1. What true repentance is and what its manifestations are
Relevant Words of God:
Everyone has at some time opposed God and everyone has at some time rebelled against God. However, if you willingly obey the incarnate God, and from this point satisfy God’s heart with your loyalty, practice the truth that you ought, perform your duty as you ought, and keep the regulations that you ought, then you are one who is willing to cast away your rebelliousness to satisfy God and one who can be perfected by God. Should you stubbornly refuse to see your errors and have no intention of repenting yourself, should you persist in your rebellious conduct without the least intention of cooperating with God and satisfying Him, then such an obstinate and incorrigible person as you will certainly be punished and will certainly never be one to be perfected by God. This being so, you are the enemy of God today and tomorrow you will also be the enemy of God, and so too will you remain the enemy of God the day after; you will forever be an opponent of God and the enemy of God. In that case, how could God possibly let you off? It is in the nature of man to oppose God, but man must not seek out on purpose the “secret” of opposing God just because changing his nature is an insurmountable task. If that were the case, then you had better walk away before it were too late, lest your chastisement in the future become more severe, and lest your brutish nature erupt and become ungovernable, until your fleshly body were terminated by God in the end. You believe in God to receive blessings; but if in the end only misfortune befell you, would not that be a shame? I urge you, you had better make another plan. Anything that you can do would be better than believing in God: Surely it cannot be that there is just this one path. Would you not go on surviving if you did not seek the truth? Why must you be at odds with God in this way?
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. All People Who Do Not Know God Are People Who Oppose God
Every person, to a greater or lesser extent, has transgressed. When you do not know something is a transgression, you regard it with a hazy state of mind, or perhaps you still cling to your own opinions, practices, and ways of understanding—but, one day, whether through fellowship with your brothers and sisters or by God’s revelation, you learn this thing is a transgression, an offense against God. What will your attitude be then? Will you still be holding on, reasoning, arguing, hewing to your own ideas, believing that what you are doing accords with the truth? This involves your attitude toward God. With what attitude did David regard his transgressions? Remorse—he would no longer commit them. So, what did he do? He prayed asking God to punish him: “If I make this mistake again, may God punish me and cause me to die!” Such was his resolve; that was true remorse. Can ordinary people achieve this? For ordinary people, it is good if they do not try to argue or tacitly admit responsibility, and, in their hearts, they yet think: “I hope no one brings this up again. I’d be humiliated.” Is this true remorse? To be truly remorseful, you must discard your past evil, put it down, and not do such a thing again. Well, what should be done, then? Will it work just to discard the evil, not to do that thing and not to think of it? What is your attitude toward God? What approach will you take to God exposing you now? (We will accept God’s punishment.) Accepting God’s punishment, His judgment and chastisement—that is one part of it. The other part is accepting God’s scrutiny while you accept His punishment. When you have accepted both parts, how will your resolve be? When you encounter such circumstances and such matters in the future, what will you do? Without true remorse, one cannot discard an evil, and anywhere, at any time, they could go back to their same old way, doing the same bad thing, committing the same transgression, making the same mistake over and over and over again. This reveals man’s attitude toward the truth and toward God.
At the outset, people are reluctant to practice the truth. Take devotedly fulfilling one’s duties as an example: You have some understanding of fulfilling your duties and being devoted to God, and you also understand the related truths, but when will you be able to completely devote yourself to God? When will you be able to fulfill your duties in both name and deed? This will require a process. During this process, you could suffer many hardships. Some people might deal with you, and others might criticize you. Everyone’s eyes will be fixed on you, and only then will you begin to realize that you are in the wrong and that you are actually the one who has done poorly, that lacking devotion in the fulfillment of your duty is unacceptable, and that you must not be careless or perfunctory. The Holy Spirit will enlighten you from within, and reproach you when you make a mistake. During this process, you will understand some things about yourself, and will know that you are too impure, you harbor too many personal motives, and have too many immoderate desires when fulfilling your duties. Once you have understood the essence of these things, you can come before God in prayer and truly repent; in this way, you can be cleansed of those impurities. If, in this manner, you frequently seek the truth to resolve your own practical problems, you will gradually set foot upon the right path of faith. The more someone’s corrupt disposition is purified, the more their life disposition will transform.
—“What Should Be Known About Transforming One’s Disposition” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
Change in disposition starts from recognizing the various states produced by various dispositions. If one has not begun to recognize this, if one has not entered this aspect of reality, then a change in one’s disposition is out of the question. So, since dispositional change is out of the question, what is the role played by the majority of people over the course of doing their duty? It’s exerting themselves, busying themselves with tasks. They are doing their duty, but most are laboring away. Sometimes when they’re in a good mood they put more into it, and then when they’re not in such a great mood, they put less into it. After the fact, they think it over and feel some regret, so they put a little extra energy in and feel like they’ve repented. In fact, this is not true change; this is not true repentance. True repentance starts from your behavior. If there’s been a shift in your behavior, you are able to forsake yourself and no longer do things that way, your actions appear to be in line with the principles, and bit by bit you manage to be principled in both word and deed, then this is the beginning of a change in disposition.
—“Only When You Know Yourself Can You Pursue the Truth” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
Some people are only going through the motions in their self-knowledge: “Everyone is saying they’re deceitful, so I will, too—it’ll be awkward if I don’t.” They say it cheerfully, as if they are putting a feather in their cap. This is going through the motions. So is there any indebtedness in this knowledge that comes from going through the motions? There is not. No matter how they recognize their own deceitfulness and corrupt dispositions, it is not true recognition. And why do I say it is not true recognition? Theirs is not a true disclosure of and hatred for themselves that comes from deep within their heart. They feel no hatred, no sense of indebtedness when they do anything bad; they feel no indebtedness when they try to cheat God, or blaspheme God, or rebel against God, nor when they cheat other people. If they feel no indebtedness, are they capable of remorse? And can people with no remorse repent? Can people who do not repent turn around and reject the interests of the flesh to practice the truth? They cannot—this is a matter of the heart. Inwardly, some people truly know themselves and repent. Though their mouths do not say it, they are ashamed, they feel that they have lied, and they cannot bring themselves to tell others, in their hearts, they know they are deceitful and bad, that they are not someone of integrity, that they are entirely false and deceptive, that they are deceiving the brothers and sisters and deceiving God. In their hearts, they hate themselves, and then they repent. Though everyone has the same nature essence, once they discover their own ignobility, they feel disgraced, they acknowledge everything that God reveals as being right, and begin to accept judgment and chastisement. They feel true remorse in the depths of their hearts. This is true perception and knowledge. Those who lack true perception, meanwhile, are also able to repeat certain formalities, as if they are telling a joke, or singing a nursery rhyme; these are just pet phrases. Their deceptions bring tears to people’s eyes, but it means nothing to them. Are there many people like this? People like this are the most deceptive of all.
—“Only When You Know Yourself Can You Pursue the Truth” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
Those who follow the path of the antichrists still have hope and the opportunity to repent, and are able to shed their antichrist’s disposition, yet the antichrists are unable to accept the truth, so however you tell them to be open and honest and not to dwell on or process what they have to say, but to say it directly, they feel as if they would come out the worse for it, and that it cannot work, that it is just foolishness. Try as they might, they cannot put it into practice. That is an antichrist. That is the difference. Regardless of how the truth is communicated, people such as antichrists simply admit that they have not acted in accord with the truth, and that they have an antichrist’s disposition. However, their admission is useless, and their acceptance of this is useless. They do not practice the truth, and they are therefore incapable of change, and God will not save them. Yet when they hear these words, some of those people with an antichrist’s disposition remember them in their hearts, and they are struck through the heart. “So, that is an antichrist’s disposition! That’s what it is to take the path of the antichrists—this really is serious! I have that sort of state, and that is how I behave. I have that sort of essence—that’s the kind of the person I am!” They will then mull over how they might change, how they might escape their antichrist’s disposition, how they might no longer to have anything to do with it or association with it, and how not to take the path of the antichrists. At work, in life, in their personal entry, in their attitude toward people, events, and things, in dealing with the things with which God has entrusted them, they will consider whether or not an action is that of an antichrist, and they will hate it when an antichrist’s disposition is revealed in them, and feel regret after it is revealed. How will their hatred and regret benefit their life entry? Within a year or two, at work and in their personal entry alike, they will gradually cast off their antichrist’s disposition, and struggle and fight against it. Sometimes, they will be unable to help themselves and will still want to do things and speak for the sake of status. They will hate themselves once they have spoken but will do so again the next time such a matter arises, and regret it once again afterwards, in constant repetition. What does this repetition prove? It proves that they are in entry. If there is no such repetition, nor entry, nor regression, then there is no life. Repetition proves that the life in the person is vital, that they have life and a foundation. Some people have no feelings, neither pain nor pleasure, and when this is fellowshiped to them, they admit that they have an antichrist’s disposition, that they have taken the path of the antichrists. What they say is quite nice, but when it comes to entry, there is no fight in them. Ask them, have they fought against their antichrist’s disposition? Do they reproach themselves inside when they talk in order to preserve their own status? Do they regret it afterward? Having realized it, do they attempt to curb it when they next speak? Do these states exist in them? Those who are all talk will say “I don’t know—I’ve got all of them.” They agree that they have them all, but after they have admitted this, there is nothing in regard to detailed entry or their specific situation. Those who have truly entered will be distressed. “I know I have an antichrist’s disposition. Why can’t I just cast it off? It’s so hard; it’s not an easy thing to change!” What does their saying it is not easy prove? That within them, they are entering, they are fighting, and their state is undergoing constant change. In this way, things will improve, little by little, and they will finally win out. This is not easy! It is like saving someone who is dying—you do anything you can. If a person is still capable of life, there will still be constant signs of life in their body, whereas someone who is utterly dead will not respond, no matter what you do. They are quite dead and without consciousness.
—The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. They Would Have Others Obey Only Them, Not the Truth or God (Part Two)
Some people have, in the past, revealed certain dispositions of an antichrist: They were wanton and arbitrary, it was always their way or the highway. But through being dealt with and pruned, through brothers and sisters sharing fellowship with them, through being reallocated or replaced, by suffering some major setbacks, being negative for a time and then thinking, “No matter what, I still have to prioritize fulfilling my duty properly. I am walking the path of the antichrist, but I haven’t been classed as one, so I must be good in my belief, I must pursue in earnest. There’s nothing wrong with the path of pursuing the truth,”—bit-by-bit, they turn themselves around, and then they repent. There are good manifestations in them, they seek the truth principles when performing their duty, and seek the truth principles when engaging with others, too. In every regard, they are heading in a better direction. Have they not then changed? This is turning from walking the path of the antichrist to walking the path of practicing and pursuing the truth. There is hope for them, they have a chance, they can turn themselves around. Can you class such people as antichrists because they once exhibited some manifestations of an antichrist or walked the path of the antichrists? No. Antichrists do not repent, they have no shame and, furthermore, their dispositions are fierce and evil, and they detest the truth to an extreme degree. What does their extreme detestation determine? That they can never repent. If they detest the truth to such a degree, can they practice the truth, and are they able to repent? Impossible. If there is one thing for certain about people who are able to repent, it is that they have made mistakes but are able to accept the judgment and chastisement of God, are able to accept the truths spoken by God, and are able to try as hard as they can to cooperate, taking the words of God as their own personal maxims, and making God’s words into the reality of their lives. They accept the truth, and deep down, they do not detest it. Is this not the difference?
—The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. They Would Have Others Obey Only Them, Not the Truth or God (Part One)
When the king of Nineveh heard this news, he arose from his throne, took off his robe, dressed himself in sackcloth and sat in ashes. He then proclaimed that no one in the city would be allowed to taste anything, and that no sheep, oxen or any other livestock would be allowed to graze or drink water. Man and livestock alike were to don sackcloth, and the people were to make earnest entreaties to God. The king also proclaimed that every one of them would turn away from their evil ways and forsake the violence in their hands. Judging from this series of actions, the king of Nineveh had true repentance in his heart. This series of actions he took—arising from his throne, casting off his king’s robe, wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes—tells people that the king of Nineveh was laying aside his royal status and donning sackcloth alongside the common people. This is to say that the king of Nineveh did not occupy his royal post to continue his evil way or the violence in his hands after hearing the announcement from Jehovah God; rather, he laid aside the authority he held and repented before Jehovah God. At this moment the king of Nineveh was not repenting as a king; he had come before God to repent and confess his sins as an ordinary subject of God. Moreover, he also told the entire city to repent and confess their sins before Jehovah God in the same manner as he had; additionally, he had a specific plan for how to do so, as seen in the scriptures: “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: … and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.” As the city’s ruler, the king of Nineveh possessed supreme status and power, and could do anything he wished to. When faced with Jehovah God’s announcement, he could have ignored the matter or simply repented and confessed his sins alone; as for whether or not the people in the city chose to repent, he could have completely ignored the matter. However, the king of Nineveh did not do this at all. Not only did he arise from his throne, wear sackcloth and ashes and repent and confess his sins before Jehovah God, but he also ordered all people and livestock within the city to do the same. He even ordered the people to “cry mightily to God.” Through this series of actions, the king of Nineveh truly accomplished that which a ruler should. His series of actions is one that was difficult for any king in human history to achieve, and indeed, no other king achieved these things. These actions can be called unprecedented in human history, and they are worthy of being both commemorated and imitated by mankind. Since the dawn of man, every king had led his subjects to resist and oppose God. No one had ever led his subjects to entreat God to seek redemption for their wickedness, receive Jehovah God’s pardon and avoid imminent punishment. The king of Nineveh, however, was able to lead his subjects to turn to God, to leave their respective evil ways behind and abandon the violence in their hands. Furthermore, he was also able to put aside his throne, and in return, Jehovah God had a change of mind and felt regret, retracting His wrath and allowing the people of the city to survive, keeping them from destruction. The king’s actions can only be called a rare miracle in human history, and even a model example of corrupt humanity repenting and confessing their sins before God.
—The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique II
This “evil way” does not refer to a handful of evil acts, but to the evil source from which people’s behavior springs. “Turning away from one’s evil way” means that those in question will never commit these actions again. In other words, they will never again behave in this evil way; the method, source, purpose, intent and principle of their actions have all changed; they will never again use those methods and principles to bring enjoyment and happiness to their hearts. The “abandon” in “abandon the violence in one’s hands” means to lay down or to cast aside, to fully break with the past and to never turn back. When the people of Nineveh abandoned the violence in their hands, this proved and represented their true repentance. God observes people’s outward appearances as well as their hearts. When God observed the true repentance in the hearts of the Ninevites without question and also observed that they had left their evil ways and abandoned the violence in their hands, He changed His heart. This is to say that these people’s conduct and behavior and various ways of doing things, as well as their true confession and repentance of sins in their hearts, caused God to change His heart, to change His intentions, to retract His decision and not to punish or destroy them. Thus, the people of Nineveh achieved a different outcome for themselves. They redeemed their own lives and at the same time won God’s mercy and tolerance, at which point God also retracted His wrath.
—The Word, Vol. 2. On Knowing God. God Himself, the Unique II
What did Peter regret the most? Not long after Peter had said “You are the Son of the living God,” Jesus posited another question to Peter (although it is not recorded in the Bible this way). Jesus asked him: “Peter! Have you ever loved Me?” Peter understood what He meant, and said: “Lord! I once loved the Father in heaven, but I admit I have never loved You.” Jesus then said: “If people do not love the Father in heaven, how can they love the Son on earth? And if people do not love the Son sent by God the Father, how can they love the Father in heaven? If people truly love the Son on earth, then they truly love the Father in heaven.” When Peter heard these words, he realized what he had been lacking. He always felt remorse to the point of tears over his words “I once loved the Father in heaven, but I have never loved You.” After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, he felt even more remorse and grief over these words. Recalling his past work and his present stature, he would often come before Jesus in prayer, always feeling regret and indebted due to having not met God’s will and not measuring up to God’s standards. These issues became his biggest burden. He said: “One day I will dedicate to You everything I have and everything I am, and I will give You whatever is most valuable.” He said: “God! I have only one faith and only one love. My life is worth nothing, and my body is worth nothing. I have only one faith and only one love. I have faith in You in my mind and love for You in my heart; these two things only have I to give to You, and nothing else.” Peter was greatly encouraged by Jesus’ words, because before Jesus was crucified, He had told Peter: “I am not of this world, and you too are not of this world.” Later, when Peter reached a point of great pain, Jesus reminded him: “Peter, have you forgotten? I am not of the world, and it was only for My work that I departed earlier. You too are not of the world, have you really forgotten? I have told you twice, do you not remember?” Hearing this, Peter said: “I have not forgotten!” Jesus then said: “You once spent a happy time gathered with Me in heaven and a period of time by My side. You miss Me, and I miss you. Although the creations are not worth mentioning in My eyes, how can I not love one who is innocent and lovable? Have you forgotten My promise? You must accept My commission on earth; you must fulfill the task I entrusted to you. One day I will certainly lead you to be by My side.” After hearing this, Peter became even more encouraged and received even greater inspiration, such that when he was on the cross, he was able to say: “God! I cannot love You enough! Even if You ask me to die, I still cannot love You enough. Wherever You send my soul, whether or not You fulfill Your past promises, whatever You do afterward, I love You and believe in You.” What he held onto was his faith, and true love.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. How Peter Came to Know Jesus