Dr AR Bernard expounded on the concept of the new birth and established a new perspective of faith in his recent sermon to the members of City Harvest Church.
By Dawn Seow
“What did the thief [in John 10:10] come to steal?”
This was the question Dr AR Bernard posed to the congregation at City Harvest Church in the midst of his sermon on Nov. 24. “We need to know what, so that we can be protective over the right things.”
The founder and CEO of the 33,000-member Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York, who also serves as CHC’s Advisory Chairman, was speaking to churchgoers at CHC on the weekend of Nov. 24 and 25. Unpacking several truths from the Scriptures, as he does every time he visits, Bernard brought a new revelation of the topics of values and faith.
Bernard identified a number of precepts, the first of which was the realities of life on earth. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus warned His disciples not to lay up treasures on earth “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Jesus explained that the disciples should not keep treasures on earth because these are perishable.
“This is the reality of life on earth: the moth will eat away the treasures, the rust will cause them to deteriorate over time and thieves will steal them away. This reality gives us a principle of life: no matter how much you gather on earth, it will always be exposed to moth, rust and thieves.”
A NEW CREATION
The next precept was that of being born again. In John 3:3, Jesus explained to Nicodemus, a ruler among the Pharisees, that if he was not born again, he could not see the Kingdom of God–this meant that he would not have spiritual understanding, comprehension of the things of God.
Bernard explained, “Spiritual understanding will only come with the presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life.”
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul said that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” This new creation, Bernard explained, is like Jesus–divinity and humanity all mixed in one package. “That is why Jesus told the disciples that He had to go and prepare a place for them. There is no place in the universe for these new beings!”
Bernard established that through this new birth, believers become “a perfect new ideal in eternity” and the merit-based system on which the world was built does not work on them anymore. The one principle that the merit-based system is established on, is that every cause has an effect–this means that people are given what they deserve. This system suits satan the accuser, as he is able to point out the sins and failure of humanity and restrict them from the promises of God.
Jesus, however, changed the game when He died on the cross and offered grace to all who believe in Him. Grace gives to believers what they do not deserve–they are righteous not through their own doing but through their belief in Christ, and so satan can no longer accuse them.
LIVING IN THE REALITIES OF THIS EARTH
Having established the concept of being born again, Bernard said that while believers are the “perfect new ideal”, Jesus prayed in John 17:15 that the believers are not taken out of the world, but be kept away from the evil one. The word “evil” in Greek refers to the evil forces that undermine the work of God in humanity, especially in the believers.
“Christians are not exempted from the realities of this earth,” said Bernard. “Everything we have in life is threatened by the thief, who came to steal, kill and destroy. So the question is: what is does the thief wants to steal?”
The answer can be found in Luke 22:32, where Jesus told Peter that satan had asked for him and He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail.
Bernard delivered the key revelation: “satan is after the faith of the believers! The Bible says that the just shall live by faith, not by houses or cars. The devil doesn’t want our relationship or joy—those are the icing on the cake; faith is the cake he is after.”
He explained that satan believes that if he sifts Simon with trials, his faith will fail. “Every failure in life is a failure in faith; faith is the foundation of life experiences,” stated Bernard.
Reading from 2 Peter 1:3, Bernard reminded the congregants that God’s “divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness”; this divine power comes because of the new nature believers have through their new birth in Christ.
“Now that you have faith and are discovering the power of faith to move mountains in spite of the realities, you have to build on your faith,” Bernard exhorted.
The preacher showed, using a diagram of steps, what Peter meant when he urged the Christians to build virtue (moral excellence) upon the foundation of faith. To faith, Christians are to add knowledge, but knowledge is power, which can puff up. Thus self-control needs to come next, because people with power and no self-control can be destructive. When self-control is established, add on persistence or steadfastness, so that Christians can remain immovable in all circumstances, and unto perseverance, godliness of character is built; to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love–which will cause them to love those beyond the four walls of the church.
“Notice that faith is the foundation [on which all these are built],” said Bernard. “What happens if you take away the foundation? Everything else collapses. And that is why satan wants your faith. Once you build all these things on top of your faith, the Scripture says you now have the qualities necessary to be successful, fruitful, and never barren in your life.”
Faith sees the opposition, but in spite of it, seizes the opportunity, Bernard pointed out. Faith walks in awareness of all the conflicts and realities of life but faith does not walk subject to these things.
Bernard encouraged the members of the church to stand in faith corporately as a church. What is true for the individual is also true for the body of Christ: the devil wants to rob the faith and vision of CHC because if he can do that, the rest of the works that the church is doing will collapse.
“You have to protect your faith!” declared Bernard. “Because faith gives you resilience, it is the substance of things hope for!”
THE CHARACTER OF FAITH
Bernard moved on to establish the character of faith. “The real God-kind of faith is aggressive and powerful. Because the realities of life want to stop us from having faith, we cannot afford to have sluggish faith.”
Aggressive faith means having determination, creative and energetic pursuit of the goals that one has. It does not quit and give up in the face of opposition, because it understands that with opposition comes opportunity; if anyone wants the opportunity, he need to fight through the opposition.
Reading from Hebrews 11:33, Bernard showed the congregation that the verbs used to describe the actions of the heroes of faith are all aggressive. “The Bible said they conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises and stopped the mouths of lion–these are aggressive words.”
Faith is also a creative pursuit: it takes creativity to get to the goal. “God never puts His promises in your hands, He always puts it within your reach,” noted Bernard. “Because if He puts it in your hand, you don’t need to have faith, but if He puts it in a place where you can see it, smell it, taste it, touch it, He forces you to aggressively pursue it.”
The pastor ended the sermon reading from Hebrews 6:11-12, which says, “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
“And this is my prayer for you,” he concluded. “That you will have not sluggish but aggressive faith, exercising the necessary determination energy to pursue the goals that God has given you through your leadership.”