Forgiving others is setting yourself free. In last weekend’s sermon, City Harvest Church’s senior pastor, Kong Hee expounded on the importance of forgiveness in the pursuit of spiritual union.
“Does it matter how we live our lives today? Especially if our salvation is already assured,” Kong Hee, the senior pastor of City Harvest Church posed this question to the congregation at the start of his sermon on the weekend of Nov 13 and 14.
Continuing his message on theosis—spiritual union with God—Pastor Kong elaborated that this process begins at conversion. The moment a person chooses to believe in Jesus, eternal life begins to spring up from within. This divine life is also known as the zoe life of God.
1 Corinthians 15:28 reads “When he has done this, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put everything under Him, so that God may be all in all.”
Unpacking this verse, Pastor Kong explained that while God may be omnipresent in this present age, He is yet to be “all in all”. The present evil age belongs to Satan. As Pastor Kong shared, the effect on believers is that while they are converted, they are not fully surrendered. As such, in their hearts and actions, they are still resisting God.
Furthermore, Christians only have the Holy Spirit in measure and a degree of eternal life in them. However, at the Second Coming, they can be confident that they will be fully swallowed up the zoe life, and made fully one with God—just like how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one.
KATHARSIS—THE FIRST KEY TO SPIRITUAL UNION
“However, if this happens only at the end of time, does it matter how we live our lives today?” Pastor Kong posed the question to the congregation, getting the members to ponder and reflect on their lives.
“Of course, it does.” Pastor Kong declared. Using the analogy of a cup, he explained how each person’s life is similar to that of a cup, with the purpose of being filled; like a vessel. However, each person’s cup is not of the same size. When one comes to Christ, one’s cup is completely full. Yet, the size of each person’s cup is determined by the extent to which one loves and serves God today. The bigger one’s cup is, the greater the love and joy one would experience in eternity.
Pastor Kong shared the three keys that the early church fathers used to teach Christians how to grow in spiritual union: Katharsis, which means purification, Theoria which means revelation, and Theosis which is union.
Focusing on katharsis, Pastor Kong explained that it is the process of flushing out sin and temptations daily. Pointing to Matthew 5:8, which reads, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”, the pastor explained that the word “pure” in the text is katharos, which meant that one is cleansed, purified, or purged. He went on to elaborate that believers are blessed when they understand how to release the impurities in their lives and such a process is vital for a believer to grow in his personal revelation of God.
Furthermore, sins and temptations are common to man. Like the common flu, believers experience them from time to time. “The key is to not hold on to them for too long—to keep worrying, feeling upset and simmer in frustration—or they will become toxins in your heart,” the pastor warned.
“Don’t let a negative affection become a deadly infection,” warned the pastor. While one will certainly suffer injustice in life, those are not problems as long as one knows how to deal with them. However, the danger comes when one is chipped by the remarks and chooses to live with an edge in their words and attitude. When one holds on to offences, they let the offence affect their lives and prevent themselves from moving on to other things.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FORGIVENESS
“Being offended is not harming them (the offender), but harming you,” the pastor continued. “The way to flush it out of your system is by forgiving them.” If one chooses not to let go of their bitterness, they will remain trapped by the offence. However, the moment one chooses to let it go, they find complete freedom.
“Sometimes, I get that it is hard to forgive people because they don’t deserve it. What the other person did is clearly wrong; and they may not even be sorry,” the pastor said. He then reminded the church that the forgiveness of others is not for their sake, rather, it is for one’s own sake.
Forgiving a person does not mean excusing or lessening the offence. “Forgiveness is your decision not to suffer anymore,” he shared.
Pastor Kong went on to share the story of Mary Johnson, a mum whose only son was murdered by Oshea Israel, who was 16 years old then. When Oshea’s sentence was reduced from life imprisonment to a 25-year sentence, Mary Johnson struggled with the bitterness for 10 years.
Upon reading a poem about Jesus and Judas Iscariot’s mothers meeting in heaven and how Mary was able to forgive Judas’ mother, Mary Johnson found the conviction in her heart to forgive Oshea as well. The moment she decided to forgive, she felt a strong purge of all the negative pent-up emotions that she had bottled within herself.
Mary started visiting Oshea in prison and they eventually grew close. Today, Mary runs an organisation that helps mothers who have lost their children to violence. Together with Oshea, they travel around to share their story and the power of forgiveness.
In closing, Pastor Kong encouraged the church to learn from Jesus who chose to forgive all His enemies on the Cross. By forgiving, He set the example for all believers to live in the freedom of forgiveness. Paul the Apostle also learned to allow God to be the judge for those who had wronged him. “The Holy Spirit wants us to live and walk in His love, His joy and His peace because He has much greater things in store for you.”
YOUTHS RISING UP TO REACH THE LOST
Before Pastor Kong ended the service, he spoke about the recent Emerge Prayer Meeting where he led CHC’s young people in a two-and-a-half-hour prayer meeting. Many youths caught the vision of reaching out to the poor and needy with the love of God.
He invited two youth cell group leaders, Sing Qing and Gwendolyn Tan to share what their cell groups have been doing among their youth members.
Sing Qing’s cell group brought six special needs members from CHC’s Jesus For All Minds ministry to the Science Centre for an outing. Before the outing, they gathered to write cards for the JAMs members and prepared care packs for them. The JAMs members were very blessed by the youths, and the youths, in turn, were inspired to serve the purpose of God.
Wanting to reach out to youths-at-risk, Gwendolyn’s youth members went to the basketball courts and befriended some of the youths there. In turn, the youths connect them to their other friends.
Gwendolyn’s cell group members visited these youths during the examination period and gave them care packs. One of the youths even joined them for an online zone Bible study.
At the end of the service, Pastor Kong encouraged the young people to register for the upcoming Emerge Prayer Meeting at Jurong West on Nov 21.