In this instalment of his series on the “Kingdom of God”, Pastor Kong Hee conducted an in-depth study of Jesus’ final words to His disciples.
“Spiritual formation in Christlikeness is God’s goal for every Christian,” Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church, reiterated as he began his message in the series on the Kingdom of God. He preached at a live service on July 17 (repeat broadcast on July 18).
With reference to 2 Corinthians 3:18 and Romans 8:29, Pastor Kong explained that Christians are meant to be transformed into Christ’s image with ever-increasing glory. The ultimate destiny that God has for each believer is not just about what each believer does, but who each believer becomes.
“Everything that we go through in life—the good, the bad, the ugly—is so that we can become Christlike,” the pastor elaborated. “What Jesus is like is expressed through the nine fruit of the Spirit. Every fruit can be developed when we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, deliberately act in the opposite way to difficult situations.”
He emphasised, “Spiritual formation in Christlikeness is God’s goal for every Christian, and you cannot lose sight of this.” He urged the church not to mistake the vessel for the treasure.
Pastor Kong quoted renowned Christian writer, Dallas Willard who said, “The problem comes when we mistake the vessel for the treasure, for the treasure is the life and the power of Jesus Christ.” The treasure refers to the life of the Spirit within each believer. Everything else is merely a vessel, said Pastor Kong.
In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul talks about treasure in earthen vessels. This real treasure is not the physical body, which will one day die and decay. “The real treasure is the life of the Spirit within us, which will live forever,” taught Pastor Kong. “It is the presence of God, the presence and character of Jesus Christ on the inside of you.”
Similarly, the church, its events, ministries and cell groups are all vessels. “The real treasure is the spiritual life of the church,” Pastor Kong explained. “If our spiritual life is weak, stunted or dead, then City Harvest Church is just an empty shell.”
An incident that happened to Pastor Warren Wiersbe demonstrated that true spirituality is about cultivating the character of Jesus within oneself. Once, before a sermon, an elderly gentleman came up to Wiersbe and rudely demanded to know if there was going to be quoting of “certain popular paraphrases” of the Bible.
The pastor replied, “When I teach, I use whatever translation best helps me explain God’s truth. But that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything that is being translated.” Upon hearing this, the elderly man lost his temper, accused the pastor of having no conviction concerning the word of God and stormed out of the church. In doing so, he disobeyed the very Bible he thought he was defending.
Pastor Kong reminded the church not to forget that the most fundamental aspect of heaven itself is Christlikeness. “If we are cold, if we are resentful, harsh, unfriendly and unkind with our words, attitudes and actions, that is not Jesus,” Pastor Kong declared. “How can we have the power of Christ, without the character of Christ?”
JESUS’ POWER AND PRESENCE
Reading his main scripture, Matthew 28:18-20, Pastor Kong explained that the Great Commission is Jesus’ final words to all His disciples. In verse 18, when Jesus mentions the authority that has been given to Him, He was referring to His power.
In verse 20, Jesus assured His disciples that He would be with them always—this refers to His Presence. Sandwiched between these two verses, are three commands that Pastor Kong wanted the congregation to notice.
1. Be A Disciple Of Jesus
The first command is to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt28:19). “The New Testament does not recognise anyone who is not a disciple. If you are not a disciple, you are not a follower of Jesus,” explained Pastor Kong. Simply believing in Jesus is not enough, because even the demons believe and yet they are not followers of Jesus.
“A disciple is one who trusts Jesus with his or her whole life, as far as they understand it,” Pastor Kong defined. Hence, a disciple would want to learn everything that Jesus has to teach them, such that their trust will continue to grow with their understanding. He gave the example that Jesus taught that they must exercise no anger, but practise perfect purity, perfect honesty and perfect love in the Kingdom of God. A disciple must strive to achieve all this.
In that way, discipleship is about surrendering the way a believer used to live. To those who see no reason to be a disciple of Jesus, Pastor Kong said, “I want to be a disciple of Jesus because only when I am Christlike, can I fully enjoy the love of a Christlike God.”
This is the primary reason why Jesus gave Christians His power and presence so that they can attain real treasure. But to do so, believers must be willing to surrender their old way of living life and grow in Christlikeness.
2. Be Immersed In The Presence Of The Trinity
Being immersed in the presence of the Holy Trinity is the single most important key for growth and revival. Without the presence of God, spiritual transformation is not possible.
“This is why a prophetic word is so powerful, sometimes more than the service. When an accurate prophecy is given, unbelievers will be convicted of sin and they will bow and worship God. They will say that surely God is among you,” elaborated Pastor Kong. Spiritual transformation is not something believers can generate for themselves; it happens only through God’s grace.
The Holy Trinity displays that God exists as a circle of love whereby God the Father loves the Son and God the Son loves the Father. In turn, They love the Holy Spirit, who is the bond of love among Them. Holy love is the core attribute of God. Out of the abundance of this love, They chose to create the whole universe, to bring humans into Their communion and Their love.
1 John 4:8 reads, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This means that the only way a Christian can know God is through the transformation that God’s love brings. A Christian whose life is dominated by hate and resentment only knows facts about God but does not truly know Him. Jesus wants His disciples to be saturated in the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, such that it overflows into their words, deeds and attitudes.
3. To Be Fully Known By God
Pastor Kong shared the spiritual disciplines that were observed in the life of Jesus such as scriptural study, prayer, worship, fasting, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual conversation and lastly, silence and solitude. He elaborated on his conviction that silence and solitude is the most important spiritual discipline that believers need to practice. It is giving God undivided attention and simply be alone with God.
“You must decide to have your own personal encounter alone with God, for yourself. Solitude is the fasting of the soul,” Pastor Kong explained.
During a time of silence and solitude, believers allow themselves to be fully known by God, to lay down their carnal selves. 1 Corinthians 13:12 includes the phrase “to be known”, a phrase often used in the context of marriage, when both man and woman reveal themselves to each other in their fullness, without shame.
To be fully known by God is to be completely naked and vulnerable before Him, allowing full transparency of the deepest struggles of one’s soul.
Pastor Kong brought the church back to the vision he set at the start of the year for CHC in 2021: to be a disciple of Jesus, attested by the cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life; to be immersed in the presence of the Trinity where one learns to love in the way They love; and finally, out of the abundance and overflow of these two former points, believers will be equipped to obey Jesus’ command in Mt 28:19, to do mighty exploits, resulting in revival, evangelism and missions.
In focusing on growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, believers will naturally be able to change the world.