9. The Principles of Practicing Daily Devotions
(1) When one’s corrupt disposition is revealed, they must perform devotions. They must engage in self-reflection and know themselves based in God’s words, and address the expression of their corrupt disposition;
(2) Devotional self-reflection requires one to accept God’s scrutiny. Only in this way can one open their heart wide to God, thereby gaining the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and learning of their own deviations;
(3) It is necessary to reflect on whether, in light of God’s words, the path one walks is the right one, and on whether one is performing their duty satisfactorily, and on how many of one’s own motives and purposes adulterate that performance;
(4) One must also examine and analyze their mistakes and transgressions in performing their duty, as well as their progress and gains. Only such practice yields progress in life.
Relevant Words of God:
Faith in God necessitates a normal spiritual life, which is the foundation for experiencing God’s words and entering into reality. Does all your current practice of prayers, of drawing near to God, of hymn-singing, praise, meditation, and pondering the words of God amount to a “normal spiritual life”? None of you seems to know. A normal spiritual life is not limited to such practices as praying, singing hymns, participating in church life, and eating and drinking of God’s words. Rather, it involves living a new and vibrant spiritual life. What matters is not how you practice, but what fruit your practice bears. 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.
Excerpted from “Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
A normal spiritual life is a life lived before God. When praying, one can quiet one’s heart before God, and through prayer, one can seek the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, know God’s words, and understand God’s will. By eating and drinking of His words, people can gain a clearer and more thorough understanding of God’s current work. They can also gain a new path of practice, and will not cling to the old; what they practice will all be to achieve growth in life. As for prayer, it is not about speaking a few nice-sounding words or breaking down in tears before God to show how indebted you are; rather, its purpose is to train oneself in the use of the spirit, allowing one to quiet one’s heart before God, to train oneself to seek out guidance from God’s words in all matters, so that one’s heart can be drawn to a fresh new light each day, and so that one will not be passive or lazy and may set foot upon the right track of putting God’s words into practice. Most people nowadays focus on methods of practice, yet they do not do so in order to pursue the truth and achieve life growth. This is where they have gone astray. There are also some who are capable of receiving new light, but their methods of practice do not change. They bring their old religious notions with them as they look to receive God’s words of today, so what they receive is still doctrine colored by religious notions; they are not receiving today’s light simply. As a result, their practices are tainted; they are the same old practices in new packaging. However well they might practice, they are hypocrites. God leads people in doing new things every day, demanding that each day they gain new insight and understanding, and requiring that they not be old-fashioned and repetitive. If you have believed in God for many years, yet your methods of practice have not changed at all, and if you are still zealous and busy about external matters, yet do not have a quiet heart to bring before God to enjoy His words, then you will obtain nothing. When it comes to accepting God’s new work, if you do not plan differently, do not go about your practice in a new way, and do not pursue any new understanding, but instead cling to the old and receive only some limited new light, without changing the way you practice, then such people as you are in this stream in name only; in actuality, they are religious Pharisees outside the stream of the Holy Spirit.
Excerpted from “Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
To live a normal spiritual life, one must be able to receive new light daily and pursue a true understanding of God’s words. One must see the truth clearly, find a path of practice in all matters, discover new questions through reading God’s words each day, and realize one’s own inadequacies so that one may have a longing and seeking heart that moves one’s entire being, and so that one may be quiet before God at all times, deeply afraid of falling behind. A person with such a longing, seeking heart, who is willing to continually attain entry, is on the right track of spiritual life. Those who are moved by the Holy Spirit, who desire to do better, who are willing to pursue being perfected by God, who long for a deeper understanding of God’s words, who do not pursue the supernatural but rather pay a real price, who truly care for God’s will, who actually attain entry so that their experiences are more genuine and real, who do not pursue empty words and doctrines or pursue to feel the supernatural, who do not worship any great personality—these are the ones who have entered into a normal spiritual life. Everything they do is intended to achieve further growth in life and to make them fresh and lively in spirit, and they are always able to attain entry actively. Without realizing it, they come to understand the truth and enter into reality. Those with normal spiritual lives find the liberation and freedom of spirit each day, and they can practice the words of God in a free way to His satisfaction. For these people, praying is not a formality or a procedure; each day, they are able to keep pace with the new light. For example, people train themselves to quiet their hearts before God, and their hearts can truly be quiet before God, and they can be disturbed by no one. No person, event, or thing can constrain their normal spiritual lives. Such training is intended to yield results; it is not intended to make people follow rules. This practice is not about rule-following, but is instead about promoting growth in people’s life. If you see this practice only as rules to follow, your life will never change. You may be engaged in the same practice as others, but while they are ultimately able to keep pace with the work of the Holy Spirit, you are eliminated from the stream of the Holy Spirit. Are you not deceiving yourself? The purpose of these words is to allow people to quiet their hearts before God, to turn their hearts to God, so that God’s work in them may be without hindrance and may bear fruit. Only then can people be in accord with God’s will.
Excerpted from “Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
No step is more crucial to entering God’s words than quieting your heart in His presence. It is a lesson that all people are in urgent need of entering at present. The paths of entry into quieting your heart before God are as follows:
1. Withdraw your heart from external matters. Be at peace before God, and give your undivided attention to praying to God.
2. With your heart at peace before God, eat, drink, and enjoy God’s words.
3. Meditate on and contemplate God’s love and ponder God’s work in your heart.
First, begin from the aspect of prayer. Pray with undivided attention and at fixed times. No matter how pressed you are for time, how busy your work, or what befalls you, pray every day as normal, and eat and drink God’s words as normal. As long as you eat and drink God’s words, no matter what your surroundings are, you will have great enjoyment in your spirit, and you will be undisturbed by the people, events, or things around you. When you ordinarily contemplate God in your heart, what goes on outside cannot bother you. This is what it means to possess stature. Begin with prayer: Praying quietly before God is most fruitful. After that, eat and drink the words of God, seek out the light in God’s words by pondering them, find the path to practice, know God’s purpose in speaking His words, and understand them without deviation. Ordinarily, it should be normal for you to be able to draw close to God in your heart, to contemplate God’s love and to ponder the words of God, without being disturbed by external things. When your heart has achieved a certain degree of peace, you will be able to muse silently and, within yourself, to contemplate God’s love and truly draw near to Him, regardless of your surroundings, until finally you reach the point where praise wells up in your heart, and it is even better than prayer. Then you will be possessed of a certain stature. If you are able to achieve the states of being described above, it will be proof that your heart is truly at peace before God. This is the first basic lesson. Only after people are able to be at peace before God can they be touched by the Holy Spirit, and enlightened and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and only then are they able to have true communion with God, as well as to grasp God’s will and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They will then have entered onto the right track in their spiritual lives. When their training to live before God has reached a certain depth, and they are able to forsake themselves, to despise themselves, and to live in God’s words, then their hearts are truly at peace before God. Being able to despise oneself, curse oneself, and forsake oneself is the effect achieved by God’s work, and cannot be done by people on their own. Thus, the practice of quieting one’s heart before God is a lesson people should immediately enter.
Excerpted from “On Quieting Your Heart Before God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
If you would have your heart truly at peace before God, then you must do the work of conscious cooperation. This is to say that every one of you must have a time for your devotions, a time when you put aside people, events, and things; settle your heart and quiet yourself before God. Everyone must keep individual devotional notes, recording their knowledge of God’s word and how their spirit is moved, regardless of whether they are profound or superficial; everyone must consciously quiet their heart before God. If you can dedicate one or two hours each day to true spiritual life, then your life that day will feel enriched and your heart will be bright and clear. If you live this kind of spiritual life every day, then your heart will be able to return more into God’s possession, your spirit will become stronger and stronger, your condition will constantly improve, you will become more capable of walking the path on which the Holy Spirit leads, and God will bestow increased blessings upon you. The purpose of your spiritual life is consciously to gain the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is not to observe rules or conduct religious rituals, but truly to act in concert with God, truly to discipline your body—this is what man should do, so you should do this with the utmost effort. The better your cooperation and the more effort you commit, the more your heart will be able to return to God and the better you will be able to quiet your heart before Him. At a certain point, God will gain your heart completely. No one will be able to sway or capture your heart, and you will belong completely to God. If you walk this path, then God’s word will reveal itself to you at all times and enlighten you about everything that you do not understand—this can all be achieved through your cooperation. This is why God always says, “All who act in concert with Me, I will reward twice over.” You must see this path clearly. If you wish to walk the right path, then you must do all that you can to satisfy God. You must do all that you can to attain a spiritual life. At the start, you may not achieve great results in this pursuit, but you must not allow yourself to regress or wallow in negativity—you must keep working hard! The more you live a spiritual life, the more your heart will be occupied by the words of God, always concerned with these matters, always bearing this burden. After that, reveal your innermost truth to God through your spiritual life; tell Him what you are willing to do, what you are thinking about, your understanding and view of His word. Do not hold back anything, not even a little bit! Practice speaking the words within your heart and revealing your true feelings to God; if it is in your heart, then by all means, say it. The more you speak in this way, the more you will feel God’s loveliness, and God will tug more strongly on your heart. When this happens, you will feel that God is dearer to you than anyone else. You will never leave God’s side, no matter what. If you practice this kind of spiritual devotional on a daily basis and do not put it out of your mind, but treat it as a matter of great importance in your life, then God’s word will occupy your heart. This is what it means to be touched by the Holy Spirit. It will be as if your heart has always been possessed by God, as if that which you love is always in your heart. No one can take that away from you. When this happens, God will truly live inside you and have a place within your heart.
Excerpted from “A Normal Spiritual Life Leads People Onto the Right Track” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
When equipping yourself for life, you must focus on eating and drinking God’s words, you must be able to talk of knowledge of God, of your views on human life, and, in particular, of your knowledge of the work done by God during the last days. Since you pursue life, you must equip yourself with these things. When you eat and drink the words of God, you must measure the reality of your own state against them. That is, when you discover your shortcomings in the course of your real experience, you must be capable of finding a path to practice, of turning your back on your incorrect motivations and notions. If you always strive for these things and pour your heart into achieving them, then you will have a path to follow, you will not feel empty, and thus you will be able to maintain a normal state. Only then will you be someone who carries a burden in your own life, who has faith. Why is it that some people, after reading God’s words, are unable to put them into practice? Is it not because they cannot grasp the most crucial things? Is it not because they do not take life seriously? The reason that they cannot grasp the crucial things and have no path to practice is that when they read God’s words, they are unable to relate their own states to them, nor can they master their own states. Some people say: “I read God’s words and relate my state to them, and I know that I am corrupt and of poor caliber, but I am incapable of satisfying God’s will.” You have only seen the very surface; there are many real things that you do not know: how to put aside the enjoyments of the flesh, how to put aside self-righteousness, how to change yourself, how to enter into these things, how to improve your caliber, and from which aspect to begin. You only grasp a few things on the surface, and all that you know is that you are indeed very corrupt. When you meet your brothers and sisters, you talk about how corrupt you are, and it seems that you know yourself and carry a great burden for your life. In fact, your corrupt disposition has not changed, which proves you have not found the path to practice.
Excerpted from “Practice (7)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In your practical experience, you must first know how to eat and drink God’s words; you must find within His words what you should enter into and your own shortcomings, you should seek entry in your practical experience, and take the portion of God’s words that should be put into practice and try to do so. Eating and drinking God’s words is one aspect. In addition, the life of the church must be maintained, you must have a normal spiritual life, and you must be able to hand over all of your current states to God. No matter how His work changes, your spiritual life should remain normal. A spiritual life can maintain your normal entering in. No matter what God does, you ought to continue your spiritual life uninterrupted and fulfill your duty. This is what people should do. It is all the work of the Holy Spirit, but while for those with a normal condition this is perfection, for those with an abnormal condition it is a trial. At the current stage of the Holy Spirit’s refinement work, some people say that God’s work is so great and that people absolutely need refinement, otherwise their stature will be too small and they will have no way of attaining God’s will. However, for those whose condition is not good, it becomes a reason to not pursue God, and a reason to not attend gatherings or eat and drink God’s word. In God’s work, no matter what He does or what changes He effects, people must maintain a baseline of a normal spiritual life. Perhaps you have not been lax in this current stage of your spiritual life, but you still have not gained much, and have not reaped a great harvest. Under these kinds of circumstances, you must still follow the rules; you must keep to these rules so that you do not suffer losses in your life and so that you satisfy God’s will. If your spiritual life is abnormal, you cannot understand God’s current work, and instead always feel that it is completely incompatible with your own notions, and though you are willing to follow Him, you lack internal drive. So, no matter what God is currently doing, people must cooperate. If people do not cooperate, then the Holy Spirit cannot do His work, and if people do not have a heart to cooperate, then they can hardly gain the work of the Holy Spirit. If you want to have the work of the Holy Spirit inside of you, and if you want to gain God’s approval, then you must maintain your original devotion before the face of God. Now, it is not necessary for you to have a deeper understanding, a higher theory, or other such things—all that is required is that you uphold God’s word on the original foundation. If people do not cooperate with God and do not pursue deeper entry, then God will take away all the things that were originally theirs. On the inside, people are always greedy for ease and would rather enjoy what is already available. They want to gain God’s promises without paying any price at all. These are the extravagant thoughts that mankind entertains. Gaining life itself without paying a price—but has anything ever been this easy? When someone believes in God and seeks to enter into life and seeks a change in their disposition, they must pay a price and achieve a state in which they will always follow God, no matter what He does. This is something that people must do. Even if you follow all of this as a rule, you must always uphold it, and no matter how great the trials, you cannot let go of your normal relationship with God. You should be able to pray, maintain your church life, and never leave your brothers and sisters. When God tries you, you should still seek the truth. This is the minimum requirement for a spiritual life. Always having the desire to seek, and striving to cooperate, applying all of your energy—can this be done? If people take this as a foundation, they will be able to achieve discernment and entry into reality. It is easy to accept God’s word when your own state is normal; in these circumstances it does not feel difficult to practice the truth, and you feel that God’s work is great. But if your condition is poor, no matter how great God’s work is and no matter how beautifully someone speaks, you will pay no mind. When a person’s condition is abnormal, God cannot work in them, and they cannot achieve changes in their disposition.
Excerpted from “You Should Maintain Your Devotion to God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Some people put a lot of enthusiasm into their pursuit and yet fail to enter onto the right track. This is because they are too careless and pay no attention to spiritual things. They have no idea how to experience God’s words, and do not know what the work and presence of the Holy Spirit are. Such people are enthusiastic but foolish; they do not pursue life. That is because you lack the slightest bit of knowledge of the Spirit, you know nothing of development in the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work, and you are ignorant of the state within your own spirit. Is the faith of such people not a foolish kind of faith? The pursuit of such people ultimately yields nothing. The key to achieving growth in life in one’s faith in God is knowing what work God does in your experience, beholding the loveliness of God, and understanding the will of God, such that you defer to all of God’s arrangements, have God’s words wrought into you so that they become your life, and thereby satisfy God. If your faith is a foolish faith, if you pay no heed to spiritual matters and to changes in your life disposition, if you exert no effort toward the truth, will you be able to grasp God’s will? If you do not understand what God asks, then you will be incapable of experiencing, and will thus have no path to practice. What you must pay attention to as you experience God’s words is the effect they produce in you, so that you may come to know God from His words. If you only know to read God’s words, but do not know how to experience them, does this not show that you are ignorant of spiritual matters? Right now, most people are incapable of experiencing God’s words, and thus they do not know the work of God. Is this not a failing in their practice? If they carry on like this, at what point will they be capable of experiencing things in their rich fullness and achieving growth in their lives? Does this not amount merely to empty talk? There are many among you who focus on theory, who know nothing of spiritual matters, and yet still wish to be put to great use by God and to be blessed by God. This is totally unrealistic! Thus, you must put an end to this failing, so that you may all enter onto the right track in your spiritual lives, have real experiences, and truly enter into the reality of God’s words.
Excerpted from “How to Enter Into a Normal State” in The Word Appears in the Flesh