58. The Principles of Living the Church Life
(1) It is necessary to read much of the words of God. Through them, you must fellowship your testimony from experience of knowing yourself and practicing the truth, and support and provide for each other;
(2) You must also train yourself to do your duty. In fulfilling it, come to know your own corruption and learn to submit to the truth, work in harmony with others, and live out a human likeness;
(3) It is necessary to accept being pruned and dealt with; one must seek the truth and know oneself, thereby purifying one’s corruption. Practicing in this way is of the greatest benefit to making progress in life;
(4) Base all affairs on God’s word, not on emotion or philosophies for living. Be principled in your dealings with others. Love each other, and supervise and help each other.
Relevant Words of God:
Going forward, talk of God’s words should be the principle by which you speak. Ordinarily, when you come together, you should engage in fellowship about the words of God, taking God’s words as the content of your interactions, talking about what you know of these words, how you put them into practice, and how the Holy Spirit works. As long as you fellowship the words of God, the Holy Spirit will illuminate you. Achieving the world of God’s words requires the cooperation of man. If you do not enter into this, God will have no way of working; if you keep your mouth shut and do not talk about His words, He will have no way of illuminating you. Whenever you are not otherwise occupied, talk about the words of God, and do not just engage in idle chit chat! Let your life be filled with the words of God—only then will you be a devout believer. It does not matter if your fellowship is superficial. Without shallowness there can be no depth. There must be a process. Through your training, you will grasp the illumination of the Holy Spirit upon you, and how to effectively eat and drink the words of God. After an interval of probing, you will enter into the reality of the words of God. Only if you are resolved to cooperate will you be able to receive the work of the Holy Spirit.
Excerpted from “The Age of Kingdom Is the Age of Word” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The necessity of having a proper church life is often mentioned in sermons. So why is it that the life of the church has not yet improved, and is still just the same old thing? Why is there not a completely new and different way of life? Could it be normal for a person of the nineties to live like an emperor of a bygone era? Though what people now eat and drink are delicacies rarely tasted in previous eras, there have been no major turnarounds in the church life. It has been like putting old wine into new bottles. What then is the use of God saying so much? The churches in most places have not changed at all. I have seen it with My own eyes, and it is clear in My heart; even though I have not experienced the life of the church for Myself, I know the conditions of church gatherings like the back of My hand. They have not made much progress. It goes back to that saying—it is like putting old wine into new bottles. Nothing has changed! When someone is shepherding them, they burn like fire, but when no one is there to support them, they are like a block of ice. Not many can talk of practical things, and very rarely can anyone take the helm. Although the sermons are lofty, seldom has anyone achieved any entry. Few people cherish the word of God. They become tearful when they take up God’s word, cheerful when they set it aside, and insipid and lacking in luster when they depart from it. Speaking frankly, you simply do not cherish the word of God, and you never see the words from His own mouth today as a treasure. You just become anxious when reading His word, and feel strenuous when memorizing it, and when it comes to putting God’s word into practice, it is like trying to crank the handle of a well pump by pulling on it with a hair from a horse’s tail—no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot crank up enough energy. You are always energized when reading God’s word, yet forgetful when practicing it. In fact, these words need not be spoken so painstakingly and repeated so patiently; but the fact that people just listen without putting God’s word into practice has become an obstacle for His work. I cannot not bring it up, I cannot not talk about it. I am compelled to do so; it is not that I enjoy exposing the weaknesses of others. You think that your practice is more or less adequate—that when revelations are at a peak, your entry is also at its peak? Is it so simple? You never examine the foundation upon which your experiences are ultimately built! As of this moment, your gatherings absolutely cannot be called a proper church life, nor do they constitute a proper spiritual life in the least. It is just the gathering of a bunch of people who enjoy chatting and singing. Strictly speaking, there is not much reality in it. To further clarify, if you do not practice the truth, where is the reality? Is it not boasting to say that you have reality? Those who always perform work are arrogant and conceited, while those who always obey keep quiet and keep their heads down, without any opportunity for training. People who do the work do nothing but talk, going on and on with their high-sounding speeches, and the followers only listen. There is no transformation to speak of; these are all just ways of the past! Today, your being able to submit and not daring to interfere or to act however you please is due to the arrival of the administrative decrees of God; it is not change you have undergone through experiences. The fact that you no longer dare to do some things that violate the administrative decrees today is because God’s work of words has had a clear effect and has conquered people. Let Me ask someone: How much of your accomplishment today was earned with the sweat of your own hard work? How much of it was told to you directly by God? How would you answer? Would you be dumbfounded and speechless? Why is it that others are able to speak out about many of their actual experiences to provide you with sustenance, while you simply enjoy the meals that others have cooked? Do you not feel ashamed?
Excerpted from “A Person Who Attains Salvation Is One Who Is Willing to Practice the Truth” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
We can see from God’s words that, in order to save and transform us, He does not merely do a few bits of work that bring a foretaste or prophecy, and is finished when that work is done, nor does He alter people’s external behavior. Rather, starting from the innermost depths of our hearts and from our disposition and our very essence, He wants to change every one of us, transforming each of us at the source. Given that this is how God works, how, then, should we act toward ourselves? We should take responsibility for our dispositions, for what we seek, and for everything we do, and we should be serious in everything we do, not be lax in anything, and be able to hold all aspects of our behavior up for scrutiny. Every time you finish doing something, the parts you think you did right must be held up for scrutiny—and, moreover, the part you think you did wrong must also be held up for scrutiny. This requires the brothers and sisters to spend more time together fellowshiping, seeking, and helping each other out. The more we fellowship, the more light enters our hearts; God will then enlighten us with regard to all our issues. If none of us speaks up, and we all just package ourselves to look good, hoping to leave a good impression in the minds of others and wanting them to think highly of us and not scoff at us, then we will have no means of growing. If you always package yourself to look good, you will not grow, and you will forever live in darkness. You will also be incapable of transformation. If you wish to change, then you must pay a price, lay yourself bare, and open up your heart to others, and by doing so, you will benefit both yourself and other people. When someone says, “Why don’t you say a few things about your recent experiences?” no one talks about issues of essence; no one dissects himself or lays himself bare. When people speak of words and doctrines, no one has a problem, but when they talk about knowing themselves, no one says anything. Those who do have a little knowledge of themselves do not dare to lay it bare, either; they do not have the courage to do that. What ends up happening? When people are together, they toady up to each other with mutual flattery. No one is willing to present his true face to be dissected and known by everyone. Once such a situation has developed, can a true church life be had? It cannot. Some people say, “I’ve experienced church life for many years, and I always feel quite satisfied; I feel enjoyment every time. In gatherings, when we pray and sing songs of praise, we all become so moved that we have tears streaming down our faces. Sometimes we get so stirred up that we start sweating, and all the brothers and sisters dance and sing. Our church life is so wonderful! When we eat and drink of God’s words, we feel that He is speaking to the depths of our hearts. When we fellowship, everyone feels energized.” What is the result of having experienced church life like this for ten or so years? No one focuses on being honest, no one dissects himself, no one shares his true state with his brothers and sisters, and no one lays bare his inner motivations and internal corruption. Those ten or so years of church life have been lived in vain, all just spent dancing about and singing amid people’s feelings and so-called “enjoyment.” Where does such enjoyment and happiness come from? I dare say it is not what God wishes to see, nor does it satisfy Him, for what God wants to see is change in people, and He wants to see people actually living His words out. He does not wish to see you holding your hymn books and singing or dancing in praise of Him when you attend gatherings or are feeling especially fervent. He does not desire to see these things. To the contrary, when God sees these things, He feels mournful and heartbroken, and very anxious, because He has spoken millions upon millions of words, yet they have not been carried out or lived out in any of you. This is what God is worried about. Often, you feel contented after having experienced church life. When you feel somewhat happy and at peace, and when you have a feeling of enjoyment and comfort or feel somewhat spiritually fulfilled in praising God, you think that you have done very well in your faith. You continue to hold on to these false images and regard them as your capital—as things you have gained in your faith—and you use them as substitutes for changes in disposition and entry onto the path of salvation. You then feel you do not need to pursue the truth or seek to be honest; you do not try to lay yourselves bare or put God’s words into practice. For this reason, God worries about you deeply.
Excerpted from “The Most Fundamental Practice of Being an Honest Person” in Records of Christ’s Talks
This is the sort of atmosphere you must have within the church—everyone focusing on the truth and striving to attain it. It does not matter how old or young people are, whether or not they are veteran believers, or how capable they are; the things you must look at are which people speak correctly, which people speak in conformity with the truth, which people are thinking of the interests of God’s house and which ones hold its work in their hearts the most, which people have a good deal of understanding about positive things, which people share a sense of righteousness, and which people are willing to pay the price. Such people should be supported and applauded by their brothers and sisters. This atmosphere of uprightness that comes from pursuing the truth must prevail within the church; in this way, you will have the work of the Holy Spirit, and God will bestow blessings and guidance. If the atmosphere that prevails within the church is one of telling tales, making a fuss about one another, bearing grudges against each other, being jealous of each other, and arguing with each other, then the Holy Spirit will certainly not work in you. Struggling against each other and secretly fighting, deceiving, tricking, and plotting against one another—this is an atmosphere of evil! If such an atmosphere prevails within the church, then the Holy Spirit will certainly not do His work. The Lord Jesus said a certain line that was related. Can you remember what it was? (“Again I say to you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the middle of them” (Mat 18:19–20).) This is the truth. God does as He says. If you go against His will and do not do as He says, then He will be distant with you. Therefore, you will always look at others’ faults and focus on what displeases you about others, and will constantly focus on the fact that others dislike you. This is going to cause problems. If the Holy Spirit does not work in you, if God does not bless or guide you, if you rely solely on your own strength and gifts and abilities, then nothing you do will be done well, nothing you do will be in line with God’s will, and no matter how hard you work, it will be a waste of energy. You will slowly come to learn this through experience. In everything you do, you must be of one mind. And how can you be of one mind? You must practice the truth; only then will you be able to become strong like a bundle of sticks—all together, and all of one mind.
Excerpted from “Having a Human Likeness Requires Fulfilling Your Duty Properly With All Your Heart, Mind, and Soul” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Sermon and Fellowship Excerpts for Reference:
Church life has been created for God’s chosen people to experience God’s work. Church life is the life of eating and drinking of God’s words, understanding truths, and entering reality. It is also the life of accepting truths, resolving corruptions, and living out a true human likeness. Within church life, God’s chosen people experience His judgment and chastisement and enter truths in order to attain His salvation; these things are entirely achieved through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is not easy for those without a church life to attain the work of the Holy Spirit, because church life is the actual place where God’s chosen people eat and drink God’s words, fellowship on truths, bear witness for Him, and enjoy His love. It is also the place for the training of the kingdom, where God’s chosen people can serve and provide sustenance for each other, fulfill their duties, and serve God. Only by living within the church life can people enjoy more work of the Holy Spirit and be perfected by God in more ways, be able to understand truths and enter the reality of God’s words more quickly, attain a transformation in their life disposition, and become ones who genuinely worship and submit to God. The experience of God’s chosen people is sufficient proof that in our faith, if we lack a good church life, then we shall never attain His salvation and perfection. This is an undeniable fact. Therefore, a good church life is what God’s chosen people need; it is also indispensable for God’s chosen people in attaining salvation and perfection. Anyone who has moved away from church life has also disengaged from the work of the Holy Spirit; anyone who has moved away from church life has betrayed God. Such people have dug their own graves.
Excerpted from Work Arrangements
The church life today involves fellowshiping on the truth according to God’s words and exposing people’s various corrupt dispositions so that they come to understand the truth through God’s words, know their own corrupt essence, become able to practice the truth and gain the truth, and ultimately attain salvation. If we read the word of God for purposes other than to rectify our corrupt disposition or to gain life and achieve salvation, then our reading of the word of God loses its significance. In religion, believers often say that their sins have been pardoned. They never mention their own transgressions, nor the transgressions of others, and no one exposes anyone else, and everyone lives in harmony. Are they not fooling themselves? Such a faith in God will never lead to the truth, nor to life. Ultimately, it is a hollow thing, bereft of significance. In God’s house, on the other hand, belief in Him is concerned with reality: God’s work in the last days is to judge, chastise, cleanse, and save people. If we do not accept God’s judgment and chastisement, how will our corrupt dispositions be put right? How will we expel all of Satan’s poisons, philosophies, and laws from ourselves? If we do not rectify these corruptions, how can we be saved? Thus, the most critical and fundamental thing in church life is to eat and drink the word of God in order to understand the truth, and to expose all kinds of corrupt states so that people may know them. The word of God uncovers the various corrupt dispositions of people, which reveals, within their nature essence, things that cannot easily be known. So, as we communicate the word of God, we must also expose and dissect the specific manifestations of various corrupt dispositions revealed in His word, so that each brother and sister may genuinely know themselves, perceiving clearly what kinds of satanic dispositions and poisons are within them. This is the most fundamental work in the pursuit of salvation, and also the central feature of church life.
Excerpted from Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life
The environment of church life is of great benefit to our growth in life, which leads to our salvation. Is there such an environment in society? In society, if someone learns a bit about something and develops a bit of competence, they will become increasingly arrogant and gradually lose their human likeness. It is because their environment is abominable, akin to a large vat of dye; whoever enters society will become increasingly corrupt, increasingly inhumane, and, finally, more and more perverted, becoming the devil itself. Therefore, in society, people are unable to obtain the truth. When they enter the environment of church life, however, things are different. There are several principles that must be followed in order to lead a church life: First, people must eat and drink the word of God and fellowship on the truth; second, people should train themselves to perform their duties, and live out a human likeness in the performance of their duties; third, brothers and sisters should practice pruning and dealing among themselves, and help each other. Without pruning and dealing and mutual help, it is difficult for people to know themselves, and their growth will be slowed. In the church, some people speak directly, while some speak with tact; some people have a slightly biased or erroneous view of things, while others look at things with accuracy. There are all sorts of people; therefore, one may meet with all sorts of pruning and dealing, and must taste each of its flavors. So, in church life, there are many lessons to be learned in being pruned and dealt with by one’s brothers and sisters. One must approach it correctly, strive to seek the truth, and know themselves. Even if the things some people say are not entirely correct, one must first accept it, learn to be tolerant and patient, and submit to the truth. The environment of church life is of great benefit to a person’s growth in life and their experience of God’s work, which leads to salvation. It is an environment of truth, an environment in which the Holy Spirit governs and the truth is sovereign. If people cannot adapt to this environment, what is the underlying problem? They do not love the truth, and cannot see that church life is an environment of truth. It is a place where God’s work is done, a place where the Holy Spirit governs, and the venue for the training of the kingdom. One cannot reach salvation if they leave the venue for the training of the kingdom. Some people believe in God as an avocation, practicing their faith from the meager environment of their own home. They are unable to grow in their life and unable to be saved. So, the environment of church life is a very good thing!
Excerpted from Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life