“Holiness” and “chastening” are two Biblical words that seem intimidating. At City Harvest Church’s services on Mar 9 and 10 at Suntec Hall 605, pastors Lin Junxian and Choong Tsih-Ming dig deep into these concepts and reveal how they help Christians in their walk with God.
LIN JUNXIAN: WHAT IT MEANS TO BE HOLY
“Be holy for God is holy” was Peter’s instruction to the followers of Jesus in 1 Peter 1:15-16. As a young Christian, Pastor Lin Junxian had often wondered how he could ever be as holy as God.
At the first service of the weekend last Saturday, Pastor Junxian shared how he had been reflecting on the first of CHC’s 15 paradigms as set out by senior pastor Kong Hee: the pursuit of God is the whole purpose of life.
According to John 14:6, Jesus is the way for believers to walk on, the truth for them to build their lives upon and the life that all of them to live out from.
“If you know Jesus is the way and He is the best way,” said the pastor, “There’s no point looking for other options.”
He went on to remind the church that “a Christian life is a walk”. Walking is taking one step at a time and by repeating this monotonous action through self-discipline, one gets to where he or she wants to go. Likewise, a Christian gets to where God wants him or her to be by walking continually in the midst of life struggles and difficulties.
Going back to his main point on being holy, Pastor Junxian explained what it means to be holy. Holy in Hebrew is qadosh which means set apart, dedicated or to belong to exclusively. Holiness in Hebrew is hagios which carries a strong secondary connotation of moral purity. Hence, moral purity is not the first and foremost interpretation of “holy” mentioned in the scriptures.
“Biblical holiness describes a unique relationship God has established and desired to have with His people,” he said. “It has got to do with having the right relationship with God, resulting in the right relationships with others!”
There were three things Pastor Junxian wanted the congregation to note from 1 Peter 1:15-16.
Firstly, the One who calls the Christians is God and He is a Holy God. Pastor Junxian said that God does not change; many think that He has gone soft in the New Testament, but no, He is the same God.
“God still judges sins,” the pastor said. That is the reason why God sent His one and only begotten Son, Jesus, to die and redeem mankind so He could establish an intimate connection with them.
Secondly, the Christians’ response is to conduct themselves in holy living. When pre-believers repent and receive the Lord as their Savior, they go through the “born again” experience and become the children of God. Pastor Junxian asked the congregation to observe the words, “obedient children”, from 1 Peter 1:13-14, “We, the children of God, will live the life of how Jesus, the Son, has lived His life in obedience to God the Father.”
He gave an example: when people visit newborns at hospitals, they often ask if the baby resembles the father or the mother. “Similarly, the moment you recognize that you are born of God, you no longer want to look like the world. You want to look like your Father in Heaven!”
Galatians 2:20 tells believers of a new way of life: one that is crucified, buried, born again and reigning with Christ.
Thirdly, God’s call for His children is a holy calling. In Hebrews 10:29, it was mentioned that the opposite of holy is not just profane, but common. This means that when a person live a life of holiness, it is a unique lifestyle, not common to the lifestyle of the world.
“God made us in His image and likeness. At the same time, God made us unique. There is no one like you,” the pastor said. “God calls us by name. He is a personal God…Only you can fulfill the calling in your life.”
He urged the church to follow what was written in 1 Peter 3:15 says and enthrone Christ as their Lord of their hearts.
In conclusion, Lin encouraged all to continue to walk in the way that Jesus has shown them so that others can see God. To those who feel that it is beyond their power to live a holy life, Pastor Junxian has good news: Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide His believers and to continue the salvation work that He has started in them.
“Jesus trusts us so much that He gave us the Holy Spirit.” The almighty Holy Spirit, once hovering over the waters in Genesis, has “squeezed” Himself to live in the believers and become their Helper.
Reading Romans 12:1-2, the pastor explained that the job of the believer is to present and surrender himself to God, and the Holy Spirit will do the transforming work in their lives. 2 Corinthians 3:18 promises that the believers will be transformed into God’s image from glory to glory by the Holy Spirit.
God must reign over all circumstances and everything in one’s life, the pastor advised. Then the Holy Spirit will help him walk in the purpose God has called him into.
CHOONG TSIH-MING: WHAT CHASTENING MEANS
Pastor Choong Tsih-Ming tackled the tough topic of chastening in his services. What many believers mistake for the wrath of God is really the loving correction of Father God, he explains.
Zeroing in on Hebrews 12:5-11, he showed that often, the suffering believers experience is the chastening of the Lord. A believer must understand what chastening really is, or he could get depressed thinking he is undergoing divine judgment.
Pastor Ming clarified that chastening is a process of divine discipline. It exemplifies a key part of a relationship between parents and their children: if one is loved, he is chastened.
Afflictions in the Bible, are usually defined as pressures, persecution or physical punishment. These are chastening experiences from the Lord. David experienced retributive affliction because he committed the sins of adultery and murder. His son died.
“God is just, but this was not condemning or judgmental of Him, nor sourced from His anger or wrath, but due to His love and goodness for David,” said Pastor Ming.
Job experienced corrective affliction that refined him. He lost everything and it exposed the sin in his heart: pride. Job 23:10 says, “but He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” After experiencing the fires of affliction, Job understood that something more glorious would come to make him pure as gold.
Abraham experienced an educative affliction that developed his spiritual grace and faith. When Abraham, being afraid, introduced his wife as his sister to King Abimelech in Genesis 20, God pushed him to stand up for what was right. God’s discipline chastened Abraham and developed his character that brought forth generations of victory.
Apostle Paul experienced a preventive affliction that stopped him from falling into crime. God allows for the right affliction at the right time for a believer’s spiritual conditioning. Instead of despising it or fainting under chastening, God wants His children to cheerfully submit to it.
Turning the congregation’s attention to Joshua 5:13-15, Pastor Ming noted that Joshua’s encounter with a commander of Lord’s army laid down two principles fundamental to a believer’s life for demonic warfare.
Joshua asked the commander, whom Bible scholars believed is the manifestation of the pre-incarnate Christ, is He for them or for their enemies. The commander replied that he is for neither of them or against them, but He was there to “take over and take charge as Commander of the Lord’s army”.
Pastor Ming said that the first principle is this: “In everything we do for the Lord, it’s always a joint venture with Him. We need to submit, let Him take over and take charge.”
When Pastor Ming went on a vow of singlehood, he struggled for a month because he developed feelings for a girl. He eventually went on his knees and cried out to God for help. God came true and helped him overcome his feelings.
“The Lord told me that when I face an affliction for Him that I want to overcome, all I have to do is get on my knees and persist. If you still feel stressed after prayer or if you fall back into it (the affliction), persist! When we work with God, the victory will come!”
Pastor Ming’s second principle was this: “Never forget His personal presence and the powerful provision of His armies that fight on his behalf.”
Going back to Hebrews 12, Pastor Ming said that the writer tells believers the purposes of chastening: it is so that believers can be partakers of God’s holiness (Heb 12:10); so that believers yield the fruit of righteousness (Rom 5:3-5); and so that a believer receives his eternal reward (Romans 8:18). The pastor encouraged the church with Psalms 30:5, “affliction is for a moment, but reward is for eternity”.
Pastor Ming mentioned that the servants of God do not get to choose their afflictions; many times it is not caused by their doing, and it can be very hard to accept. “All we can do is to humble ourselves and have the attitude of Jesus and drink from the cup His Father gave Him,” said the pastor, quoting John 8:11.
The blessing of God persists for generations: one only needs to persist and the victory will come in his following generations.
In closing, Pastor Ming said, “As we mature in the Lord, let us all accept afflictions because we desire to be partakers of God’s holiness. As we do this, we’ll become like Jesus: ‘God, not my will but Yours be done.’”