Eternal life is a future reality for the believer, but the Kingdom of God can be experienced in part when we live live in the Holy Spirit and develop our spirituality, taught Pastor Kong Hee.
“To grow in this life of the Kingdom of God, we’ve got to develop spirituality,” declared Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church on the weekend of May 15 and 16. He preached a sermon that continued his series on the Kingdom of God, this time focusing on the importance of spirituality.
Pastor Kong began by going to Matthew 19:16-23, where a rich young ruler asked Jesus what he needed to do to gain eternal life. Jesus replied that he should leave all his worldly possessions and follow Him, but the rich young ruler could not. Jesus then told His disciples that it is hard for someone rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
“Didn’t the rich young ruler asked the question ‘How do I get eternal life?’” the pastor pointed out. “Why did Jesus answer him in this way? Because eternal life and the Kingdom of Heaven are the same thing.”
Eternal life is the life of the Kingdom. Technically, that Kingdom can only be inherited at when Jesus returns (Mt 25:34) and death, sin and mourning no longer exist (Rev 21:1, 4). However, Jesus also preached in Matthew 4:17, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
“The good news is that the Kingdom of God—something that is reserved for the age to come—has invaded this present age. We can have a little taste of life in heaven now,” Pastor Kong revealed. This means that while the mortal body may fall sick and experience death, Christians can still have a taste of eternal life and experience miracles here on earth.
WHAT ETERNAL LIFE MEANS
Pastor Kong went on to share two things about eternal life. Firstly, eternal life means the knowledge of God.
“In the Bible, knowledge means experience, a personal encounter, entering into a relationship, friendship and fellowship with God,” he defined while reading John 17:3. Although the knowledge Christians have of God is incomplete, it is nonetheless the greatest and most wonderful reality in life. The more people know God, the more they love Him.
“Secondly, eternal life is the life of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us,” Pastor Kong explained. In John 3:3, Apostle John revealed that no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again. He adds on in Verse 5 that only through water and the Spirit can one enter the Kingdom of God.
“This (water) is not talking about baptism—we are not saved because of baptism,” Pastor Kong explained. “Jesus was really referring to a prophecy in Ezekiel 36:25.” In the new covenant, the prophet said that the Holy Spirit is going sprinkle clean water and cleanse Christians from all their filthiness. “This born again experience is totally by the Spirit dwelling inside us,” he continued.
Reading 2 Corinthians 5:4-5, Pastor Kong noted that God has made a promise to give His people eternal life and the Holy Spirit is the deposit of that guarantee.
“The Holy Spirit is our partial possession of eternal life, guaranteeing fullness at the Second Coming,” he explained. “The power of the Holy Spirit in us is not enough to resurrect this body now—we have to wait for that to happen at the end of time, but it is more than enough to transform our character.” That is how Christians can experience the life of the age to come.
PAYING ATTENTION TO THE SPIRIT WITHIN
For a Christian to experience the Kingdom of God, he must start to develop spiritually. Pastor Kong defined spirituality as “paying attention to the life of the spirit within”, which is the born-again person living inside the Christian. He went on to share three things about spirituality.
1. The result of spirituality is that Christ is being formed in us
“When people look at you, they see more and more of the character of Jesus,” the pastor explained. Drawing a line between character and personality, he explained that the personality is what one presents to the world externally while the character reflects who the person truly is internally. Personality can be coached: one can learn how to be likeable and how to conduct oneself during interviews. Conversely, one’s character cannot be coached, it is built over time.
Galatians 4:19 states that character is what God focuses on, thus Christians should attain the character of Jesus. His character profile is the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).
2. The desire of spirituality is to integrate all aspects of our life
Pastor Kong taught that when a person’s spiritual life is not integrated with the other aspects of his life—his work life, marriage or the way he conducts himself—his soul breaks down and he becomes a hypocrite.
“When Christ’s character is formed within you, then you see that every part of your being, every part of your life is integrated with your spirituality—this is the desire of spirituality,” Pastor Kong taught.
3. The process of spirituality is to place our real self in the presence of God
“Spirituality makes us aware of our real self—who we truly are—and places it in the presence of God,” the pastor preached. “Only when we bring our true self—the good, bad and ugly—before God’s presence, can God transform us and form Jesus Christ in us.”
Yet Christians are often too busy to come before God to allow Him to speak to them. Reading from Luke 10:41-42, Pastor Kong told the familiar story of Mary and Martha. Like Martha, Christians often feel pressured and stressed when they are overwhelmed with the demands of life. However, Jesus asserted that only one thing is needed: spiritual intimacy at the feet of Jesus. The word “needed” in Greek is “chria”, which means “absolutely necessary”.
Pastor Kong noted that some people even get addicted to busyness. “We pack our free time with so many things to do. We don’t want to shut off all the busy noises in our head because if we do, we will have to face our real self and we don’t want to do that,” he pointed out. “Your real self may not be so patient or kind; your real self may be angry with life and with God.”
The result of not dealing with the “real self” is having many unresolved issues. “We don’t want to confront them because if we do, in the presence of God, we will have to make a choice. Do we want to forgive? Do we want to fully surrender our future to God?” he continued.
Drawing from his time in prison, Pastor Kong shared the questions he had in his head surrounding his circumstances. Although he was afraid to find out the answers, he knew that the only way to develop an intimate relationship with God was through surrendering to Him.
In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invites Christians to give Him their burdens in exchange for rest. Yet many Christians find living for God and serving Him difficult and frustrating—many are tired and worn out. “Jesus says it’s not to be like this. ‘If you want to find rest, you must come to Me. Come to Me for silence and solitude every day,’” the pastor elaborated.
When a Christian comes into the presence of God, God will cause him examine his character and to change from inside out. Pastor Kong explained, “This is what eternal life is: it is allowing God to rule and reign in every area in our lives.”
He exhorted the congregation to “slow down and come before God to let him renew us. God often uses our most painful time to get our attention. Spirituality is more important than all worldly accomplishments.”