Chapter 21. The Four Stages of Life Experience From Believing in God to Being Saved
●The Four Stages of Life Experience
From believing in God to achieving perfection, our life experience can be summed up in four main stages. We all must have a clear understanding of these; afterward, we each should take stock of which stage we have reached in life experience, as well as where we should put our efforts in order to enter a higher one.
The first stage of life experience is that of doing service. Why is this called the service-doing stage? It is because people all believe in God with their intention, and their corrupt disposition is still intact; as a result, when they begin to develop faith in God, they do so in order to gain blessings and to satisfy their individual desires and intentions. As such, their faith involves a sort of intention to negotiate. This exchange-oriented belief in God primarily is expressed by the thoughts: To obtain blessings, I should discard something; to be crowned, I should spend something; to be granted God’s rewards, I should pay some sort of price. Thus, what people spend and discard, and the prices they pay, carry with them the premise that a transaction will take place. People are paying a price for the purpose of being given blessings at this stage—they are paying in order to achieve their individual goals—which is why it is called the service-doing stage. Service-doing as it is called, means that our having this kind of belief in God is precisely what He does not approve of or give consent for. We bring our individual intentions to obtain blessings with us to make an exchange with God; this is an expression of our vileness and corruption, and is the reason we are unable to be accepted by God. Due to this sort of expenditure or effort not being an implementation of the truth or designed to satisfy God, but instead being done for people’s own purposes and out of their own intentions, no such expenditures made in the service-doing stage will therefore be commemorated by God, nor will such people receive God’s blessings. Whatever you do, no matter how much you spend, what price you pay, or how much you suffer, God will neither praise nor reward you. Why is this? There is a problem here. God loathes human intentions and hates their selfishness and schemes to achieve their own goals—especially the attitude that faith is an opportunity for negotiation. From this it is evident that God is holy and humans are corrupt. Humans are objects of creation, and should show unconditional obedience to their Lord and a willingness to satisfy Him without asking for anything in return. If your intent to satisfy God comes from a sense of love, obedience, and human conscience and reason, then God will approve of and praise you; if you are hoping to get something in return, He will detest you. From this we can see that God is holy and noble, while humans are filthy, corrupt, and base. God does not like or want to see people try to bring their intentions, ambitions, and ulterior motives with them to negotiate with Him. This should allow us to discover the conscience and reason that objects of creation should possess while before God. He has come to save humans, who are corrupt. Do they have any right to make dealings with Him? They do not. Because God originally comes to save humans and transform their disposition, He therefore will judge and chastise them and reveal their corruption. If people try to negotiate with God, they have overstepped their bounds. Humans belong to God and were created by God. If they try to negotiate with Him, aren’t they then overstepping their bounds? People have too little conscience and rationality; they are objects of creation, and should unconditionally obey God and fulfill His wishes. This is only what is right and proper. Thus, when people try to trade with God, He detests them and is disgusted with them, and will not accept it. Many people, when making expenditures for God, making sacrifices for God, and suffering for God, are trying to negotiate with Him; as such, they cannot obtain God’s praise. During this stage, nothing people pay or spend for God will be commemorated by Him; hence, this is the service-doing stage. Why is it known as the service-doing stage? To what does this “service-doing” refer? What is the difference between doing service and fulfilling one’s duty? These questions must be clearly understood. Doing one’s duty is a compulsory obligation owed by all objects of creation to their creator which everyone must completely fulfill. This is humanity’s duty and unalterable responsibility. Therefore, fulfilling your duty means that you are part of God’s family; you were created by God. This is your responsibility, so you must do your best to meet it. If you can occupy the position of being an object of creation and meet this obligation, then this is called fulfilling your duty. If you cannot recognize the fact that you are an object of creation, do not know what responsibilities you should meet, and negotiate with God and only put forth a bit of effort based on your intent to obtain blessings and your own ambitions, then this is called serving; it is not called performing one’s duty. Doing service very obviously does not refer to the responsibilities fulfilled to the best of their abilities by the members of God’s family; rather, it means a bit of effort put by the outsiders. If you do not fulfill your duties in the position of an object of creation, then all of your actions will be the efforts and services of an outsider. From this sort of example we can also come to understand that, for instance, doing work in one’s own home is called something different from hiring someone from the outside to do the work instead, right? What do housekeeper and servants refer to? Those are outsiders, and the tasks they are given to do are called services. If people in your own home are doing their best to complete the tasks for which they are responsible, then this is known as fulfilling their duties. Duty is also something that you yourself should do your best to fulfill; duty is a name for the responsibilities you must meet. Therefore, God speaks of people who do not understand the truth and are not doing their utmost to fulfill their duties while in the position of objects of creation as service-doers; this is perfectly suitable, and from this we can see God’s righteousness and holiness. The service-doing stage primarily refers to the period from when people begin to believe in God to when they set foot on the right track. Generally, it takes around two or three years for people to go through this stage; however, they must be people who pursue the truth. If people begin to pursue the truth right after they believe in God, and within a year or two they gain a real knowledge of God’s work and of the duties they should fulfill as objects of creation, as well as the significance of performing one’s duties, they will have begun to have a willingness to perform those duties. People who are willing to do this think, “This is my responsibility; this is what is right and proper. It is what I should do, and I don’t need to bargain for it, nor do I require any recompense from anyone for this work. Like the filial responsibilities of sons and daughters to their parents, this is my God-given duty.” If they can fulfill their duties like this, then they will be granted God’s praise. Because you have not tried to negotiate or give any conditions, and are completely meeting your obligations as an object of creation in order to repay God’s love, satisfy Him, and comfort Him, you have entered the stage of formally fulfilling your duty. The ability of fulfilling one’s duty with a clear conscience and without trying to shirk any responsibilities is not something that can be achieved by people who have merely begun to have faith and heard a few sermons; they must first be equipped with some truths and possess knowledge of God’s work, and understand the significance of the fact that God is doing these sorts of work in order to bring salvation to humanity. They also must know which responsibilities and obligations they, as objects of creation, have toward their Creator. They must have knowledge of these things. People who do not possess knowledge of God’s work will not willingly fulfill their duties or know what work God has come to do; they will simply believe in God, without doing their best to meet their obligations. A lot of people these days, after experiencing God’s work for a year or two, and upon seeing the deep significance in this stage of God’s work, say, “Right now this work is being done among us Chinese, and in the future, if it is done among all corrupt humans around the world, then the entire world will begin to change, and the kingdom of Christ will appear. God’s work is so meaningful! I must do everything I can to fulfill my duty; this is a responsibility that is mine to meet. It is an obligation bound by heaven and earth, and one which I absolutely cannot shirk.” As you can see, when people fulfill their duties upon a foundation of understanding the truth and of recognizing this vision, they are not trying to negotiate or ask for anything in return, nor do they mention any conditions; this enables them to do their utmost to return God’s love. Such people’s life experiences will have entered the second stage—the duty-fulfilling stage. When it comes to people who do not seek out the truth, during the service-doing stage, can they be purified of their intent to believe in God in order to gain His blessings and of their extravagant desires? No, they cannot. They are not after the truth, so they will not have true entry in their experience in life, and thus they will always be stuck in the service-doing stage. They will stay there for three years, five years, a decade, two decades…, never advancing. Only people who are in pursuit of the truth can, after a year or two, obtain knowledge of God’s work and of the duties they should fulfill. If they cannot fulfill their duties, they will feel that they have no conscience, that they have turned their backs on God, that they have acted contrary to His will, and that they do not deserve to live in His presence. Thus, they must do their duties; only then can they live in God’s presence, be at peace with their consciences, and be comforted. Only people like that can genuinely understand the truth. Some say, “The service-doing stage lasts two or three years or so, and I have believed in God for five or six years. Am I still in the service-doing stage?” This depends on your situation and what exactly your intentions are in fulfilling your duties. Are you doing it as a way of negotiating for God’s blessings, or for some other purpose? If you are performing your duties as the necessary obligations of any object of creation, without hoping for anything in return, making any requests, or mentioning any conditions, but instead are doing them willingly and cheerfully without shirking any responsibilities, and not demanding recompense or asking for anything in return no matter how many duties you fulfill—meaning, even if one day you cannot be saved and God doesn’t want you, you still will have no regrets—then this sort of fulfilling of duties is something that God can accept, and you will have entered the second stage: The duty-fulfilling stage.
The second stage of life experience is the duty-fulfilling stage. Entering it is the result attained after being thoroughly conquered by God’s utterances and gaining some genuine knowledge of His disposition and the essence of corrupt humanity. Once people recognize the fact that before God, corrupt humans are not even worthy of doing service for Him—let alone of receiving His blessings—and once they see that corrupt humans are overly selfish and mean, rebellious toward God, and extremely lacking in conscience and rationality, deep down they will begin to develop genuine hatred toward their corrupt essence and corrupt flesh. When this happens, they will want to satisfy God and repent truthfully before Him so that they may repay God’s love. This in turn will lead them to develop a genuine intention to fulfill their duties—no longer with the ulterior motive of making deals with God, but purely out of a desire to satisfy Him and repay His love. These are the conditions that lead their life experience into the duty-fulfilling stage. If people who have believed in God for years are not thoroughly conquered by His words, cannot see His righteous disposition, and, moreover, cannot recognize the corrupt essence of humanity, then they will not possess any real intention to fulfill their duties. As for those who can sincerely fulfill their duties, and who see them as their rightful obligations and as responsibilities that cannot be shirked, such people will not approach their duties with the intention or hope of getting blessings in return, of making deals, or of making demands. Only those who fulfill their duties this way have truly repented before God. Their conscience and sense have returned to normal, and they know to repay God for His love and understand that only if a person fulfills his or her duties properly will he or she be worthy of being called human and of living before God. This is sufficient proof that people can only achieve this sort of result after being conquered by God’s words and recovering some of their conscience and rationality, as well as gaining a bit of knowledge of God’s disposition and the corrupt essence of humanity. Those who are not in pursuit of the truth cannot achieve this result. No matter how many years they have believed in God, they still will not be able to let go of their intention to gain blessings; regardless of how long they have had faith, they still will be making demands of God, and their offers to fulfill their duties will come with strings attached. Once truth-seekers gain some real knowledge of God, their life disposition will start to transform, and they will begin to see their duty in the correct light. This is the result people attain once they understand the truth. Anyone who has no genuine knowledge of fulfilling duty and cannot see it from the right perspective has not comprehended the truth. In other words, such a person has yet to gain a real understanding of the truth. It can be said that those who can enter the second stage of life experience—the duty-fulfilling stage—are all people who pursue the truth rather hard and possess some conscience and rationality. These people all have hope of obtaining salvation from God and being made perfect. In God’s family, those who fulfill their duties unconditionally—without making any demands—and who are equally loyal to God, regardless of how they are treated, are sure to be saved. Those who cannot completely fulfill their duties, or who, despite having every favorable condition to perform their duties, cannot do them frequently, or who cannot endure the suffering that comes from meeting their obligations, or who, in fulfilling their duties, set conditions and try to bargain for something in return, and even cannot do their duties without being coaxed or having someone talk it over with them—I can say with certainty that no such people are in pursuit of the truth, so not a single one of those who do not pursue the truth is willing to perform his or her duty. Whether or not one can obtain salvation and is pursuing the truth can be revealed and ascertained by how well one fulfills one’s duties; this is absolutely true. … The primary state under which people enter the second stage—the duty-fulfilling stage—is that in their faith in God, they have basically resolved their intentions and desires to obtain blessings or making dealings. As such, they can fulfill their duties willingly and without shirking them. Those who can perform their duties to God’s satisfaction while remaining loyal are the ones who have entry into life. It can be said that people who are loyal and not perfunctory in the fulfillment of their duties are all people who have entry into life and have reality. Those who cannot fulfill their duties to God’s satisfaction, but instead keep making conditions, fooling around, plotting for personal gain, taking advantage, and harming others for their own benefit do not possess even the tiniest bit of truth and do not have any reality. The level to which people fulfill their duties can illustrate how their life experience is, how big their stature is, and whether they have reality in their belief in God. If you want to know how a person is in these respects, you can easily get the answer from his performance of his duties—and that answer will be absolutely accurate. … During the duty-fulfilling stage, a person’s conscience and rationality have just been restored, and he or she has, before God, begun to eat and drink of God’s utterances, seek the truth, and formally accept and obey God’s work, and enter into reality. If they continue seeking in earnest, then it is safe to say that they will certainly be able to attain salvation and become perfected. Those who formally perform their duties can be categorized as ones who have set foot upon the right track of believing in God. After this happens, they will seek salvation and perfection; these are the goals of their experience of God’s work. After understanding the truth, their life dispositions will begin to change. Their performance of their duties will grow more and more effective, and the ones they complete will meet God’s demands and be completely in line with His will. Such fulfillment of duties will receive God’s praise. After they have begun to fulfill their duties and seek perfection, and once this fulfillment of their duties is in tune with God’s heart, they will be allowed to serve God. Those who perform their duties before God have the most promise. Regardless of who you are, and no matter how corrupt you may have been in the past, if you can fulfill your duty loyally, seek out the truth, and succeed in satisfying God’s will, then it is safe to say that your efforts to fulfill your duties will be accepted by God, and for Him, all your duties fulfilled will be deserving of being called good deeds. People who fulfill their duties and can be praised and approved of by God for their good deeds will certainly receive God’s blessings. When the duties people fulfill can be called good deeds, their fulfilling of duties will be in line with God’s will. The results achieved by people in pursuit of the truth are primarily expressed in the duties they perform. The more a person comprehends the truth, the better the results that are bound to come of his or her performance of duties and work. Those who do not seek the truth will not see any results in their work or duty-fulfilling, and are certain to fool about too much and muddle along too much, have too many impurities, and bring exorbitant losses to their brothers and sisters. Those who pursue the truth can also express corruptions while fulfilling their duties, but they can recognize them and repent. As their understanding of the truth deepens, the fulfillment of their duties will finally satisfy God completely, and there won’t be impurities mixed. Therefore, whether or not people are able to fulfill their duties to God’s satisfaction depends on whether or not they seek the truth. If they are truly people who seek the truth, then after pursuing it for, say, three or five years, their fulfillment of their duties will definitely meet God’s demands. When people have first entered the duty-fulfilling stage, although they might be somewhat perfunctory, go through the motions, and cheat some while performing their duties, and their performance of them might be mixed with some human will, their duties are nevertheless done willingly and without any ulterior motive for recompense; this is certain. Despite not seeking remuneration or having any extravagant desires, they will sometimes be perfunctory or go through the motions, and cheat, and occasionally do worse things. For people who seek truth, this is their moment of knowing themselves, and is the best opportunity for them to enter and understand the truth. No matter what duties people seeking truth are trying to fulfill, they can always combine their entry into life with their pursuit of truth; regardless of what aspect of the truth they comprehend, they can practice it in fulfilling their duties, and carry it out. Therefore, performing one’s duties is the most fundamental form of putting the truth into practice. Putting one’s obedience of God into practice primarily happens through the fulfillment of one’s duties, as does practicing being honest people. Likewise, to put one’s loyalty to God into practice, one also must fulfill one’s duties. This is also the crux of the matter for people who wish to worship God. Regardless of what aspect of the truth, they can, by fulfilling their duties, succeed in living up to it, implementing it, and entering into an even more profound experience of it. If you do not fulfill your duties, then saying you understand and are practicing the truth will just be empty words with no reality, because you have not put the truth you have understood into practice in reality. You do not have true entry into it or true practice of it. People who do not fulfill their duties are far too limited in their practice of the truth. For example, how can you practice being an honest person? Can you be considered an honest person if you merely do not lie when you are interacting with others? So why are you unable to fulfill your duties as an object of creation? Do you possess a conscience, and rationality? Without conscience or rationality, how can you have humanity? If you cannot fulfill your duties before God, you have not fulfilled your own responsibilities. If you have not fulfilled your duties, then you are not worthy of standing before God. How can such a person be honest? Thus, the practice of any aspect of the truth can be realized through the fulfillment of one’s duties. Fulfilling one’s duties is the best way to enter reality, and is the most crucial, fundamental expression of putting the truth into practice and obeying God. If one can fulfill one’s duties up to the standard required, then he or she can certainly also qualify as an honest person, qualify as one who submits to God, qualify as one who carries out the truth, qualify as one who serves God, and can be said to be one who actually worships God. Worshiping God is not just a matter of using your mouth; primarily, it requires fulfilling your duties, your practical actions, and actual conducts to express your love for God and to express your admiration of God. Because people entering the second stage of their life experience have gained some knowledge of the significance of their faith in God, of being saved, and of God’s disposition, they begin formally to fulfill their duties—to fulfill these duties that are incumbent upon them—and can do so without any conditions, without asking for anything in return, and without bargaining for anything. This is a starting point for entering reality of life. However, because people’s understanding of the truth is limited, their life disposition has not changed fundamentally; as a result, in doing their duties, they still might be perfunctory or just go through the motions, and sometimes will engage in deception and pretense. This is difficult to avoid, because this is the second stage of life experience. During this stage, while being put through trials, people can still complain and are even in danger of turning their backs on God. Upon encountering frustrations and failure, they can still become negative, discouraged, and weak. Sometimes they can also stop fulfilling their duties. All of these things happen because the stature of humans is too small and their understanding of the truth is too shallow. If people in the duty-fulfilling stage can pursue the truth and can submit to God’s work, then fewer and fewer of expressions of these corruptions will appear, and they will be perfunctory or go through the motions less and less. If people can resolve their problem of complaining when being subjected to trials, and if they can also resolve their notions about any given aspect of God’s work, their erroneous tendency to pass judgment on it, and their resistance against it, and can achieve absolute submission to God, obeying God no matter what God does, and furthermore, if they are able to submit to God’s work, whether it be His pruning and dealing, His judgment and chastisement, or His trials and refinements, and they can follow along closely with each step of God’s work without giving up or turning their backs on God, there will thus be hope for such people to enter the third stage of life experience in their belief in God, which is the stage of true devotion. While in the duty-fulfilling stage, if people can pursue the truth, gain a real knowledge of their corrupt essence, truly know where they can still resist God and turn their backs on God, and can examine themselves in all things, then it is safe to say that after three to five years at most, these problems of corruption can basically be resolved. The second stage tends to last for around three years. The main problems to be resolved are: On the one hand, the problems of fulfilling one’s duties perfunctorily, lacking loyalty; furthermore, the problem of passing judgment on God’s work when it is not in line with their notions. Another is the problematic tendency to become discouraged and weak when undergoing trials, and to fail, fall down, or turn their backs on God. If all these problems are resolved, we can say that this person has begun to approach the third stage of life experience, which is the stage of serving God. Even though people who are in the second stage of life experience are crystal-clear about the vision of their belief in God, have gained some knowledge of God’s righteous disposition, and can willingly and readily fulfill their duties without asking for anything in return or trying to bargain, because their corrupt disposition still exists, they are still prone to disobeying God and resisting God, and still sometimes just go through the motions or try to deceive God. This is especially true when God’s work seems out of keeping with their notions; they can still draw their own conclusions. If they are pruned and dealt with by God, they might still resist God, draw conclusions about God, and complain. From these expressions it is apparent that the life disposition of people who have entered the second stage of life experience has not undergone a fundamental transformation; it has simply undergone some minor changes after these people have been conquered. What do these “minor changes” primarily refer to? They mean that their desire to obtain blessings has been resolved. They no longer believe in God in order to obtain blessings, but rather to obtain salvation. Their faith no longer depends on their individual extravagant desires, and their attitude of trying to bargain with God or get something from Him in return has basically been resolved. These are the sorts of transformations achieved by people who have been conquered by God, but there have not been any major changes in their life disposition. As a result, while fulfilling their duties, they still possess a lot of disobedience and resistance. This is a normal phenomenon. Now you understand, right? Don’t assume that upon entering the duty-fulfilling stage people can basically be in tune with God’s will, or that because they have not tried to get something in return or strike a bargain for fulfilling their duties they certainly won’t go through the motions. People who think this are wrong. These days we see that there are quite a few people who genuinely have not asked for anything in return while performing their duties. However, after performing their duties for a few years, because they have committed too much evil and just gone through the motions too often, their efforts have been ineffective; as a result, they have been eliminated. They have been eliminated, yet they have not complained; they just keep following God in the same way, believing in God the way they always have, and remain with God. Why is this? It shows that in fulfilling their duties, they are no longer asking for anything in return or trying to make any deals; they have reached this point. After having spent a lot of time and energy and suffered greatly, they are still able to do evil and can still go through the motions; it’s just that when being pruned and dealt with, they do not complain. From this point of view, the life disposition of people entering the duty-fulfilling stage has not undergone any major transformations; it has only undergone a few minor changes. Some people have been fulfilling their duties for years yet continue to just go through the motions, still engage in deception, and still are prone to disobeying God and resisting God in some areas. Some people even commit evil and disturb or demolish the work of God’s family. What is the reason for this? Primarily it is because they have not really obtained the truth, so there has not been any real change in their life disposition. Fulfilling one’s duties without seeking the truth is no good. No matter what duties people who are not seeking the truth might perform, they can never meet God’s demands. Thus, anyone who is fulfilling his or her duties without also seeking the truth is just doing service and can never obtain God’s praise.
The third stage of life experience—the stage of true devotion—can also be said to be the stage at which one begins to enter reality. People entering this third stage, after their faith in God is on the right track, have begun to pay attention to submitting to God’s work, accepting His judgment and chastisement, and pursuing the truth, and have started to perform their duties in order to attain salvation. From when people formally perform their duties—that is, when they willingly pay the price to do so, and fulfill their own obligations in order to pursue the truth and obtain salvation—they then begin to set foot upon the right track of belief in God. After they have begun to walk upon the right track of faith in God, they come to understand that the true significance of their belief in God lies in finding salvation; it is not to obtain blessings, and what’s more, they should not have any extravagant individual desires. If people can pursue the truth, pay the price, and perform their duties in order to attain salvation, this is a sign that they have entered the right track of belief in God. Anyone who believes in God yet is not performing his or her duties has not set foot upon the right track. Without a doubt, they still believe in God for the sake of obtaining blessings, and for their own individual intentions and objectives. They certainly do not comprehend or understand God’s will, let alone know God’s work. They are just stubbornly holding onto their intention to obtain blessings, refusing to let go. They think that if the purpose of their belief in God is not to obtain blessings, then there is no reason to believe in Him. No matter how many years such people have believed, they still have not gotten their faith onto the right track. After setting foot upon the right track of belief in God, people begin to focus on submitting to God’s work, accepting God’s judgment and chastisement, knowing their own corrupt disposition, and accepting the truth and being purified. At this point, they have commenced their real life experience. After getting on the right track, as for those who achieve a genuine knowledge of their own corrupt essence, see that they have indeed been living in Satan’s image, and lack even the slightest vestige of human likeness, such people are ones who truly pursue the truth; as for those who have believed in God for years yet have an overly shallow understanding of their own corrupt essence, or merely admit that they have been corrupted by Satan and that they can rebel against God and resist God, such people all lack any real knowledge of their own corrupt essence. Anyone who has not entered into life is certainly one who has no life experience. After getting on the right track of belief in God, people will basically have seen confirmation that God’s work is to bring salvation to humans, and will have gained a clear understanding that only by pursuing the truth can they be saved. Therefore, the majority of them can do their utmost to pursue the truth, seek knowledge of their own corrupt essence, and focus on accepting God’s judgment and chastisement. In this way, for all those who are pursuing the truth and earnestly performing their duties, the more they know their own corrupt essence, the more quickly they will enter into life and the more quickly they will make progress in life. Anyone who does not genuinely pay the price to pursue the truth will not make any significant progress toward knowing his or her corrupt essence. Believing in God for years, such people have not been able to understand these things: To what degree they are corrupt, why God said people are all Satan’s descendants, why God said they do not have the image or likeness of a human. Such people have always believed they are just a little bit corrupt but that they are still good people; they have always thought they are better than others, and have always assumed they could not possibly resist God or turn their backs on God, let alone be the evil ones. Such people are not ones who truly know themselves. Do those who do not truly know themselves possess the truth or not? Do people who do not possess the truth have reality? Certainly not. So just what does entering reality refer to? Entering reality happens when one truly enters into God’s words; it is the result achieved by means of genuinely knowing God’s words. Genuinely knowing God’s words means having a real understanding of oneself in all of God’s words, possessing knowledge of one’s own corrupt essence, knowing how deeply one’s own corruption runs and how one manifests it in daily life, and understanding to whom one’s nature belongs. Only those who have achieved these results have genuinely entered into God’s words. … When people formally perform their duties—meaning, once they have gotten onto the right track of faith in God—they can, while performing their duties, develop a real knowledge of their own corrupt essence. After they have gained this real knowledge of their own corrupt essence, seen that they are unreliable, and seen that they are still capable of turning their backs on God, people will completely concede that God’s words are true: “The chance that you will betray Me remains at one-hundred percent.” Would you say that it is easy to gain this level of experience? At the very least it takes about three years to achieve this level. Furthermore, during these three or so years, would it be okay if you have no one to lead you? Would it be alright if you have no one to water you? Would it be okay if there is no one to prune you and deal with you? It would not be okay to go without any of those things. If people have achieved these sorts of results during the duty-performing stage and have gained an understanding of their own corrupt essence, they will have begun to feel that they themselves are unreliable, that they need God’s chastisement and judgment, need God to prune them and deal with them, and need God’s various trials and refinements. They will believe that if they leave such work of God, they will most certainly not be able to attain salvation and absolutely will not be saved; that this is precisely the kind of work corrupt humans need, and that they need such salvation of God. Only then will people’s life experience begin to enter the third stage. Entering the third stage means entering the stage of true devotion. A little while ago we explained the background behind this stage of true devotion; it is established upon the foundation of having developed a real knowledge of one’s own corrupt essence, of being able to see the corruption one reveals, and of being able to know what one can do—that is, what one can actually think of and see. In this sort of situation, people feel that corrupt humanity is in desperate need of salvation from God incarnate. If they still believe in the God in heaven, if God remains in heaven without becoming flesh, if they continue to rely on the Holy Spirit’s work, then they will probably have a hard time attaining salvation. Only after believing in God until now do people feel that God incarnate really is what corrupt humanity needs, and that such work of God is such an absolute necessity. The third stage of life experience is the stage of true devotion. Why is it called the stage of true devotion? It is because people see themselves as being unreliable, see that without God’s chastisement and judgment, and without God’s pruning and dealing with them, they are unable to serve God. By themselves they can do nothing; by themselves, they cannot succeed in fulfilling their duties to God’s satisfaction, no matter how hard they try. By themselves, they are guaranteed not to be able to submit to God, and cannot reach the point of being gained by God. Therefore, in their hearts, people have a real need, which is to completely devote themselves to God, submitting to His arrangements and control—and they are fine with however God judges and chastises them, however God refines and trials them, and however God prunes and deals with them. This is a true understanding in their hearts. When experiencing God’s work to a certain point, people give rise to this sort of result; as such, they can genuinely devote themselves to God. Upon entering the third stage of life experience, they have truly devoted themselves to God. It can be said that this stage of true devotion is the stage of completely entering reality; it is the stage of actually entering reality. Some people ask, “So, do people in the second stage not have true entry?” They have, a little, but only once one begins the stage of true devotion can one say that they are genuinely entering reality and thoroughly entering reality. In the past they were only entering the superficial parts of reality, and laying the foundations for this step; that was their transition stage. After entering the third stage of life experience, people begin to formally seek God’s will in all things. Not daring to rely on their own arbitrary rashness, they feel that they must depend on their prayers in all things; if they do not pray, they fear they would stray from the right path. During the third stage, people have developed real faith in God and can completely give themselves to God. Seeing that their own corruption runs extremely deep, and that they are in great need of God’s salvation, people in this stage pay special attention to God’s judgment and chastisement and the words by which He reveals humankind. They also give special attention to the words by which God prunes and deals with humankind, and believe that such words have great benefits for their own life. Therefore, when reading God’s words and pursuing the truth, they can do so based on the needs of their corrupt essence and based on the needs of their actual conditions; that is, based on the deep-seated needs of their heart. If people have no real knowledge of their own corrupt essence, then their pursuit and practice will both be shallow. Such are the realizations of all who have experienced this, and there are no exceptions. After entering the third stage of life experience, people can actually give their hearts over to God and devote their all to God. They can begin to formally spend for God. There is an essential difference between their willingness to perform their duties in the second stage and the expenditure they give in their devotion to God during the third stage. People in the second stage expend and perform their duties without bargaining or trying to get anything in return; they do it willingly. However, there is an even deeper significance to the complete devotion that people in the third stage give to God, which is that they completely entrust themselves to God. Their motive is to attain God’s salvation and be perfected by God, and they devote themselves to Him. This devotion has real meaning. People who enter the third stage can completely devote themselves to God and, while performing their duties, can do their utmost to pursue the truth and focus on seeking and grasping God’s will. Once their life experience reaches this point, would you say that people still have any corruption revealed? They will still reveal corruption. Why is that? It is because people entering the third stage have gained a real knowledge of their own corrupt essence; they have seen themselves to be unreliable and have seen that in the depths of their hearts and in their bones they are indeed full of betrayal and rebelliousness; they have seen that the essence of humans really is the essence of Satan; they are far too liable to resist and betray God, and it is far too difficult for them to practice the truth and practice their love of God and their submission to God. When people have attained this sort of knowledge and completely devoted themselves to God, this is the beginning of their formal pursuit of the truth and of a change in their life disposition. Thus, people in this stage merely know their own corrupt essence, and have only formally begun to pursue the truth and accept the truth, and to formally seek salvation and seek a change in their disposition. However, they have not obtained more truths yet, so their life disposition does not undergo any fundamental change. From the time one formally begins to pursue the truth to the time one completely obtains it and achieves transformation, it takes a few years of experience. One’s life disposition does not immediately transform after one truly knows oneself; that is not how it happens. If you genuinely know yourselves, is your nature resolved? Is the betrayal and resistance in your bones resolved? Is your corrupt disposition and satanic poison resolved? None of these is resolved; you have simply known and seen them clearly. You have truly seen through yourself; you have had a clear idea of exactly how much weight man carries in God’s presence, and exactly what man has done and what man can still do. If we say there is value in knowing oneself, then you now basically have achieved this result, and now are in possession of self-knowledge. Therefore, only once their experience has reached the third stage will people gain any real knowledge of their own corrupt essence. Are you clear on how many years it generally takes to enter the third stage of life experience while believing in God? It generally takes at least five to seven or eight years, and for those who enter into life quickly, are of good caliber, and have good people to water them, at least five years are required. Under normal circumstances, it takes seven years. This is absolutely correct. … Even though people who have entered the third stage of life experience have gained real knowledge of their own corrupt essence, seen themselves to be too unreliable with too much of a tendency toward resisting God and turning their backs on God, and have seen that the nature of humans really is to betray God, have completely admitted that God’s words are absolutely true, extremely accurate, hit the nail on the head, and have revealed the essence and the truth of human corruption, nevertheless, it is certain that they still reveal much corruption. For example, when performing their duties and achieving a few results in doing work, they are still liable to be arrogant and conceited, and can still make a show of themselves and see themselves as being better than others, and are even more arrogant and self-righteous; when encountering tribulation and being subjected to setbacks and failure, they can still complain against God and feel disillusioned and disappointed, and can even become negative for a while; when being pruned and dealt with, sometimes they can still resist, refuse to obey, give excuses, and complain. Especially when they cannot see the sense in God’s work, they can also develop conceptions about God and judge God. These phenomena show that there is still quite a bit of rebelliousness and resistance within them. On the surface, they seem to be more submissive than before, more obedient than before, and more honest than before; they also seem capable of paying the price and spending for God. However, betrayal in their blood and bones is still revealed little by little. Therefore, at this time, despite the fact that people are performing their duties and serving God, in the depths of their hearts they feel themselves to be unreliable, are worried about themselves, and are also afraid of themselves. They are afraid that they will be eliminated because of their betrayal of God; they are terrified that they might offend God at some point, and be killed by Him. In addition, they still worry and have doubts as to whether or not they will actually be able to attain salvation and be perfected. People who have entered the third stage of life experience are suffering in the depths of their hearts, so they put even more effort into pursuing the truth. They concentrate on accepting God’s judgment and chastisement; in all things, especially in matters in which they have failed, they want even more to seek God’s will, and want to satisfy God anew. From this standpoint, people entering the third stage of life experience must be especially determined, and must be people who pursue the truth. Only such people can truly set foot upon the path to perfection; only then can they attain real salvation and perfection. If people, after having entered the third stage, are not resolved to pursue the truth, cannot pay the price to pursue the truth, and are unable to endure the various sufferings for obtaining the truth, then once they discovered that they are being punished by God for resisting and betraying Him, they will find it difficult to proceed along their future path. They might abandon themselves to despair, become disillusioned and disappointed, and believe that they are no good, that their nature is no good, that they are not people in pursuit of the truth, that their humanity is too bad, and that they cannot be perfected by God. They will become pessimistic and disheartened, and give up on themselves. Some people in the third stage can attain salvation and be perfected because in their hearts they love the truth, and are determined to pursue it. To this end, they are not afraid of enduring any sort of suffering. Such people can set foot upon Peter’s path to perfection. If those who have entered the third stage of life experience have a very bad humanity and are not people who love the truth, then even if they have served as leaders and workers in God’s family, it still will not be easy for them to be perfected, because it is difficult for those with bad humanity to walk Peter’s path to perfection. No one with a very bad humanity can genuinely love the truth, let alone be willing to absolutely submit to God. They are afraid of suffering, and moreover, they can never let go of their position, things they enjoy, their fame, and their reputation. They always want to stand out from the rest, and perform their duties in a haughty position. Such people, in the end, are at risk of being punished, and for them attaining perfection is not easy. Because people who have entered the third stage of life experience have not yet been perfected, none of them can be fit for God’s use. Because they have not been perfected, their life disposition has not changed in the slightest. Even though they perform their duties and serve as leaders and workers, they still cannot be fit for use by God. Even if they pursue the truth, can genuinely submit to God, and can do some work, they still must be led by good people and shown the way by good people; only then can they do some real work. If they have no good people to lead the way, and no one to prune and deal with them, then it will not be easy for them to do much substantive work in serving God. This is their true situation. Many people, after entering the third stage of life experience, feel they are fit for God’s use. They feel they understand a lot of truths, and can provide for their brothers and sisters; as a result, most of the time in their work they testify about themselves and aggrandize themselves too much, and they have not reached the actual result of being able to lead God’s chosen into God’s words, let alone to lead God’s chosen people to truly understand or submit to God’s work. Therefore, people who have entered the third stage of life experience are still unable to be fit for God to use. Some people, despite being able to do a bit of substantive work, must have someone else at the helm who can lead the way; only then can they achieve some actual work results. If they have no one leading them, no one to show the way, and no one to prune them and deal with them, then none of them can do any real work; this is their true state. As for people who have entered the third stage of life experience, even if they serve God, they are still in the stage of practice, cultivation, and training—a stage which can be said to entirely be a period of practice and training—and they have not at all begun to formally serve God. Only after reaching the point of perfection and achieving fundamental change in their life disposition can people formally serve God. This is incontrovertible.
After entering the third stage of life experience, one normally spends about five years going through it, give or take, and then can embark upon the fourth stage of life experience. What problems are primarily resolved during these five years’ time? Mainly, one works on gaining a real understanding of one’s own corrupt essence, being able to completely take charge of one’s fatal weaknesses, pursue the truth in accordance with one’s actual condition, and reach a point of being able to truly turn one’s back on the flesh, completely submit to God, and practice the truth. When one day one can submit to God in all things without betrayal, without resistance, and without negativity, and can seek to grasp God’s will in all things, as well as be able to dedicate one’s entire effort to fulfilling duties without simply going through the motions, and can reach a point of being loyal to God, the pressure and suffering that person has felt in the depths of his or her heart will be lessened considerably. At this time, one will feel as though one has climbed out of a sinful abyss and clambered ashore. One will feel lighter, and feel that one’s greatest problems have been fundamentally resolved. When this happens, one can commence walking along a smoother path, and can serve God normally. Upon experiencing up to this point, people begin to have a feeling, deep down in their heart and soul, of being liberated. They feel a bit like they have entered a state of freedom, and like they do not have any major difficulties anymore. Within them there are no longer any great resistance or betrayal, and they are able to be loyal to God, as they wish; they are able to submit to God, as they wish; and they are able to practice the truth and fulfill the duties they should fulfill as they wish, without being so restrained by their own will, by their emotions, by their families, or by their corrupt nature. This is when people see that their life disposition has indeed changed: The practice of the truth, which they previously thought was too hard, they now feel is not difficult; submitting to God, which they previously thought was too hard, they now feel is not difficult. Before, it was so easy for them just to do the work by following their own lead, for their own benefit, and to achieve their own goals, whereas now they feel they absolutely cannot do it anymore. In this sort of situation, people feel that in their belief in God they seem to have attained salvation and are close to being perfected. They have completely been set free, and in their heart and soul they have a bit of a sweet feeling, a sense that their hard times are finished and their good times are just beginning. Once people’s life experience reaches this point, their life disposition begins to change, and they begin to enter the fourth stage of life experience. When reflecting upon the past, they do not feel that they have suffered too much to achieve such transformation during this period. After experiencing this one step at a time, they feel that God’s guidance is truly miraculous. God’s work is indeed miraculous. A few years earlier, they still felt it was so hard; they saw themselves as being in such danger. Now they see that they have achieved real entry in the practice of the truth, and in every other aspect. How exactly did this change? How did they get past this crisis? How did they go through that dark time in their lives, that period of suffering? Sometimes they feel bewildered, and after thinking back, they see how extremely miraculous God’s work is. They then relied on praying to God again and again, and pursued the truth one bit at a time. Regardless of how much they suffered, they could return before God and get close to God, and then, in the depths of their hearts, they felt consolation and pleasure. They cannot say for sure how many tears they shed, how many times they repented, or how many times they cursed themselves and hated themselves. Without noticing it happen, their state changed, and it was much better than before. Only then do they realize, “Oh, so this is what attaining salvation is; this is what it means to have a change in life disposition. Now I have experienced this. It turns out people can change; they are not immutable.” Wouldn’t you say that being able to experience up to this point is the most blessed thing? Everyone hopes that one day, in the depths of their hearts, they will be able to have this sort of feeling, too; they can likewise be released to completely enter a state of freedom. People used to say this is hard or that is hard, but now they no longer say so; on the contrary, they feel that practicing the truth is not difficult, and submitting to God is not too hard, either. They also feel that reaching a point of serving God’s will is not overly difficult, and feel that practicing is much easier. These are the real experiences of people whose life disposition has changed. So, as for those whose life disposition has not changed, they would say that serving God is very difficult, submitting to God is too hard, and practicing the truth is too hard; they would say that being perfected would certainly require undergoing much suffering, and that being perfected is guaranteed to be a difficult enterprise. However, people who have arrived at that point through experience do not feel that it is. Therefore, as soon as a transformation has occurred in people’s life disposition, they start to feel that doing positive things is not difficult. If they are asked to betray God, then they will feel it is difficult; if they are asked to act according to the flesh, they also will feel it is difficult. Why do they feel that it is difficult? First of all, they do not want to act that way; they feel that acting that way is really bad, that such behavior is despicable, that behaving that way is shameful. Furthermore, they feel that acting that way would humiliate God, and that such behavior would bring too much suffering to them deep in their hearts. If they could humiliate God in anything, then this suffering would be too great; if they could hurt God’s feelings in anything they do, then the suffering deep in their hearts would be enormous, and no one can convince them to act that way. Once people’s life disposition has changed, there no longer is a possibility that they will betray God, and they most certainly will not do anything to resist Him. They are completely able to practice the truth, and it is easy for them to satisfy God and love God. Once people’s life experience has reached this level, they are people who have attained salvation; that is, they are people whose life disposition has transformed. When one enters the fourth stage of life experience is the moment one’s life disposition begins to change. After experiencing this for around seven years, people have attained some genuine knowledge of God. It has become easy for them to grasp God’s will no matter what they are doing, and they always know how to act to God’s satisfaction and how to be sure that they will be in tune with God’s will. Such people can be said to not have any difficulties in serving God, or at least not any major ones. In a special event, if they do not understand God’s will, then they pray and search about for a few days, and then can easily understand. People who are entering the fourth stage of life experience, due to having attained some genuine knowledge of God—especially in their understanding of God’s disposition—have given rise to a reverence for God in their hearts. They have begun to formally perform their duties in service to God. Because people entering this fourth stage of life experience are officially serving God, they have loyalty toward God and can take serving God as their mission in life. They feel that serving God is such an honorable duty, above all other forms of work, and that serving God is the one and only true way of life, and the most meaningful endeavor there is. Such people take God’s heart as their own, and their everyday thoughts are of God and of how to follow through with God’s will. Therefore, in serving God, they can grasp God’s will, and can act in accordance with God’s will. So, some people would ask if people who are in the fourth stage of life experience still reveal any corruption. Because the fourth stage is the stage in which people’s life disposition is still changing, they of course sometimes show their corruption. Those various situations I spoke of a little while ago all described the results reached by people after they finish experiencing the fourth stage, so in the early part of the fourth stage, people’s corruption still shows its head. So what parts of their corruption are revealed? When people experience God’s exceedingly heavy trials, they can become negative and weak, but they do not turn their backs on God; when doing work, sometimes it is mixed with their own will, but they do not go too far astray. Moreover, in some special matters, they are still unable to understand God’s will. There are still times when they act based on their own ideas, but after experiencing for a period of time, or after going through the same thing once or twice, they can grasp God’s will, so end up not making any major mistakes. Regardless of whether people entering the fourth stage of life experience have weaknesses, are negative, or act out of their own will, they nevertheless are loyal to God when fulfilling their duties. No matter what trials they face, they will not turn their backs on God; no matter what God does or how He treats them, they will not judge God and they will not resist Him. At most, they will be negative and weak, but they will never betray God, let alone pass judgment on Him. People who have entered the fourth stage of life experience devote all their heart’s energy solely to God, and are only busy trying to carry out God’s will. Their hearts do not dwell on external things such as money or status. Such people can base their treatment of all matters on the truth; they can see everything in the world based on God’s utterances. Therefore, their views of things are certainly in line with the truth; moreover, no sort of temptation will have any effect on them, for they will never again turn their backs on God. Regardless of how much Satan tries to lure them—whether with position, money, or bedazzlement—it will not work on them; they will not be interested. Thus, people entering the fourth stage of life experience will not betray God anymore; they will only follow God, and they will only serve God. Their lives are all about serving God, and they only think about carrying out God’s will. People with this sort of resolve are easily perfected by God, and it is easy for them to be granted the Holy Spirit’s work. The more they pursue the truth, the more quickly they progress in life entry and the deeper their knowledge of God gets. Therefore, if people in the fourth stage of life experience pursue for around seven years, they can be perfected by God. … People entering the fourth stage of life experience can submit to being pruned and dealt with without difficulty. They can submit to all manner of trials and refinements, and can stand testimony without difficulty, and absolutely will not complain or be reproachful to God. In fulfilling their duties, no matter how great the setbacks they are subjected to, they will not be negative or quit their responsibilities. At most, they will be a bit weak, but after a few days they will be able to understand God’s will and know what to do to satisfy God. When people’s life experience enters the fourth stage, it is the stage of being perfected. The time it takes to complete the stage of perfection is usually around seven years or so, and even progressing at the fastest rate possible still takes five years. Even if these five years are especially full of trials, it still takes five years; those who are a bit slower will need seven years or even longer to get through it. It is all about people’s pursuit of the truth. If you really are one who pursues the truth, then you absolutely can be perfected within seven years. If you do not put much effort into pursuing the truth, then that will not do. This is because those corrupt things inside people must be resolved, and those things inside them can only be purified by way of various trials and various refinements. You will not succeed if you do not experience very much, and you certainly will not succeed if you are subjected to too few trials.