14. What is engaging in religious ceremony?
Relevant Words of God:
A proper spiritual life is not limited to such practices as praying, singing hymns, participating in church life, and eating and drinking of God’s words. Rather, it involves living a new and vibrant spiritual life. What matters is not how you practice, but what fruit your practice bears. Most people believe that a proper spiritual life necessarily involves praying, singing hymns, eating and drinking the words of God or pondering His words, regardless of whether such practices actually have any effect or lead to true understanding. These people focus on following superficial procedures without any thought to their results; they are people who live in religious rituals, not people who live within the church, and much less are they people of the kingdom. Their prayers, hymn singing, and eating and drinking of God’s words are all just rule-following, done out of compulsion and to keep up with trends, not out of willingness nor from the heart. However much these people pray or sing, their efforts will bear no fruit, for what they practice is just the rules and rituals of religion; they are not actually practicing God’s words. They focus only on making a fuss over how they practice, and they treat God’s words as rules to follow. Such people are not putting God’s words into practice; they are just gratifying the flesh, and performing for other people to see. These religious rules and rituals are all human in origin; they do not come from God. God does not follow rules, nor is He subject to any law. Rather, He does new things every day, accomplishing practical work. Like people in the Three-Self Church, who limit themselves to practices such as attending morning services every day, offering evening prayers and prayers of gratitude before meals, and giving thanks in all things—however much they do and for however long they do it, they will not have the work of the Holy Spirit. When people live amidst rules and have their hearts fixed on methods of practice, the Holy Spirit cannot work, because their hearts are occupied by rules and human notions. Thus, God is unable to intervene and work on them, and they can only continue living under the control of laws. Such people are forever incapable of receiving God’s praise.
Excerpted from “Regarding a Proper Spiritual Life” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
If people treat the truth as dogma to be adhered to in their faith, are they prone to falling into religious ceremony? And what is the difference between adherence to this kind of religious ceremony and the faith of Christianity? There may be differences between the old and new teachings, and what is said may be deeper and more progressive, but if the teachings are nothing more than a kind of theory and if they just become a form of ceremony, of doctrine for people—and, likewise, they cannot gain the truth from it or enter into the reality of the truth, then isn’t their faith just the same as Christianity? In essence, isn’t this Christianity? So in your behavior and the performance of your duty, in which things do you hold the same or similar views to believers in Christianity? The pursuit of superficial good behavior, then doing your utmost to create a pretense for yourselves using the appearance of spirituality; impersonating a spiritual person; giving the appearance of spirituality in what you say, do, and reveal; doing a few things that, in people’s notions and imaginings, are praiseworthy—all this is the pursuit of false spirituality, and it is hypocrisy. You stand upon high speaking words and theory, telling people to do good deeds, to be good people, and to focus on pursuing the truth, but in your own behavior and the performance of your duty, you have never sought the truth, you have never acted according to the principles of the truth, you have never understood what is spoken of in the truth, what God’s will is, what the standards that He requires of man are—you’ve never taken any of this seriously. When you encounter some issues, you act entirely according to your own will and put God aside. Are these external actions and internal states the fear of God and shunning of evil? If there is no connection between people’s faith and their pursuit of the truth, no matter how many years they believe in God, they will be incapable of genuinely fearing God and shunning evil. And so what kind of path can people like that walk? What do they spend their days equipping themselves with? Isn’t it with words and theories? Do they not spend their days arming themselves, dressing themselves up with words and theories, to make themselves more like the Pharisees, more like people who supposedly serve God? What are all these actions? They’re just going through the motions; they’re waving the flag of faith and performing religious rites, trying to deceive God in order to achieve their aim of being blessed. They do not worship God at all. In the end, won’t such a group of people end up just like those within the church who supposedly serve God, and who supposedly believe in and follow God?
Excerpted from “Only If You Live Before God at All Times Can You Walk the Path of Salvation” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Some men have a penchant for drawing attention to themselves. In the presence of their brothers and sisters, they say they are indebted to God, but behind their backs, they do not practice the truth and do entirely otherwise. Are they not religious Pharisees? A man who truly loves God and has the truth is one who is loyal to God, but does not outwardly reveal so. He is willing to practice the truth when matters arise and does not speak or act in a manner going against his conscience. He demonstrates wisdom when matters arise and is principled in his deeds, no matter the circumstances. A man such as this is one who truly serves. There are some who often pay lip service to their indebtedness to God. They spend their days with brows locked in worry, put on an affected air, and feign a wretched countenance. How despicable! And if you were to ask them, “In what ways are you indebted to God? Please tell me!” they would be rendered speechless. If you are loyal to God, then speak not of it in public, but use your actual practice to show your love for God, and pray to Him with a true heart. Those who use only words to deal with God are all hypocrites! Some speak of indebtedness to God with each prayer, and begin to weep whenever they pray, even without the moving of the Holy Spirit. Men such as this are possessed by religious rituals and notions; they live by such rituals and notions, always believing that such actions please God, and that superficial godliness or sorrowful tears are that which God favors. What good can come of such absurd ones? In order to demonstrate their humility, some feign graciousness when speaking in the presence of others. Some are deliberately servile in the presence of others, like a lamb without any strength at all. Is this the manner of people of the kingdom? A person of the kingdom should be lively and free, innocent and open, honest and lovely; one who lives in a state of freedom. He has integrity and dignity, and can stand witness wherever he goes; he is one beloved by both God and man. Those who are novice in the faith have too many outward practices; they must first undergo a period of dealing and breaking. Those who have faith in God in their hearts are not outwardly distinguishable to others, but their actions and deeds are commendable to others. Only such men can be deemed to be living out the word of God. If you preach the gospel every day to this person and that, bringing them to salvation, yet in the end, you are still living in rules and doctrines, then you cannot bring glory to God. Such manner of men are religious people, and hypocrites too.
Excerpted from “In Faith, One Must Focus on Reality—Engaging in Religious Ritual Is Not Faith” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
During the course of man’s entry, life is always boring, full of the monotonous elements of spiritual life, such as doing some praying, eating and drinking the words of God, or forming gatherings, so that people always feel that believing in God brings no great enjoyment. Such spiritual activities are always carried out on the basis of humanity’s original disposition, which has been corrupted by Satan. Although people can sometimes receive the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, their original thinking, disposition, lifestyles and habits are still rooted within, and so their nature remains unchanged. The superstitious activities that people engage in are what God hates the most, but many people are still unable to let go of them, thinking these superstitious activities to be decreed by God, and even today have yet to shed them completely. Such things as the arrangements young people make for wedding feasts and bridal trousseaus; gifts of cash, banquets, and similar ways with which joyous occasions are celebrated; ancient formulae that have been handed down; all the meaningless superstitious activities conducted in behalf of the dead and their obsequies: these are even more detestable to God. Even the day of worship (including the Sabbath, as observed by the religious world) is detestable to Him; and the social relationships and worldly interactions between man and man are all the more despised and rejected by God. Even the Spring Festival and Christmas Day, which are known to everyone, are not decreed by God, let alone the toys and decorations (couplets, New Year cake, firecrackers, lanterns, Christmas gifts, Christmas parties, and Holy Communion) for these festive holidays—are they not idols in the minds of men? The breaking of bread on the Sabbath, wine, and fine linen are even more emphatically idols. All the traditional festival days popular in China, such as the Dragon Heads-raising Day, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Laba Festival, and New Year’s Day, and the festivals in the religious world, such as Easter, Baptism Day, and Christmas Day, all of these unjustifiable festivals have been arranged and handed down from olden times to today by many people, and are thoroughly incompatible with the human race that God created. It is humanity’s rich imagination and ingenious conception that have allowed them to be passed down to today. They appear to be free of flaws, but are in fact tricks Satan plays on humanity. The more a place is thronged with Satans, and the more obsolete and backward that place is, the more deeply entrenched are its feudal customs. These things bind people tight, allowing absolutely no room for movement. Many of the festivals in the religious world seem to display great originality and to create a bridge to the work of God, but they are actually the invisible ties with which Satan binds people from coming to know God—they are all Satan’s cunning stratagems. In fact, when a stage of God’s work is finished, He has already destroyed the tools and the style of that time, without leaving any trace. However, “devout believers” continue to worship those tangible material objects; meanwhile they consign what God has to the back of their minds, studying it no further, seeming to be full of the love of God when they actually pushed Him out of the house long ago and placed Satan on the table to worship. Portraits of Jesus, the Cross, Mary, Jesus’ Baptism and the Last Supper—people venerate these as the Lord of Heaven, all the while repeatedly crying out “God the Father.” Isn’t this all a joke? …
The best way to change human disposition is to reverse those portions of people’s innermost hearts that have been profoundly poisoned, allowing people to begin changing their thinking and morality. First of all, people need to see clearly that all these religious rites, religious activities, years and months, and festivals are hateful to God. They should break free from these bonds of feudal thinking and eradicate every trace of their deep-seated propensity to superstition. These are all included in humanity’s entry.
Excerpted from “Work and Entry (3)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Sermon and Fellowship Excerpts for Reference:
A proper spiritual life includes properly praying, eating and drinking God’s word, fellowshiping on the truth, doing one’s duty, and singing hymns of praise. These practices are very beneficial for people’s entry into the truth and dispositional change. Religious rites, however, are merely going through the motions, not meaning what one says, and being shoddy, perfunctory, and hypocritical. All of these are superficial methods that dupe God. Performance of religious rites is divorced from reality and does not have the slightest reality—it is mouthing words merely for show, and is utterly ineffective. A proper spiritual life is completely based in reality; it comes about from being combined with reality, and moreover it is sincerity that comes from the heart, and as such, it is effective and is gladly accepted by God. Take, for instance, proper prayer: It issues forth from a person’s actual difficulties and issues forth from their needs in life. It represents the sincere urgencies of their inner being, and therefore gains the work of the Holy Spirit. Prayer in the context of religious rites, however, violates this principle. A person might casually mouth a few lines of prayer any time or any place without meaning them, while in his heart he feels fed up and lacking in drive. How could he receive the work of the Holy Spirit? Clearly he does not want to pray yet he forces himself to do it—this is something that goes against principle. Under normal circumstances, a person cannot possibly be constantly praying; when not in prayer, one can eat and drink the word of God and can fellowship on the truth. This is because a spiritual life is something that cannot be regulated, but is only determined according to one’s own condition and actual needs. This is the only way to get good results. A genuine spiritual life is proper and it happens when things occur naturally. It does not in the least consist of observing regulations or conducting rites. Religious rites are all regulations and man-made shams; they don’t involve seeking in earnest. This is why God calls them hypocritical. A proper spiritual life comes about from undergoing God’s work, and is an amalgamation of the work of the Holy Spirit and action initiated by humans. Though there are no regulations or rites in this kind of spiritual life, it truly brings concrete beneficial results. When you shift from religious rites into a proper spiritual life, only then have you entered onto the right track of belief in God.
Excerpted from The Fellowship From the Above