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RECEIVING OUR NEW NAMES

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

24 FEBRUARY 1991

By: Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Genesis 17:1-14
Isaiah 56:1-5
        62:2
        65:13-15
Mark 8:31-38

The Bible is full of name changes, or more properly stated – many of the people and places are given new names that more aptly reflect their character or some event.

What name should the Lord give to us?

What name do we deserve to have?

Let's begin by listening to what we are told in Isaiah 56:1-5.

1. Thus says the Lord,
"Preserve justice, and do righteousness,
For My salvation is about to come
And My righteousness to be revealed.

2. "How blessed is the man who does this,
And the son of man who takes hold of it;
Who keeps from profaning the sabbath,
And keeps his hand from doing any evil."

3. Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
"The Lord will surely separate me from His people."
Neither let the eunuch say, "Behold, I am a dry tree."

4. For thus says the Lord,
"To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths,
And choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast My covenant,

5. To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial,
And a name better than that of sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.

If our heart’s desire is to serve the Lord, then we are told that we will receive an everlasting and new name – a heavenly name.

But God's promise to us is coupled with our faith in Him and in our willingness to serve Him.

We have to receive and perform our portion of the covenant relationship established between us.

This is not a cheap gift.

For without being given this new name, there is no entry into heaven.

Listen again to what Isaiah tells us in 62:2.

2. And the nations will see your righteousness,
And all kings your glory;
And you will be called by a new name,
Which the mouth of the Lord will designate.

One of the ways of telling if we are going to receive our new name is if others see our righteousness: if others see our separation from the ways of the world, to the ways of God; and if others see the glory of the Lord within us.

This new name isn't seem in our verbal "Praise the Lord" or "Halleluiah"; it is seem in our unconditional love, compassion, and peacemaking ways of interacting with the whole of creation, as true children of God.

But if we are not that way, listen to what the Lord tells us in Isaiah 65:13-15.

13. Therefore, thus says the Lord God,
"Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry.
Behold, My servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty.
Behold, My servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame.

14. "Behold, My servants shall shout joyfully with a glad heart,
But you shall cry out with a heavy heart,
And you shall wail with a broken spirit.

15. "And you shall leave your name for a curse to My chosen ones,
And the Lord God will slay you.
But My servants will be called by another name.

I believe that most of us know that the archangel Lucifer, the angel of light, had his name changed to Satan, when he was cast out of heaven for going against God.

Not all name changes are for the good.

But for the good, Simon had his name changed to Peter by the Lord, for within him was found the strength and foundational support of a rock.

But there was one time when even Peter got a name that wasn't very good.

Turn with me to Mark 8:31-38, and see what happened as Jesus was teaching the disciples:

31. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

32. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.

33. But turning around and seeing the disciples, He rebuked Peter, and said, "Get behind Me., Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."

It wasn't that Peter was actually Satan, but that Peter had allowed himself to be used by Satan; and thus, Jesus uses Satan's name as a curse of rebuke against Peter, just as Isaiah said would happen.

Peter had taken his eyes and heart off the fulfillment of the Blood covenant that Jesus was to perform.

Peter just didn't want to lose the Lord's physical presence.

But because the others were there and might misunderstand, He said what He said, and then went on to explain things to them.

Let's listen in on what Jesus said, as we continue with our reading.

34. And He summoned the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.

35. "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it.

36. "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?

37. "For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

38. "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."

What Jesus is telling us is that it is better to die for what is right and go on to heaven, than it is to live for what is wrong and end up in hell.

We have been given the covenant of forgiveness through the blood of Christ.

We have been given the covenant of love that will allow us to see through the sins of others.

What name do you think we deserve to be given when, as a standard for our lifestyle, we are afraid to mention Jesus' name and teachings before others?

What name do you think we deserve when we set aside both of these covenants of love and forgiveness, and desire the blood of others, as in the Middle-East war, and in the billions of animals that are killed every year for human consumption?

I am speaking of people on all sides of this issue.

What name do we deserve?

About 4,000 years ago and about 500 years after the Flood that we talked about last week, the Lord called out Abraham, or Abram as he was called then, from a life surrounded by idolatry to a new life and a new covenant that the Lord Himself would establish with him and his descendants; and Abram went.

Let's take a brief look at a time in Abram's life some 24 years afterwards, when the Lord appeared to him, as described in Genesis 17:1 and following:

1. Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him,
"I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless.

2. "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you,
And I will multiply you exceedingly."

3. And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,

4. "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.

5. "No longer shall your name be called Abram,
But your name shall be Abraham;
For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.

Not everything that Abraham did prior to this day was pleasing to the Lord, but Abram's heart was truly set on obeying the Lord, and God knew this, just as He knows the real intent of our heart and mind.

God had previously established this covenant relationship with Abram, but Abram did not fully receive it or, more importantly, follow it.

Thus God is repeating it to him; but as a preface to His covenant words, Abram is reminded to be blameless.

In other words, "This time, Abram, I want you to fully listen to me and follow all that I tell you."

Isn't it amazing how much Abram and we are alike?

This time God, in all His grace, gives Abram a reminder of the full covenant: He changes his name.

"No longer shall your name be called Abram," which means exalted father, "But your name shall be Abraham," which means father of a multitude.

As often as he remembers his new name, or as often as someone calls him by his new name, he will remember this covenant given to him by God.

When we are born, our parents give us a name by which the world knows us.

But when we come to believe in and know the Lord Jesus Christ, we are given a new name – one to reflect our character.

We are not usually called by that name unless that new character is seen in our lives.

That name is Christian.

Do others see that name upon us?

Think about this as we go back and listen to more of what the Lord has to say to Abraham, beginning at verse 6:

6. "And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.

7. "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.

8. "And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

By this covenant, to be the father of a multitude of nations, Abraham and his wife Sarah will have only one son, yet through him and his descendants will the covenant be fulfilled.

Is the covenant of love, peace, and forgiveness, leading to everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord, being established in our future generations?

For that matter, is it being established in our own generation?

By what name does the world call us?

And knowing how easily we humans forget, God gives Abraham a physical reminder as well.

Note what we are told next, as we read from verse 9 and following:

9. God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout your generations.

10. "This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.

11. "And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.

12. "And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.

13. "A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

14. "But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."

The covenant of circumcision was to be a personal reminder, several times a day, of the true and everlasting covenant established between God and Abraham.

Today we have a new and more complete reminder of God's covenant relationship with us.

It’s our Bible.

Now, if you men were given the choice of being circumcised for the first time (or again, as the case may be) so that you would remember God's covenant with us, or of reading your Bible, which would you choose?

The interim name of "Christian" is only ours when we reflect it in our lives and as a reminder to others; and without this interim name, there will be no everlasting name for us.

What does God have to do to us today, before we will remember and live by His covenant?

Instead of imagining the pain of circumcision or what many feel is the pain of reading their Bibles, why not imagine the pain and torment of hell?

Our problem as a society, and even as the Church universal, is that we fear the wrong things.

How much better it is to come before the Lord Jesus with a repentant heart and receive our name "Christian."

And with that changed character, all the imagined pain of reading and studying God's word is replaced with true joy.

Then, together we will enter our everlasting life with the Lord Jesus in heaven, and receive that new and permanent name.

It's a free gift for all who will receive it.

Amen.

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