14. What is engaging in religious ceremony?
Relevant Words of God:
A normal spiritual life is not limited to prayer, song, church life, eating and drinking the words of God, and other such practices, but it means to live a spiritual life that is fresh and lively. It’s not about the method, but the result. Most people think that in order to have a normal spiritual life one must pray, sing, eat and drink the words of God, or try to figure out the words of God. No matter whether there is any result, or whether there is a true understanding, these people just focus on going through the motions on the outside, and do not focus on the result—they are people living within the rituals of religion, and are not people living within the church, and even less are they people of the kingdom. This kind of person’s prayers, songs, and eating and drinking of the words of God are all abiding by the rules, they are compelled to do them, and they are done in keeping with trends; they are not done willingly or done from the heart. No matter how much these people pray or sing, there will be no result at all, because all they practice are religious rules and rituals, and they are not practicing the word of God. By only focusing on the method, and taking the words of God as rules to keep, this kind of person is not practicing the word of God, but is satisfying the flesh, and is doing things to show off to others. This kind of religious ritual and rule comes from man, not from God. God does not keep rules, does not abide by any laws; He does new things every day and He does practical work. Like the people in the Three-Self Church who are limited to daily morning watch, evening prayers, giving thanks before meals, expressing thanks in everything, and other such practices, no matter how much these people do, or how long they practice, they will not have the work of the Holy Spirit. If people live within rules, with their hearts poured into practice, then the Holy Spirit has no way to work, because people’s hearts are taken up with rules, are taken up with human conceptions; therefore God has no way to do work; people will just always be living under control of the law, and this type of person will never be able to receive the praise of God.
from “Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
If people treat the truth as dogma, is it easy for them to fall into religious ceremony? (It is.) And what is the difference between this kind of religious ceremony and Christianity? It could be that what is said is deeper, more progressive, and newer, it’s deeper and more profound, but if it becomes doctrine and a form of ceremony, then does it become Christianity? There is a difference between the old and new teachings, but if the teachings are merely a kind of theory, and if they merely become a form of ceremony in people, a kind of doctrine—and, likewise, people don’t gain the reality of the truth from within, and haven’t entered into the reality of the truth, then is their belief the belief of Christianity? In substance, is this Christianity? (Yes.) …
… They spend all day arming themselves with words and theory, to create an impression, to make themselves more like the Pharisees, more spiritual, more like people who serve God, yes? (Yes.) So what are all these actions? Do these people worship God? Do they truly believe in God? (No.) So what are they doing? (Deceiving and opposing God.) Yes, they are deceiving God, they’re just going through the motions, they’re performing religious ceremony; using the belief in God to put on a pretense, they’re performing religious ceremony and trying to deceive God in order to achieve their aim of being blessed. They do not worship God. Will such a group of people end up like those who supposedly serve God in church buildings, and who supposedly believe in God and follow God—will they be any different?
from “Only If You Live Before God at All Times Can You Walk the Path of Salvation” in Records of Christ’s Talks
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 him, “In what ways are you indebted to God? Please tell me!” he 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 character 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.
from “Believing in God Should Focus on Reality, Not Religious Rituals” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Even Sunday (the Sabbath, as observed by Jews) 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.
from “Work and Entry (3)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The Man’s Fellowship:
Normal spiritual life includes normal prayer, normal eating and drinking of God’s word, normal fellowship about truth, doing one’s duty in a normal way, and singing hymns of praise in a normal way. This kind of practice is very beneficial for entry into the truth and for change of disposition. Religious rites, however, are going through the motions, having no heart in the words, being shoddy and perfunctory, and hypocritical. All of these are exterior methods that dupe God. Performance of religious rites is divorced from reality, and does not have the slightest practicality. It is the mouth speaking only as a show for others, and has no effect at all. Normal spiritual life is completely based on reality. Union with reality gives rise to it, and even more it is sincerity that issues from the heart within. It therefore has considerable effects, and is accepted by God. Take for instance normal prayer. It starts from one’s own difficulties and issues forth from the needs of life. It represents the sincere urgencies of the 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 utter a few prayers any time or any place without feeling, while he feels fed up and meaningless in his heart. How could he receive the work of the Holy Spirit? Clearly he does not want to pray yet he forces himself to pray. This is something that violates principle. Under normal circumstances, a person cannot always have prayer; rather, one can eat and drink the word of God when not praying, and can fellowship about the truth. This is because spiritual life cannot be regulated. It is only determined according to one’s own condition and actual needs. Only in this way is the result good. Genuine spiritual life is normal, and it happens when nature takes its course. It does not in the least consist of observing regulations, nor does it conduct rites. Religious rites are all regulations and man-made displays and are not seeking in earnest. That is why God calls them hypocritical. Normal spiritual life comes about because of experience of God’s work, and contains the union of the work of the Holy Spirit with action initiated by humans. Though this kind of spiritual life does not have regulations or rites, it truly brings concrete beneficial results. When you move from religious rites into normal spiritual life, you have entered onto the right track of belief in God.
from The Fellowship From the Above