Love is the chief reason Jesus came to bring salvation. In the past weekend’s sermon Love In The Holy Spirit (Part 3), Pastor Kong Hee explains why, without God’s love, life can neither be satisfying nor fulfilling.
“How many of you are still excited and passionate about Jesus? Is your Christian life satisfying and fulfilling? Have you been completely transformed? Have you found wholeness and purity in Jesus?”
These were soul-searching questions posed by senior pastor of City Harvest Church Kong Hee opened his sermon on the weekend of 2 and 3 April. The atmosphere at the service was notably exuberant as, for the first time in two years, congregants were able to sing during praise and worship, albeit still with masks on.
When Christians first come to know Jesus, everything is fresh and exciting. “It’s exhilarating to learn new things about God,” the pastor commented. Experiencing the grace that comes with water baptism, speaking in tongues the first time one is baptised in the Holy Spirit, discovering new friends and a new community in church—the early days of becoming a Christian are filled with excitement.
But as the years go by and a Christian grows older and more experienced, he may realise that life is not always a bed of roses. Stress at work, family challenges, even clashing personalities in church cause a Christian to become jaded and burnt out. He might even become cynical with life or angry with God.
GOD’S PURPOSE IN SALVATION
“So, let us start from the very beginning,” Pastor Kong proposed as he took the congregation back to the purpose of God creating mankind and the reason Jesus died on the cross.
“Is it just so that we can serve Him, that we struggle through life and our jobs? Struggle through our marriages and enjoy happiness that is often fleeting at best?” he questioned.
Finding the answer to these questions is important because if one fails to do so, he will not find fulfilment in his life, explained the pastor.
1 John 4 and 16 declare that God is love. Love is the fundamental nature of God. “We need God because only love completely satisfies,” Pastor Kong preached. Everything else—wealth, power and prestige—are temporary and do not bring lasting happiness.
“God saves us because He loves us and wants to satisfy us to the fullest with His love,” Pastor Kong continued, reading Ephesians 3:16-19. He reminded the church that while man’s serving God and being anointed by Him is a privilege, that is not the reason Jesus came to save mankind.
“The whole purpose of your salvation is for you to experience that tender, passionate, intimate love of God,” explained Pastor Kong. “Only then will you find a life that is satisfying; only then will you discover lasting joy and fulfilment.”
God’s perfect love transforms a person— it casts out fear and it gives believers the grace to be free from sin. Even in hardship and pain, God’s love gives Christians the peace, assurance and grace to not give up.
The Holy Spirit is the spirit of love (Gal 2:22). He is the One who pours the love of God into the believers’ souls and connects them to the Father and Son. It is God’s love that generates the faith for miracles.
“There must first be a deep satisfaction on the inside of a person. Then there will be an inner transformation, with that comes the outworking of power for evangelism and missions,” Pastor Kong elaborated. “If you get this wrong, life is hard and your Christian life will become dry.”
THE ANALOGY OF MARRIAGE
He continued, “The best way for God to convey His love for the Church is through the analogy of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Ephesians 5:25 and Revelation 19:7 place Jesus as the Groom and the church as His bride. 1 Corinthians 6:16-17 states that “whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” This means that intimate union with God comes only through the Holy Spirit.
Marriage is often said to be the second most important decision one makes in life after the decision to receive Christ. “Because marriage provides for us a foretaste of the intimacy we are meant to have with Jesus in heaven, to experience the delight and joy of His love,” the pastor explained.
Quoting the Christian author, CS Lewis, Pastor Kong noted that compared with the delight of God’s love, “highest raptures of earthly lovers will appear as mere milk and water”. In other words, the greatest ecstasy of love between a man and a woman cannot be compared with the joy and pleasure of love between God and His believers.
At this point, Pastor Kong noted that this does not mean that one has to be married to understand the love relationship they can have with Jesus. “The truth remains that God desires intimacy but not at an intellectual level,” he stated. “It is something you have to experience.”
While the fallen world has perverted sex into something vulgar, it is actually a gift from God in marriage. Physical consummation is the greatest joy and delight when it is born out of true love between husband and wife. They become open and completely vulnerable to each other, surrendering to one another in total trust. “The ecstasy of the consummation is so fulfilling and satisfying that something mysterious happens: the two people became one flesh,” Pastor Kong asserted.
Ephesians 5:31-32 calls this a “profound mystery” and the author noted that he was not just talking about two people, but about Christ and the church. “The Bible clearly teaches that the love and union between a man and a woman in marriage is the picture of how God wants to be intimate with us,” the pastor preached.
KNOWING THE LOVE OF GOD EXPERIENTIALLY
A person’s love for God often starts at an intellectual level—they understand in their mind that God loves them, so they put their faith in Him and trust Him. As they began to worship Him daily, they begin to surrender themselves to Him until they become completely vulnerable to Him.
At that point, they will expose their innermost sins and weaknesses to God. Yet there is no fear and shame because God’s perfect love casts out all fear. “In that deep, spiritual loving union, you experience oneness,” the pastor continued. “In the oneness, there is now a purifying, a cleaning, a washing.” (Eph 4:25)
This love empowers one to deal with their character flaws and to change for good. Pastor Kong noted that a person cannot change while living on a hectic schedule; the supernatural power for lasting change can only through love which is built through time spent with God.
God will then fill them with the fullness of joy. “At this point, the spiritual pleasure in this divine union is so great, it makes every burden light and every yolk easy,” he shared. This is how the apostles and saints throughout Christian history live for Jesus, even to the point of laying down their lives for Him. Love gives them the strength and courage to trust in Him.
The peace that comes when one is in the presence of God is something that the world cannot offer. “In His presence, all problems and worries fade away,” the pastor shared. “Because we know that we are in His arms, we trust God so deeply that we don’t really care anymore what He does with us—we just truly trust Him.”
Pastor Kong also taught that intimacy is a two-way relationship. As much as Christians learn to trust God, He also entrusts them with His most intimate gift—the gift of the Holy Spirit. “The more we become one with God in love, the more we are filled with the Spirit, and the more we are never the same again,” he taught. “When you come to that place, the love of God will change you permanently and irrevocably.”
In closing, Pastor Kong noted that the joy and satisfaction found in success, achievement, wealth, and even doing great things for God have a limit. Too many Christians chase after busy and stressful lifestyles that only bring them frustration.
“If anything, they often feel hollow and empty because God’s love is missing in their lives,” he explained. He urged the church to not just understand the love of God intellectually, but to experience Him by living and walking in the Spirit daily.
Pastor Kong ended the service by praying for the leaders in the church with his wife Sun, imparting a fresh touch of the Holy Spirit on each one.