Love is the main reason for a believer’s life. In the past weekend’s sermon Love In The Holy Spirit (Part 4), Pastor Kong Hee explains why a believer ought to prioritise the love of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
“From the early church in the book of Acts, all the way to the early Pentecostals at Azusa Street, Pentecost was, first and foremost, an outpouring of love,” began Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church. Building on his previous sermons of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Kong shared the importance of recognising the Holy Spirit’s love on the weekend of Apr 9 and 10.
When Christians think of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, they always focus on His power. Yet, the outpouring of love was always evident in the Bible. When one reads Romans 5:5, one can see how the Bible indicates that it was God’s love and not His power that was poured out from the Holy Spirit.
“The Pentecostal power, when you sum it all up, is just more of God’s love. If it does not bring more love, it is simply a counterfeit,” he stated, quoting William Seymour who led the Azusa Street Revival.
Pastor Kong went on to elaborate on the Azusa Street Revival, noting that a journalist present, Frank Bartleman had reported that there was divine love manifested in all the meetings. The congregation had been so full of God’s love that they would not even allow an unkind word to be said against any of their critics.
“Their message was the love of God,” Pastor Kong noted, adding that the success of the Azusa Street Revival could be attributed to the congregation’s focus on love. “Because the Spirit is love, the more they focused on love, the more the Holy Spirit was poured out on them.”
In John 15:9, Jesus commanded the believer to remain in God’s love. In Greek, the word “remain” means to “hold on to it, to keep focusing on it”. “Jesus was telling his disciples, ‘If you can continually stay in God’s love—’remain in My love’—then the Holy Spirit will come and clothe you with power from on high,” Pastor Kong explained.
THE NEED TO DEEPEN OUR LOVE FOR GOD
Instead of focusing on the power and blessings of the Holy Spirit, the pastor implored the church to focus on God’s love.
“If you only focus on the power, without that love, that power will be very limited and you won’t last. But when you focus on the love of the Spirit, not only will it fulfil you deeply, but your life with God will also be totally complete and so satisfying. You will live every single day with joy unspeakable, and a delight in the Lord. And the more you deepen in that perfect love, the more fearless you will become,” he taught.
The pastor went on to explain that as a believer grows under the love of God, holiness will also happen as lasting changes begin to take place in his life. The more one’s love for God grows, the more one will feel a hatred against sinful passion. The more one loves God, the more he will want to be like Him, with a desire to live a pure life that is pleasing unto the Lord.
Pastor Kong noted a mistake that the church has repeatedly made. When a Christian first receives Christ, other Christians around them encourage them to receive the Spirit, speak in tongues and to move in the Spirit. They would participate in fellowship and serve in church actively. Many of them stop there in their growth—they never learn to focus on holiness and to seek God for lasting change.
After a few years, these Christians begin to lose their initial excitement and soon find themselves discouraged by the pressures of life, or yielding to secret sins which they then hide. They find that besides having the assurance that they are going to heaven, they are not so different from anyone else in the world—they are just as unhappy and very little has changed inside them.
“’Why is my Christian life like this?’ Because you never allowed the Holy Spirit to purify you, to make you holy,” the pastor explained. “You have never allowed the Holy Spirit to deepen and mature your love for God beyond the initial love.”
The solution is to follow the example of the early Pentecostals. Pastor Kong recognised that they could move in great power because they did not focus on the power of God. “Instead, what they focused on was deepening their love of God and their intimacy with Him, their oneness with Him,” he preached.
Every day, the early Pentecostals spent time worshipping God in prayer. Pastor Kong explained that this prayer is not intercession for others because a person cannot develop tender love for God when they are thinking of someone else. The early Pentecostals spent time focusing on Jesus, loving Him and experiencing being loved by Him. “Their worship allowed the Holy Spirit to speak to them personally from the Word of God,” he taught.
As one reads the Bible, the Holy Spirit uses it as a mirror to show them what He wants them to adjust in their lives. While the Bible cannot change their behaviour for them, it can show them the areas where they need correction.
As such, when one spends time with God in worship, in prayer and reading the Bible in the presence of the Holy Spirit, God will begin to teach him how to obey His will and commandments.
Pastor Kong listed a few examples of how the Holy Spirit could do so. Romans 8:4 shows how the Holy Spirit enables a believer to fulfil and obey all the words and the commandments of God. Matthew 5:22 commands a believer to not be angry, while the following verses command one to not be lustful or be unloving towards others.
“So, each day when I read the Bible, and I meditate on the Word of God, the Holy Spirit uses this Word as a mirror to show me where I’ve gone wrong, the areas I need to adjust. Then I learn to humble myself in repentance. I confess my sins before the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse me with Jesus’s blood and He purifies me. Day by day, step by step, the Spirit teaches me how to live a life pleasing to God, how to obey Him, and to do His will,” the pastor detailed.
He added that despite his personal failings, he has never once experienced God being demanding or violent with him. In fact, God was always patient and kind—it is His gentleness that eventually moves a believer to change. While it is the Holy Spirit that gives Christians the ability and strength to change, they must first be willing to do so. And it is the love of God that compels them to do so.
WHAT IS GENUINE HOLINESS?
Ephesians 1:4 and Romans 8:29 share how a believer can seek genuine holiness. Comparing the two, Pastor Kong noted that both verses were identical in their message. “To be predestined (as mentioned in the two verses) is to be chosen before the foundations of the world. To be holy is to conform to the image of His Son to become totally like Jesus,” he preached.
Holiness is not following a religious list of dos and don’ts. Rather, it is to become more and more like Jesus. As a believer reads and learns about the Lord Jesus in the Bible and meditates on Him, the Holy Spirit gradually changes him into Christ’s likeness (2 Cor 3:17).
“What is Jesus like? He’s full of love, and joy and peace and long-suffering and kindness and gentleness and faithfulness and gentleness and goodness and self-control,” Pastor Kong said, listing the fruits of the Spirit. “This is what true holiness is.”
Pastor Kong also noted how evangelist John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination, was able to perform powerful miracles in his ministry simply by focusing on the love of God, seeking Him each day to deepen his love and to purify his affections. To Wesley, power and success did not equal holiness. One could be powerful or successful and yet live like a sinner.
“Holiness is simplicity, it is sacrifice. Wesley said that the initial sanctification at your conversion must lead to the entire sanctification of your whole life. Justifying grace must lead to perfecting grace. Positioned righteousness must lead to actual righteousness—you really live a life pleasing to God,” the pastor continued.
The Holy Spirit not only revives each believer, He purifies how they treat one another. Without the purity of God, there would not be real unity within the church—and without unity, the power for missions will be hindered.
In closing, Pastor Kong directed the attention of the congregation back to the triangle of God’s love, holiness, and power. He urged the congregation to focus on the love of God, explaining that holiness and power come as a result of love.
Pastor Kong ended the service by praying for the connect group leaders in the church with his wife Sun, imparting a fresh touch of the Holy Spirit on each one.