Do Man’s External Changes in Behavior Mean Changes in Disposition?
Many believers in the Lord all think they are ones who please the Lord because they visit, sustain and help brothers and sisters all the time as well as donate frequently. Some think that they must be approved by the Lord because they have forsaken family and career, spread the gospel and shepherded the church for decades. Some believe that they have been transformed since they were forbearing and patient for others and succeeded in not fighting back when reviled or beaten. What’s more, others consider that they have truly changed because they look after their parents with great care and dote on their children at home, able to love others as they love themselves. …
It is an undeniable fact that all the true believers in the Lord Jesus have some changes in their outward behaviors. This is indeed the result achieved by the work of the Lord Jesus. However, changes in our outward behaviors don’t mean that we are transformed in our disposition. Why do I say this?
The incarnate Almighty God of the last days comes to express words among men, revealing the root of the problem as well as the truth of this aspect very clearly and thoroughly. Almighty God says: “The essences of changes in disposition and changes in behavior are different, and changes in practice are also different—they are all different in essence. Most people place special emphasis on behavior in their belief in God, as a result of which there are changes occurring in their behavior. After believing in God, they stop contending with others, they stop fighting with people and insulting them, they stop smoking and drinking, they do not steal any public property—whether it be but a nail or a plank of wood—and they even go so far as to not take it to the courts when they suffer losses or are wronged. Without doubt, some changes do occur in their behavior. Because, after believing in God, accepting the true way makes them feel especially good, and because they have also tasted the grace of the work of the Holy Spirit, they are particularly fervent, and there is even nothing that they cannot forsake or do. Yet in the end—after having believed for three, five, ten, or thirty years—because there has been no change in their life disposition, they slide back into old ways, their arrogance and haughtiness grows, and they begin to fight for power and profit, they covet the money of the church, they do anything that serves their interests, they crave status and pleasures, they become parasites of the house of God. Most of the leaders, in particular, are abandoned. And what do these facts prove? Changes in nothing more than behavior are unsustainable. If there is no alteration in people’s life disposition, then sooner or later their wicked side will show itself. Because the source of the changes in their behavior is fervor, coupled with some work by the Holy Spirit at the time, it is extremely easy for them to become fervent, or to be good for a time. As the unbelievers say, ‘Doing one good deed is easy, what’s hard is doing a lifetime of good deeds.’ People are incapable of doing good deeds their whole life. Their behavior is directed by the life; whatever their life is, so is their behavior, and only that which is revealed naturally represents the life, and one’s nature. Things that are fake cannot last.” “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” (“The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks).
From God’s words, we know that although we can expend, give up things, and do much work for God, and can help others outwardly rather than curse and struggle with others, our sinful nature is still within us, such as arrogance and conceit, crookedness and craftiness, practicing fraud and lies and deceptions…. With these corrupt dispositions, man can still resist God at any time. When God’s work isn’t aligned with our will, we will have conceptions about God and even judge Him. We say with our mouth that we are willing to satisfy and love God, but when we meet misfortunes and family troubles, we will misunderstand and complain against Him. In addition, while we shepherd the church and spread the gospel, we exalt and testify ourselves in all aspects in order for people to look up to and endorse. We can expend and abandon things in order to make a deal with God in exchange for entering the kingdom of heaven and getting rewards and receiving blessings. … All of these are the facts recognized by believers in the Lord for years. So the external changes in man’s behavior don’t mean the changes in his disposition.
This makes me think of the Pharisees of that time, who served Jehovah God in the temple generation after generation, traveled over sea and land to spread the gospel and expound on the law. They made prayers standing at crossroads frequently and sewed the verses of the law on the sleeves of their clothes. Their outward good deeds and devoutness were blameless, but they secretly devoured widows’ houses and killed prophets and righteous men. Hence, the Lord Jesus cursed the hypocritical Pharisees and denounced seven woes against them. And when the Lord Jesus came to do the work of redemption for mankind, they did not know God’s work. They resisted Him and His work under the excuse that the Lord Jesus’ work had transcended the law of the Old Testament, and then made rumors, saying that He was an illegitimate son, a man, not God. Even after the Lord Jesus’ resurrection, they taught the soldiers to tell a lie that His body was stolen by someone. Besides the great sin of crucifying the Lord Jesus, another great evil deed of the Pharisees was to compete with God for His chosen people and status. Despite that the Lord Jesus had worked in Israel for over three years, He didn’t gain the Jewish religion and only a few people believed in Him among the whole Judaism. It was mainly because God’s chosen people were controlled firmly under their influence. They refused to seek and accept the Lord Jesus’ work. Moreover, they didn’t allow the Jewish people to believe in the Lord Jesus. As a result, the Lord Jesus cursed them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15). From the Lord Jesus’ dissection and curse of the substance of the Pharisees being hypocritical and in enmity of God, can we still say that in believing in God, good behavior means a true transformation in disposition?
How can man then be transformed in his disposition? Almighty God says, “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. To achieve a change in disposition, the most key thing is to pursue understanding of God and to have a true understanding of Him.” “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” (“The Difference Between External Changes and Changes in Disposition” in Records of Christ’s Talks).
We see from God’s words that knowing God’s work is the only pathway for man to change his disposition. In other words, only when man accepts God’s work of judgment in the last days, experiences His judgment, chastisement, trials and refinements, and thus gains real knowledge of God’s disposition, what He has and is and attains a true fear of God; when he has cast away his corrupt dispositions of arrogance, selfishness, craftiness and evil and gets purified and changed; when his outlook on both life and values truly changes and he is able to live according to God’s words, can he then be said to have changes in his life disposition and have true changes. For example, when serving God in performing duty, he cares neither how others think about him nor how they judge him but instead can testify and exalt God in all things. He can love what God loves and hate what God hates: He rejects and hates Satan and antichrists, while offers his support and help to those who God wants to save. He has a right outlook on both life and values and doesn’t covet fleshly enjoyments or blindly seek eating, drinking and carousing any more. He takes carrying out God’s willas his bounden duty in everything and obeying God’s orchestrations and arrangements as a heaven-sent vocation. He truly becomes a man who fears God and shuns evil. This is true transformation of disposition, and he is one commended by God.