2. What rule-following is and what the differences are between rule-following and practicing the truth
Relevant Words of God:
What man must achieve now is in line with the real state of man today, according to the caliber and actual stature of present-day man, and it does not require that you follow rules. This is so that changes may be achieved in your old disposition, and in order that you may cast aside your notions. Do you think the commandments are rules? They are, it can be said, normal requirements of man. They are not rules that you must follow. Take prohibiting smoking, for example—is that a rule? It is not a rule! It is required by normal humanity; it is not a rule, but something stipulated for the whole of mankind. Today, the dozen or so commandments that have been set forth are also not rules; they are what is required to achieve normal humanity. People did not possess or know of such things in the past, and so people are required to achieve them today, and such things do not count as rules. Laws are not the same as rules. The rules that I speak of are in reference to ceremonies, formalities or the deviant and erroneous practices of man; they are the regulations that are of no help to man, no benefit to him; they form a course of action that holds no meaning. This is the epitome of rules, and such rules must be discarded, for they offer no benefit to man. It is that which is of benefit to man that must be put into practice.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. The Vision of God’s Work (1)
Most people believe that a normal spiritual life necessarily involves praying, singing hymns, eating and drinking the words of God or pondering His words, regardless of whether such practices actually have any effect or lead to true understanding. These people focus on following superficial procedures without any thought to their results; they are people who live in religious rituals, not people who live within the church, and much less are they people of the kingdom. Their prayers, hymn singing, and eating and drinking of God’s words are all just rule-following, done out of compulsion and to keep up with trends, not out of willingness nor from the heart. However much these people pray or sing, their efforts will bear no fruit, for what they practice is just the rules and rituals of religion; they are not actually practicing God’s words. They focus only on making a fuss over how they practice, and they treat God’s words as rules to follow. Such people are not putting God’s words into practice; they are just gratifying the flesh, and performing for other people to see. These religious rules and rituals are all human in origin; they do not come from God. God does not follow rules, nor is He subject to any law. Rather, He does new things every day, accomplishing practical work. Like people in the Three-Self Church, who limit themselves to practices such as attending morning services every day, offering evening prayers and prayers of gratitude before meals, and giving thanks in all things—however much they do and for however long they do it, they will not have the work of the Holy Spirit. When people live amidst rules and have their hearts fixed on methods of practice, the Holy Spirit cannot work, because their hearts are occupied by rules and human notions. Thus, God is unable to intervene and work on them, and they can only continue living under the control of laws. Such people are forever incapable of receiving God’s praise.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life
How many religious practices do you observe? How many times have you rebelled against the word of God and gone your own way? How many times have you put God’s word into practice because you are truly considerate of His burdens and seek to satisfy His will? 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!
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. In Faith, One Must Focus on Reality—Engaging in Religious Ritual Is Not Faith
In the past, there were a lot of deviations and even absurdities in the ways people experienced. They simply did not understand the standards of God’s requirements, so there were many areas in which people’s experiences went awry. What God requires of man is for them to be able to live out normal humanity. For example, it is all right for people to follow modern conventions with regard to food and clothing, to wear a suit and a tie, to learn a bit about modern art, and in their spare time they can enjoy arts, culture and entertainment. They can take some memorable photos, they can read and gain some useful knowledge, and have a relatively good living environment. These are all things that befit a life of normal humanity, and yet people see them as things detested by God and they hold themselves back from doing them. Their practice consists of merely following a few rules, which leads to a life that is as dull as ditchwater and entirely devoid of meaning. In fact, God has never demanded that people do things in this way. People all wish to curtail their own dispositions, praying unceasingly within their spirits to be closer to God, their minds constantly mulling over what God intends, their eyes constantly observing this or that, in great fear that their connection to God will somehow be severed. These are all conclusions that people have come to on their own; they are rules set by people for themselves. If you do not know your own nature essence and you do not understand what level your own practice can reach, then you will have no way to be certain exactly what standards God requires of man, and neither will you have an accurate path of practice. Since you cannot understand what it is exactly that God requires of man, your mind is always churning, you rack your brains analyzing God’s intentions and fumble about searching for some way to be moved and enlightened by the Holy Spirit. As a result, you develop some ways of practice that you believe to be suitable. You simply have no idea what it is exactly that God requires of man; you just blithely carry out your own set of practices, caring little about the outcome and even less about whether there are deviations or errors in your practice. In this way, your practice naturally lacks accuracy and is unprincipled. What it particularly lacks are normal human reason and conscience, as well as God’s commendation and the corroboration of the Holy Spirit. It becomes entirely too easy to simply take your own road. This kind of practice is just following rules or intentionally taking up more of a burden in order to restrict yourself and control yourself. Yet you think that you have your practice down to a tee, not knowing that the majority of your practice consists of unnecessary processes or observances. There are many who practice like this for years with basically no change in their dispositions, no new understanding, and no new entry. They unknowingly recommit the same old mistakes and give full play to their brutish natures, even to the point where there are many times when they commit unreasonable, inhumane acts, and behave in ways that leave people scratching their heads and completely baffled. Could such people be said to have experienced dispositional transformation?
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Practice (1)
What is the standard that determines whether someone is practicing the truth? It is that they have come to possess truth reality. What is the standard that determines whether one is in possession of truth reality? This depends on the attitude you have in your heart toward God when you encounter issues, and whether you have an accurate or deeper knowledge and measure of yourself. Some people always talk about superficial, general things when they encounter issues, which shows that they are not in possession of truth reality. Are those who are not in possession of truth reality capable of practicing the truth when they encounter an issue? No, they are not. They may perhaps say: “I have encountered this issue and I’ll just obey God.” So why do you have to obey God in this issue? The principle that you follow is correct, but you may perhaps behave according to your feelings, which is a way of doing things that you have measured and determined yourself. You say, “I only obey God; I don’t say or do anything else,” but in your heart, you are always thinking, “What’s all this about? What God did is wrong.” You do not understand why God has acted in such a way, yet you keep telling yourself to obey, while, actually, there is no true obedience in your heart. You merely appear externally not to say or do anything, as if you are obedient, when, in fact, such obedience is mere rule-following, not practicing the truth. You must reverse the course of that disobedient corrupt disposition within you and say: “I see and understand this issue. I understand God’s heart. I know why God wants to do this. Whether I suffer, or I’m weak, or I fall and can’t get up, or I’m sad, I will obey God, for I know that what God does is good, that everything God does is correct, and that God cannot do anything wrong.” This is different from saying “I’ll just obey God” without any intention of actually doing so. On the surface, that “obedience” is not expressed in any disobedient way—but within your heart, there are turbulent storms, and a heap of misunderstandings of God and grievances against Him. This is, in fact, a boil hidden within you—although your skin is fine on the outside, there is a sickness within that will burst forth sooner or later. It does not matter how many years you have obeyed or how many times you have obeyed in this way; in the end, you still do not have true belief in God, nor do you have a true understanding of Him. And what does this mean? It means that you obey by following rules, and, no matter how many times you obey, you are only following rules; your corrupt disposition has not changed or been resolved. You must gain knowledge of your own corrupt disposition through the issues you encounter, and you must have understanding, knowledge of, and consideration toward what God does, so that you can achieve true obedience, that is, willing obedience. Only by reaching this level will you have a true change in your disposition.
—“What Is Practicing the Truth?” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
What is practicing the truth? When you complete a task or perform a duty, to speak of the thing itself, how is it done in a way that is practicing the truth, and how is it done in a way that is not practicing the truth? Not practicing the truth bears no relation to the truth. You may be performing your duty, but it has little to do with the truth; it is only a kind of good behavior, and can also be said to be a good deed, but there is still some distance between this and practicing the truth. They are different. So, on what basis can they be differentiated? When you are doing this thing, you maintain a certain scope and certain rules. One of these is that you do not cause losses to the interests of God’s house; another is that you rush around a bit more, and that you suffer a bit, failing to eat and sleep at a regular time. You have accomplished all these things, and, if no strict criteria are applied to you, your duty may yet be done satisfactorily. However, there is another thing: Have you unearthed and discovered which corrupt dispositions are within you when you do this thing? That is, have you unearthed and discovered what ideas you have and what things there are within you with which God is unsatisfied when you encounter this issue? Through performing this duty and doing this thing, do you come to a new understanding of yourself, and have you found any truth that you should put into practice and enter? (That seldom happens. Sometimes, I merely come to a superficial understanding of my arrogance, and then I take it no further.) Then the majority of the time you have a formulaic and theoretical understanding, no real understanding. If you do not pursue the truth, then, even if you have not done anything terribly wrong or wicked, and you have not violated the main principles, and externally, you seem like a good person with some humanity, you are still not practicing the truth, nor have you gained any truth. Your “not having done anything wrong” and appearing on the outside to be someone with humanity do not amount to being in accordance with the truth or practicing the truth. There is a gap, a difference, between this and practicing the truth.
—“What Is Practicing the Truth?” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days