Regarding a Proper Spiritual Life
Faith in God necessitates a proper spiritual life, which is the foundation for experiencing God’s words and entering into reality. Does all your current practice of prayers, of drawing near to God, of hymn-singing, praise, meditation, and pondering the words of God amount to a “proper spiritual life”? None of you seems to know. A proper spiritual life is not limited to such practices as praying, singing hymns, participating in church life, and eating and drinking of God’s words. Rather, it involves living a new and vibrant spiritual life. What matters is not how you practice, but what fruit your practice bears. Most people believe that a proper spiritual life necessarily involves praying, singing hymns, eating and drinking the words of God or pondering His words, regardless of whether such practices actually have any effect or lead to true understanding. These people focus on following superficial procedures without any thought to their results; they are people who live in religious rituals, not people who live within the church, and much less are they people of the kingdom. Their prayers, hymn singing, and eating and drinking of God’s words are all just rule-following, done out of compulsion and to keep up with trends, not out of willingness nor from the heart. However much these people pray or sing, their efforts will bear no fruit, for what they practice is just the rules and rituals of religion; they are not actually practicing God’s words. They focus only on making a fuss over how they practice, and they treat God’s words as rules to follow. Such people are not putting God’s words into practice; they are just gratifying the flesh, and performing for other people to see. These religious rules and rituals are all human in origin; they do not come from God. God does not follow rules, nor is He subject to any law. Rather, He does new things every day, accomplishing practical work. Like people in the Three-Self Church, who limit themselves to practices such as attending morning services every day, offering evening prayers and prayers of gratitude before meals, and giving thanks in all things—however much they do and for however long they do it, they will not have the work of the Holy Spirit. When people live amidst rules and have their hearts fixed on methods of practice, the Holy Spirit cannot work, because their hearts are occupied by rules and human notions. Thus, God is unable to intervene and work on them, and they can only continue living under the control of laws. Such people are forever incapable of receiving God’s praise.
A proper spiritual life is a life lived before God. When praying, one can quiet one’s heart before God, and through prayer, one can seek the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, know God’s words, and understand God’s will. By eating and drinking of His words, people can gain a clearer and more thorough understanding of God’s current work. They can also gain a new path of practice, and will not cling to the old; what they practice will all be to achieve growth in life. As for prayer, it is not about speaking a few nice-sounding words or breaking down in tears before God to show how indebted you are; rather, its purpose is to train oneself in the use of the spirit, allowing one to quiet one’s heart before God, to train oneself to seek out guidance from God’s words in all matters, so that one’s heart can be drawn to a fresh new light each day, and so that one will not be passive or lazy and may set foot upon the right track of putting God’s words into practice. Most people nowadays focus on methods of practice, yet they do not do so in order to pursue the truth and achieve life growth. This is where they have gone astray. There are also some who are capable of receiving new light, but their methods of practice do not change. They bring their old religious notions with them as they look to receive God’s words of today, so what they receive is still doctrine colored by religious notions; they are not receiving today’s light simply. As a result, their practices are tainted; they are the same old practices in new packaging. However well they might practice, they are hypocrites. God leads people in doing new things every day, demanding that each day they gain new insight and understanding, and requiring that they not be old-fashioned and repetitive. If you have believed in God for many years, yet your methods of practice have not changed at all, and if you are still zealous and busy about external matters, yet do not have a quiet heart to bring before God to enjoy His words, then you will obtain nothing. When it comes to accepting God’s new work, if you do not plan differently, do not go about your practice in a new way, and do not pursue any new understanding, but instead cling to the old and receive only some limited new light, without changing the way you practice, then such people as you are in this stream in name only; in actuality, they are religious Pharisees outside the stream of the Holy Spirit.
To live a proper spiritual life, one must be able to receive new light daily and pursue a true understanding of God’s words. One must see the truth clearly, find a path of practice in all matters, discover new questions through reading God’s words each day, and realize one’s own inadequacies so that one may have a longing and seeking heart that moves one’s entire being, and so that one may be quiet before God at all times, deeply afraid of falling behind. A person with such a longing, seeking heart, who is willing to continually attain entry, is on the right track of spiritual life. Those who are moved by the Holy Spirit, who desire to do better, who are willing to pursue being perfected by God, who long for a deeper understanding of God’s words, who do not pursue the supernatural but rather pay a real price, who truly care for God’s will, who actually attain entry so that their experiences are more genuine and real, who do not pursue empty words and doctrines or pursue to feel the supernatural, who do not worship any great personality—these are the ones who have entered into a proper spiritual life. Everything they do is intended to achieve further growth in life and to make them fresh and lively in spirit, and they are always able to attain entry actively. For example, their pre-meal prayers are not offered out of compulsion; rather, they are occasions on which their hearts are quiet before God, grateful to Him, willing to live for Him and put their time into His hands, willing to cooperate with Him, and willing to expend themselves for Him. If their hearts cannot be quiet before God, they would rather go without food than abandon their training. Such practice is not rule-following; rather, it is putting God’s words into practice. Some people make a show out of their pre-meal prayers, playing at godliness, yet in their hearts they wonder, “Why do I need to do this? Not having to pray would be fine, wouldn’t it? Everything will still be the same after I pray, so why should I go to so much trouble?” It is people like these who are following rules. With their mouths they say that they are willing to satisfy God, but their hearts are not before God. In performing these sorts of prayers, their intention is not to train themselves to quiet their hearts before God; rather, it is to make a show of prayer for others to see. They are hypocrites through and through, like religious pastors who can only intercede in prayer on others’ behalf but cannot themselves attain entry. Such people are authentic, unmistakable religious officials! On a daily basis, God says and does new things, yet every day you are merely following rules, deceiving God, and going through the motions; are you not then a person who resists God? If you follow rules and resist God, will you receive blessings? Will you not be chastised by God?
God’s work is advancing rapidly, flinging those religionists from every religion and denomination and “celebrities” who observe the church service farther and farther afield, casting off the “experts” among you who delight especially in following rules. God’s work waits for no one, depends on no one, and never hesitates; it will not drag anyone along with it. If you cannot keep up, then you will be cast aside, no matter how many years you have been a follower. However much seniority you have, if you follow rules, then you will be eliminated. I urge such people to exercise some self-awareness and consciously take a step back; do not persist in your old ways. By leading others to put the words of God into practice according to your own principles of conduct, are you not simply trying to be popular? If, in what you practice, you are adhering to rules and instructing people to observe church service and always asking others to go along with your way of doing things, then are you not creating factions? Are you not creating divisions within the church? How, then, can you have the gall to claim consideration for God’s will? What qualifies you to say that your way will make other people perfect? If you continue to lead people in this way, are you not merely leading them into religious rituals? Those with proper spiritual lives find the liberation and freedom of spirit each day, and they can practice the words of God in a free way to His satisfaction. For these people, praying is not a formality or a procedure; each day, they are able to keep pace with the new light. For example, people train themselves to quiet their hearts before God, and their hearts can truly be quiet before God, and they can be disturbed by no one. No person, event, or thing can constrain their proper spiritual lives. Such training is intended to yield results; it is not intended to make people follow rules. This practice is not about rule-following, but is instead about promoting growth in people’s life. If you see this practice only as rules to follow, your life will never change. You may be engaged in the same practice as others, but while they are ultimately able to keep pace with the work of the Holy Spirit, you are eliminated from the stream of the Holy Spirit. Are you not deceiving yourself? The purpose of these words is to allow people to quiet their hearts before God, to turn their hearts to God, so that God’s work in them may be without hindrance and may bear fruit.