Bringing the church back to basics, Aries Zulkarnain taught the importance of growing spiritually.
“The Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom,” said Aries Zulkarnain, an executive pastor of City Harvest Church. “God Himself is a Spirit. And that is why we need to be spiritual as well.”
He was preaching on the weekend of Aug 12 and 13. Drawing the difference between spirituality and religiousness, Zulkarnain explained how the world has redefined the term “spiritual”.
“When someone says, ‘I am spiritual, but I am not religious’, they are saying, ‘I don’t want to be governed by the church, but I love God, so I just want to worship God by myself.’”
Yet a believer cannot grow in isolation, he explained. It is only through the church, the institution that God has set in this world to build the community of God, that one can grow in one’s spirituality.
Zulkarnain pointed out that when a believer chooses to not place him or herself in a proper environment for growth, he or she cannot be sure if they are learning and experience the correct things. “How do you legitimize your own experience by yourself?” he asked. “How do you authenticate what you are experiencing by yourself as real spiritual growth? You need one another, you cannot grow in isolation.”
When it comes to being spiritual, there was no better example to look to than Jesus Himself.
“At a very young age, spirituality became Jesus’ early foundation,” the pastor said. He highlighted the fact that Jesus became spiritual, not only perform spiritual acts. “We do a lot of spiritual acts, but make sure that those actions translate into actually being spiritual.”
Luke 2:52 (NTE) says, “So Jesus became wiser and taller, gaining favor both with God and with the people.” In growing spiritually, Jesus found favor with God. Spirituality attracts the favor of God.
Zulkarnain then expounded on the meaning of “favor”: “The word ‘favor’ here is the word ‘charis’, which means graciousness or attractiveness that invites a favorable reaction.”
There are two instances the word “favor” was used in the Gospel of Luke. The first was found in the story of Mary. When an angel came to visit Mary, he said that she has found favor in God’s eyes. The grace and favor of God came to her because of something that she had done. That was the God responding to Mary, the believer’s actions.
The second time “favor” was mentioned was in reference to the proactive favor of God. This favor did not involve the actions of the believer, but God’s grace and initiative to bless His people.
“When it comes to the grace and the favor of God, we must understand and realize that like a coin, there are two sides. And on one side you have God’s unmerited favor coming upon you, not because of anything that you have done. But on the other side, you have the grace and the favor seen in the life of Mary.”
There must be a balance between grace and favor.
If they are not careful, believers may run into the extreme ends of both sides. On the one hand, one could is to think that spiritual growth is a way of pressing God’s buttons in order to obtain favor; on the other, one may be tempted to think that there is no need to grow spiritually because the favor of God is given freely to all.
Zulkarnian then taught the people how to grow spiritually the way Jesus did.
Alignment With God In His Decisions
John 5:19-20 says, “Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.”
Jesus could have done things His own way, yet He chose to place Himself under the authority of God, the pastor pointed out. He constantly made a conscious choice to align His choices with the will of the Father. To be aligned with God is to make a choice to set one’s mind on the things of heaven. The first step towards spirituality is the believer’s decision.
“And you continue doing that until it becomes second nature to you,” Zulkarnain emphasized. It is important that a believer focuses on being spiritual, and not solely on doing spiritual acts. Zulkarnian stressed to the congregation the dangers of becoming a “professional Christian”, where one behaves differently when in church, and outside of the church.
Agreement With The Father In His Words
“One of the Persons you and I need to learn to always agree with is the Father,” Zulkarnain said.
Jesus is united with God in spirit. God wants every believer to fill their hearts with His Word so that the words they speak will carry the same spirit.
Unity does not necessarily mean uniformity, noted Zulkarnain. God does not manipulate people to simply say what He says. God wishes that when believers speak, it will carry the same spirit and anointing. It is not just about the words.
Words have the power to influence a believer’s life. Speaking unholy language will corrupt character. Jesus became spiritual by watching the words that He spoke. “We need to watch our language,” Zulkarnain stressed.
Sharing a scene from The Crown, a Netflix series about Queen Elizabeth II’s life, Zulkarnain illustrated how, just as seemingly small bad habits eventually led to the abdication of the Queen’ uncle King Edward, the rot starts in the small things in a believer’s life. One needs to be watchful to not allow words and actions that seem insignificant to unravel one’s life.
Authority From The Father
“God has given authority to us His children, but if we want authority can only work, we have to first learn to work under authority,” said the pastor.
God placed earthly authority over all believers’ lives, to see how each one responds to those given the authority.
“If you’re rebellious, you cannot learn authority,” said Zulkarnain. “And if you do not learn authority, you cannot carry authority with you.” Jesus carried authority because He subjected Himself to earthly authority and learned to be respectful. Part of being spiritual is to be respectful.
Zulkarnain concluded the service with a reminder to the church: “Spirituality attracts the favor of God, but do you know that favor, as much as it attracts God’s blessing, it also attracts the devil’s envy.”
Life doesn’t become a bed of roses once one receives God’s favor, said Zulkarnain. That is why it is important for God’s people to be spiritual, so that they can be strong even when they come under the attack of the devil.