44. The Principles of Knowing Oneself Through Self-Reflection
Relevant Words of God:
The key to achieving a change in disposition is to know one’s own nature, and this must happen in accordance with revelations from God. Only in God’s word can one know one’s own hideous nature, recognize in one’s own nature Satan’s various poisons, realize that one is foolish and ignorant, and recognize the weak and negative elements in one’s nature. After these are fully known, and you are truly able to hate yourself and forsake the flesh, consistently carry out God’s word, and have the will to absolutely submit to the Holy Spirit and to the word of God, then you will have embarked on the path of Peter.
Excerpted from “To Know Oneself Is Primarily About Knowing Human Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks
To know yourself, you must know your own expressions of corruption, your own vital weaknesses, your disposition, and your nature and essence. You must also know, down to the very last detail, those things that are revealed in your daily life—your motives, your perspectives, and your attitude about every single thing—whether you are at home or out, when you are in gatherings, when you are eating and drinking of the words of God, or in every single issue you encounter. Through these things you must come to know yourself. To know yourself on a deeper level, you must integrate God’s words; only by knowing yourself based on His words can you achieve results. When receiving the judgment of God’s words, we must not fear suffering, nor should we be afraid of pain, and much less should we fear that God’s words will pierce our hearts. We should read more of His utterances about how He judges and chastises us and exposes our corrupt essences. We must read them and hold ourselves up to them more. Do not compare others to them—we must compare ourselves against them. We are not lacking in any single one of these things; we can all square with them. If you do not believe it, go experience it yourself. After reading God’s words, some people are incapable of applying them to themselves; they think that parts of these words are not about them, but are instead about other people. For example, when God exposes people as sluts and whores, some sisters feel that because they have been unerringly faithful to their husbands, such words must not be in reference to them; some sisters feel that since they are unmarried and have never had sex, such words must not be about them, either. Some brothers feel that these words are only aimed at women, and have nothing to do with them; some people believe that such words of God are too unpleasant-sounding, and refuse to accept them. There are even people who say that in some instances, God’s words are wrong. Is this the right attitude to have toward God’s words? People are incapable of reflecting upon themselves based on God’s words. Here, “sluts” and “whores” refer to people’s corruption of promiscuity. Whether man or woman, married or not married, everyone is possessed of the corruption of promiscuity—so how can it have nothing to do with you? God’s words expose people’s corrupt dispositions; whether male or female, one’s level of corruption is the same. Is this not fact? Prior to doing anything else, we have to realize that we must accept every one of the words spoken by God, whether these utterances are pleasant-sounding or not and whether they give us a bitter feeling or a sweet one. Such is the attitude we should have toward God’s words. What sort of attitude is this? Is it a devout attitude, a patient attitude, or an attitude of embracing suffering? I tell you that it is not any of these. In our faith, we must firmly maintain that God’s words are the truth. Since they are indeed the truth, we should accept them rationally. Whether or not we are able to recognize or admit it, our first attitude toward God’s words should be one of absolute acceptance. Every single line of God’s words pertains to a specific state. That is, none of the lines of His utterances are about external appearances, much less about external rules or a simple form of behavior in people. They are not like that. If you see every line uttered by God as being about a simple kind of human behavior or external appearance, then you have no spiritual understanding and you do not understand what the truth is. God’s words are profound. How are they profound? Everything that God says, everything that He reveals, is about people’s corrupt dispositions, and substantive and deep-rooted things within their lives. They are essential things, not external appearances, and particularly not external behaviors.
Excerpted from “The Importance of Pursuing the Truth and the Path of Pursuing It” in Records of Christ’s Talks
If people are to understand themselves, they must understand their true states. The most important aspect of understanding one’s own state is to have a grasp on one’s own thoughts and ideas. In every time period, people’s thoughts have been controlled by one major thing. If you can gain control over your thoughts, you can gain control over the things that are behind them. People cannot control their thoughts and ideas, but they do need to know where these thoughts and ideas come from, what the motives behind them are, how these thoughts and ideas are produced, what controls them, and what their nature is. After your disposition has transformed, your thoughts and ideas, the desires your heart seeks after, and your viewpoints about pursuit—which have been produced from the parts of you that have transformed—will be different. Those thoughts and ideas that originate from the parts of you that have not changed, the things that you do not understand clearly, and the things which you have not replaced with the experiences of truth are filthy, dirty, and ugly. People nowadays, who have experienced God’s work for several years, have some sense and awareness of these matters. Those who have experienced God’s work for a short period of time do not yet understand these matters; they are still unclear. They do not know where their Achilles’ heel is or in what areas it is easy that they will fall. You do not currently know what kind of a person you are, and though other people can see to some extent what kind of a person you are, you cannot sense it. You cannot clearly distinguish your ordinary thoughts or intents, and you do not have a clear understanding of what the essence of these matters is. The deeper you understand an aspect, the more you will transform in that aspect; as such, the things you do will be in accordance with the truth, you will be able to meet God’s requirements, and you will be closer to the will of God. Only by seeking in this way can you obtain results.
Excerpted from “People Who Make Constant Demands of God Are the Least Reasonable People” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Regardless of time or place, and whatever our environment, we are able to know ourselves, to dissect and delve into ourselves—and we are able to treat these matters as our first priority. If we do, we will certainly reap reward, and we will certainly make gradual progress in the matter of knowing ourselves, and, as we do, we will be able to practice the truth, have more and more truth, and the reality of God’s words will come ever more to be our life. However, if you have no entry at all into the matter of knowing yourself, then your practice of the truth will be false, for you will be hoodwinked by many external phenomena. Perhaps you feel your behavior has improved, that you are gentler than before, more considerate of others, more tolerant and patient of others, more forgiving of others; so you think you are already a great, flawless specimen, possessed of normal humanity. However, from God’s perspective, you remain very far from His standards and requirements. This demonstrates we do not know at which times we are truly practicing the truth, and at which times we are not practicing it at all, but have merely changed a bit in our external behaviors. There are now many people who think their church life is quite normal, that they are able to get along with their brothers and sisters with mutual tolerance and on the best of terms. They think they can get along with anyone, without quarreling, and that, whatever happens, they can exercise patience and take the correct approach. They think their spiritual life, too, is especially normal, and they are diligent in their reading of God’s words, and have a heart of reverence for Him—yet their views on many matters remain antithetical to the truth and hostile to God. This suffices to show that they have not yet obtained the truth. Therefore, in the matter of knowing every aspect of ourselves, we must seek the truth, and seek to deepen our self-knowledge.
Excerpted from “Only by Recognizing Your Misguided Views Can You Know Yourself” in Records of Christ’s Talks
The key to self-reflection and knowing yourself is this: The more you feel that in certain areas you have done well or have done the right thing, and the more you think you can satisfy God’s will or are able to boast in certain areas, then the more it is worth it for you to know yourself in those areas and the more it is worth it for you to dig deep into them to see what impurities exist in you, as well as what things in you cannot satisfy God’s will. Let us take Paul as an example. Paul was especially knowledgeable, and he suffered a lot in his preaching work. He was especially adored by many. As a result, after completing much work, he assumed there would be a crown set aside for him. This caused him to go farther and farther down the wrong path, until finally he was punished by God. If, at the time, he had reflected upon himself and dissected himself, then he would not have thought that. In other words, Paul had not focused on seeking the truth in the words of the Lord Jesus; he had only believed in his own notions and imaginings. He had thought that as long as he did a few good things and exhibited good behavior, he would be praised and rewarded by God. In the end, his own notions and imagination blinded his spirit and covered his true face. However, people did not know this, and without God’s bringing this to light, they continued to set Paul as a standard to reach for, an example to live by, and regarded him as the one they longed to be like. Paul became the object of their pursuit and the object of their imitation. This story about Paul serves as a warning for everyone who believes in God, which is that whenever we feel we have done especially well, or believe that we are especially gifted in some respect, or think that we do not need to change or need to be dealt with in some respect, we should strive to reflect on and know ourselves better in that respect; this is crucial. This is because you certainly have not unearthed, paid attention to, or dissected the aspects of yourself which you believe to be good, in order to see whether or not they actually contain anything that resists God.
Excerpted from “Only by Recognizing Your Misguided Views Can You Know Yourself” in Records of Christ’s Talks
To know ourselves is to know what things there are in our thoughts and viewpoints that oppose God, that are not at all compatible with the truth, and that do not contain the truth. Man’s arrogance, self-righteousness, lies, and deceit, for instance, are aspects within a corrupt disposition that are easy for people to know. You can come to some knowledge of them simply by fellowshiping the truth a few times, or by fellowshiping often, or by having your state pointed out by your brothers and sisters. In addition, everyone possesses arrogance and deceitfulness, though to varying degrees. However, people’s thoughts and viewpoints are not easy to know; they are not as easy as knowing people’s dispositions. These are deep-rooted things. Therefore, when you have achieved a little change in your behavior and outward conduct, there are still many aspects of your thinking, notions, viewpoints, and the education of traditional culture you have received which are against God and which you have not yet unearthed. These are the deep-seated things that lead to our enmity toward God. Therefore, when God does something that does not conform to your notions, or something that differs from what you imagine God to do, you will resist and oppose it. You will not understand why God has acted so, and, though you may wish to submit, you will find yourself unable to do so. Why can you not submit? Why such resistance and opposition? The reason is that there are some things within man’s thoughts and views that are hostile to God, and that are hostile to the principles by which He acts and to His essence. These thoughts and views are difficult for man to know.
Excerpted from “Only by Recognizing Your Misguided Views Can You Know Yourself” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Every single thing that exists in our hearts is in opposition to God. This includes the things we think are good, and even those we already believe to be positive. We have listed these things as truths, as part of normal humanity, and as positive things; however, from God’s perspective, they are things that He loathes. The gulf between what we think and the truth spoken by God is immeasurable. Hence, we must know ourselves. From our ideas, viewpoints, and actions to the cultural education we have received, each thing is worth delving deep into and thoroughly dissecting. Some of these things come from social environments, some come from families, some come from school education, and some come from books. Some also come from our imaginations and notions. These sorts of things are the most frightening, for they bind and control our words and actions, dominate our minds, and guide our motives, intentions, and goals in what we do. If we do not unearth these things, we will never fully accept God’s words within us, and we will never accept God’s requirements without reservation and put them into practice. As long as you harbor your own ideas and viewpoints, and convictions of things that you believe to be correct, you will never fully or unreservedly accept God’s words, nor will you practice them in their original form; you will surely only put them into practice after first processing them in your mind. This will be how you do things, and it will also be the way in which you help others: You may still fellowship on God’s words, but you will always have your own impurities mixed in, and you will think that this is what it means to practice the truth, that you have understood the truth, and that you have it all. Is man’s state not pitiful? Is it not scary? A word or two cannot suffice to tell these things in their entirety, or to make them plain. There are, of course, many other things in life, such as the more than one hundred poisons of Satan summarized earlier. You have understood the words, but how do you measure yourselves against them? What is your practice in life? Do you, too, not share in these poisons, and do you not agree with them? Do you also act in reliance on these poisons? You must dig deep into your personal experience and measure it against those words. We might merely trot out that list of Satan’s poisons and read it casually, or just glance over it, then put it down; or we might baselessly read over God’s words, equip ourselves with whatever a certain passage says, and adhere to the letter and the regulations of God’s words in our practice, believing we are practicing the truth—but is it as simple as that? People are living things: They all have thoughts, and the artifacts within their thoughts take root in their hearts. When a person takes action, these artifacts are sure to emerge, for they have already become that person’s life. Therefore, in each thing you do, there is a point of view and a principle that govern how you do it, that steer your course. When you act, you will know whether or not such things exist inside you. Now, of course, as you examine your thoughts and views, you feel as if nothing there is hostile to God; you feel you are honest and loyal, more than willing to do your duty, capable of making sacrifices and expending yourself for God, and that you are quite strong in every area. Yet, were God to test your mettle, or have you undertake a task, or were God to do something that befell you, how would you handle that? At such a time, your thoughts and views would surge implacably outward, as if floodgates had been breached; they would be beyond your control—out of your hands—and, hate them as you will, they would surge outward all the same, a surge of things that are all resistant to God. When you say, “Why couldn’t I do anything about it? I don’t want to resist God, so why would I? I don’t want to pass judgment on God, and I don’t want to have notions about what He does, so how could I have such notions?”—that is when you should endeavor to know yourself, to examine what there is inside you that resists God, and what inside you is hostile and antagonistic to the work He is currently doing.
No matter which aspect of the truth one pursues, whether it be aspiring to be honest, or training oneself to submit to God, or whether it be engaging amicably with one’s brothers and sisters, or living out normal humanity, one can embrace its practice each day of their life, with each truth touching on the issue of self-knowledge. Does aspiring to be honest not have something to do with knowing oneself? You will not aspire to be honest until you have come to know your own deceit and dishonesty. When you come to know you have failed to obey God, you will then practice obedience to Him, or seek out what one must do to obey Him. If you do not know yourself, any talk of your aspiring to be honest or submitting to God rings hollow, for man’s disposition is corrupt, and no aspect of the truth is easy to practice, and each aspect is practiced within man’s corrupt disposition. In your practice of any aspect of the truth, your corrupt disposition will certainly rear its head, thwarting your aspiration to be honest, obstructing your submission to God, and inhibiting your patience and tolerance for your brothers and sisters. If you do not recognize it, dissect it, and unearth it, but rely on your imaginings to practice the truth, then your practice will not be a true one. Therefore, no matter which aspect of the truth one is practicing, or what one is doing, they must first know themselves. To know yourself is to know your every word and deed, your every movement and action; it is to know your mind and thoughts, your motives, and your notions and imaginings; it is even to know your philosophies for living that are of the world, and the various toxins of Satan within you, as well as the knowledge and education you acquired in school. All these things must be dissected.
God can perfect man in both positive and negative aspects. It depends on whether you are able to experience, and on whether you pursue being perfected by God. If you truly seek being perfected by God, then the negative cannot make you suffer loss, but can bring you things that are more real, and can make you more able to know that which is lacking within you, more able to grasp your real state, and see that man has nothing, and is nothing; if you do not experience trials, you do not know, and will always feel that you are above others and better than everyone else. Through all this you will see that all that came before was done by God and protected by God. Entry into trials leaves you without love or faith, you lack prayer and are unable to sing hymns, and without realizing it, in the midst of this you come to know yourself. God has many means of perfecting man. He employs all manner of environments to deal with the corrupt disposition of man, and uses various things to lay man bare; in one regard, He deals with man, in another He lays man bare, and in another He reveals man, digging out and revealing the “mysteries” in the depths of man’s heart, and showing man his nature by revealing many of his states. God perfects man through many methods—through revelation, through dealing with man, through man’s refinement, and chastisement—so that man may know that God is practical.
Excerpted from “Only Those Who Focus on Practice Can Be Perfected” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
On one hand, during God’s trials man comes to know his deficiencies and to see that he is insignificant, contemptible, and lowly, that he has nothing and is nothing; on the other hand, during His trials God creates different environments for man that make man more able to experience the loveliness of God. Although the pain is great, and sometimes insurmountable—even reaching the level of crushing grief—having experienced it, man sees how lovely God’s work in him is, and only upon this foundation is there born in man true love for God. Today man sees that with the grace, love, and mercy of God alone, he is incapable of truly knowing himself, and much less is he able to know the essence of man. Only through both the refinement and judgment of God, and during the process of refinement itself, can man know his deficiencies, and know that he has nothing.
Excerpted from “Only by Experiencing Painful Trials Can You Know the Loveliness of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Having failed and fallen down multiple times is not a bad thing; nor is being exposed. Whether you have been dealt with, pruned, or been exposed, you must remember this at all times: Being exposed does not mean that you are being condemned. Being exposed is a good thing; it is the best opportunity for you to get to know yourself. It can bring your life experience a change of gears. Without it, you will possess neither the opportunity, the condition, nor the context to be able to reach an understanding of the truth of your corruption. If you can come to know the things inside you, all those aspects hidden deep within you that are hard to recognize and difficult to unearth, then this is a good thing. Becoming able to truly know yourself is the best opportunity for you to mend your ways and become a new person; it is the best opportunity for you to obtain new life. Once you truly know yourself, you will be able to see that when the truth becomes one’s life, it is a precious thing indeed, and you will thirst for the truth and enter into the reality. This is such a great thing! If you can grab this opportunity and earnestly reflect upon yourself and gain a genuine knowledge of yourself whenever you fail or fall down, then in the midst of negativity and weakness, you will be able to stand back up. Once you have crossed this threshold, you will then be able to take a big step forward and enter into the reality of the truth.
Excerpted from “To Gain the Truth, You Must Learn From the People, Matters, and Things Around You” in Records of Christ’s Talks