“Your self-esteem is how you feel about yourself, but your self-concept is the person you think you should and could be.”
Neon laser lights cut through an atmosphere thick with excitement and anticipation, as the CHC band led the praise and worship session, followed by the offering message preached yet again by the guru of biblical economics, Dr. John Avanzini. He fleshed out four main points on what Christians need to do to prepare for Jesus’ return, which includs feeding the hungry.
Taiwanese artistes, led by singer Liu Geng Hong and model Vivi Wang, performed a number entitled “Everyday.” The celebrity couple from New Life Church have brought 100 of their close friends in the media circle to Christ since their own salvation several years ago. Their appearance suitably paved the way for the last speaker of the conference, Dr. A.R. Bernard, known for his teachings on Kristos Kai Kosmos or Christ in Culture.
After having spoken on Day Two, of the need for the church to realign its worldview, its core purposes and values in order to restore its influence in the society, Bernard came a full circle in addressing the need for change in the individual, saying,“If you want to change the world, start with yourself.”
Shedding light on the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, Bernard departed from the themes of forgiveness usually associated with the passage and zeroed in on verse 17, where the prodigal son “came to himself” and sought to return home to his father.
Bernard went on to suggest that the cultural mandate seeks not only to restore culture but also to restore man to his original self-concept and deliver him from inadequacy. Pointing to Luke 15:17, he likened the verse “When he came to himself” to the changing of self from the old man to the new man—one who “looks at his resources, talents and time to pursue who he could and should be, and starts to dream dreams.”
Bernard drove the message home by declaring, “Reconciliation with God ensures that you go to heaven, but reconciliation to your true self determines what you will achieve while you are on earth. God gave us promises not only of the life to come, but of the life that now is.”
When the prodigal son “came to himself,” the first thing he did was to speak to his world. Just as God’s creative power is in His words, so was the creative power in him, which came out in the words he spoke to himself. He moved from images of poverty to images of abundance even though he did not physically move.
“Your circumstance doesn’t dictate what happens to you, what happens in your mind does. He talked himself out of his situation. He began to speak from a different perspective and relate to abundance. Even if he didn’t have it then, he believed it was available to him,” exhorted the founder and senior pastor of Christian Cultural Center in New York City.
Bernard also pointed out that the prodigal son was not concerned with whether his father would accept or reject him, as he was determined to return home. “When you have a positive mindset, you are not afraid of rejection or failure. Even if you do meet failure, you see it as another opportunity to look for another door,” he said.
“Your self-esteem is how you feel about yourself, but your self-concept is the person you think you should and could be.” When Adam was first created by God, he felt good about himself. After he sinned, his self-concept changed; he began to experience feelings he’d never felt before, such as guilt, condemnation and inferiority. His feelings began to dominate him, prompting him to hide when God came looking for him.
“People suffer because of the distance between their self-esteem and their self-concept—the greater the distance, the lower their productivity and motivation in life. When God comes into a believer’s life, He takes him back to his real self, that is, according to the image of God. As the believer focuses on the Word, he starts to see things differently and perceive himself in a new way. Your perspective on life changes when your self-concept changes.”
He proceeded to quote Colossians 3:10, “… and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Bernard explained that just as God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, God was also in Christ, reconciling man with his true self-concept, which is the image of God. “Only when you come to your true self-concept can you be empowered to be the model citizen of the world, to have dominion over all, to multiply and subdue as stated in the Bible at the beginning of man.”
According to Bernard, the new self has a new resilience, a new determination that endures hardship, and does not accept “no” for an answer. “When you come to yourself, you think and talk differently. When others are saying it cannot be done, you are saying it can be done,” Bernard affirmed.
|CN PHOTOS: Benard Yeo and Michael Chan
He spoke of an example of self-determination from the Bible, where a Gentile woman with a demon-possessed daughter pleaded with Jesus to heal her child. When Jesus responded by calling her a “dog,” she did not let that register in her feelings but answered unwaveringly with the now famous line, “Yes, but even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.”
Bernard put forth that Jesus was affirming her tenacity, her pursuit of changing her daughter’s circumstance. There was a determination that motivated her even in the face of potential rejection.
Stating that self-determination is an attribute of God, Bernard challenged the congregation, “If a Gentile woman can have such determination in her, what more those in whom God dwells? No wonder the Bible says that we are more than conquerors and over-comers in this life!”
Bernard spoke of the widely-published series of Chicken Soup For The Soul books. Despite being rejected by publishers 33 times, the team of writers behind the books persevered and today, the series is a best-seller around the world. “Every time we exercise self-determination, we are drawing from the self-concept that God originally intended for us. And when we do that, we can start to dream, imagine and see possibilities for change. And that is how we will change the world.”