Advisory chairman Dr AR Bernard brought a word in season for City Harvest Church: a teaching on how to live a life of discipline.
“How are you, City Harvest?” Dr AR Bernard asked City Harvest Church over the weekend of Jan. 18 and 19, before giving them the answer.
“Blessed and highly favored! That is in spite of circumstances, situations, whatever it is you are going through in life. ‘Blessed and highly favored’ is the state of existence for those in the privilege of God’s grace!” he proclaimed.
Bernard is the founder and CEO of the 33,000-member Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York. He also serves as CHC’s advisory chairman. He preached two different messages that weekend.
FREEDOM OF GRACE
“There are three things that God wants from a man: decisiveness, consistency and strength,” said Bernard as he opened his sermon on Saturday. “There are three things that a woman wants from a man: decisiveness, consistency and strength.”
He added, to rippling laughter from the audience, “There are three things that a man struggles with in life: decisiveness, consistency and strength.”
Decisiveness in a man brings security and assurance to the heart of the woman that follows him, Bernard explained. A reasonable degree of consistency would give the wife security and strength that is demonstrated in his gentleness gives the same security.
“When my wife and I got married 41 years ago, we loved each other for a list of reasons. After a while, we realized that with reasons come conditions, and when conditions are not met, the relationship is in crisis,” he taught.
“God commands the husband to love his wife redemptively, sacrificially and unconditionally—for no reason.
Marriage is God’s primary way of explaining His love towards mankind and especially the love Christ has for the church; but because man has an inability to love and experience love in its purest form, he often fail to recognize and understand it, and may even reject it.
LAW AND GRACE
Bernard went on to explain what the law entails and how privileged humanity is to be living under grace in this period.
Law is a rule that governs human conduct. God introduced the Law of Moses to the children of Israel. While the Law itself was a complete system that lacks nothing, it was weak in its ability to influence human behavior. This is because of the fallen human nature, but the Law remained holy, pure and complete. The Law was merit-based; keeping the Law ensured blessings to come.
Another period of the Law will come in the future when Jesus establishes His Kingdom on Earth physically. Scripture says He will rule with a rod of iron and execute judgment quickly. When Jesus spoke on the Sermon of the Mount, He affirmed the Law of Moses.
In between the Law of Moses and the Law to come, mankind lives in the period of grace, a limited, most privileged time to live in.
John 1:16- 17 tells us that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Bernard deepened the congregation’s understanding of grace by defining the word “graciousness”, which is the quality of being warm-hearted, considerate, sympathetic, affectionate and forgiving.
“These are God’s feelings and attitude towards us. If we do not understand God’s attitude, we will misjudge Him. We find it difficult to accept grace because under the law system, everything was merit-based and people were conditioned to believe that what they did determined what they got. Grace, however, teaches us that what we believe determines what we get.”
Grace is what turned mankind to Christ, what got them saved, and what keeps them saved. Grace also causes their affection and knowledge for Jesus to increase.
Philippians 2:13 says that grace is God working in a person’s lives to fulfill His purpose.When Jesus met with sinners and tax collectors, He showed them grace. Yet, the religious leaders did not understand what He was doing and conspired against Him.
Bernard concluded his message with the story of the adulteress in John 8:2-11. Jesus did not dispute the charges of adultery, but gave the woman protection from the crowd that was condemning her and looking to stone her. He returned her her dignity and self-esteem, which had been damaged, and offered her forgiveness. Jesus released her from condemnation.
“Grace offers you all the promises of God, but grace also make a demand on how you live. The wages of sin is death. Grace is God’s freedom, but freedom needs boundaries and rules. When you’ve been freed by the grace of God, you need certain disciplines in your life to keep you from being entangled again in the yoke of bondage.”
On Sunday, Bernard spoke on the topic of focus and how discipline brings focus into a person’s life.
Reading from Luke 9:51, Bernard explained that Jesus was focused on going to Jerusalem. The journey, however, was not uninterrupted and people kept coming to Him for help, for advice and healing. Yet the Bible say Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem.
He continued to share eight points on what focus is:
1) A wondrous sensation of clarity and alertness
2) Fearlessness in the face of opposition
3) Confidence beyond the shadow of a doubt that you can do whatever you set your mind to
4) Keeping your head erect, your eye on the ball and knocking it out of the park
5) Getting into the zone, keeping on your toes, staying on target, staying on top of things
7) Taking hold of life and not letting go until your dreams become reality
8) Knowing that if God be for you, who can be against you?
Bernard then raised the story of the prodigal son as a learning lesson for focus and discipline. The prodigal son came to himself at a low point of his life, feeding slop to pigs in a place away from home, realizing that he needed to change his way of living.
“All of us have low points in life. We will descend to this point where we know we cannot live like this any longer and we need to change our lives,” he described.
Bernard illustrated this with a diagram showing the rollercoaster highs and lows of a person living in a comfort zone. “At our low points, we get fed up and decide to change. We then begin to implement disciplines necessary in our lives until we reach a high point. When we peak, we feel that we have gone so far, and done so well, that we start to relax on those same disciplines that got us to the high point. We choose to take a break. We end up reaching a low point again, and the cycle continues up and down. The space in between the low point and high point is your comfort zone. The rollercoaster ride is not God’s best for you!”
Discipline is the bridge between thought and accomplishment, between dreams and reality. God’s best is a steady, upward movement which is achieved by continuing to do the things that got us to a high point.
“We cannot focus unless we have discipline. 2014 is a year of focus and focus needs discipline!” Bernard concluded, leaving many in the congregation inspired and convicted to lead a life of focus and discipline.