1. What is true repentance? Is it true repentance only to pray to God and admit one’s sins?
Relevant Words of 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.) 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. Is this not the attitude one has toward the truth? This reveals man’s attitude toward the truth and toward God. What, then, can someone do to cast off a transgression completely? Practice the truth? One must have the correct attitude toward the truth. And what attitude should someone have and how should they practice to demonstrate their correct attitude toward the truth? What will you do if you fall into temptation when you come across this issue again? Two words: “Stay away!” At the same time, one must set one’s resolve to be punished by God if one makes the same sort of mistake again. To do so is to hate the thing from the bottom of one’s heart, to see it as the most abhorrent thing, an evil thing, a thing that offends God, an eternal stain. The Bible says: “A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Pro 22:3). That is not simplicity—it is stupidity, plain and simple. “Stay away”—how is that as a way to practice? (It is good.) Yet are there times when one cannot stay away? What will you do then? You must pray earnestly to God in your heart, and ask Him to orchestrate things. Some trials are also temptations. Why does God allow such things to befall you? They do not happen by chance; they are God trying and testing you. If you do not accept God’s test and try to ignore it, does this not reveal your attitude toward God? Does it not speak of man’s attitude toward God that you turn your back on the circumstances He arranges for you and the trials He gives you, and have an attitude of impertinence, and neither pray nor seek, nor search in those circumstances and trials for the path of practice? There are those who say: “I haven’t had such thoughts, and I don’t have that intention.” If you are without intention, then what is your attitude toward God? Some attitudes are deliberate and intended, while some are unintentional—what is yours? Is one who is impertinent and does not take God seriously someone who loves the truth? It is established that one who treats the truth and God as children’s games, as empty air, is not someone who loves the truth.
Excerpted from God’s Fellowship
How can whether someone loves the truth or not be measured? Look at what they ordinarily live out, whether they do what they say, whether their words match their actions. If they do not, if what they say sounds good, and they speak very clearly, but they are incapable of recognizing that they reveal any corrupt dispositions when something happens to them later on, then they are someone who does not love the truth. They may be aware, for example, that they are deceitful and calculating, and they may be able to tell when other people are being deceitful. But when, after saying they are deceitful, they encounter the same issue again, watch them and see whether they are able to forsake such behavior, whether they repent, whether they have a sense of recrimination in their hearts after what they did, and whether they have a sense of shame. If they feel no shame, then their recognition of their own deceitfulness is blithe and cursory, it is not genuine. Conversely, they believe that they are not the most deceitful ones, that everyone else is more deceitful than them, and so it does not matter if they say they are deceitful. That is what they are thinking inside. So how can it be discerned if someone loves the truth, if they are one of those who genuinely pursue the truth? Look at whether there is any change in them. If, after revealing and recognizing their own deceitfulness, they carry on as usual; if they make only passing reference to their own deceitfulness, as if they are telling a joke or just rolling off some stock phrases; if they do not disclose their deceitfulness with an attitude of disgust and hate, or an attitude of repentance and recognition that come from the depths of their heart, but only superficially open up about themselves, then they are not someone who genuinely pursues the truth. 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? (Yes.) People like this are the most deceptive of all.
Excerpted from “Only When You Know Yourself Can You Pursue the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks
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.
Excerpted from “God Himself, the Unique II” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Was there any contradiction between God’s change of heart and His wrath? Of course not! This is because God’s tolerance at that particular time had its reason. What reason might this be? It is the one given in the Bible: “Every person turned away from his evil way” and “abandoned the violence in their hands.”
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 his 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 their 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.
Excerpted from “God Himself, the Unique II” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Sermon and Fellowship Excerpts for Reference:
When people admit their mistakes and confess their sins, is this the same as knowing themselves? Can such admission and confession bring about true repentance? For people who only admit the fact of their sin but do not know its roots or essence, despite admitting their sin, and regardless of how good their attitude is, they are incapable of true repentance. The facts of the religious world prove this: People of the religious world often confess their sins before God, but then often sin again, failing to rid themselves of sin right up to when they die. What is the reason for this? It is because they lack true knowledge of themselves. They have confessed their sins, but they have not truly repented and changed. If there really had been repentance and change, their sins ought to have become ever fewer, and ultimately, in their faith in the Lord, they ought not to sin anymore; so why do they persist in sinning, their lives never escaping the vicious circle of sinning and confessing, confessing and sinning? This proves that they have not truly repented. They have not changed. Thus, when people only superficially admit their sins but do not know the essence of these sins, true repentance is impossible, nor can there be true change.
Excerpted from Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life
Why is knowing oneself a true life experience? Because the more you know yourself, the more you are capable of true repentance, and the more you can truly change—and only the experience of being able to attain true repentance and changes in one’s life disposition is true life experience. And so, only knowing oneself is true life experience. Those religious believers in the Lord—people who spend their whole lives expending for the Lord, spreading the gospel, and testifying to the Lord, yet still do not know their own corrupt essence, and simply pray to the Lord each day, confessing their sins and asking for His forgiveness—ultimately, will they truly repent? No. Much of their behavior may be good, but they still often lie and sin, which proves they have not really repented at all. The profound corruption of mankind is chiefly manifested in his lies, his attempts to trick God, and his opposition to God. True repentance is only achieved when he has genuinely become like a child, when he does not lie or try to trick God, and his heart is honest. So why do people not truly repent and change no matter how much they repent and confess their sins to the Lord? After experiencing the judgment and chastisement of God, it is clear to us that this is because people lack knowledge of their nature essence; this is the root of the problem. So when, seeing that they lie, rebel against God, and do not practice the truth, people persist in confessing to God, this does not count as knowing themselves. This is nothing more than beholding the fact of their sin and admitting that they are sinful; the essence and root of their ability to commit these sins, the essential questions of why people lie and try to trick God, meanwhile, remain invisible to them, leaving them incapable of attaining the true knowledge of themselves and true repentance. And so, regardless of how religious people pray to the Lord and confess their sins, they never truly know themselves. True knowledge of yourself is not just identifying what sins you have committed; of chief importance is being clear about the root and essence of your sins, just where these corrupt dispositions of man come from, and how they should be addressed in order to be cleansed. If such issues are not clear to people, and they only admit that they have sinned, then nothing can be solved.
Excerpted from Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life