God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III (Part Two)
We just talked about all the work that God completed, the series of things He did for the first time. Every one of these things is relevant to God’s plan for management, and to God’s will. They are also relevant to God’s own disposition and His essence. If we want to better understand what God has and is, we can’t stop at the Old Testament or at the Age of Law, but we need to move forward along with the steps God took in His work. So, as God ended the Age of Law and began the Age of Grace, our own steps have come to the Age of Grace—an age full of grace and redemption. In this age, God again did something very important for the first time. The work in this new age for both God and mankind was a new starting point. This new starting point was yet again new work that God did for the first time. This new work was something unprecedented that God carried out that could not be imagined by humans and all creatures. It is something that is now well known to all people—this was the first time God became a human being, the first time He began new work in the form of a man, with the identity of a man. This new work signified that God had completed His work in the Age of Law, that He would no longer do or say anything under the law. Neither would He speak or do anything in the form of the law or according to the principles or rules of the law. That is, all His work based on the law was halted forever and would not be continued, because God wanted to begin new work and do new things, and His plan once again had a new starting point. So, God had to lead mankind into the next age.
Whether this was joyful or ominous news to humans depended on what their essence was. It could be said that this was not joyful news, but it was ominous news to some people, because when God began His new work, those people who just followed the laws and rules, who just followed the doctrines but did not fear God would tend to use God’s old work to condemn His new work. For these people, this was ominous news; but for every person who was innocent and open, who was sincere and faithful to God and willing to receive His redemption, God’s first incarnation was very joyful news. For since there were humans, this was the first time God had appeared and lived among mankind in a form that wasn’t the Spirit; rather, He was born of a human and lived among people as the Son of man, and worked in their midst. This “first time” broke down people’s conceptions and was also beyond all imagination. In addition, all of God’s followers gained a tangible benefit. God not only ended the old age, but He also ended His old working methods and working style. He no longer allowed His messengers to convey His meaning, and He was no longer hidden in the clouds, and no longer appeared or spoke to humans commandingly through “thunder.” Unlike anything before, through a method unimaginable to humans that was difficult for them to understand or accept—becoming flesh—He became the Son of man to develop the work of that age. This step caught mankind by surprise, and it was also very uncomfortable for them, because God had once again started new work that He had never done before. Today, we’ll take a look at what new work God accomplished in the new age, and in all of this new work, what of God’s disposition and what He has and is can we understand?
The following are words recorded in the New Testament of the Bible.
1. (Matt 12:1) At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.
2. (Matt 12:6-8) But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
Let’s first take a look at this passage: “At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungered, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.”
Why have we selected this passage? What connection does it have to God’s disposition? In this text, the first thing we know is that it was the Sabbath day, but the Lord Jesus went out and led His disciples through the corn fields. What’s more “outrageous” is that they even “began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat.” In the Age of Law, Jehovah God’s laws were that people could not casually go out or take part in activities on the Sabbath—there were many things that could not be done on the Sabbath. This action on the part of the Lord Jesus was puzzling for those who had lived under the law for a long time, and it even provoked criticism. As for their confusion and how they talked about what Jesus did, we will put that aside for now and first discuss why the Lord Jesus chose to do this on the Sabbath, of all days, and what He wanted to communicate to people who were living under the law through this action. This is the connection between this passage and God’s disposition that I want to talk about.
When the Lord Jesus came, He used His practical actions to communicate to people: God had departed the Age of Law and had begun new work, and this new work did not require observation of the Sabbath; when God came out from the confines of the Sabbath day, this was just a foretaste of His new work, and His truly great work was continuing to play out. When the Lord Jesus began His work, He had already left behind the shackles of the Age of Law, and had broken through the regulations and principles from that age. In Him, there was no trace of anything related to the law; He had cast it off entirely and no longer observed it, and He no longer required mankind to observe it. So here you see that the Lord Jesus went through the corn fields on the Sabbath; the Lord did not rest, but was outside working. This action of His was a shock to people’s conceptions and communicated to them that He no longer lived under the law, and that He had left the confines of the Sabbath and appeared in front of mankind and in their midst in a new image, with a new way of working. This action of His told people that He had brought with Him new work that began with going out from the law and going out of the Sabbath. When God carried out His new work, He no longer clung to the past, and He was no longer concerned about the regulations of the Age of Law. Neither was He affected by His work in the previous age, but He worked as usual on the Sabbath and when His disciples were hungry, they could pick ears of corn to eat. This was all very normal in God’s eyes. God could have a new beginning for much of the work that He wants to do and the things that He wants to say. Once He has a new start, He neither mentions His previous work again nor continues it. For God has His principles in His work. When He wants to begin new work, it is when He wants to bring mankind into a new stage of His work, and when His work has entered a higher phase. If people continue to act according to the old sayings or regulations or continue to hold fast to them, He will not commemorate or praise this. This is because He has already brought new work, and has entered a new phase of His work. When He initiates new work, He appears to mankind with a completely new image, from a completely new angle, and in a completely new way so that people can see different aspects of His disposition and what He has and is. This is one of His goals in His new work. God does not hold on to the old or take the beaten path; when He works and speaks it’s not as prohibitive as people imagine. In God, all is free and liberated, and there is no prohibitiveness, no constraints—what He brings to mankind is all freedom and liberation. He is a living God, a God who genuinely, truly exists. He is not a puppet or a clay sculpture, and He is totally different from the idols that people enshrine and worship. He is living and vibrant and what His words and work bring to humans is all life and light, all freedom and liberation, because He holds the truth, the life, and the way—He is not constrained by anything in any of His work. No matter what people say and no matter how they see or assess His new work, He will carry out His work with no qualms. He will not worry about anyone’s conceptions or fingers pointed at His work and words, or even their strong opposition and resistance to His new work. No one among all of creation can use human reason, or human imagination, knowledge, or morality to measure or define what God does, to discredit, or disrupt or sabotage His work. There is no prohibitiveness in His work and what He does, and it will not be constrained by any man, thing, or object, and it will not be disrupted by any hostile forces. In His new work, He is an ever-victorious King, and any hostile forces and all heresies and fallacies from mankind are all trampled under His footstool. No matter which new stage of His work He is carrying out, it must be developed and expanded in mankind’s midst, and it must be carried out unhindered in the entire universe until His great work has been completed. This is God’s almightiness and wisdom, and His authority and power. Thus, the Lord Jesus could openly go out and work on the Sabbath because in His heart there were no rules, and there was no knowledge or doctrine that originated from mankind. What He had was God’s new work and His way, and His work was the way to free mankind, to release them, to allow them to exist in the light, and to allow them to live. And those who worship idols or false gods live every day bound by Satan, restrained by all kinds of rules and taboos—today one thing is prohibited, tomorrow another—there is no freedom in their lives. They are like prisoners in shackles with no joy to speak of. What does “prohibition” represent? It represents constraints, bonds, and evil. As soon as a person worships an idol, they are worshiping a false god, worshiping an evil spirit. Prohibition comes along with that. You can’t eat this or that, today you can’t go out, tomorrow you can’t turn your stove on, the next day you can’t move to a new house, certain days must be selected for weddings and funerals, and even for giving birth to a child. What is this called? This is called prohibition; it is bondage of mankind, and it is the shackles of Satan and evil spirits controlling them, and restraining their hearts and bodies. Do these prohibitions exist with God? When speaking of the holiness of God, you should first think of this: With God there are no prohibitions. God has principles in His words and work, but there are no prohibitions, because God Himself is the truth, the way, and the life.
Now let’s look at the following passage: “But I say to you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (Matt 12:6-8). What does “temple” refer to here? To put it simply, “temple” refers to a magnificent, tall building, and in the Age of Law, the temple was a place for priests to worship God. When the Lord Jesus said “in this place is one greater than the temple,” who did “one” refer to? Clearly, “one” is the Lord Jesus in the flesh, because only He was greater than the temple. What did those words tell people? They told people to come out of the temple—God had already come out and was no longer working in it, so people should seek God’s footsteps outside of the temple and follow His steps in His new work. The background of the Lord Jesus saying this was that under the law, people had come to see the temple as something greater than God Himself. That is, people worshiped the temple rather than worshiping God, so the Lord Jesus warned them not to worship idols, but to worship God because He is supreme. Thus, He said: “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” It is evident that in the eyes of the Lord Jesus, most people under the law no longer worshiped Jehovah, but were merely going through the process of sacrificing, and the Lord Jesus determined that this process was “idol worship.” These idol-worshipers saw the temple as something greater, and higher than God. In their hearts there was only the temple, not God, and if they lost the temple, they lost their dwelling place. Without the temple they had nowhere to worship and could not carry out their sacrifices. Their so-called dwelling place is where they operated under the banner of worshiping Jehovah God, allowing them to stay in the temple and carry out their own affairs. Their so-called conducting sacrifices was just to carry out their own personal shameful dealings under the guise of conducting their service in the temple. This was the reason people at that time saw the temple as greater than God. Because they used the temple as a cover, and sacrifices as a guise for cheating people and cheating God, the Lord Jesus said this to warn people. If you apply these words to the present, they are still equally valid and equally pertinent. Although people today have experienced different work of God than people in the Age of Law experienced, the essence of their nature is the same. In the context of the work today, people will still do the same type of things as “the temple is greater than God.” For example, people see fulfilling their duty as their job; they see bearing witness to God and battling the great red dragon as political movements in defense of human rights, for democracy and freedom; they turn their duty to utilize their skills into careers, but they treat fearing God and shunning evil as nothing but a piece of religious doctrine to observe; and so on. Aren’t these expressions on the part of humans essentially the same as “the temple is greater than God”? Except that two thousand years ago, people were carrying out their personal business in the physical temple, but today, people carry out their personal business in intangible temples. Those people that treasure rules see rules as greater than God, those people that love status see status as greater than God, those that love their career see career as greater than God, and so on—all their expressions lead Me to say: “People praise God as the greatest through their words, but through their eyes everything is greater than God.” This is because as soon as people find an opportunity along their path of following God to display their own talents, or to carry out their own business or their own career, they distance themselves from God and throw themselves into the career that they love. As for what God has entrusted to them, and His will, those things have long been discarded. In this scenario, what is different about these people and the ones conducting their own business in the temple two thousand years ago?
Next, let’s take a look at the last sentence in this passage of scripture: “For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.” Is there a practical side to this sentence? Can you see the practical side of this? Every single thing that God says comes from His heart, so why did He say this? How do you understand it? You may understand the meaning of this sentence now, but at the time not many people did because mankind had just come out of the Age of Law. For them, coming out from the Sabbath was a very difficult thing to do, not to mention understanding what a true Sabbath is.
The sentence “the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” tells people that God’s everything is immaterial, and although God can provide all of your material needs, once all of your material needs have been met, can the satisfaction from these things replace your pursuit of truth? That is clearly not possible! God’s disposition and what He has and is that we have fellowshiped about are both the truth. It cannot be measured with the heavy price of material objects nor can its value be quantified with money, because it is not a material object, and it supplies the needs of each and every person’s heart. For every person, the value of these intangible truths should be greater than the value of any material things you think are nice, right? This statement is something you need to linger over. The key point of what I’ve said is that what God has and is and God’s everything are the most important thing for every single person and it cannot be replaced by any material object. I’ll give you an example: When you’re hungry, you need food. This food can be relatively good or relatively lacking, but as long as you have your fill, that unpleasant feeling of being hungry will no longer be there—it will be gone. You can sit there in peace, and your body will be at rest. People’s hunger can be resolved with food, but when you’re following God and feel that you have no understanding of Him, how can you resolve the emptiness in your heart? Can it be resolved with food? Or when you’re following God and don’t understand His will, what can you use to make up for that hunger in your heart? In the process of your experience of salvation through God, while pursuing a change in your disposition, if you don’t understand His will or don’t know what the truth is, if you don’t understand God’s disposition, don’t you feel very uneasy? Don’t you feel a strong hunger and thirst in your heart? Don’t these feelings prevent you from feeling peace in your heart? So how can you make up for that hunger in your heart—is there a way to resolve it? Some people go shopping, some find their friends to confide in, some people sleep their fill, others read more of God’s words, or they work harder and expend more effort to fulfill their duties. Can these things resolve your actual difficulties? All of you fully understand these kinds of practices. When you feel powerless, when you feel a strong desire to gain enlightenment from God to allow you to know the reality of truth and His will, what do you need most? What you need isn’t a full meal, and it’s not a few kind words. More than that, it’s not the transient comfort and satisfaction of the flesh—what you need is for God to directly, clearly tell you what you should do and how you should do it, to clearly tell you what the truth is. After you’ve understood this, even if it’s just a tiny bit, don’t you feel more satisfied in your heart than if you had eaten a good meal? When your heart is satisfied, doesn’t your heart, your whole person, gain true peace? Through this analogy and analysis, do you understand now why I wanted to share with you this sentence, “the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day”? Its meaning is that what comes from God, what He has and is, and His everything are greater than any other thing, including the thing or the person you once believed you treasured most. That is to say, if a person cannot have words from the mouth of God or they do not understand His will, they cannot gain peace. In your future experiences, you will understand why I wanted you to see this passage today—this is very important. Everything that God does is truth and life. The truth for mankind is something that they cannot lack in their lives, that they can never do without; you could also say that it’s the greatest thing. Although you can’t look at it or touch it, its importance to you cannot be ignored; it is the only thing that can bring peace to your heart.
Is your understanding of truth integrated with your own situation? In real life, you first have to think of which truths relate to the people, things, and objects you have encountered; it is among these truths that you can find God’s will and connect what you have encountered with His will. If you don’t know which aspects of the truth relate to the things you’ve encountered but go to directly seek God’s will, this approach is fairly blind and cannot achieve results. If you want to seek the truth and understand God’s will, first you need to look at what kind of things have come upon you, which aspects of the truth they are related to, and look for truth in the word of God that relates to what you have experienced. Then you look for the path of practice right for you in that truth; this way you can gain an indirect understanding of God’s will. Searching for and practicing the truth is not mechanically applying a doctrine or following a formula. The truth is not formulaic, neither is it a law. It’s not dead—it’s life, it’s a living thing, and it’s the rule that a creature must follow during their years on earth and the rule a human must have in their life. This is something that you must understand more from experience. No matter what stage you have arrived at in your experience, you are inseparable from God’s word or the truth, and what you understand of God’s disposition and what you know of what God has and is are all expressed in God’s words; they are inextricably linked with the truth. God’s disposition and what He has and is themselves are the truth; the truth is an authentic manifestation of God’s disposition and what He has and is. It makes what God has and is concrete and expressly states it; it tells you more straightforwardly what God likes, what He doesn’t like, what He wants you to do and what He does not permit you to do, what people He despises and what people He delights in. Behind the truths that God expresses people can see His pleasure, anger, sorrow, and happiness, as well as His essence—this is the revealing of His disposition. Aside from knowing what God has and is, and understanding His disposition from His word, what is most important is the need to reach this understanding through practical experience. If a person removes themselves from real life in order to know God, they will not be able to achieve that. Even if there are people who can gain some understanding from the word of God, it is limited to theories and words, and there is a disparity with what God is really like.
What we’re communicating about now is all within the scope of the stories recorded in the Bible. Through these stories, and through analyzing these things that happened, people can understand His disposition and what He has and is that He has expressed, allowing them to know every aspect of God more broadly, more deeply, more comprehensively, and more thoroughly. So, is the only way to know every aspect of God through these stories? No, it’s not! For what God says and the work He does in the Age of Kingdom can better help people know His disposition, and know it more fully. However, I think it’s a bit easier to know God’s disposition and to understand what He has and is through some examples or stories recorded in the Bible that people are familiar with. If I take the words of judgment and chastisement and the truths that God expresses today to get you to know Him word for word, you’ll feel it’s too dull and too tedious, and some people will even feel that God’s words seem to be formulaic. But if we take these Bible stories as examples to help people know God’s disposition, they won’t find it boring. You could say that in the course of explaining these examples, the details of what was in God’s heart at the time—His mood or sentiment, or His thoughts and ideas—have been told to people in human language, and the goal of all this is to allow them to appreciate, to feel that what God has and is is not a formula. It is not a legend, or something that people can’t see or touch. It is something that truly exists that people can feel, and can appreciate. This is the ultimate goal. You could say that people living in this age are blessed. They can draw on Bible stories to gain a broader understanding of God’s previous work; they can see His disposition through the work that He has done. And they can understand God’s will for mankind through these dispositions that He has expressed, understand the concrete manifestations of His holiness and His care for humans in order to reach a more detailed and deeper knowledge of God’s disposition. I believe that all of you can feel this!
Within the scope of the work that the Lord Jesus completed in the Age of Grace, you can see another aspect of what God has and is. It was expressed through His flesh, and it was made possible for people to see and appreciate through His humanity. In the Son of man, people saw how God in the flesh lived out His humanity, and they saw God’s divinity expressed through the flesh. These two types of expression allowed people to see a very real God, and allowed them to form a different concept of God. However, in the period of time between the creation of the world and the end of the Age of Law, that is, before the Age of Grace, what was seen, heard, and experienced by the people was only God’s divine aspect. It was what God did and said in an intangible realm, and the things that He expressed from His real person that could not be seen or touched. Often, these things made people feel that God was so great, and that they could not get close to Him. The impression God usually gave people was that He flickered in and out, and people even felt that every single one of His thoughts and ideas was so mysterious and so elusive that there was no way to reach them, much less even attempt to understand and appreciate them. For people, everything about God was very distant—so distant that people could not see it, could not touch it. It seemed He was up in the sky, and it seemed He didn’t exist at all. So for people, understanding God’s heart and mind or any of His thinking was unachievable, and even unreachable. Even though God performed some concrete work in the Age of Law, and He also issued some specific words and expressed some specific dispositions to allow people to appreciate and to see some real knowledge of Him, yet in the end, that was God’s expression of what He has and is in an intangible realm, and what people understood, what they knew was still of the divine aspect of what He has and is. Mankind could not gain a concrete concept from this expression of[a] what He has and is, and their impression of God was still stuck within the scope of “a Spirit that is hard to get close to, that flickers in and out.” Because God didn’t use a specific object or an image in the material realm to appear to people, they still couldn’t define Him using human language. In people’s hearts and minds, they always wanted to use their own language to establish a standard for God, to make Him tangible and humanize Him, such as how tall He is, how big He is, what He looks like, what He particularly likes and what His specific personality is. Actually, in His heart God knew that people thought this way. He was very clear on people’s needs, and of course He also knew what He should do, so He carried out His work in a different way in the Age of Grace. This way was both divine and humanized. In the period of time that the Lord Jesus was working, people could see that God had many human expressions. For example, He could dance, He could attend weddings, He could commune with people, speak with them, and discuss things with them. In addition to that, the Lord Jesus also completed a lot of work that represented His divinity, and of course all of this work was an expression and a revealing of God’s disposition. During this time, when God’s divinity was realized in an ordinary flesh that people could see and touch, they no longer felt that He was flickering in and out, that they could not get close to Him. On the contrary, they could try to grasp the will of God or understand His divinity through the every movement, the words, and the work of the Son of man. The incarnate Son of man expressed God’s divinity through His humanity and conveyed the will of God to mankind. And through the expression of God’s will and disposition, He also revealed to people the God that cannot be seen or touched in the spiritual realm. What people saw was God Himself, tangible and with flesh and bones. So the incarnate Son of man made things such as God’s own identity, status, image, disposition, and what He has and is concrete and humanized. Even though the external appearance of the Son of man had some limitations regarding the image of God, His essence and what He has and is were entirely able to represent God’s own identity and status—there were merely some differences in the form of expression. No matter whether it’s the Son of man’s humanity or His divinity, we cannot deny that He represented God’s own identity and status. During this time, however, God worked through the flesh, spoke from the perspective of the flesh, and stood in front of mankind with the identity and status of the Son of man, and this gave people the opportunity to encounter and experience the true words and work of God among mankind. It also allowed people insight into His divinity and His greatness in the midst of humility, as well as to gain a preliminary understanding and a preliminary definition of the authenticity and the reality of God. Even though the work completed by the Lord Jesus, His ways of working, and the perspective from which He spoke differed from God’s real person in the spiritual realm, everything about Him truly represented God Himself that humans had never seen before—this cannot be denied! That is to say, no matter in what form God appears, no matter from which perspective He speaks, or in what image He faces mankind, God represents nothing but Himself. He cannot represent any human—He cannot represent any corrupt human. God is God Himself, and this cannot be denied.