favor with God. This gives them capital with which to contend with the truth, which they also use to reason and compete with God. At the same time, people also unscrupulously put God aside, placing the idols they admire in His stead. There is only one root cause which makes people have such ignorant actions and viewpoints, or one-sided opinions and practices—and today I will tell you about it: The reason is that, although people may follow God, pray to Him every day, and read His utterances every day, they do not actually understand His will. Herein lies the root of the problem. If someone understood God’s heart and knew what He likes, what He loathes, what He wants, what He rejects, what kind of person He loves, what kind of person He dislikes, what kind of standard He uses when making demands of people, and what kind of approach He takes for perfecting them, then could that person still have their own personal opinions? Could people like this simply go and worship someone else? Could an ordinary human become their idol? People who understand God’s will possess a slightly more rational viewpoint than that. They are not going to arbitrarily idolize a corrupted person, nor will they, while walking the path of putting the truth into practice, believe that blindly adhering to a few simple rules or principles is tantamount to putting the truth into practice.
Excerpted from “How to Know God’s Disposition and the Results His Work Shall Achieve” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Some people say, “I feel that I am now able to put some truths into practice; it’s not that I absolutely cannot practice any truths. In some environments, I can do things in accordance with the truth, which means I count as a person who puts the truth into practice and as one who has the truth.” Actually, compared to before or when you first started believing in God, in this sort of situation you have exhibited a little change. In the past, you did not understand anything, nor did you know what the truth was or what a corrupt disposition was. Now you have come to know some things, and are capable of having some good ways of practicing, but this is only a small portion of your change; it is not a genuine transformation of your disposition, because you are unable to put advanced and deep truths that involve your nature into practice. In contrast to your past, you have indeed changed somewhat, but this transformation is only a small change in your humanity; when compared with the highest state of truth, you are way off the mark. That is, you have not hit the mark when putting the truth into practice.
Sometimes this is the sort of state people are in: Internally, they are not negative, and they still have some enthusiasm, but when it comes to their knowledge of the truth and putting it into practice, they feel they have no path forward and that they have no interest in this aspect. How can this be? Sometimes you do not see this state very clearly and are forced to act outwardly, doing this and that, yet your actual difficulties remain unresolved. You are also thinking, “I have done it and have completely devoted myself; why do I still not feel assured?” This is because your conduct and actions are based on your good intentions; they are done with subjective diligence. However, you have not sought God’s will, and you have not done things in accordance with the requirements of truth. You are off the mark by quite a ways, which results in your always feeling distant from God’s requirements. You no longer feel assured, and you unconsciously become negative. Personal subjective desires and subjective diligence are very different from the truth’s requirements; they are at variance with regard to their nature. People’s outward actions cannot replace truth, and such actions are not done in complete accordance with God’s intentions; rather, the truth is the true expression of God’s will. Some people who spread the gospel are thinking, “I’m not idle. How can You say I am not putting the truth into practice?” Well, I ask you this: How much truth is in your heart? In the time you have been spreading the gospel, how many things have you done in accordance with the truth? Do you understand God’s will? You cannot even say whether you are simply doing things or are putting truth into practice, because you only emphasize using your practice to satisfy God and make Him happy. You absolutely do not reciprocate His love with the conviction of “seeking God’s will in all things to satisfy God and be in line with the truth.” If you say you are putting the truth into practice, then how much has your disposition changed in the meantime? How much has your love for God increased? Measuring yourself against these things can determine whether or not you are putting the truth into practice.
Excerpted from “Understanding One’s Nature and Putting the Truth Into Practice” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Exactly what are the criteria for putting the truth into practice? How is whether you are putting the truth into practice measured and defined? How does God determine whether you are someone who accepts His words upon hearing them? He looks at whether, during the time that you have believed in Him and listened to sermons, there has been any change in your internal state, in your disobedience toward Him, and in the essence of the various aspects of your corrupt disposition. He looks at whether you have replaced these with the truth, and at whether you have changed in your external behavior and actions or in the essence of your corrupt disposition deep within your heart. God measures you according to these things. Having listened to sermons and eaten and drunk of God’s words for all these years, are your changes just superficial, or essential? Have there been changes in your disposition? Have there been changes in your misconceptions about God, your disobedience toward God, and in how you approach the commissions and duties that God entrusts to you? Has there been a reduction in your disobedience against God? When something happens and you are revealed to be disobedient, are you able to reflect upon yourself? Are you capable of obedience? Have you become more loyal to the commissions and duties that God entrusts to you, and is this loyalty pure? During the time that you have been listening to sermons, have your motives, ambitions, desires, and intentions been cleansed? Are these not criteria for measurement? Then there are also your misconceptions about God: Do you still cling to your original notions, vague and abstract imaginings, and conclusions? Do you still have complaints and other negative emotions? Have there been changes in terms of these things? If there has not been any change in these aspects, then what kind of person are you? This proves one fact: You are not someone who practices the truth.
Excerpted from “Only by Practicing God’s Words Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Transformation in disposition does not happen overnight, and once you understand the truth you cannot necessarily put it into practice within every environment. This involves man’s nature. Sometimes it might seem as though you are putting the truth into practice, but in reality, the nature of your actions does not show that you are doing so. 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. 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.
Excerpted from “What Should Be Known About Transforming One’s Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
If people have some knowledge of God, know how to live a meaningful life, and can do some things that satisfy God, then they will feel that this is real life, that only by living in this way will their lives have meaning, and that they have to live this way in order to bring a little satisfaction to God and feel gratified. If they can consciously satisfy God, put the truth into practice, forsake themselves, abandon their own ideas, and be obedient and considerate toward God’s will—if they are able to do all these things consciously—then this is what it means to accurately put the truth into practice, and to genuinely put the truth into practice, and this is very unlike their previous reliance on their imaginations and their sticking to doctrines and rules. In actual fact, it is exhausting to do anything when they do not understand the truth, exhausting to adhere to doctrines and rules, and exhausting to have no goals and to be doing things blindly. Only with the truth can they be free—this is no lie—and with it, they can do things easily and happily. Those who possess this sort of state are people who possess the truth; they are the ones whose dispositions have been transformed.
Excerpted from “Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks