In last weekend’s sermon, Pastor Kong Hee delved into the Beatitudes to show the church what a real follower of Jesus looks like.
“In His earthly life and ministry, Jesus Christ depended fully on the Holy Spirit,” said Kong Hee, senior pastor of City Harvest Church as he began his sermon on the weekend of 14 and 15 May. Jesus gave His believers an example of what a Spirit-empowered life looked like.
First and and foremost, the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of love. He is also a Spirit of holiness: He sanctifies His believers, making them holy. Finally, He is the Spirit of power. It is because of the Holy Spirit that the Kingdom of God was not just of thoughts and theories, but of power (Mk 16).
“We have learned from the early church and the early Pentecostals not to focus on the power [of the Holy Spirit]. Instead, focus on divine love and focus on being holy and living a righteous life, and the power will come,” Pastor Kong taught. “We’ve got to get our kingdom priorities right.”
TO LIVE FROM A PLACE OF LOVE
Lasting change comes from a place of love. Speaking from experience, Pastor Kong said that Christians would never change unless they are moved by God’s love in their hearts and respond to it with the willingness to change.
To illustrate his point, Pastor Kong gave an example of driving along an expressway. The speed limit in Singapore is 80 or 90 km per hour, yet drivers often drive above the speed limit until they approach a speed camera or if they spot a traffic policeman. Once they pass the speed camera, drivers would speed up again. This driver is law-motivated—he keeps to the speed limit because he does not want to be slapped with a fine.
Conversely, if they have someone precious sitting in their car—such as a baby or pregnant mother— they would naturally slow down and drive carefully. For Pastor Kong, if his 95-year-old mother were in the car, “all of a sudden, I’m very aware of how fast I’m driving. I would never come close to breaking the speed limit. I would drive very carefully and slowly—not because of a law motivation, but because of a heart motivation,” he explained.
“This is how Jesus wants us to be, not because we have to but because we love Him. It’s obedience motivated by the heart and not by the law.”
THE ATTITUDES OF THE HEART
Jesus gave a description of a real follower of Jesus in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. He taught that the Kingdom of God is not just religiously following a moral code. He then gave His believers the Beatitudes.
“The Beatitudes are not a list of commandments for you to do or obey. The focus here is not the doing, but the being,” Pastor Kong emphasised. The Beatitudes describe what a son or daughter of the Heavenly Father looks like.
“Beatitudes” came from a Latin word beatitudo which means to be supremely happy, to have a divine joy, a delight greater than any possession, power or prestige. “A Christian is not supremely happy because of what he or she has done, but because of certain attitudes he or she holds in their heart,” he said before launching into the eight attitudes that would lead to this divine joy.
1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:3)
“To be poor in spirit means to recognise that you are spiritually bankrupt or spiritually destitute.” Pastor Kong started.
Since one is spiritually poor, they lean fully on God. While God is not against riches and prosperity, it is not possessions or prestige that will make a person happy. There is a yearning in every Christian’s heart for the Holy Spirit, that is why Pentecostal Christians are always crying out for more of God.
2. “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” (Mt 5:4)
This mourning is not a sense of sadness over a loss but rather, a deep grief over sin. “Paul says it’s like having a godly sorrow because your sin is affecting our relationship and fellowship with God. You learn to become very sensitive to sin because you do not want to grieve the Holy Spirit,” Pastor Kong elaborated. And the motivation for this mourning is the love one has for the Holy Spirit.
The starting point is repentance—Jesus meant that repentance leads to godly sorrow which causes Christians to empty out themselves. When that happens, a change takes place. “Repentance will bring you supreme happiness because you’re learning to be humble,” Pastor Kong said.
3. “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5)
“Meekness is not weakness!” Pastor Kong clarified. Moses and Jesus are examples of meekness in the Bible, but neither of them were doormats for people to trample on.
“Meekness is really self-control when you are provoked or irritated,” Pastor Kong explained. “It takes a lot of inner strength—the strength of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit—to stay gentle, patient, polite, to stay in kindness and let the love of God flow. Not easy, right?”
But Pastor Kong said that the more Christians live and walk in the Spirit, the more Christlike they would become in every situation.
“Jesus promises this: meekness in your heart will bring you supreme happiness.” Pastor Kong said. “Those who are meek will one day inherit the new heaven and new earth.”
4. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled” (Mt 5:6)
“Hunger and thirst are intense desires. Every child of God has a hunger and thirst to live righteously,” Pastor Kong said explaining that this desire comes from loving God and wanting to please Him. “This yearning for righteousness will result in more and more of the infilling of the Holy Spirit.”
Pastor Kong reminded the church that the Holy Spirit is very gentle, and would never force His way into one’s life. He waits for the believer to open up his heart and allow Him in. “With a heart that loves righteousness and wants to please Him, you will find supreme happiness,” Pastor Kong taught.
At this point, the senior pastor noted that the Beatitudes were full of contrast, and without exception, they reversed the values of the world. God would not allow one to continue in the sins of this world while He adds blessing to them.
“The Holy Spirit wants to empty all that you are, so that He can fill us with all that He is,” the pastor preached. “You need to be emptied of yourself in order to be filled with God.”
He went on to add how each Beatitude is also a reversal of the values of the world. No one likes to be poor or in mourning. The world teaches one to enjoy themselves and do what they want. Yet Jesus taught that it is the poor who would be blessed, and those who are in mourning that would be comforted.
Each Beatitude also expresses the beauty of Jesus in a Christian’s life. The more Christians live according to the Beatitudes, the more they become like Jesus. “Jesus was a man of sorrow acquainted with grief, but the joy of the Lord was His strength. He was meek and lowly, but in the end, He inherited the whole universe,” Pastor Kong preached.
5. “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7)
The pastor shared that when he deals with difficult people, he wants to be emptied of resentment and gossip as he is reminded of the mercy and grace Jesus showed him when he was still a sinner.
The more one allows the Holy Spirit to fill their heart with love, the more they will be free of unforgiveness and the purer their heart would become.
6. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see the Lord” (Mt 5:8)
“He will become clearer and clearer to you,” the pastor taught. “The more you can see Jesus, the more joyful you become.”
7. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called Children of God.” (Mt 5:9)
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, died on the cross to make peace and reconcile His believers to God. He then gave them the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18). “We want to make peace happen to the best that we can. As followers of the Prince of Peace, we don’t go around creating confusion, division and strife,” Pastor Kong said firmly.
He went on to say that the Holy Spirit has empowered believers to restore broken friendships and marriages. One should not add fuel to the fire in conflicts, but make peace and promote faithfulness, loyalty and commitment.
8. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10)
Jesus ended the Beatitudes by warning His disciples that this way of life will bring them into conflict with the world. “This is one thing Simon Peter struggled with from the beginning. He did not want any suffering or trouble,” Pastor Kong shared. Yet by the end of his life, he finally understood and even wrote to encourage those who were suffering for Christ (1 Pet 4:12-13).
“He understood that if you follow Jesus, you should expect to experience some of the same opposition that Jesus Himself experienced,” Pastor Kong said.
Matthew 5: 11-12 continues, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
“Have you been insulted before because of Jesus? When people insulted you, lied about you and gossiped about you, what was your reaction?” Pastor Kong asked.
A typical response is to be aggressive yet Jesus Christ said not to do that. “The first thing you should do is realise how blessed you are! It is a high privilege to suffer for Christ. God has reserved a great reward for you in Heaven,” the pastor reminded the congregation.
The Bible defines an overcomer as one who is always full of love and grace, joy and peace no matter what their circumstances are.
In conclusion, Pastor Kong reiterated that the Beatitudes are not commandments, but attitudes of a believer’s heart towards God.
“We Christians can be the happiest in the world because the Holy Spirit has given us a new heart, a new heart that can be responsive to the love of God.” Pastor Kong concluded.