7. The Difference Between External Good Deeds and Changes in Disposition.
Relevant Words of God:
What is the “transformation of disposition”? You must be a lover of truth, accept the judgment and chastisement of God’s word as you experience His work, and experience all kinds of suffering and refining, through which you are purified of the satanic poisons within you. This is the transformation in disposition. … The transformation in disposition spoken of in the house of God means that a person, because he loves and can accept the truth, finally comes to know his disobedient and God-resisting nature; he understands that the corruption of man is too deep and understands man’s absurdness and deceitfulness. He knows man’s poorness and pitifulness, and finally understands the essence of man’s nature. Knowing all this, he can deny and forsake himself completely, live by God’s word, and practice the truth in everything. Such a person knows God and has his disposition transformed.
from “How to Know Man’s Nature” in Records of Christ’s Talks
A transformation in disposition mainly refers to a transformation in your nature. Nature is not something you can see from outside behaviors; nature directly involves the worth and significance of people’s existence. It directly involves the values of human life, the things deep within the soul, and the essence of people. If people couldn’t accept the truth, then they would have no transformations in these aspects. Only if those who experience God’s work have fully entered into the truth, changed their values and outlooks on existence and life, become of the same views as God, and become capable of completely submitting and devoting themselves to God can their dispositions be said to have changed. You may appear to put forth some effort, you might be resilient in the face of hardships, you might be able to carry out the work arrangements from the above, or you might be able to go wherever you are told to go, but these are only small changes in your actions, and they are not enough to be a transformation in your disposition. You might be able to run down many paths, and you might be able to suffer many hardships and endure great humiliation; you might feel very close to God, and the Holy Spirit is working in you, but when God requests you to do something that doesn’t conform to your notions, you still don’t submit, you look for excuses, and you rebel against and resist God, even to the point that you blame God and protest against Him. This is a serious problem! This proves that you still have a nature to resist God and that you have not transformed in the slightest degree.
from “What You Should Know About Transforming Your Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Faith in God does not mean that He requires you to be a good person, to be someone who is well-behaved, or law-abiding, or someone who is unable to think for themselves or use their own brain. People used to think that changes in disposition that came from the belief in God meant being a decent person, that it meant having some human likeness outwardly, well brought-up, and patient, or seeming pious, or loving, and willing to help others, and charitable. In short, it meant being the kind of good person that existed in their conceptions and imagination. This is similar to how there are people in the world who say: “If you’re rich, you should give to the poor or beggars.” … Thus, many people believed that belief in God was nothing more than a few changes in one’s external behavior, thinking, and actions, and there were even some people who believed that faith in God meant suffering much hardship, not eating fine foods, and not wearing fine clothes. In the West, for example, there was a Catholic nun (Catholicism is also a religion; to the nuns, it is also a kind of faith) who believed that belief in God meant spending her whole life suffering more, eating less fine food, not allowing herself to enjoy so many of the finer things in life, and giving money to the poor or needy when she had it—or else doing more good deeds, being more charitable toward people, and being more helpful to others. Throughout her whole life she did nothing but suffer, and did not allow herself to eat any good food or wear any fine clothes. When she died, she wasn’t wearing anything that cost more than two dollars; her daily living expenses, too, amounted to but a few dollars. Her story probably appeared as a general or major news piece across the world. And what does this show? In the eyes of mankind, only someone like this is a good and kind person, only they are one of those whom the religious community believes to do kind things and good deeds, only they have changed, and truly have faith in God. And so it’s possible that you are no different: You undoubtedly believe that believing in God and having faith is about being a good person. And what kind of person? Someone who does not fight with others, or curse them, or swear, someone who does not do bad things, someone who looks as if they believe in God; there are some, moreover, who say being a person that brings glory unto God. … God wishes to save man, He has spoken many words, and done much work—and so what does He wish people to be like? He wishes for their thoughts to be guided by the truth, and for them to live their lives by the mottos of the truth. He does not ask that you be as thoughtless as a puppet, much less does He want you to be as even-tempered as a vegetable, devoid of any normal emotions. Instead, He wishes for you to be a normal person who loves that which He loves, and hates that which He hates, who can delight in what delights Him, and despise and reject that which He despises. … It is because of this that I say you do not know what is meant by changes in disposition. You merely place limits on yourselves in your behavior, in your external actions, and in your temperament and character. It will be impossible for you to achieve changes in your disposition in this way. Where in God’s words does it say, “You should place limits on yourselves, you should watch your words, keep a hold of your emotions, and guard your temper, you should be wary of exposing your natural selves, and should be restrained in the clothes that you buy and wear”? Has He ever said such words? Even where there are references to such things, they are not the crux of His words, nor are they the main truths that bring about changes in people’s disposition. The majority of God’s words speak of man’s corrupt substance, of how to know man’s corrupt substance, how man can achieve changes in his disposition, how he can truly know his corrupt substance, and how he can get free from his corrupt disposition to act according to the requirements of God and be someone who is after God’s own heart, and satisfies God’s desire. If you understand this, will you still put your efforts into external actions? Will you still tie yourselves in knots over such superficial matters? Thus, if you don’t understand the meaning of changes in disposition, you’ll never grasp the substance of changes in disposition, and will never achieve changes in your disposition. In particular, some who have just come from religion have yet to fully make the transfer from religious ceremony and religious thinking and viewpoints in their mindset and outlook toward the belief in God; they still try to be spiritual, and pious, and patient, to be someone who is naturally decent, who loves to do good and give to others. This is utterly wrong! If you pursue being a person such as that, you will never be praised by God.
from “What Changes in Disposition Are and the Path to Changes in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Most people place special emphasis on behavior in their belief in God, as a result of which there are changes occurring in their behavior. After believing in God, they stop contending with others, they stop fighting with people and insulting them, they stop smoking and drinking, they do not steal any public property—whether it be but a nail or a plank of wood—and they even go so far as to not take it to the courts when they suffer losses or are wronged. Without doubt, some changes do occur in their behavior. Because, after believing in God, accepting the true way makes them feel especially good, and because they have also tasted the grace of the work of the Holy Spirit, they are particularly fervent, and there is even nothing that they cannot forsake or do. Yet in the end—after having believed for three, five, ten, or thirty years—because there has been no change in their life disposition, they slide back into old ways, their arrogance and haughtiness grows, and they begin to fight for power and profit, they covet the money of the church, they do anything that serves their interests, they crave status and pleasures, they become parasites of the house of God. Most of the leaders, in particular, are abandoned. And what do these facts prove? Changes in nothing more than behavior are unsustainable. If there is no alteration in people’s life disposition, then sooner or later their wicked side will show itself. Because the source of the changes in their behavior is fervor, coupled with some work by the Holy Spirit at the time, it is extremely easy for them to become fervent, or to be good for a time. As the unbelievers say, “Doing one good deed is easy, what’s hard is doing a lifetime of good deeds.” People are incapable of doing good deeds their whole life. Their behavior is directed by the life; whatever their life is, so is their behavior, and only that which is revealed naturally represents the life, and one’s nature. Things that are fake cannot last. When God works to save man, it is not to adorn man with good behavior—God’s work is in order to change people’s dispositions, to make them reborn into new people. Thus, God’s judgment, chastisement, trials, and refinement of man are all in order to change his disposition, so that he may achieve absolute obedience and faithfulness to God, and the normal worship of God. This is the aim of God’s work. Behaving well is not the same as obeying 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 on the true knowledge of God, or upon the truth, much less do they rest on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Even though there are times when some of what people do is directed by the Holy Spirit, this is not the expression of the life, much less is it the same as knowing God; no matter how good a person’s behavior, it does not prove that they obey God, or that they put the truth into practice. Behavioral changes are a momentary illusion, they are the manifestation of zealousness, and they are not the expression of the life. … People can behave well, but that does not necessarily mean they are possessed of the truth. People’s fervor can only make them abide by doctrine and follow regulation; people who are without the truth have no way of resolving substantive problems, and doctrine cannot stand in for the truth. … Some new believers, after believing in God, have left the secular world behind; when they meet unbelievers they have nothing to say, and they rarely meet with their relatives and friends, and the unbelievers say, “This person has really changed.” So they think, “My disposition really has changed—the unbelievers say I’ve changed.” In fact, has their disposition really changed? It has not. These are merely external changes. There has been no change in their life, and their old nature remains rooted within them, completely untouched. Sometimes, people are gripped by fervor because of the work of the Holy Spirit; some external changes occur, and they do a few good deeds. But this is not the same as changes in disposition. You are without the truth, your view of things has not changed, even no different from that of unbelievers, and your values and outlook on life have not altered. You don’t even have a heart that reveres God, which is the very least that you should possess. Nothing could be further from changes in your disposition.
from “The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks
In the realm of religion, many people suffer not insignificantly their whole lives, subduing their body or bearing their cross, even suffering and enduring until their last breath! Some are still fasting the morning of their death. All their lives they deny themselves nice food and nice clothing, stressing only suffering. They are able to subdue their body and forsake their flesh. Their spirit for enduring suffering is commendable. But their thinking, their notions, their mental attitude, and indeed their old nature—none of these have been dealt with at all. They have no true understanding of themselves. Their mental image of God is the traditional one of an abstract, vague God. Their resolve to suffer for God comes from their zeal and their positive natures. Even though they believe in God, they neither understand God nor know His will. They are only blindly working for and blindly suffering for God. They place no value whatsoever on being discerning and care little about how to ensure that their service actually fulfills God’s will. Even less do they know how to achieve an understanding of God. The God they serve is not God in His original image, but a God that they themselves conjured up, a God they heard of, or a legendary God found in writings. They then use their vivid imaginations and their godly hearts to suffer for God and to take on for God the work that God wants to do. Their service is too inexact, such that there is practically no one truly serving God in a way that fulfills His will. Regardless of how willing they are to suffer, their original perspective on service and their mental image of God remain unchanged because they have not gone through God’s judgment and chastisement and His refinement and perfection, and because no one has led them with the truth. Even if they believe in Jesus the Savior, none of them has ever seen the Savior. They only know of Him through legend and hearsay. Thus their service amounts to no more than serving randomly with eyes closed, like a blind man serving his own father. What ultimately can be achieved through this kind of service? And who would approve of it? From beginning to end, their service never changes at all. They receive only man-made lessons and base their service only on their naturalness and what they themselves are fond of. What reward could this reap? … All those who have not received judgment, not received pruning and dealing, and not changed—are they not the incompletely conquered? Of what use are such people? If your thinking, your understanding of life, and your understanding of God show no new change and result in not even a little real gain, you will never achieve anything remarkable in your service! Without a vision and without a new understanding of God’s work, you cannot be a conquered person. Your way of following God will then be like that of those who suffer and fast—it will be of little value! It is precisely because there is little testimony in what they do that I say their service is futile! Throughout their lives, those people suffer, spend time in prison, and at every moment, they endure, stress love and kindness, and bear their cross. They are slandered and rejected by the world and have experienced every hardship. They obey to the end, but still, they are not conquered and they can offer no testimony of being conquered. They have suffered in no small measure, but inside they do not know God at all. None of their old thinking, old notions, religious practices, man-made understandings, and human ideas have been dealt with. There is no new understanding in them at all. Not even a bit of their understanding of God is true or accurate. They have misunderstood God’s will. Can this be to serve God? … If in believing in God, all you know about is subduing your body and enduring and suffering, and you are unclear on whether what you are doing is right or wrong, much less whom it is for, then how can this kind of practice lead to change?
from “The Inside Truth of the Conquering Work (3)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
Whenever such religious people congregate, they ask, “Sister, how have you been these days?” She replies, “I feel indebted to God and that I am unable to fulfill His heart’s desire.” Another says, “I, too, am indebted to God and unable to satisfy Him.” These few sentences and words alone express the vile things deep within their hearts. Such words are the most loathsome and exceedingly repugnant. The nature of such men opposes God. Those who focus on reality communicate whatever is in their hearts and open their hearts in communication. There is not a single false exercise, no civilities or empty pleasantries. They are always straightforward and observe no earthly rules. There are those who have a penchant for outward display, even without any sense. When another sings, he begins to dance, not even realizing that the rice in his pot has already burned. Such manner of men are not godly or honorable, and are far too frivolous. These are all manifestations of the lack of reality! Some gather to commune about the matters of life in the spirit, and though they speak not of indebtedness to God, they retain a true love for Him within their hearts. Your indebtedness to God has nothing to do with others; you are indebted to God, not man. So what use is it for you to constantly speak of this to others? You must place importance on entering into reality, not outward zeal or display.
What do the superficial good deeds of man represent? They represent the flesh, and even the best of outward practices do not represent life, only your own individual temperament. The outward practices of man cannot fulfill the desire of God. You constantly speak of your indebtedness to God, yet you cannot supply the life of others or provoke others to love God. Do you believe that such actions will satisfy God? You believe that this is God’s heart’s desire, that this is of the spirit, but in truth this is absurd! You believe that what pleases you and what you wish is that which God delights in. Can what pleases you represent that of God? Can the character of man represent God? What pleases you is precisely that which God abhors, and your habits are that which God loathes and rejects. If you feel indebted, then go and pray before God. There is no need to speak of it to others. If you do not pray before God and instead constantly draw attention to yourself in the presence of others, can this fulfill the desire of God’s heart? If your actions are always in appearance only, this means that you are the most vain of men. What manner of man is he who only has superficial good deeds but is devoid of reality? Such men are hypocritical Pharisees and religious people! If you do not put off your outward practices and cannot make changes, then the elements of hypocrisy in you will grow even more. The greater the elements of hypocrisy, the more resistance there is to God, and in the end, such manner of men will surely be cast away!
from “Believing in God Should Focus on Reality, Not Religious Rituals” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
It may be that in all your years of faith in God, you have never cursed anyone nor committed a bad deed, yet in your association with Christ, you cannot speak the truth, act truthfully, or obey the word of Christ; then I say that you are the most devious and sinister in the world. If you are especially cordial and loyal to your relatives, friends, wife (or husband), sons and daughters, and parents, and never take advantage of others, yet you cannot be compatible and at peace with Christ, then even if you send your all in relief to your neighbors or have taken good care of your father, mother, and household, I still say that you are wicked, and cunning, too. Do not think that you are compatible with Christ if you are compatible with man or perform some good deeds. Do you believe that your kindness can purloin the blessing of Heaven? Do you think that good deeds are a substitute for your obedience? None of you can accept dealing and pruning, and all find it difficult to accept the normal humanity of Christ. Yet you always claim obedience to God. Such faith as yours will bring upon a fitting retribution.
from “Those Incompatible With Christ Are Surely Opponents of God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
The Man’s Fellowship:
People who are without the truth talk about living out a good humanity as if it is the same as the truth. Do you dare warrant that living out a good humanity corresponds to the truth? Do you dare warrant that it is something positive? Well, what say you: Is the love of man the same as the love of God? It is not. Sometimes, the love of man is the love of Satan, it is an emotional love, a love that is born out of one’s own desires and interests. To give a simple example: If someone is demonic in nature, if they love demons, what kind of love do they have? They do not love God, but they love demons. Is this not the love of Satan? The love of Satan goes against the truth, it is in enmity to the truth, and it runs contrary to what God has and is and to the love of God. Do not think that having love makes people good. Their love is without the truth, it is the love of negative things, and so it is the love of Satan. Is not some of their goodness in opposition to the truth? Some of people’s goodness is in opposition to the truth, and so, even though to others they seem like good people, and appear admirable and praiseworthy, they are not necessarily after God’s heart, and could be a negative person. Is this not right? So, regardless of whether the corrupt seem good or bad to people, to God they are all of Satan, they are all possessed of a satanic disposition, they are all corrupt, and they are all in enmity to God. Let us cite some examples: How, say you, could people in religion nail Christ to the cross? And when they nailed Christ to the cross, what were their motivations? Did they believe their motivations were wrong? They thought they were being faithful to God, that they were upholding the work of God, and standing firm in their testimony—yet in the eyes of God they were opposing Him, and were His enemies. What do you think of that? Today, the religious community condemns God’s work of the last days, they have once more nailed Christ to the cross, and in their heads they think they are upholding the work of God, and being faithful to God, and not in enmity to God. They think that only they love God, that only they are most faithful to God. Isn’t that what they think? So, to the corrupt, in thinking and acting this way, what they are doing is right, and totally correct—yet, to God, they are unquestionably opposed to Him, they are His enemies. How do you interpret this? Does being good mean that people are after God’s heart? Does it mean they are righteous? Does it mean they are compatible with God? And thus, without the truth, are people able to be after God’s own heart? Without the truth, are they not in opposition to God? So is people’s goodness positive or negative? In most cases, people’s goodness is negative, because it is too impure, it has been tainted with the venom of Satan, and contains nothing of the truth. And so, when their “motivations” are good, in their actions they are not necessarily putting the truth into practice, and could be opposing God, and in flagrant enmity to God; full proof of this is found in the religious community’s opposition and rebellion against God, and in their crucifixion of Christ for a second time. … Thus, when people “live out,” when they do “the right thing” and do “good deeds,” these do not necessarily correspond to the truth; some of their actions oppose God, and can even be described as evil, or perverse, or in betrayal of God. Now you see these things clearly, yes? No matter how good people imagine something to be, this does not mean they are possessed of the truth, or reality; only putting the truth into practice is having reality.
from “Fellowship and Preaching Concerning God’s Words ‘Only Putting the Truth Into Practice Is Having Reality’” in Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life (VI)