27. The difference between good behavior and dispositional change
Words of Almighty God of the Last Days
Transformation in disposition mainly refers to the transformation of a person’s nature. The things of a person’s nature cannot be perceived from external behaviors. They are directly related to the worth and significance of their existence, to their outlook on life and their values, they involve the things in the depths of their soul, and their essence. If a person cannot accept the truth, they will undergo no transformation in these aspects. Only by experiencing God’s work, fully entering the truth, changing one’s values and one’s outlooks on existence and life, aligning one’s views on things with God’s word, and becoming capable of completely submitting to and being devoted to God, can one’s disposition be said to have transformed. Presently, you may appear to put forth some effort and be resilient in the face of hardship while performing your duty, you may be able to carry out work arrangements from the Above, or you may be able to go wherever you are told to go. On the surface, it may look like you are somewhat obedient, but when something happens that is not in line with your notions, your rebelliousness comes to the fore. For example, you do not submit to being pruned and dealt with, and you are even less submissive when disaster strikes; you even find it within yourself to blame God. Therefore, that little bit of obedience and change on the outside is just a small change in behavior. There is a little bit of change, but this is not enough to count as the transformation of your disposition. You may be able to run down many paths, suffer many hardships, and endure great humiliation; you may feel very close to God, and the Holy Spirit may do some work on you. However, when God asks you to do something that does not conform to your notions, you still might not submit, rather, you might look for excuses, rebel against and resist God, and on dire occasions even question and fight back against Him. This would be a serious problem! It would show that you still have a nature that resists God, that you do not truly understand the truth, and that you have had no change in your life disposition at all. After they are dismissed or cleared out, some people still find it within themselves to judge God and say God is not righteous. They even argue with God and fight back, disseminating their notions about God and dissatisfaction with God everywhere they go. People such as this are devils who resist God. People who have devilish natures will never change and should be abandoned. Only those who can seek and accept the truth in every situation, and submit to the work of God, have a hope of gaining the truth and achieving a change in disposition. In your experiences, you must learn to discern between states which outwardly appear normal. You may sob and cry during prayer, or feel that your heart loves God so much, and is so close to God, yet these states are only the work of the Holy Spirit and do not signify that you are someone who loves God. If you can still love and obey God even when the Holy Spirit is not at work, and when God does things that do not line up with your own notions, only then are you a person who truly loves God. Only then are you a person whose life disposition has changed. Only this is a person who has the truth reality.
—The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. What Should Be Known About Transforming One’s Disposition
What does a transformation in disposition mean? It happens when a person who loves the truth, while experiencing God’s work, accepts the judgment and chastisement of His words and undergoes all manner of suffering and refinement. Such a person is cleansed of the satanic poisons within them and completely breaks free of their corrupt dispositions so that they can submit to God’s words and all of His orchestrations and arrangements, never again to rebel against Him or resist Him. This is a transformation in disposition. … A transformation in disposition means that a person, because they love and can accept the truth, finally comes to know their nature, which is disobedient to God and in opposition to God. They understand that humans are corrupted too deeply, they understand humankind’s absurdness and deceitfulness, and humankind’s impoverished and pitiful state, and they finally come to understand humankind’s nature essence. Knowing all this, they become able to deny and forsake themselves completely, live by God’s word, and practice the truth in all things. This is someone who knows God, and someone whose disposition has transformed.
—The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. How to Know Man’s Nature
Changes in disposition are different in essence from changes in behavior, and they are also different from changes in practice—they are all different in essence. Most people place special emphasis on behavior in their belief in God, as a result of which certain changes occur in their behavior. After they have begun to believe in God, they stop smoking and drinking, and they no longer contend with others, preferring to exercise patience when they suffer a loss. They undergo some behavioral changes. Some people feel that once they believe in God they understand the truth by reading God’s word; they’ve experienced the work of the Holy Spirit, and they have true enjoyment in their hearts, making them particularly fervent, and there is nothing that they cannot forsake or suffer. Nevertheless, after having believed for eight, ten, or even twenty or thirty years, because there has been no change in their life dispositions, they end up sliding back into old ways; their arrogance and haughtiness grow more pronounced, they begin to compete for power and profit, they covet the church’s money, they envy those who have taken advantage of God’s house. They become parasites and vermin within God’s house, and some are even exposed and cast out as false leaders and antichrists. And what do these facts prove? Mere behavioral changes are unsustainable; if there is no alteration in people’s life dispositions, then sooner or later, they will show their true colors. This is because behavioral changes have their source in fervor, and coupled with some work by the Holy Spirit at the time, it becomes extremely easy for them to be fervent or to have good intentions for a short time. As the unbelievers say, “Doing one good deed is easy; what’s hard is doing a lifetime of good deeds.” Why are people incapable of doing good deeds throughout their entire lives? Because by nature, people are wicked, selfish, and corrupt. One’s behavior is directed by their nature; whatever one’s nature is, so is the behavior that one reveals, and only that which is revealed naturally represents one’s nature. Things that are fake cannot last. When God works to save man, it is not to adorn man with good behavior—the purpose of God’s work is to transform people’s dispositions, to make them reborn into new people. God’s judgment, chastisement, trials, and refinement of man all serve to change their disposition so that they may achieve absolute submission and devotion to God, and come to worship Him normally. This is the aim of God’s work. Behaving well is not the same as submitting to God, much less does it equal being compatible with Christ. Changes in behavior are based on doctrine and born of fervor; they are not based upon true knowledge of God or upon the truth, much less do they rest upon guidance from the Holy Spirit. Even though there are times when some of what people do is enlightened or guided by the Holy Spirit, this is not an expression of their life. They have not yet entered into the truth realities, and their life disposition has not changed at all. No matter how good a person’s behavior is, it does not prove that they obey God or that they put the truth into practice. Behavioral changes do not represent changes in life disposition and they cannot be counted as expressions of life.
—The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three
What man thinks of as dispositional change is only a change in behavior, and that is a different thing and a different path from the dispositional change that God speaks of. Can what man thinks of as dispositional change ensure that people will not disobey, oppose, or betray God? Can it make them ultimately stand firm in their witness and satisfy God’s will? The dispositional change that God speaks of means that through practicing the truth, through experiencing His judgment and chastisement, and by being dealt with and pruned, and tested and refined by Him, people achieve an understanding of God’s will and the truth principles, and then live according to the truth principles, obtaining hearts that obey and fear God, without any misunderstandings of God, and possessing true knowledge and true worship of God. What God speaks of is a change in a person’s disposition, but what does the dispositional change that man speaks of refer to? It refers to improved behavior, to appearing well-behaved and calm, and to not being arrogant; it means speaking in a refined and disciplined way, not being naughty and mischievous, and possessing conscience, reason, and moral standards in one’s speech and behavior. Is there any difference between the change of disposition that man speaks of and the change of disposition that God requires? What is the difference? The change of disposition that man speaks of is a change in outward behavior, a change that conforms to human notions and imaginings. The change of disposition that God requires is stripping away one’s corrupt disposition, it is a change in life disposition brought about by understanding the truth, a change in one’s perspective on things, a change in one’s life outlook and values. There is a difference. No matter whether you are dealing with people or things, your motives, the principles of your actions, and your standard of measurement must all be in accordance with the truth, and you must seek the truth principles; this is the only way to achieve a change of disposition. If you always measure yourself by behavioral standards, if you always focus on changes in your outward behavior, and you think that you are living out human likeness and have God’s approval just because you possess a little good behavior, that is completely wrong. Because you have corrupt dispositions, and can oppose God, and are at risk of betraying God, if you do not seek the truth to solve your own corrupt disposition, no matter how good your outward behavior may be, you will not be able to achieve true obedience to God, and you will not be able to fear God and shun evil. Can mere outward good behavior produce a God-fearing heart? Can it make a person fear God and shun evil? If people cannot fear God and shun evil, then no amount of good behavior signifies that they have true obedience to God. Therefore, no amount of good behavior signifies a change in disposition.
—The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Good Behavior Does Not Mean One’s Disposition Has Changed
If a person has many good behaviors, it does not mean they possess the truth realities. Only by practicing the truth and acting according to principles can you possess the truth realities. Only by fearing God and shunning evil can you possess the truth realities. Some people have enthusiasm, can speak doctrine, obey the rules, and do many good deeds, but all that can be said about them is that they possess a little humanity. Those who can speak doctrine and always follow rules cannot necessarily practice the truth. Although what they say is correct and sounds like it is free of problems, they have nothing to say in matters concerning the essence of the truth. Therefore, no matter how much doctrine someone can speak, it doesn’t mean they understand the truth, and no matter how much doctrine they understand, they can’t solve any problems. Religious theorists can all explain the Bible, but in the end, they all fall, because they do not accept the whole truth that God has expressed. People who have experienced a change in their dispositions are different; they have understood the truth, they are discerning on all issues, they know how to act in accordance with God’s will, how to act in accordance with the truth principle, and how to act to satisfy God, and they understand the nature of the corruption they exhibit. When their own ideas and notions are revealed, they are able to be discerning and forsake the flesh. This is how a change in disposition is manifested. The main manifestation of people who have undergone a change in disposition is that they have come to clearly understand the truth, and when carrying things out, they put the truth into practice with relative accuracy and they do not exhibit corruption as often. Generally, those whose dispositions have transformed appear to be particularly reasonable and discerning, and due to their understanding of the truth, they do not exhibit as much self-righteousness or arrogance. They can see through and discern much of the corruption that has been revealed in them, so they do not give rise to arrogance. They are able to have a measured grasp on what place they should take and what things they should do that are reasonable, on how to be dutiful, on what to say and what not to say, and on what to say and what to do to which people. Thus, people whose dispositions have changed are relatively reasonable, and only such people truly live out a human likeness. Because they understand the truth, they are able to speak and see things in accordance with the truth, and they are principled in everything they do; they are not subject to the influence of any person, matter, or thing, and they all have their own views and can uphold the truth principles. Their dispositions are relatively stable, they do not blow hot and cold, and no matter what their circumstances, they understand how to do their duties properly and how to behave to God’s satisfaction. Those whose dispositions have changed are not focused on what to do externally to make others think well of them; they have gained internal clarity on what to do to satisfy God. Therefore, from the outside, they may not seem to be so enthusiastic or to have done anything important, but everything they do is meaningful, is valuable, and yields practical results. Those whose dispositions have changed are certain to possess a lot of truth realities, and this can be confirmed by their perspectives on things and their principles of action. Those who have not obtained the truth have absolutely not achieved any change in life disposition. How exactly is a change in disposition achieved? Human beings have been deeply corrupted by Satan, they all resist God, and they all have the nature of resisting God. God saves people by turning those who have the nature of resisting God and who can resist God into those who can obey and fear God. This is what it means to be someone whose disposition has changed. No matter how corrupt a person is or how many corrupt dispositions they have, as long as they can accept the truth, accept God’s judgment and chastisement, and accept various trials and refinements, they will have a true understanding of God, and at the same time they will be able to clearly see their own nature essence. When they truly know themselves, they will be able to hate themselves and Satan, and they will be willing to forsake Satan, and completely obey God. Once a person has this determination, they can pursue the truth. If people have true knowledge of God, if their satanic disposition is purified, and God’s words take root within them, and have become their life and the basis of their existence, if they live by God’s words, and have completely changed and become new people—then this counts as change in their life disposition. A change in disposition does not mean having a mature and seasoned humanity, nor does it mean that people’s outer dispositions are meeker than before, that they used to be arrogant but now can communicate reasonably, or that they used to listen to no one but now can listen to others a bit; such external changes cannot be said to be transformations in disposition. Of course, transformations in disposition do include such manifestations, but the most crucial ingredient is that internally, their life has changed. This is entirely because God’s words and the truth have taken root inside them, rule within them, and have become their life. Their views on things have also changed. They can see straight through what is going on in the world and with mankind, how Satan corrupts humankind, how the great red dragon resists God, and the essence of the great red dragon. They can hate the great red dragon and Satan in their hearts, and they can completely turn to and follow God. This means their life disposition has changed, and they have been gained by God. Changes in life disposition are fundamental changes, while changes in behavior are superficial. Only those who have achieved changes in life disposition are those who have obtained the truth, and only they have been gained by God.
—The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three
You now merely acknowledge that God’s words are good and right, and, to look at your outward behavior, you do not do things that obviously go against the truth, much less do you do things that pass judgment on God’s work. You are also able to submit to the work arrangements of God’s house. This is going from being an unbeliever to a follower of God with the decency of a saint. You go from someone who lives decidedly by Satan’s philosophies, and by Satan’s concepts, laws, and knowledge to someone who, having heard God’s words, feels they are the truth, accepts them, and pursues the truth, becoming someone who can embrace God’s words as their life. It is that sort of process—nothing more. During this period, your behavior and ways of doing things will certainly undergo some changes. No matter how much you change, what manifests in you is, to God, no more than changes in your behavior and methods, changes in your innermost desires and aspirations. It is nothing more than changes in your thoughts and views. You may now be able to offer your life to God when you summon your strength and have the impulse, but you cannot achieve absolute obedience to God in a matter you find particularly distasteful. This is the difference between a change in behavior and a change in disposition. Perhaps, your kind heart enables you to lay down your life and everything for God, saying, “I’m ready and willing to give up my life’s blood for God. In this life, I have no regrets and no complaints! I’ve given up on marriage, on worldly prospects, on all glory and riches, and I accept these circumstances that God has laid out. I can withstand all the ridicule and slander of the world.” But the moment God lays out a circumstance that does not fit your notions, you can stand up and clamor against Him and resist Him. This is the difference between a change in behavior and a change in disposition. It is also possible that you can lay down your life for God and give up the people you love most, or the thing you love most, with which your heart can bear least to part—but when you are called to speak to God from the heart, and be an honest person, you find it quite difficult and cannot do it. This is the difference between a change in behavior and a change in disposition. Then again, perhaps you do not crave fleshly comfort in this life, neither eating fine food nor wearing fine clothes, each day working yourself ragged and to exhaustion in your duty. You can withstand all manner of pain brought to you by the flesh, but, if God’s arrangements do not accord with your notions, you cannot understand, and grievances against God and misunderstandings about Him arise in you. Your relationship with God grows increasingly abnormal. You are always resistant and disobedient, unable to submit completely to God. This is the difference between a change in behavior and a change in disposition. You are willing to give up your life for God, so why can you not say an honest word to Him? You are willing to lay aside everything outside of yourself, so why can you not be singularly loyal to the commission God has given you? You are willing to give up your life for God, so when you rely on your feelings to do things and uphold your relations with others, why can you not reflect on yourself? Why can you not take a stand to uphold church work and the interests of God’s house? Is this someone who lives before God? You have already made a vow before God to expend yourself for Him your whole life and to accept whatever suffering comes your way, so why does one instance of dismissal from your duty make you sink so much into negativity that you cannot crawl back out for many days? Why is your heart full of resistance, grievance, misunderstanding, and negativity? What is going on? This shows that your heart loves status the most, and this is connected to your vital weakness. Therefore, when you are dismissed, you fall down and cannot get up. This is sufficient to prove that although your behavior has changed, your life disposition has not. This is the difference between a change in behavior and a change in disposition.
—The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Only by Resolving One’s Notions Can One Embark on the Right Track of Belief in God (3)
The hardest part of believing in God is achieving a change in disposition. Perhaps you can remain unmarried your whole life, or never eat rich food or wear nice clothes; some people even say, “It doesn’t matter if I suffer all my life, or if I’m lonely all my life, I can endure it—with God by my side, these things mean nothing.” It is easy to overcome and resolve this kind of physical pain and hardship. What is not easy to overcome? Man’s corrupt dispositions. Corrupt dispositions cannot be resolved through mere self-restraint. People can endure physical suffering in order to perform their duties properly, to satisfy the will of God, and to enter the kingdom in the future—but does being able to suffer and pay a price mean that their dispositions have changed? It does not. To measure if there has been a change in someone’s disposition, do not look at how much suffering they can endure or how much good behavior they engage in on the surface. The only way of accurately measuring if a person’s disposition has changed is to look at the aims, motives, and intents behind their actions, the principles by which they conduct themselves and handle affairs, and their attitude toward the truth.
After coming to believe in God, some people no longer pursue worldly trends or pay attention to their clothes and appearance. They are able to suffer and work hard, and to subdue and forsake the flesh. But when they are performing their duty and interacting with others and handling things, they are rarely honest. They do not like being honest, they always want to stand out and distinguish themselves, and there is intent behind everything they say and do. They make painstaking, meticulous calculations in order to show people how good they are, to win people’s hearts, and to get people to favor and worship them, to the extent that people will come and seek from them whenever something befalls them. By doing this, they are showing off. What disposition is it that they pour forth? It is a satanic disposition. Are there many people like this? Everyone is like this. On the outside, they stick to all the rules, they are able to suffer a little, and are somewhat willing to expend of themselves. They are able to let go of a few worldly things, they have a bit of resolve and willingness to pursue the truth, and they have laid a foundation on the path of belief in God. It is just that their corrupt disposition remains intact. They have not changed at all. Even if they understand the truth, they cannot put it into practice. That is what it means to have not changed at all. Acting willfully in all things is the way that those who live within satanic dispositions behave. When the intent behind their actions is wrong, they do not pray to God, or deny their own will, they do not seek the truth principles, nor do they seek from others or fellowship with them. They do whatever they want, whatever they happen to desire; they act recklessly and without restraint. They may not outwardly do evil, but they do not practice the truth, either. They follow their own will in their actions and live within a satanic disposition. This means that they do not have love for the truth or God-fearing hearts, and they do not live before God. Some of them may even understand God’s words and the truth, but they cannot put them into practice. This is because they cannot overcome their own desires and ambitions. They clearly know that what they are doing is wrong, that it is a disruption and disturbance, that it is loathsome to God, yet they do it over and over again, thinking, “Isn’t believing in God about gaining blessings? What’s wrong with me pursuing blessings? I’ve suffered quite a lot in the years I’ve believed in God; I’ve let go of my job and abandoned my prospects in the world in order to gain God’s approval and blessings. Just based on all the suffering I’ve endured, God should remember me. He should bless me and endow me with good fortune.” These words suit human tastes. Everyone who believes in God thinks like this—they feel that being a bit contaminated by the intent to gain blessings is not such a big problem. But if you consider these words carefully, are any of them in line with the truth or part of the truth reality? All this forsaking and suffering are just kinds of good human behaviors. These actions are governed by the intent to gain blessings, and they are not the practice of the truth. If one were to use the moral standards of man to measure these people’s behavior, they would be deemed industrious and frugal, hardworking and tough. At times they are so wrapped up in their work that they forget to eat and sleep, and some of them are even willing to return lost items to their owners, to be helpful and charitable, to treat others with understanding and generosity, to not be miserly or persnickety, and to even give away the things they love most to others. All these behaviors are praised by man, and they are recognized as good people. Such people seem glorious, admirable, and deserving of approval; in their actions, they are scrupulously moral, fair and reasonable. They repay the kindnesses of others and care about brotherhood, so much so that they would sacrifice themselves for any one of their friends, and would endure suffering and go to the ends of the earth for those closest to them. Though many people may have praise for this sort of good person, can these people really accept the truth and practice it? Would they really lay down their life to exalt and testify for God? Not necessarily. Can they be called a good person, then? If you are trying to judge whether someone fears God and shuns evil, or if they have the truth reality, would it be accurate to always evaluate them based on human notions, imaginings, ethics and morality? Would it be in line with the truth? If human notions, imaginings, ethics and morality were the truth, then God would not need to express the truth, nor would He need to do the work of judgment and chastisement. You must see clearly that the world and mankind are dark and evil, that they are completely devoid of the truth, and that corrupt mankind needs God’s salvation. You must see clearly that God alone is the truth, that only His words can cleanse man, that only He can save man, and that however good a person’s behavior is, it is not the truth reality, and falls even further short of the truth itself. Though these good behaviors have become widespread and recognized among people, they are not the truth, and never will be, and they cannot change anything. Could you get a person who would sacrifice themselves for their friends and go to the ends of the earth for them to accept God and the truth? Absolutely not, as that person is an atheist. Could you get a person who is filled with notions and imaginings about God to achieve true submission to Him? Absolutely not, as when one is filled with notions, it is very hard for them to accept and submit to the truth. Can any amount of good behavior make a person able to truly submit to God? Can they truly love Him? Can they exalt Him and testify to Him? They absolutely cannot. Can you guarantee that everyone who preaches and works for the Lord will become a true lover of God? That would be absolutely impossible. So, no matter how many good behaviors a person engages in, it does not mean that they have truly repented and changed, and less still does it mean that their life disposition has changed.
—The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Good Behavior Does Not Mean One’s Disposition Has Changed
All corrupt humans live for themselves. Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost—this is the summation of human nature. People believe in God for their own sake; when they forsake things and expend themselves for God, it is in order to be blessed, and when they are faithful to Him, it is in order to be rewarded. In sum, it is all done for the purpose of being blessed, rewarded, and entering the kingdom of heaven. In society, people work for their own benefit, and in the house of God, they perform a duty in order to be blessed. It is for the sake of gaining blessings that people forsake everything and can withstand much suffering: There is no better evidence of man’s satanic nature. People whose dispositions have changed are different, they feel that meaning comes from living by the truth, that the basis of being human is submitting to God, fearing God and shunning evil, that accepting God’s commission is a responsibility that is perfectly natural and justified, that only people who fulfill the duties of a creature of God are fit to be called human—and if they are not able to love God and repay His love, they are unfit to be called human. They feel that living for oneself is empty and devoid of meaning, that people should live in order to satisfy God, to perform their duties well, and live lives of meaning, so that even when it is their time to die, they will feel content and not have the slightest regret, and that they have not lived in vain. In comparing these two different situations, one can see that the latter is one of people whose dispositions have transformed. If a person’s life disposition has transformed, their outlook on life has certainly changed, too. Now having different values, they will never again live for themselves, and they will never again believe in God for the purpose of gaining blessings. Such a person will be able to say, “Knowing God is so worthwhile. If I die after having gotten to know God, then that would be great! If I can know God and submit to God, and I can live a meaningful life, then I will not have lived in vain, nor will I die with any regrets; I will have no complaints.” This person’s outlook on life has transformed. The main reason for a change in one’s life disposition is because one possesses the truth reality, one has gained the truth, and has knowledge of God; one’s outlook on life is therefore changed, and one’s values are different from before. The transformation starts from within one’s heart, and from within one’s life; it is certainly not an external change. Some new believers, after they have begun to believe in God, leave the secular world behind. When they later encounter unbelievers, these believers have little to say, and they rarely contact their unbelieving relatives and friends. The unbelievers say, “This person has changed.” The believers then think, “My life disposition has transformed; these unbelievers are saying I’ve changed.” Has such a person’s disposition actually transformed? No, it hasn’t. What they manifest are merely external changes. There has been no real change in their life, and their satanic nature remains rooted within their heart, completely untouched. Sometimes, people are gripped by fervor because of the work of the Holy Spirit; some external changes might occur, and they might do a few good deeds. However, this is not the same as achieving a transformation of disposition. If you do not possess the truth and your view of things has not changed, even to the point of being no different from that of unbelievers, and if your outlook on life and your values have not altered, either, and if you do not even have a God-fearing heart—which is the very least that you should possess—then you are nowhere close to having achieved a change in disposition. To achieve a change in disposition, the most key thing is that you must pursue understanding of God and have a true understanding of Him. Take Peter for example. When God wanted to hand him over to Satan, he said, “Even if You give me to Satan, You are still God. You are almighty, and everything is in Your hands. How can I not praise You for the things You do? But if I could know You before I die, wouldn’t that be better?” He felt that in people’s lives, knowing God was most important; after knowing God any kind of death would be fine, and any way God handled it would be fine. He felt that knowing God was the most critical thing; if he didn’t obtain truth, he could never be satisfied, but neither would he complain to God. He would only hate the fact that he didn’t pursue the truth. Given Peter’s spirit, his earnest pursuit to know God shows that his view of life and values had changed. His deep longing to know God proves he truly had known God. Hence, from this statement, one can see that his disposition had changed; he was a person whose disposition had transformed. At the very end of his experience, God said that he was the one who knew God the most; he was the one who truly loved God. Without the truth, one’s life disposition can never truly change. If you can truly pursue the truth and enter the truth reality, only then can you achieve a change in your life disposition.
—The Word, Vol. 3. The Discourses of Christ of the Last Days. Part Three