Dr. AR Bernard expounds on finding rest in God through knowledge of Jesus’s yoke and gratitude.
By Lee Wei Fang
On the weekend of May 5 and 6, City Harvest Church had the honor of studying the Word of God with Dr. AR Bernard, the founder and CEO of the thriving Christian Cultural Center (CCC) in New York City. Bernard, a friend of CHC for 14 years, who also serves as its Advisory Chairman, holds an impressive number of titles for his exemplary work in politics, society and the church world. The latest of these accolades is being named one of “The Powers Of New York” by the New York Times on May 5, 2012.
At the Saturday service, Bernard started a vein of teaching that built on a powerful revelation: true rest in God begins by knowing Him. The preacher unpacked the Word of God to reveal powerful truths that would bring many into a new level of rest.
Bernard, who had been a Christian for nearly 40 years, declared, “The more I know about God, the more I find rest in my life. This rest is not entirely because of my faith, but it is rooted in what I know about God.”
Preaching out of Genesis 1:26-27 and Matthew 11:29-30, Bernard shared how God has purposefully and carefully designed man with His own hands, to be compatible with Him. Man was created in the “Imago Dei”, or in the “Image of God”. The reason why God chose to make man in His image was for an objective—fellowship. When God breathed into Adam, He breathed several communicable attributes of His own, into man’s nature.
Six communicable attributes that God shares with man are:
- Reason – the power to think and understand, and form judgments.
- Creativity – the ability to come up with, or imagine new things. It also means the ability to give new meaning to something old.
- Speech – the ability to express our inner thoughts, feelings and perceptions.
- Self-awareness – an awareness of our individual, unique identity.
- Self-determination – the ability to make choices, and to choose our own identity.
- Self-transcendence – the ability to transcend time, by visiting the past in our mind, analyzing the present, and transporting ourselves into a possible future via our imagination.
“God was fitting man for relationship with Himself!” Bernard pointed out. In Matt. 11, Jesus talks about a “yoke” that Christians should take upon themselves. A yoke is a wooden support, a structure laid across the shoulders of two oxen with the intent of bringing their strength together.
Bernard explained, “What makes a yoke so special is that it has to be individually fitted for each animal for it to function properly. Otherwise the yoke would feel burdensome rather than light.” Hence, every pair of oxen would have a unique yoke.
Bernard than went on to present a powerful revelation of a believer’s yoke, which is symbolic of a close relationship with the Lord. “When Jesus calls for you to ‘take My yoke upon you’, He is talking about a putting on a yoke, that He has created specially to fit you.” Jesus takes into consideration everything about us—including our personality, experiences, knowledge and learning styles—and creates a yoke that fits perfectly.
“The Lord is able to fit us for the service He calls us to. He will never call you to do something you are not fitted for!” said Bernard. “Hence, you can freely go to new places and do new things, knowing that God has fitted you to fulfill your calling.”
Too often, believers fall into the trap of wanting to wear someone else’s yoke because it looks more glamorous and powerful. However, this is erroneous thinking, because God has a perfect purpose for every unique individual. All that is required is to discover that purpose, and fulfill it together with Jesus by taking on His perfect yoke.
On May 6, Bernard continued to unpack God’s Word, exhorting the people to live a life “worthy of your calling” during this present age, which would cumulate at the Second Coming of Christ.
An age, or aion, is a period of time in history marked by notable events and particular characteristics. Bernard explained the relevance to our times: “One of the characteristics of this present age, before Christ’s return, is an experience known as apostasy, which means ‘a departure from’ certain core beliefs, and in this case, specifically means a departure from core beliefs of Christianity.”
Teaching from 2 Pet. 2-3, Bernard pointed out some key indicators that are the characteristics of the closing age leading to Christ’s return.
Indicators Of The End Of The Age
- People denying the atoning work of Christ on the cross. (Even so-called Christians)
- People denying the deity of Christ.
- People denying the authority of the Word of God – robbing Christ of His value and power in our lives.
- Departure from moral responsibility – moving away from moral standards and practicing “situational ethics”.
- Mass departure from moral standards as expressed by popular culture. Eg. Popular culture denotes premarital sex is acceptable, whereas the truth is contrary.
- Abuse of present period, which is about the grace of God.
From John 8:2-11, Bernard taught the familiar story of the woman caught in adultery, focusing on Jesus’s subsequent response. Apart from giving the woman protection, dignity, forgiveness and release from condemnation, Jesus did something against the grain of popular culture: He made a demand on her life.
Jesus calls every believer to walk “worthy of your calling”. It means to live life with qualities of character and lifestyle that deserve respect, honor, and recognition as a redeemed child of God. When a Christian walks in such a lifestyle, people begin to open up to his or her influence. It takes a certain degree of sacrifice and discipline, but the rewards are tremendous.
“There is immense power in the life of a Christian who walks worthy of the calling on their lives,” said Bernard. “Even those who are struggling draw strength from observing the lives of the upright.”
He continued, “The key to building a strong walk is based on one word—gratitude! We choose to walk worthy because we are grateful to God for all He has done for us. Our lives should be one big ‘Thank You’ to God.”
Truly, as one begins to understand how God lovingly designed man into Imago Dei, endowing us with special attributes to fellowship with Him, and how Jesus has created a fitted yoke to help every Christian to walk worthy of His calling, true rest and joy in God is found.