128. The Principles of Distinguishing Between Practicing the Truth and Good Behavior
1. Whether they act according to the requirements and principles of God’s words and according to the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit, or whether they act in accordance with their emotions, preferences, conceptions and imaginings, or their own experiences;
2. Whether they act according to the reality of the truth they understand and in accordance with principles, or whether they cling to rules, go through the motions and focus on external ways of doing things;
3. Whether they possess reality and achieve results in their practice of the truth, or whether they make a big fuss over small matters to give people a false impression;
4. Whether they revere God, are devoted to God and achieve real results in the performance of their duties, or whether they are slipshod in their duties, they go through the motions, and they engage in disguising and deceit.
Relevant Words of God:
Understand the word of God and put it into action. Be principled in your actions and deeds; this is not abiding by rules or to do so grudgingly just for show. Rather, this is the practice of truth and living by the word of God. Only practice such as this satisfies God. Any custom that pleases God is not a rule but the practice of truth.
Some men have a penchant for drawing attention to themselves. In the presence of his brothers and sisters, he says he is indebted to God, but behind their backs, he does not practice the truth and does entirely otherwise. Is this not as those religious Pharisees? A man who truly loves God and has the truth is one who is loyal to God, but does not outwardly reveal so. He is willing to practice the truth when matters arise and does not speak or act in a manner going against his conscience. He demonstrates wisdom when matters arise and is principled in his deeds, no matter the circumstances. A man such as this is one who truly serves. There are some who often pay lip service to their indebtedness to God. They spend their days with brows locked in worry, put on an affected air, and feign a wretched countenance. How despicable! And if you were to ask 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?
from “Believing in God Should Focus on Reality, Not Religious Rituals” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
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 wil. … 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
See, after people start believing in God, when they don’t understand a lot of things, they feel that they are already living in God’s word, and that they are already obeying God and are already very much satisfying God’s intentions. That is because when nothing has happened to you, you can do whatever you’re told and you can fulfill your duty without hesitation or resistance, or if the house of God gets you to spread the gospel you can do so without any complaint and can accept the suffering, or if you are asked to run around or do whatever job, you’ll be willing to do it. These things make you feel like you are someone who obeys God and someone who is genuinely pursuing the truth. But suppose someone gets serious with you and asks: “Are you an honest person? Are you someone who truly obeys God? Are you someone who has achieved dispositional change?” As soon as this is taken seriously and the truth is used to check each person, it can be said that nobody is qualified and that nobody can genuinely practice in accordance with the truth. That is to say, the source of people’s behavior and actions and the essence and nature of the things they do all becomes condemned when matched against the truth. What is the reason? It’s because man does not know himself and is always using his own methods to believe in God and fulfill his duty. He is also using his own methods to serve God and feels full of confidence and reason, and in the end feels he has gained a lot. Before he knows it, he believes he is acting in accordance with and has completely satisfied God’s intentions, achieved God’s requirements, and is already complying with God’s will. …
… Let’s take Paul as an example. Paul was especially knowledgeable and also held an especially high position in people’s hearts. So what did he think after completing a lot of work? There was already a crown kept for him. If he could have known himself and dissected himself under these circumstances, he would not have said such things. Some of his outward behavior and good conduct, or some things he imagined to be good, had blinded his heart and covered up his true face…. Suppose you think you are especially kind-hearted—you help out brothers and sisters left and right when they have issues, you advise and encourage them when a brother’s or sister’s family encounters difficulties, you exhort here and exhort there, and you go to help out whenever something happens to anyone’s family, terrified that there are issues others won’t be able to resolve. You’re especially well-intentioned in that you do all you can to help everyone, but what is the outcome of all this helping out? You’ve held up your own life, and yet you still take pride in it, thinking: “Look, I’m so benevolent. I help whoever is in trouble. That’s what a true believer in God does.” You’re very happy with yourself and extremely satisfied with your behavior and everything you have done. You believe that all these things you have done must be able to satisfy God’s heart, because you think you’re very kind-hearted and benevolent, and you never hate or harm anyone. What do you think about this? Such a person’s natural goodness and benevolence have become his capital. These things becoming his capital is seemingly not a problem, but he takes them for granted as the truth. Everything he did was actually human goodness and he did not at all seek the truth, and everything he has done was in vain because it was all done in front of people and not before God, and moreover was not practiced in accordance with God’s requirements and in accordance with the truth. Everything he did was not practicing the truth or God’s word, and moreover was not carrying out God’s will. Rather, he was using man’s kind-heartedness and good behavior to help people. In summation, he did not seek God’s intentions in anything he did, nor did he do it in accordance with God’s requirements. Therefore, in God’s eyes, people’s good behavior is condemned and not commemorated.
from “Knowing Yourself Requires Knowing Your Deep-rooted Thoughts and Views” in Records of Christ’s Talks
If you have some understanding about God, if you know how to live a meaningful life, if you can do some things that satisfy God, then you will feel that this is real life, that only by living in this way does your life have meaning, that one must live in this way to be able to satisfy God a little and to feel gratified. If you can consciously satisfy God, consciously put the truth into practice, consciously forsake yourself, abandon your own ideas, and be obedient and considerate toward God’s will; if you are able to do all these things consciously then this is to accurately put the truth into practice, to truly put the truth into practice and is not like your previous reliance on your imagination and your keeping of doctrines and rules. In actual fact, it is most tiring doing anything when you don’t understand the truth, most tiring to keep doctrines and rules, most tiring to have no goals and to do things blindly. Only with the truth can you be free—this is no lie—and with the truth you can do things in an easy and happy way. People who possess this kind of state are those who have the truth, they are those who have changed their dispositions.
from “Only by Seeking the Truth Can You Obtain Changes in Your 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 after having believed for three, five, ten, or thirty years—because there has been no change in their life disposition, in the end 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, and 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
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
No matter what you do, you should first understand why you are actually doing it and what the nature of the matter is. If it is categorized as fulfilling your duty, then you should ponder: How should I do this? How should I fulfill my duty well so that I am not doing it perfunctorily? This is a matter in which you should draw close to God. Drawing close to God is seeking the truth in this matter, it is seeking the way to practice, it is seeking the will of God, and it is seeking how to satisfy God. These are the methods for drawing close to God while doing things; it is not performing a religious ceremony or an outward action; it is done for the purpose of practicing in accordance with the truth after seeking God’s will. If you always say “Thank God” when you are not doing anything, but when you are doing something, you still do it according to your own will, this type of thanks is an outward action. When fulfilling your duty or working on something, you should always think: How should I fulfill this duty? What is God’s intention? Through matters, you draw close to God, and through drawing close to God, you seek the principles and truths to do things, you seek God’s will from within and do not leave God in all that you do. This is a person who truly believes in God. Now when some matter comes upon people, regardless of what the actual situation is, they think that they can do this and that, so God is not in their hearts, and they do it according to their own intentions. Regardless of whether the course of action is suitable or not, or whether it is in accordance with truth or not, they only stiffen their necks and act according to their personal intentions. It usually seems that God is in their hearts, but when they do things, God is not in their hearts. Some people say: “I can’t grow close to God in the things I do; in the past I was accustomed to performing religious ceremonies, and I tried drawing close to God, but it was to no effect; I couldn’t draw near to Him.” This kind of person does not have God in their heart, they only have themselves in their heart and they simply cannot put truth into practice in the things they do. Not doing things in accordance with truth is doing things according to their own will, and doing things based on their own will is leaving God; that is, God is not in their heart. Human ideas usually look good and right to people and they look like they do not violate truth that much. People feel that doing it this way is putting truth into practice, they feel that doing it this way is submitting to God. Actually, people are not really seeking God and praying to God about this. They are not striving to do it well to satisfy God’s will, nor striving to do it well according to His requirements. They do not have this true situation, and they don’t have such desire. This is the greatest error people make in their practice, because you believe in God, but God is not in your heart. How is this not a sin? How is this not deceiving yourself? What effect will believing this way have? Where is the practical significance in believing in God?
from “Seeking God’s Will and Putting Truth Into Practice to the Greatest Extent Possible” in Records of Christ’s Talks
There are many people with some outward behaviors, who believe “I am putting truth into practice. Am I not fulfilling my duties? Did I not forsake my family and job? Am I not putting truth into practice by fulfilling my duties?” But God says: “I do not acknowledge that you are putting truth into practice.” What is this? This is a kind of behavior. Seriously speaking, you could be convicted for it; it will not be praised, it will not be commemorated. Even more seriously speaking, in dissecting this, you are doing evil, your behavior is in opposition to God. From the outside, you are not interrupting, disturbing, damaging anything, or violating any truth. It seems what you are doing is logical and reasonable, but you are doing evil and resisting God. Therefore you should look to the source as God has required, to see whether there is a change in your disposition or whether you have put truth into practice. It is not about conforming with the imaginations and opinions of man, or with your personal preferences. Rather, it is God who says whether you are conforming with His will; it is God who says whether your actions have truth and whether or not they are up to His standards. Measuring yourself against God’s requirements is the only right way. … How do you know whether God praises you or not? In the very least, you will feel exceptionally steadfast in your heart regarding everything that you do, you will feel the Holy Spirit guiding and enlightening you and working in you when you fulfill your duties, do any work in God’s family, or in normal times; your conduct will fit hand in hand with God’s words, and when you have a certain degree of experience, you will feel that what you did in the past was relatively suitable. If after gaining experience for a period of time, you feel that some of the things you did in the past were not suitable and you are dissatisfied with them, and indeed there was no truth in the things you did, then it proves that everything you did was resisting God. It proves that your service was full of rebelliousness, resistance and human behaviors. … 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.
from “What You Should Know About Transforming Your Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks