In light of Pentecost which happens in two weeks, Pastor Aries Zulkarnain encouraged the congregation to seek a personal and intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Prior to Jesus’ ascension, He promised His disciples “another advocate” who would continue to help them in their ministry (Jn 14:15-17). This advocate refers to the Holy Spirit.
In his sermon on 21 and 22 May, Aries Zulkarnain, executive pastor of City Harvest Church preached about how believers can and should have a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit.
The key to receiving the Holy Spirit is to know Him. “Know” here is the Greek word “ginosko”, which means to know a person intimately through relationship and experience.
There are different levels of knowing. Pastor Aries gave the example of his wife Sandy Yeo, CHC’s drama director. While most church members know of her, Pastor Aries knows her in an intimate and personal way since they are married.
“How many of you can say from the bottom of your heart, that you have a deep personal relationship with the Holy Spirit?” he asked the congregation. “If we do not know—ginosko—the Holy Spirit, we will find it difficult to understand and live out the ways of God.”
This applies to both public ministry and personal growth—the most effective public ministry always stems from a deep and personal relationship with God.
With this, Pastor Aries shared two steps one can take to know the Holy Spirit personally.
1. ONE NEEDS TO BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
Being filled with the Holy Spirit refers to more than just the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. In Acts 2:24, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, they were described as being “drunk” in the Spirit.
Pastor Aries explained that drunkenness is not about the amount of alcohol a person consumes, but the level of control alcohol has over him. Similarly, to be “drunk” on the Holy Spirit means to be aware of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to have influence over their decisions and lifestyles.
When the presence of God descends, there is a reverence in the air that can be felt. “In that presence, you tend to be more careful in your actions and behaviour, so as not to grieve the Holy Spirit,” Pastor Aries cautioned. The right heart attitude allows the Holy Spirit to influence one’s actions and lead him to radical, lasting change. It is a deep awareness of the Holy Spirit during worship that leads some churchgoers to fall on their knees, lift their hands in worship, even cry. These are not emotional acts but a response to the presence of the Holy Spirit, the pastor explained.
“If you cannot feel the Holy Spirit, you can request of God, ‘If you can touch all these other people, please touch me also’,” Pastor Aries encouraged the congregation.
He went on to share a testimony from Matthias Wan, a member of the church’s Security Ministry who volunteered at the recent May Day celebration organised by My Fellow Workers, CHC’s outreach to migrant workers in Singapore. At the event, Matthias was praying for a migrant worker with a heart condition when the man fell under the power of the Holy Spirit. Matthias was surprised by this, as he expected Christians to fall under the power since it is a common practice in church, but not a new believer who had no idea what it meant.
Furthermore, the migrant worker also attested that the pain he had been experiencing in his heart was much better. Mathias told Pastor Aries that he felt his spiritual senses awaken from this experience and realised that falling under the power of the Holy Spirit was not a “figment of our imagination”.
Hebrews 11:6 tells believers that knowing that God exists is not enough. They need to continually seek Him. For “those who seek God, will find Him” (Prov 8:17).
“But if you choose to be nonchalant and ignore the Holy Spirit, you will have no awareness of Him. Worse, you will even disrespect Him. Then, you’re shutting yourself out from a touch of heaven,” the pastor cautioned.
King Jehoiakim was such an example. Jeremiah 36:21-24 describes the king as one who showed disrespect and indifference to the reading of God’s word and the prophetic reading for the land. A prophecy was made regarding the eventual capture of Judah and Israel by the Babylonians, calling the King and the nation into repentance. Instead, Jehoiakim cut up the scrolls and threw them into the fire. He had no awareness of God’s holy presence, nor did he have the fear of the Lord.
In his book, Run With The Horses, author Eugene Petersen gathered that Jehoiakim’s behaviour actually reflects his excessive anxiety. Deep inside, he felt fearful about his nation’s impending invasion. However, he rejected God’s Word because did not want to repent of his ways. Pastor Aries reminded the congregation that believers might be guilty of doing the same thing: when the sermon heads in the direction of areas that they are struggling with, there is an automatic rejection of the Word.
One may not remember what they ate last week, it is the continuous discipline of eating meals that sustains the body. Likewise, while believers may not remember every sermon that is taught, it does not mean that they should dismiss the importance of each one because that is how they are spiritually sustained through the hearing of the Word every week.
2. ONE NEEDS TO EXPERIENCE THE HOLY SPIRIT PERSONALLY
In the Gospel of John, Apostle John often referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. While reading the verses, Pastor Aries found himself wondering if Jesus had favourites. However, Romans 2:11 states that “For God does not show favouritism”. The pastor then understood that John’s bold declaration was his personal revelation of Jesus’ love for him.
Pastor Aries brought up a workshop led by a trainer who gathered the parents in one room and the children in another. The parents were asked “How many of you love your children?”, to which all the parents lifted up their hands. When the children were asked, “How many of you feel loved by your parents?”, only 10 per cent of them raised their hands.
This demonstrated that while all parents may love their children, not all children feel they have experienced this love.
“If you have never experienced that love, then that love is only theory, not experiential,” Pastor Aries explained. John had such an amazing personal encounter with God’s love that he became known as the Apostle of Love.
Pastor Aries suggested that John had this revelation because he was the only disciple who had heard Jesus’ last words on the cross, asking God to forgive mankind. He was probably stunned to hear those words because he witnessed the brutality of the Roman soldiers’ treatment of Jesus and the betrayal of the disciples. Instead of anger, Jesus responded with nothing but love.
At that moment, John would have realised that it was not the soldiers, but all of mankind’s sins that nailed Jesus to that cross, including his own. That is when he experienced the fullness of God’s love towards mankind and underwent a radical transformation from a Son of Thunder to the Apostle of Love, said the pastor.
“Our hearts and minds must both be submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. They must constantly be touched by the Holy Spirit,” Pastor Aries encouraged the congregation.
Finally, Acts 4:13 describes the boldness of Peter and John. Besides performing signs and wonders, this boldness meant that they could remain steadfast even when they went through suffering, loving the community around them despite persecution.
In closing, Pastor Aries urged the church to receive the word not only as head knowledge, but also put it into action. “When you have a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit, you will be radically transformed from inside out,” he concluded.