When a believer spends time in meditation and contemplation, he enters into a union with God. In last weekend’s sermon, Pastor Kong Hee explained what this means and what it does to the believer’s life.
City Harvest Church is in a season of learning to grow deeper in God. The way to it is by adopting Jesus’ rhythm of life, to spend time with God in solitude, to soak in His love before returning in power to do His missions.
Senior pastor of CHC, Kong Hee has been teaching the church about silence and solitude. He recently brought a team of senior church staff on a three-day silent retreat, where many of them encountered God deeply. One of them was Kong Caijuan, a pastoral supervisor from CHC’s Chinese Service, who shared her experience during the weekend service.
When she first learned that she was going to be alone in a hotel room for three days, she was apprehensive as she did not like being in the dark by herself. However, while she was at the retreat in her room, the presence of God was so tangible that there was a peace lingering in the air. Even before she received the key to her room, she heard a voice in her heart, “Jesus is going to your room.”
She participated in the programme obediently, entering into meditation, reading her Bible, attending the retreat sessions conducted by Vanguard University professor, Roger Heuser and his wife Gayle. The professor told them to allow God to know them better during this retreat, explaining that there might be some areas in their lives that they do not allow God into, and that at this retreat, they should allow God in and allow Him to love them even in those areas. Hearing this, Caijuan was deeply moved.
Back in her room, Caijuan realised that she had not been able to pray using words in the two days she has been there. She felt God in her room constantly and even when she was simply reading the Bible, she found herself in tears. Then she remembered Pastor Kong encouraging the participants to let Jesus love them.
In her seven years of marriage, Caijuan and her husband had been trying to conceive. They had tried many different methods and gone through different treatments and therapy. Nine months ago, she underwent IVF and successfully conceived. She felt like God had finally heard and answered her prayers. Unfortunately, two months into the pregnancy, Caijuan suffered a miscarriage. This made her doubt God’s love for her; she started questioning the promises that God had given her.
Caijuan never allowed herself to grieve for her loss. She constantly told herself that there were others going through worse pain. To not worry her friends and family, she suppressed all her grief and pain.
That day in the hotel room, Caijuan cried out to God. Even then she could not find the words to say to God. Instead, she wrote down all her grievances with Him. There and then, she felt Jesus sitting right there on the bed beside her, grieving and crying with her. He said to her. “I have been loving you.”
Hearing those words, she knew that she did not need to convince herself that Jesus loves her—that experience assured her of Jesus’ love for her.
WHAT HAPPENS IN SILENCE AND SOLITUDE
Following Caijuan’s powerful testimony, Pastor Kong opened his sermon with Matthew 11:28-29, reminding the church that Jesus spoke of an easy yoke and a light burden that Christians can take on. The key to the easy yoke is to have a “slow-down spirituality” as Jesus did.
“Learn to take regular Sabbath rest,” the pastor advised. “One day in the week, just rest your mind and your body—to enjoy God, to enjoy your family and friends. Learn to deepen your relationship with God and with those who are close to you.”
He also encouraged them to spend some time in silence and solitude. Luke 5 records Jesus’ rhythm of life: in the midst of His busyness, He would withdraw to lonely places to pray before returning to ministry.
A few weeks ago, Pastor Kong taught about two of the three things that happen in the presence of God. The first is meditation, which is applying one’s mind to the Word of God. This includes reading the Bible, studying it, reflecting on it, memorising it and visualising it coming to pass.
“I cannot overemphasise how important the Word of God is,” Pastor Kong said. “Every day, your soul must feed on God’s Word—this is our daily bread.”
However, a Christian must not stop at meditation. He must move on to the second thing: contemplation. “Meditation is like opening the door to the house of God. Once you’re in, you must now enjoy fellowship with the God of the House,” he continued.
When one is meditating in the Word, he is in full control, his minds is active. In contemplation, he surrenders that control and sits quietly in God’s presence, learning to be still. “You simply quieten your soul to enjoy His presence, to receive His love and soak yourself in that love. And then you release all your affections back to God without words, just in loving communion,” the pastor described. “Whenever love comes in, there is always a healing, a refreshing, a renewing, a deep deep rest in your soul.”
COMING INTO UNION WITH GOD
German theologian Jürgen Moltmann once said that if Christians can meditate and contemplate regularly, they will start to experience union with God. “You become one with God in His love, and in His likeness. You will come into the deep embrace of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” Pastor Kong elaborated. That is what Jesus prayed in John 17:21-23—it has always been God’s desire for His children to enter into a loving union with Him.
“This is the whole purpose of the redemption story,” Pastor Kong pointed out. “Jesus went to the cross, not just for your forgiveness, but in order for you to experience divine union.”
John 15: 5 (MSG) reads, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.” Pastor Kong explained that God is teaching His people not to worry about their every day lives, but to seek an authentic union with Him. When that happens, they will find happiness and success in the things they do.
To live an unhurried life and enjoy God’s presence is not something God forces on His people. He has given them free will and they have to make their own decision to choose to love Him.
Pastor Kong went on to explain that Christianity is not about what one knows or believes, but about coming into a loving union with God. He likens it to a marriage relationship—while knowing Sun, his wife, and working with her is a great experience, it is nothing compared to dating her and ultimately marrying her and coming into an intimate union with her.
Quoting Moltmann, Pastor Kong said, “The closer and deeper the union is, the more our soul is at home. The more the soul finds rest and the greater is the bliss of love, the more intense is your inner joy and there is infinite joy or passion.”
The love is so intense that it overwhelms the believer and overflows out of them. “In that moment, Moltmann says, theosis happens,” the pastor taught.
Theosis is the process of becoming like God. Like a couple that grows to look like each other after being married for a long time, Christians are restored to God’s image and likeness when they are in union with God.
God’s fundamental nature is love—the more a believer is united with God, the more his soul is perfected in His love, the holier he becomes and the more God’s power flows through him. That is why the Bible teaches Christians to make love their greatest goal.
At this point, Pastor Kong shared his personal story. In his university days, his favourite thing was to study the Bible and worship the Lord. As he prayed, he would unload his burdens to God. He would pray in tongues until he had no more words, after which he would be quiet and still before the Lord, just lingering in and enjoying His presence.
“Some days, He would speak in a still small voice in my heart. Other times, God was silent, but the Holy Spirit would just wash over me with His love. And I just soaked in His love and the next time I opened my eyes, three hours would have passed,” he recounted.
From those experiences came revival and CHC was born. The busyness of life and ministry soon took over and Pastor Kong started to neglect those intimate moments with God. He was working too hard and spending too little time with God. But God is a loving God and He drew Pastor Kong back to Him. In the last decade of pain and hardship for the church, Jesus called the pastor back into their secret place of intimacy.
“We don’t like challenging times, but it’s only in the dry seasons of life that the root of the tree gets deeper and deeper into the soil. Only through suffering can your faith, your love and your life in God go deeper and deeper in Christ,” he taught.
For a few years, Pastor Kong was forced to slow down his pace of life and the Holy Spirit began to teach him how to have zero anger, constant forgiveness and unlimited patience. Even though he is still learning to do better every day, he knows that the perfecting love of the Spirit is in him.
In closing, the pastor quoted Moltmann, “Only with union will a soul be finally at home. Love has found bliss, passions and an infinite enjoyment and there is theosis.”
At the end of the service, Pastor Kong invited those who wanted to grow in intimacy with God to go the front of the church and he encouraged them to build an altar before the Lord. As they began to worship God, the presence of God came upon the auditorium. As the music faded away, the congregation entered into a time of quiet contemplation. Some knelt down, tears streaming down their faces.
The pastor encouraged the church to bring this experience home with them and learn to be still before God in their own prayer closet.