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 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:
Of principal importance in following God is that everything should be according to the words of God today: Whether you are pursuing entry into life or the fulfillment of God’s will, everything should be centered around the words of God today. If what you commune and pursue are not centered around the words of God today, then you are a stranger to the words of God, and totally bereft of the work of the Holy Spirit. What God wants are people who follow His footsteps. No matter how wonderful and pure what you understood before is, God does not want it, and if you are unable to put aside such things, then they will be a tremendous obstacle to your entry in the future. All those who are able to follow the present light of the Holy Spirit are blessed. The people of ages past also followed the footsteps of God, yet they could not follow until today; this is the blessing of the people of the last days. Those who can follow the present work of the Holy Spirit, and who are able to follow the footsteps of God, such that they follow God wherever He leads them—these are people who are blessed by God. Those who do not follow the present work of the Holy Spirit have not entered into the work of God’s words, and no matter how much they work, or how great their suffering, or how much they run about, none of it means anything to God, and He will not commend them. Today, all those who follow the present words of God are in the stream of the Holy Spirit; those who are strangers to the words of God today are outside of the stream of the Holy Spirit, and such people are not commended by God.
Excerpted from “Know God’s Newest Work and Follow His Footsteps” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Entry into the training of the kingdom means beginning the life of the people of God—are you willing to accept such training? Are you willing to feel a sense of urgency? Are you willing to live under God’s discipline? Are you willing to live under God’s chastisement? When God’s words come upon you and test you, how will you act? And what will you do when faced with all manner of facts? In the past, your focus was not on life; today, you must focus on entering into life reality, and pursue changes in your life disposition. This is what must be achieved by the people of the kingdom. All those who are the people of God must possess life, they must accept the training of the kingdom, and pursue changes in their life disposition. This is what God requires of the people of the kingdom.
God’s requirements for the people of the kingdom are as follows:
1. They must accept God’s commissions. This is to say, they must accept all of the words spoken in God’s work of the last days.
2. They must enter into the training of the kingdom.
3. They must pursue having their hearts touched by God. When your heart has completely turned to God, and you have a normal spiritual life, you will live in the realm of freedom, which means you will live under the care and protection of God’s love. Only when you live under the care and protection of God will you belong to God.
4. They must be gained by God.
5. They must become a manifestation of God’s glory on earth.
These five points are My commissions for you. My words are spoken unto the people of God, and if you are unwilling to accept these commissions, I will not force you—but if you truly accept them, then you will be able to do the will of God. Today, you begin to accept God’s commissions, and pursue becoming the people of the kingdom and attaining the standards required to be the people of the kingdom. This is the first step of entry. If you wish to fully do God’s will, then you must accept these five commissions, and if you are able to achieve them, you will be after God’s heart and surely God will make great use of you. What is crucial today is entering into the training of the kingdom. Entry into the training of the kingdom involves the spiritual life. Previously, there was no talk of the spiritual life, but today, as you begin entry into the training of the kingdom, you officially enter into the spiritual life.
Excerpted from “Know God’s Newest Work and Follow His Footsteps” 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
The normal situation of church life should be that brothers and sisters are able to fellowship the words of God freely and without restraint; to fellowship their insight, understanding, and experience; and to fellowship their own difficulties. Of course, they can criticize and expose church leaders and express their opinions, and they can give help and advice, as well. All these things can be done freely and should be normal and not controlled by any one person. God’s house has demands, regulations, and principles regarding how brothers and sisters should talk, act, and behave, as well as for normal interactions with others, and so on for each area of church life. These things are not up to anyone to decide. In how they act, brothers and sisters do not need to heed others’ glances and do not need to be commanded by anyone, nor do they need to be under anyone’s control. No one is the weathervane and no one is the navigator; the only things by which people can find direction and that should be obeyed are the principles communicated by God’s house and the words of God. If you are always constrained by others and always heed the glances of others, and if, when you speak and see that the look in someone’s eye is not right and a frown is on their face and they are unhappy, and you dare not say anything; and if, when you are fellowshiping the words of God and your understanding and insights, you are always restricted by others, can never be at ease, cannot do things according to principle, and someone’s words, face, expression, and tone, and the stinging reminders in their words become your principles, then you are controlled by a gang headed by that person. This is a problem. This kind of church life and this situation are not how normal church order manifests. Leaders and workers should come forward and resolve these things, but brothers and sisters also have the responsibility and right to protect the normal order of the church. They should stop, expose, and dissect those who interrupt and disturb, form cliques, and control people, and should refuse to be won over and controlled, so that no cliques will appear in the church for whatever reason. For example, forming cliques according to wealth, or using age, gender, social status, educational level, appearance, level of good and bad humanity, and so on as criteria and excuses to distinguish rank, hierarchy, or groups should not be found in the church. Divisions of hierarchy and rank, no matter their pretext, and the appearance of cliques in the church will interrupt and disturb the normal order of the church. These are problems that leaders and workers should resolve. In short, no matter the reason, if gangs, factions, or groups form and gain a certain level of power, and they affect and disturb normal church life and church order, then this kind of situation should be stopped and curbed, and participants can even be segregated and purged. This is the work that leaders and workers should do when cliques appear during church life and the responsibility they should fulfill. What do we need to understand here? If a group of people become a force in the church and can resist and oppose the church leaders, the work of the house of God and the words of God, and if they can disturb and destroy the normal order of church life, then such behavior, actions and matters should be curbed and should be handled. Are cliques differentiated by the number of members? One person does not count as a clique, but two or more do. If two people get on quite well but do not disturb the church in any way, there is no need to be bothered about them; but as soon as they cause disturbance and form a force, and are about to act, they should be stopped and curbed. This is the principle.
Excerpted from “Identifying False Leaders (13)” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
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 Talks of Christ of the Last Days
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 Talks of Christ of the Last Days
On first coming to the church and taking up their duties, and before having been dealt with or pruned, everyone is as prickly as a pear, wanting to have the final say on things. They think to themselves: “Now that I believe in God, I have rights and freedom in the church, so I’ll act as I see fit.” Eventually, once they have undergone a round of being dealt with and pruned and have been disciplined, and once the truth has been fellowshiped to them and they have listened to sermons, they no longer dare to behave in this way. Actually, they have not been entirely grounded; they merely know a bit about how things work and have a smidgeon of sense. When others say things that are warranted, they can acknowledge their correctness, and though they may not understand those things well, they can accept them. Are they not then much more grounded than they were? That they are able to accept these things demonstrates that their behavior has undergone some changes. How have these changes come about? They have arisen due to the exhortation and prompting, as well as the comfort, of God’s words. Sometimes, such people need some discipline, to be dealt with and pruned, as well as some fellowship on principles, telling them that a thing must be done a certain way and cannot be done otherwise. “The truth must be accepted. It’s right there on display. Who would dare object to it?” they wonder. In God’s house, God is great, the truth is great, and the truth reigns; this theoretical foundation has shaken some people awake and allowed some people to understand what having faith in God is all about. Take someone who was originally barbaric and dissolute, completely unrestrained, and ignorant of rules, of belief in God, of God’s house, and of the principles of performing one’s duty in God’s house: When such a person—who knows nothing—comes to God’s house with good intentions and enthusiasm, brimming with great aspirations and hopes, and is there prompted and exhorted, watered and fed, and dealt with and pruned by God’s words, and is chastened, disciplined, tried, and refined, time and time again, then, gradually, some changes will occur in that person’s humanity. What changes are those? He comes to understand something of the principles of human conduct, and comes to know that, in the past, he rather lacked human likeness; he was barbaric, arrogant, and too big for his britches; he spoke and acted without principles, and did not know to seek the truth; he thought having faith in God was a simple matter of doing whatever God asks and going wherever He says, with a barbarous vigor; and, furthermore, such a person believed that this was loyalty and love for God. Now, this person denies all those things and knows that they are the behaviors of Satan, and that God’s believers should heed His words and honor the truth as great, yielding to its sovereignty in all things. In short, in theory and in the depths of their hearts, all people have understood, acknowledged, and accepted that these words are correct—that they are the truth, the reality of positive things—regardless of how deeply these words have taken root in their hearts and no matter how great a role these words have played. Afterward, after undergoing a degree of intangible chastening and discipline, a measure of true faith arises in their consciousness. From their initial vague imaginings of God to the feeling that they have now—that there is a God, and that He is quite real—once people have had these feelings in their faith in God, then their thoughts and viewpoints, ways of looking at things, and moral standards, as well as their ways of thinking, will gradually begin to change.
Excerpted from “Only by Resolving One’s Notions Can One Enter the Right Track of Believing in God (3)” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days