What is holiness and how does a person become more holy? City Harvest Church’s senior pastor Kong Hee explained in his message last weekend.
At the start of his sermon on the final weekend of January (Jan 30 and 31), Pastor Kong Hee revisited the vision for 2021 that he had set for the church. He wanted CHC to cultivate Christlikeness, to learn to love unconditionally and become true disciples of Jesus in the marketplace.
Pastor Kong stated at two simple truths: God is light and God is love. “By saying God is light, it means that God is holy,” he preached. This means that God is totally pure and completely perfect, and He is constantly shining His light on His believers.
“God is love, a love that is holy,” the pastor continued. “Which means a love that is impure and not genuine will never be enough for Him.”
Because God loves His children, He wants them to enjoy Him forever. “Holiness is the substance of our happiness. You will never experience full joy unless you are holy. If your life is still gripped by moral weaknesses and perversity, that joy may be there but you’ll never be able to enjoy Him and experience the fullness of joy,” explained Pastor Kong.
WHAT DOES HOLINESS MEAN?
Holiness is not about keeping a set of rules—it doesn’t matter what you eat or if you choose to colour your hair. “The Bible tells us to be holy is to be like Christ. Holiness is Christlikeness,” said the pastor. “Jesus Christ is the very heart of who God is.”
Paul made clear to the Galatians the character profile of Jesus—the nine fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). “These are the attitudes and the disposition of Jesus,” the pastor taught. They make up Jesus’ personality, temperament and mindset.
Pastor Kong explained that while church growth, missions and marketplace evangelism are important, cultivating these nine fruits so that they are revealed in one’s life is crucial. If there is no love for one another in the church, no joy in serving, the church cannot grow. If a person has no kindness or long-suffering, there is no effective evangelism. If there is no faithfulness or gentleness among the people, there will be no loyalty and commitment, just anger and a lack of forgiveness in the church. Even if the church experiences a revival, it cannot last.
“You lose everything if you don’t exercise self-control,” he said. “Christlikeness is the foundation of every spiritual blessing that we have in Christ.” (Eph 1:3-4).
God’s divine agenda is to make His believers more like Him, and Peter called this process “growing in grace” (2 Pet 3:18). JI Packer, an evangelical theologian, gives seven propositions on holiness, five of which Pastor Kong shared in his message.
THE WAY OF HOLINESS
1. The nature of holiness is transformation through consecration
“Every encounter you want starts with consecration,” the pastor said. The word “consecration” refers not to what a person does but how he relates to God in his heart. “When you give yourself fully to Him, when you draw near to Him, that’s consecration.”
Romans 12:1-2 explains this very well. In the first 11 chapters of Romans, Paul talked about the saving grace of Jesus. Now that the Romans understood the grace of Jesus, the right response was to present themselves or consecrate themselves to God as a living sacrifice.
In the Old Testament, once a person placed his sacrifice on the altar, he relinquished ownership of it—that sacrifice fully belonged to the Lord. Therefore, to present oneself as a living sacrifice means that a person relinquishes ownership of himself. He no longer lives for his own dreams, visions and ambitions, but is set apart for God.
“If you would do this, something amazing will happen,” the pastor encouraged. “You will no longer be conformed to this world but you will be transformed; Christlikeness will happen day by day.”
The transformation happens when the Holy Spirit start speaking and showing the believer how he should live his life. Eventually, the believer will have a renewed mind and become the evidence of God’s will.
2. The agent of holiness is the Holy Spirit
The agent, Pastor Kong explained, carries out the desire. The Holy Spirit came to carry out God’s desire to change His believers to become more like Him.
Titus 3:5 teaches that Christians are saved by grace through faith in Christ. “When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, something amazing happens: He washes you clean.” This washing consisted of two things: regeneration and renewing. Regeneration means to be born again while renewing means becoming a new creation in Christ.
1 John 3:6 notes that “whoever has been born of God does not sin”. Pastor Kong explained that this does not mean that a person does not sin at all, but that a person stops sinning habitually and continuously. It also means that the grip of sin in a person’s life is loosened and he is set free. “Why? Because His seed remains in you. In other words, God’s DNA is in you.”
Without Christ, a person can never be Christlike.
Pastor Kong shared a conversation with Pastor Don Wong, the founder of New Charis Missions who has helped many drug addicts through his ministry. Christians find grace to give up drugs because they are new creations in Christ, but, Pastor Kong asked, how do non-Christians overcome drug addiction?
Pastor Don answered that while it’s possible to overcome any addiction without God, the person would never be free from the slavery of sin. Even if they no longer take drugs, they soon find themselves addicted to other things, such as gambling or drinking. “Because only Jesus Christ can permanently set us free,” Pastor Kong explained.
When a Christian is born again, he has the nature of God in him, which is why he feels guilty when he sins. “So holiness is not a hard thing,” Pastor Kong pointed out, “it’s simply living out what is natural inside you in Christ.” Just like it is natural for every human to walk, it is natural for every Christian to walk in holiness.
Pastor Kong brough up the term “vivification”. “Vivification means the Holy Spirit is coming to make alive, to produce to strengthen the fruit of the Holy Spirit inside our lives,” he said. “So when we surrender to the Holy Spirit, He dwells inside us. We become willing to be more like Christ, and we actually have the power to do it.”
3. The experience of holiness involves effort and conflict
While God gives grace and the Holy Spirit gives power, it still takes effort on the part of the believer to become more Christlike. Sharing from his own experience, Pastor Kong said that while some fruit is easy to develop, others are hard to cultivate.
“But I’m very encouraged because Jesus Christ also learned obedience by the things which He suffered,” the pastor shared. Even though Jesus was sinless, He still had to make an effort to obey God.
“You’ve got to be intentional,” he urged. “When you’re surrounded by malicious people, you’ve got to decide to love. When you’re faced with a depressing situation, you decide to rejoice in the Lord always.”
Pastor Kong encouraged the church members to set their hearts to intentionally react according to the fruit of the Spirit, regardless of the situation they face. “The Holy Spirit will train us, just like He trained Jesus,” he encouraged.
4. The rule of holiness is the law of God
“The 10 Commandments are the eternal moral values of God,” the pastor continued. “All throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, the 10 Commandments remain.”
While the law cannot save a person’s soul, it can show him what God is like. “The amazing thing is, Jesus kept them all!” Not only did Jesus keep all the commandments, He also added breadth and depth to them. “It’s not just the act of adultery, it’s not committing adultery in your thoughts. It’s no longer just the act of murder, it’s not getting angry,” Pastor Kong explained. “It’s even harder.”
The good news is, the Holy Spirit will work in the believer’s heart so that they can live out this Royal Law like a true heir of God’s Kingdom.
5. The heart of holiness is the spirit of love
“Why we want to be Christlike is because we love God,” Pastor Kong said. “If you love a person, you want to please the person, you want to be like Him.”
Love, however, can be blind. “So God gave us eyes so that we can see—the eyes are the 10 Commandments,” the pastor explained. He gave the example of a person falling in love with a married woman. Love may be the greatest but the law says not to commit adultery.
To understand how love should work, a person needs to look at the law and at Jesus. “Love is His driving force, it compels Him to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
In closing, Pastor Kong prayed for the church: “My prayer for you that this year in 2021, you will learn and experience and know the width, the length, the depth, the height of the love of Jesus Christ. And by doing that, you will be feeling all the fullness of God and all these things that you need to be added to you.”