A New Name
A minister wrote in the church newsletter, that he was setting new goals for the New Year. One of his goals was to clean up his desk. Another of his goals was to finally find where he put last year’s goals. There might be some of you who probably keep your desks like that.
There’s an old American comic strip called “Calvin and Hobbes”. In one strip, Calvin and Hobbes are talking about the New Year. Calvin says, “I’m getting disappointed with these New Years. They don’t seem very new at all. Each New Year is just like the old year. Here another year has gone by, and everything is still the same. There’s still pollution and war and greed. Things have not changed. I say what kind of future is this? I thought things were supposed to improve. I thought the future was supposed to be better.”
Hobbes replies with his keen insight, “The problem with the future is that it keeps turning into the present.”
The New Year is traditionally a time for reflection. We look back over the year and assess our successes and failures. We gain satisfaction over our successes, and we experience grief and guilt over our failures. Each time we face a new beginning, we have hopes that things will be different and hopefully better. But remember, the future just keeps turning into more of the present. Time is constantly in motion.
Some of us come to church in the hopes that the Holy Spirit may fall anew on us. We hope that the future will be full of exciting new possibilities, positive change and new growth. We always look for something new and different to change our lives for the better.
Today I would like to meditate from Ephesians 1:3-6 for this New Year: “ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
What great good news! We are God’s chosen ones. God doesn’t want our lives to be meaningless patterns. God always wants something better for us. That is why, there are some things we need to recognize as we begin this New Year. God has new things planned for you in your life. This New Year will not be the same as last year, for God loves doing new things.
God loves doing a new things
He said in Revelation 21:5: “Behold I make all things new.” He said practically the same thing through Isaiah the prophet, “Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing. Isaiah 43:18-19.
God loves doing a new thing. However, there might be times when you and I are often afraid of change.
There was once a soon-to-be bride, who was extremely nervous about her wedding. She told her minister, she was not confident she could walk down the aisle without shaking or crying. So the minister, an experienced minister of weddings, gave her a bit of advice.
"When you begin your walk," he said, "just remember this three-point formula: First, look straight down the aisle; second, when you get about half-way, look straight up at the altar; and third, when you get near the front of the church, look straight at your groom. First the aisle, then the altar, then him. I think this will help relieve your nervousness."
The nervous bride agreed to his advice. And it worked beautifully. She walked with a radiant glow on her face and confidence in her step, with no sign of nervousness. However, there was a small problem. Imagine the surprise on the congregation’s face as they heard her repeating three words out loud, over and over again. She kept repeating, "Aisle, altar, him!" (x3)
"Aisle, altar, him!" Well, the truth is, most brides don't have a lot of luck in altering their husbands. But the good news of the Christian faith is that God can alter us! God can change us.
God loves change, especially changing lives. Changing the lives of those He loves for the better. We always try to change our lives. Many of us make New Year resolutions. But resolutions are hard to keep, wouldn’t you agree? How many of you have ever been determined to drop an old habit and begin a new one? How many of you have seen a resolution fail the same day you made it? Turning over a new page is hard.
What we need in our lives is not an inspiration, but a transformation. Not a resolution, but a revolution. We need a change in our lives that comes from God. What everyone needs is something that will permanently affect their life. What we need, is something that will truly satisfy our heart’s desires and something that will bring true and lasting change. (Psalm 20:4) What we need is for God to do a new thing within us. And that can happen, because God loves doing new things. And at times, as a matter of fact, God does this by giving His chosen ones new names.
God loves giving people a new name
That is the biblical way of looking at life. A new name symbolizes new possibilities. Isaiah 62:2 says, The gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory, you shall be called by a new name.
Look at Simon Peter: the disciple who forgot Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek, and cut a man’s ear with a sword; and the disciple who fled when danger came near, and denied his Master with a curse. But Jesus named him the “Rock.”
Jesus knew his real name. Everyone knew Simon as a man who easily got angry. He loses his temper often. There were times that he was uncertain of himself, and times where he couldn’t make up his mind. His emotional reactions were completely unpredictable. However, a rock meant a firm foundation or someone who was strong. Everyone knew Simon’s weakness, but Jesus saw through Simon’s weakness and told him that his weakness could be his strength through the transforming power of God. Jesus determined that He would use Simon’s strong emotions and his hasty actions to accomplish God’s purposes in the world. And so He named Simon what Christ needed him to be: A “Rock.” A firm foundation for the early churches and the living body of Christ.
God looks beyond our faults and weaknesses. He loves us and expects the best from us. God believes in us and is willing to give us another chance. He wants to call us by another name. Some of us are our own worst critic. We are more aware of our weaknesses and imperfections than we are about our strengths. We feel inadequate and guilty. But understand, we have more to share than failures. Jesus longs to give us a new name, to give us a bigger purpose and calling.
Listen to these wonderful words of the Lord: “You shall also be a crown of glory. In the hand of the Lord, And a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isaiah 2:36).
Many people think that God sees only the bad in them. They believe He is more aware of their failures and sins, than He is of the good that is in everyone. Please know that God is much more concerned over the good that is in you, than the bad. He is much more anxious to reward your goodness, than to punish your evil. Many times, while we are condemning ourselves, God is trying to help us realize His forgiveness.
The Bible says, “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20). While we are calling ourselves “failures,” God is calling us “forgiven.” God is calling us by a new name, but many of us are still insisting that our names haven't changed.
Can God love me, even when He sees what I really am? Can my life be different? Is it possible that the Bible is real when it says: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)? John 15:15 says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends”.
Can it be that our names have been changed? We are calling ourselves failures, but God is calling us friends. We are calling ourselves losers, but He is calling us “my beloved.” We are calling ourselves sinners, but He is calling us saints. God is giving us a new chance, a new lease on life, a new name, no matter how many times or how miserably we have failed? God loves doing a new thing within His people. God loves giving people new names. Because, understand, a new name means a new beginning.
God’s new name for us means a new beginning
It may sound unbelievable at first, but remember how it seemed unbelievable when God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. Abram and Sara were childless, but God called him Abraham: “Father of Multitudes.” He made him a father of a nation. For Sara, He called Sarah, which means “Princess, or exalted woman.”
How marvelous and transforming God is. How full of love God’s heart is. Through His Spirit, He takes our failures and gives us a future. How marvelous of God to take people who were headed nowhere and use them to fulfill His plan for the world.
When people talk about other people, they sometimes say: “That person will always be that way. People never change. They are hopeless.” But God knows better. One of the benefits of being in the ministry is: the opportunity to see people change, sometimes quite dramatically. Never underestimate the power of God in your life or anyone else’s life.
The book of Genesis describes the life story of Jacob. From his birth he was named Jacob, a Hebrew name which meant “supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler.” And he lived up to his name. He cheated his brother out of his birthright, and he deceived his father. But when the angel of the Lord came to him, he asked his name. When he replied that his name was Jacob (schemer), the angel replied that he would no longer be known as Jacob, but as Israel, which means “Prince of God.” Not only was Jacob’s name changed, his heart was changed as well. He was never the same again.
Those who the world called tax collectors, Jesus called disciples. Those who were called sinners, Jesus called companions. Those who were shamed as immoral, he called forgiven. Those who were called common fishermen, He called fishers of men. A crucified thief, Jesus called an heir of paradise.
What names have you been called? What names have you called yourself? Jesus Christ offers you a new lease on life. A new chance in this New Year. A new name.
A New Year is also a good time to give other people a new chance. It is a time to also expect the best from them; to realize that perhaps, with a little help and trust, they could be different. You and I are to forgive those who have sinned against us. If we cannot even forgive each other, how can we ever hope to experience the unconditional love and forgiveness of God? When we call other people names, it influences their identity and their future. We are to speak the name that God would speak to them.
And just as we forgive others, we must also forgive ourselves. God wants something better for us in this New Year. Think about the names God has called us. He has called us blessed, chosen, holy, blameless, adopted sons and daughters of God. Are you still carrying around your old name of failure, loser, or sinner? As God gives you a new name for this New Year, then go out and live as blessed, chosen, holy, blameless, and adopted sons and daughters of God.
Dear brothers and sisters, God loves to do new things in your life. He does not want you to be stuck in an endless cycle or routine, but He wants to give you a purpose in life. God wants to give you a new name. Through His new name for you, you will live for His glory. He shall give you meaning to your life. For understand, a new name means a new beginning, a new life. God wants to completely transform you and your life.
But in order for Him to do so, you must surrender yourself to Him today. Surrender this New Year to Him. Let Him change your life, let Him change you. God sees you, He knows your pain, and He sees your inner heart. Let Him change you. For where you see broken, He sees whole. God is calling you this New Year. He wants you to change your life. He wants to give you a new name, a new beginning. Amen