99. The Principles of Identifying Letters and Doctrines
(1) Letters and doctrines are wholly a product of man’s analyses and explications of God’s words. They are hollow and impractical, and are counted, in their entirety, among human notions and imaginings;
(2) Letters and doctrines arise from the mind and thoughts of man. They are not in the least equivalent to the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, nor are they able to move and bring benefit to people;
(3) Letters and doctrines are nothing more than rules and externalities. They are devoid of the path of practice and its principles, and, rather than leading man to liberation, they put him in shackles;
(4) Those who frequently preach letters and doctrines do not know themselves at all. They cannot practice the truth, much less come to act according to the principles.
Relevant Words of God:
God’s work and word are meant to cause a change in your disposition; His goal is not merely to make you understand or know His work and word. That is not enough. You are a person who has the ability to comprehend, so you should have no difficulty in understanding the word of God, because most of God’s word is written in human language, and He speaks very plainly. For instance, you are perfectly capable of learning what it is that God wants you to understand and practice; this is something that a normal person who has the faculty of comprehension should be able to do. In particular, the words that God is saying in the present stage are especially clear and transparent, and God is pointing out many things that people have not considered, as well as all manner of human states. His words are all-encompassing, and as clear as the light of a full moon. So now, people understand many issues, but there is still something missing—people putting His word into practice. People must experience all aspects of the truth in detail, and explore and seek it out in greater detail, rather than simply waiting to absorb whatever is made available to them; otherwise they become little more than parasites. They know God’s word, yet do not put it into practice. This kind of person does not love the truth and will ultimately be eliminated. To be like a Peter of the 1990s, this means that each one of you should practice the word of God, have true entry in your experiences and gain even more and even greater enlightenment in your cooperation with God, which will be of ever increasing assistance to your own life. If you have read a lot of God’s word but only understand the meaning of the text and lack direct knowledge of God’s word through your practical experiences, then you will not know God’s word. As far as you are concerned, God’s word is not life, but just lifeless letters. And if you only live in observance of lifeless letters, then you cannot grasp the essence of God’s word, nor will you understand His will. Only when you experience His word in your actual experiences will the spiritual meaning of God’s word open itself to you, and it is only through experience that you can grasp the spiritual meaning of many truths and unlock the mysteries of God’s word. If you do not put it into practice, then no matter how clear His word, all that you have grasped are empty letters and doctrines, which have become religious regulations to you. Is this not what the Pharisees did? If you practice and experience God’s word, it becomes practical to you; if you do not seek to practice it, then God’s word to you is little more than the legend of the third heaven.
Excerpted from “Once You Understand the Truth, You Should Put It Into Practice” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
After having had your own experience, you can then talk about the knowledge you should have of what you experienced. In addition, you can also distinguish between those whose knowledge is real and practical and those whose knowledge is based on doctrine and worthless. So, whether the knowledge you profess accords with the truth largely depends on whether you have practical experience of it. Where there is truth in your experience, your knowledge will be practical and valuable. Through your experience, you can also gain discernment and insight, deepen your knowledge, and increase your wisdom and common sense about how you should conduct yourself. The knowledge expressed by people who do not possess the truth is doctrine, no matter how lofty it may be. This type of person may well be very intelligent when it comes to matters of the flesh but cannot make distinctions when it comes to spiritual matters. This is because such people have no experience at all of spiritual affairs. These are people who are not enlightened in spiritual affairs and do not understand spiritual matters. Whatever sort of knowledge you express, as long as it is your being, then it is your personal experience, your real knowledge. What people who speak only of doctrine—those being people who possess neither the truth nor reality—discuss can also be called their being, because they have arrived at their doctrine only through deep contemplation and it is the result of their deep rumination. Yet it is only doctrine, nothing more than imagination!
Excerpted from “God’s Work and Man’s Work” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
If a person does not pursue the truth, he will never understand it. You can say the letters and doctrines ten thousand times, but they will still just be letters and doctrines. Some people just say, “Christ is the truth, the way, and the life.” Even if you repeat these words ten thousand times, it will still be useless; you have no understanding of its meaning. Why is it said that Christ is the truth, the way, and the life? Can you articulate the knowledge you have gained about this from experience? Have you entered the reality of the truth, the way, and the life? God has uttered His words so that you can experience them and gain knowledge; merely voicing letters and doctrines is useless. You can only know yourself once you have understood and entered God’s words. If you do not understand God’s words, then you cannot know yourself. You can only discern when you have the truth; without the truth, you cannot discern. You can only fully understand a matter when you have the truth; without the truth, you cannot understand a matter. You can only know yourself when you have the truth; without the truth, you cannot know yourself. Your disposition can only change when you have the truth; without the truth, your disposition cannot change. Only after you have the truth can you serve in accordance with God’s will; without the truth, you cannot serve in accordance with God’s will. Only after you have the truth can you worship God; without the truth, your worship will be nothing more than a performance of religious rites. All of these things hinge on gaining the truth from God’s words.
Excerpted from “How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Merely understanding doctrine is of no use; it cannot bring about life change. Merely understanding the literal meaning of God’s words is not the equivalent of understanding truth; it is those essential things illustrated in God’s words that are the truth. Every line of His utterances contains the truth, though people may not necessarily understand it. For example, when God says, “You must be honest people,” there is truth in this statement. There is even more truth in statements from Him such as, “You must become people who submit before God, who love God, and who worship God. You must fulfill your duties as humans.” Each line of God’s words contains much truth, and it takes a lot to explain the essence of each of these statements of truth; only when one has reached this point will one be considered to have an understanding of the truth. If you only understand and explain God’s words according to their literal meaning, then yours is not an understanding of truth; you are simply showing off with doctrine.
Excerpted from “How to Walk the Path of Peter” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Some people work and preach and, despite superficially appearing to be fellowshiping on God’s utterances, they are only discussing the literal meaning of His words, and nothing essential is mentioned. Their sermons are like teachings from a language textbook—arranged item by item and aspect by aspect, and when they are done, everyone sings praises, saying, “This person possesses reality. He preached so well and in such detail.” After such people are done preaching, they tell others to compile their sermons and send them out to everybody. In doing this, they have gotten to where they are deceiving others and all that they preach are fallacies. On the surface, it looks as though they are preaching only God’s words and their sermons conform to the truth. However, with more careful discernment, you will see that they are nothing but letters and doctrines and false reasoning along with some human imaginings and notions, as well as some things that delimit God. Does this kind of preaching not amount to an interruption of God’s work? This is service that resists God.
Excerpted from “Only by Pursuing the Truth Can One Achieve a Change in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
You have deviated in your summing up the truth; after you do all this summing up, it has yielded only rules. Your “summing up the truth” is not done so that people gain life or attain changes in their dispositions from the truth. Instead, it causes people to master some knowledge and doctrines from within the truth. They appear to have understood the purpose behind God’s work, when actually they have only mastered some words and doctrines. They do not understand the intended meaning of the truth; it is no different from studying theology or reading the Bible. You compile these books or those materials, and so people become in possession of this aspect of doctrine and that aspect of knowledge. They are first rate speakers of doctrines—but what happens when they are done speaking? They are incapable of experiencing, they have no understanding of God’s work, nor do they have any understanding of themselves. Ultimately, all they will have gained are formulas and rules, and they can talk about those few things but nothing else. If God did something new, would you be able to match up all the doctrines that you know with that? Those things of yours are just rules and you are just having people study theology, not allowing them to experience the word of God or the truth. Therefore, those books that you compile can bring others only into theology and knowledge, into new formulas, and into rules and conventions. They cannot bring people before God or allow them to understand the truth or God’s will. You are thinking that by raising those questions one after another, which you then answer and for which you write down outlines and summaries, brothers and sisters will find it easy to understand, and you think that apart from being easy to remember, these issues are clear at a glance, and that this is a great way of doing things. But what people are understanding is not the real intended meaning of the truth and does not match up with reality—it is just words and doctrines. So it would be better if you did not do these things at all. Doing this is leading people to understand and master knowledge. You bring others into the doctrines, into religion, and have them follow and believe in God within religious doctrines. Isn’t that being just like Paul? You think that mastering knowledge of the truth is particularly important, and so is learning by heart many passages of God’s words. But how people understand the word of God is not important at all. You think it is extremely important for people to be able to memorize many of God’s words, to be able to speak much doctrine and to discover many formulas within God’s words. Therefore, you always want to systematize these things so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, saying the same things, and talking about the same doctrines, so they have the same knowledge and keep the same rules—this is your objective. Your doing this appears to be for the sake of people gaining understanding, when on the contrary you have no idea that this is bringing people into the midst of rules that are outside of God’s word the truth. To allow people to have a real understanding of the truth, you must link it up with reality and with the work, and solve practical problems according to God’s word the truth. Only in this way can people understand the truth and enter into reality, and only achieving such a result is really bringing people before God. If all you talk about are spiritual theories, doctrines, and rules, if you only put effort into the literal words, all you can achieve is getting people to say the same things and follow rules, but you will not be able to guide people to understand the truth. You will be particularly unable to have people better understand themselves, and achieve repentance and transformation. If being able to talk about spiritual theories could substitute for people’s entering truth reality, then you would not be needed to lead the churches.
Excerpted from “Without the Truth, One Is Liable to Offend God” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Some leaders and workers cannot see the real problems that exist within the church. While at a gathering, they feel like they have nothing worthwhile to say, so they just bite the bullet and voice some letters and doctrines. They know perfectly well that what they are saying is mere doctrine, yet they say it anyway. In the end, even they feel that their words are insipid, and as their brothers and sisters listen to them, they, too, feel that these people are dull. This is how it goes, is it not? If they have to force themselves to say those words, then on the one hand, the Holy Spirit is not working in them, and on the other hand, their words have no benefit for others. If you have not experienced the truth, yet you still want to speak about it, then no matter what you say, you will not be able to penetrate through to the truth; anything you say further will just be letters and doctrines. You may think that they are somewhat enlightened, but they are just doctrines; they are not truth reality, and no matter how hard they try, anyone listening will not be able to grasp anything real from them. While listening, they might feel that what you say is quite correct, but afterward, they will forget it completely. If you do not talk about your actual states, then you will not be able to touch people’s hearts; they will forget what you say even if they want to remember it, and you will be unable to help them. If you encounter this sort of situation, wherein you want to speak but feel you cannot talk about things in a way that penetrates through to the truth, and you merely have a bit of doctrinal knowledge while knowing nothing about essential things, and if others bring up questions of an essential nature, which you are unable to answer, then you would be better off not saying anything at all. There are also times when you might be discussing a topic at a gathering, and you feel that you are fairly knowledgeable about it and can fellowship about some actual things. However, everyone will understand what you are talking about if you discuss it rather superficially, but you have nothing to say on a deeper level, for others might not have experienced some things, and you might not have either. In such a case, you should not force yourself to keep talking; rather, you may get everyone to fellowship about the topic. If you think that it is doctrine, then it is useless to talk about, and people will not be able to be edified from it; in this situation, no matter what you say, the Holy Spirit will not do His work, and when you try to bulldog your way through anyway, you may end up saying absurd and deviant things, and can lead people astray.
Excerpted from “Do You Know What the Truth Really Is?” in Records of Christ’s Talks
People who do not understand or love the truth often take the truth as an interpretation, as theory—and what becomes of them? When they encounter an issue, after having believed in God for years, they cannot see it for what it really is, nor are they able to submit, or seek the truth; when people fellowship with them, they answer with their “famous words of wisdom”: “Save it—I understand everything. I was preaching before you could even walk!” These are their famous words. If they understand everything, why can they not handle it when they encounter an issue? If you understand it, why are you unable to put it into practice? Why does the issue trip you up, why do you get stuck on it? Do you understand or not? If you understand, why can you not obey? If you understand, why can you not accept it? What is the first thing people should do after understanding the truth? They should obey, and nothing else. Some people say, “I understand everything. No one should fellowship with me—I don’t need anyone’s help.” They can forgo the help of others, but it is a pity that, when they are weak, the doctrine they understand is totally useless, and they even stop performing their duty. Some do not even want to believe in God anymore. They spent all those years preaching theological theory, but they give up their faith and retreat at the drop of a hat. Is there stature in this? (No.) And no stature means no life. If you had life, why would you be unable to handle it when you encountered that minor issue? Are you not good at talking? So have a go at convincing yourself; if you cannot even convince yourself, so just what do you understand? Is it the truth? The truth can solve people’s real problems and can also solve people’s corrupt dispositions. Why can the “truths” you understand not even solve your own difficulties? So just what is it you understand? It is doctrine.
Excerpted from “For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (7)” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Do you now have a path to resolving the problem of preaching letters and doctrines? To resolve that problem, you must practice the truth; the more you do—the more effort you put into the truth and practicing—the fewer letters and doctrines there will be inside you. How does reality come about? It happens during the process of practicing the truth, as people have all sorts of experiences, and give rise to all sorts of states. There is a process of transformation in how people approach their various states, what thoughts and views they have, and how they seek the truth to resolve them. This process is reality. If you do not go through the process of practicing and experiencing God’s words, but merely know and understand them on a literal and doctrinal level, then all you have is doctrine, as there is a discrepancy between your literal understanding and your direct experience. How does doctrine arise? When one does not practice, but merely understands, analyzes, and explains the literal meaning of God’s words, and moreover preaches them, then doctrine arises. Can doctrine become reality? If you do not practice the truth, you will never understand it. Mere literal explanation will forever be doctrine. If, however, you practice, experience, feel, and learn, the knowledge, thoughts, ideas, and experience thus produced will be practical. Reality is achieved through practice; without practice, reality is forever absent. Has anyone said, “I don’t practice the truth, but I can still preach practical sermons”? What you preach may sound correct and quite practical to others in the moment, but they will still have no path of practice afterward. Everything you understand is thus still doctrine. If you do not put God’s words into practice and have no practical experience or understanding of the truth, when a state you have never considered before arises in someone else, you will not know how to resolve it. When one seldom practices the truth, they will never truly understand it. Only by increasing their practice of the truth can they understand it truly, and only then can they grasp the principles of practicing the truth. If you have no experience of the truth, you will naturally only be able to preach doctrine. You will tell others to adhere to rules just as you do. Without the reality of practice and experience, you will never be able to preach reality. Practicing the truth is not the same as studying. To study is invariably to apply oneself to the written word; it is fine merely to take notes, memorize, analyze, and scrutinize the words. The practice of the truth is the exact opposite; one must rely on practical experience for it to achieve results.
Excerpted from “The Path to Resolving a Corrupt Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
God’s requirements of people are not all that high. If they put in even a little bit of effort, they would receive a “pass grade.” Actually, understanding, knowing, and comprehending the truth is more complicated than practicing the truth. Knowing and comprehending the truth comes after practicing the truth; these are the steps and method by which the Holy Spirit works. How can you not obey? Can you gain the work of the Holy Spirit by doing things your way? Does the Holy Spirit work at your pleasure, or based on your deficiencies according to God’s words? It is pointless if you cannot see this clearly. Why is it that most people have spent much effort reading God’s words, but merely have knowledge and cannot say anything about a real path afterward? Do you think that possessing knowledge amounts to possessing the truth? Is that not a confused point of view? You are able to speak as much knowledge as there is sand on a beach, yet none of it contains any real path. Are you not trying to fool people by doing this? Are you not making an empty show, with no substance to back it up? All such behavior is harmful to people! The higher the theory and the more it is devoid of reality, the more it is incapable of taking people into reality; the higher the theory, the more it makes you defy and oppose God. Do not treat the loftiest theories like precious treasure; they are pernicious and serve no purpose! Perhaps some people are able to talk of the loftiest theories—but these contain nothing of reality, for these people have not personally experienced them, and therefore have no path to practice. Such people are incapable of taking others onto the right track and will only lead them astray. Is this not harmful to people? At the very least, you must be able to solve people’s present troubles and allow them to achieve entry; only this counts as dedication, and only then will you be qualified to work for God. Do not always speak grandiose, fanciful words, and do not use a bunch of unsuitable practices to bind others into obeying you. Doing so will have no effect and can only increase their confusion. Carrying on like this will produce much doctrine, which will make people loathe you. Such is the shortcoming of man, and it truly is mortifying. So talk more of problems that actually exist. Do not treat other people’s experiences as your own personal property and hold them up for others to admire; you must search for your own, individual way out. This is what each person should put into practice.
Excerpted from “Focus More on Reality” in The Word Appears in the Flesh