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A New Name
by David A. DePra
If you look around your house, or at your place of work, you are likely to find a number of items there with your name written on it. You might also have a number of documents with your name on them. If nothing else, the bills which come to your house each month come with your name front and center. Why?
This is not a trick question. It is a very simple question. The answer is the obvious one. Your name is on the things which belong to you. You own them. This includes not only your possessions, but your debts and promises. When your name is on something, it is a mark of both ownership and responsibility.
There is also a name written on your birth certificate. It also indicates, in an indirect way, that YOU belong to something: A family. It shows that you are the son or daughter of the parents who are also named on the birth certificate. And if you are married, you have a marriage certificate. It proves that you were married, and that those named on that certificate belong to each other in the eyes of God. Lastly, if you are a citizen of the USA, you have a social security number. Your name is forever linked to this number so that you might be identified as YOU.
Now, in all of this, we see that a NAME is quite important. It is primarily a unique tool for identification. It tells people who you are. But more than that, it is something which we use to mark OWNERSHIP. Whatever your name is written on, or associated with, BELONGS to you.
A Good Name
A good name is better than precious ointment. (Eccl. 7:1)
A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches. (Prov. 22:1)
As mentioned, whatever your name is on – if it is there honestly – belongs to you. But our name can be on more than just physical items, such as objects or documents. Our name can be on, or associated with, a REPUTATION. We can be "known" for certain deeds, words, or moral positions.
A reputation, of course, can be undeserved – and this can work both ways. Some folks, through gossip and rumor, get a bad reputation which they don’t deserve. Others get a good one for the same reasons. But generally speaking, if a reputation is accurate, our name is on it. The reputation is one we’ve earned, and one which BELONGS to us.
A reputation is what we are known for, usually based on what people see. But our character is what we are really like. People see a reputation. God sees character.
The Bible tells us that a "good name," or "reputation" is a valuable thing. A good or bad reputation is something which pops into people’s minds when they hear our name. It is almost as if the moment they hear our name, the reputation they have come to associate with it appears in their mind.
What we see in all of this is that our name denotes a number of things. It denotes our CHARACTER. It denotes our OWNERSHIP. Our name points to who we are, and to everything -- physically, morally, and spiritually -- that BELONGS TO US.
Few of us are not concerned about what our name is associated with. Even if we are dishonest and amoral, we care – out of self-interest. Despite the fact that today people are more and more refusing to admit there is such a thing as right and wrong, they will admit it in a second if the consequences of not doing so might affect them. And our reputation affects us more than we can imagine. The truth is, if we have a bad reputation, we lose. No one wants someone around them with a bad reputation.
How much more does God care about HIS NAME! Just as our name denotes our character and identifies what belongs to us, so does God’s name denote HIS character, and what belongs to Him.
There is actually a term used in the Bible which describes the condition of anyone or anything which belongs to God. It is a term which indicates that God’s name is indeed upon a person or thing. That term is the term HOLY.
The word "holy" in the Bible means literally, "to be set apart for God’s use." Or, to say it another way, "to be holy" means "to belong to God." His "use" is a natural outcome of something belonging to Him.
Now, once we realize that holiness means to belong to God, it starts to create for us a certain framework into which everything else must fit. In fact, it tells us that to be called by the name of God, indeed, by the name of Jesus Christ, means to BE HOLY.
This is verified in many other ways throughout scripture. For instance, take the name "saint." In the Bible, Christians are most often called "the saints." But the Greek word for "saint" is "hagios," or HOLY ONE. So if you are a Christian – which is to be named by the name of Christ – you are a "saint," or "holy one." By definition, you belong to God – you are set apart for God’s use.
We must be clear about this. There is no such thing as someone who is converted to Christ who is not a SAINT. If the name of Jesus Christ is written on you, you BELONG TO HIM. You are therefore a "saint," or a "holy one." There are no exceptions to this.
This can be emphasized further by looking at a few passages of scripture:
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and you are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (I Cor. 6:19-20)
You are bought with a price. (I Cor. 7:23)
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (I Peter 1:18-19)
If the realization that a saint belongs to God does nothing else, it should tell us that Christianity is an unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ. How else could we BELONG to Him? Indeed, we belong to Christ because He bought us back – redeemed us – from sin and death. He paid the price of His own Blood.
A Christian is a SAINT. And a SAINT is a holy one – someone who BELONGS to Jesus Christ. This certainly means that HOLINESS is a fundamental characteristic of anyone who is a Christian – of anyone who is NAMED by God’s name. God’s people are to be holy people.
Belonging to God
Most of us think that "to belong to God" is religious fanaticism. Who could live as if they actually belong to God? To us, living like that would be a life of deprivation. It would be like the life of a monk in a monastery – or something similar.
Ideas like this betray our ignorance. The fact is, "belonging to God" was God’s original design and intent for humankind. Indeed, the human being which God originally created had no other function. God made man to belong to Him! That is the KIND of creature man is. He is meant to belong to God and to have communion with Him forever.
The result of "belong to God," is, of course, LIFE. Why? Because God is the source of all life. All life is in God. There is no life outside of God, and thus, belonging to God results in life, wholeness, and complete fulfillment.
We must see this. To "belong" to God doesn’t benefit God. It benefits US. It means that we return to the original relationship God intended us to have with Him. It means that everything gets adjusted, healed, redeemed, and normalized.
In our limited perception, we think that to belong to God is ABNORMAL – even if we mean this in a good sense. We think it is ABNORMAL on an impossibly high level. But this is not true. Belonging to God is actually NORMAL. The low level on which we have always lived is, in the eyes of God, ABNORMAL. It’s just that we are so used to being ABNORMAL that we think it is NORMAL. Such is the darkness and deception into which we are all born.
Adam was made limited and dependent upon God. That is the "kind" of creature Adam was created to be. He was made to belong to God and live like it. This was the source of his life, just as surely as if he was "plugged into" God as a lamp is plugged into an electrical source. As long as Adam belonged to God, he was alive.
If "belonging to God" were a matter of forced submission, we would not be having this conversation. In that case, we’d all be robots. There would be no good, no evil, and no choices. But "belonging to God" is ALWAYS voluntary, as are the works which emerge from it. Thus, Adam was given a choice – as worked out through the two trees. Sadly, he chose NOT to belong to God. He took it upon himself the prerogative of deciding – not whether to choose good or evil – but the prerogative of deciding what good and evil ARE. In effect, Adam decided to be like God Himself, "knowing" good and evil.
Adam declared INDEPENDENCE from God. He no longer wanted to belong to Him. But notice what "independence from God" really is: It is separation from God. It is choosing separation from God – deliberately and knowingly. We have another word for "separation for God," don’t we? Yep. DEATH. Death is separation from God. Thus, when Adam declared his independence from God, he got exactly what he wanted, separation from God, and the DEATH which must surely result.
Independence from God is the essence of sin. The root of sin is that I BELONG TO MYSELF, instead of to God. It is self-rule and self-ownership. No wonder it results in DEATH. If God is the source of all life, it only makes sense that to separate myself from Him results in death.
What we see here is quite fundamental. But it has among many Christians been pushed aside – and even out of the picture. To "belong to God" is not merely a trait of Christianity. It IS Christianity! Belonging to God is what a Christian IS. It is the very definition of who a saint is! HOLY. And conversely, to NOT belong to God, but to belong to myself, is exactly what it means to be lost, dead, and destined for eternal separation from God. It is, by definition, an UNHOLY condition.
Note the clear idea of "belonging to" and "living for" in these passages:
For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (II Cor. 5:14-15)
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. (I Peter 4:1-2)
"Belonging to God" is the definition of HOLINESS. This means that HOLINESS is what Christianity is all about. Christianity is all about people who belong to God and live like it – ones who are becoming changed by the fact that they have come back, through Christ, to God.
Taking God’s Name
Just as everything which belongs to us has our name on it, so does everything which belongs to God have HIS name on it. Right now, you and I either belong to ourselves, or belong to God. The name written on us – morally and spiritually – indicates that ownership. And as noted, if we belong to God – have His name on us – we are supposed to be holy.
Holy is his name. (Luke 1:49)
For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy. (Is. 57:15)
The possibility always exists that we might call ourselves by the name of Jesus, or even at one time belong to God, but then depart from living a life that befits that name. This is really what it means "to take the name of the Lord in vain."
We usually think that "to take the name of the Lord in vain" is to cuss or swear. But here we see a much deeper way to break this commandment.
Thou shall not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain. (Ex. 20:7)
To take the name of the Lord "in vain" is to take upon yourself His name, and thus say you belong to Him, and then to go on with business as usual. In other words, you have taken His name, but without any impact as to your living or your character.
The most obvious way to do this is to take God’s holy name – call yourself a Christian – and live an unholy life. This is a contradiction and sin.
Now, it is important here to understand what an "unholy life" is. We are apt to think an "unholy life" is one which is filled with immorality or drunkenness. Those things ARE unholy. But an unholy life is much more than the obvious. Think about it. If a HOLY life is one which belongs to God, then an UNHOLY life is one which does NOT. An unholy life can therefore be a nice, clean life. But if the supposed "niceness" and "cleanness" is achieved apart from God – rather than because I belong to Him – it is UNHOLY. In the eyes of God it is not clean. It is, in fact, profane.
God uses terms like "profane," "unclean," and "polluted," to refer to things which do not wholly belong to Him. There are "polluted" because there is a mixture. They are "profane" because they are a misrepresentation of Him – even if in a "nice" way. They are "unclean" because they are not PURE. There is nothing more unholy than naming myself by the holy name of Jesus Christ, but then living for myself, as if I belong to myself. This is unholy. It is talking the name of the Lord God in vain.
Does Jesus Know You?
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt. 7:21-23)
When God puts His life within us, and names us by His name, He is serious about the impact this should have on us. But as mentioned, if it has no impact, then we have taken upon ourselves the name of Jesus in vain. And if we really understood it, we would realize that in some ways this is WORSE than not taking His name at all. At least the ignorant can plead ignorance! What can we plead you KNOW the name of Jesus Christ?
In the above passage, Jesus says to those who come expecting to enter into His kingdom, "I never knew you." We speak about knowing Jesus, and that is vital. But does Jesus know us? Have we opened ourselves to Him so that He has access to us? Have we not only taken His name, but developed a relationship with Him which reflects the fact that we are in the family of God?
Jesus is describing those who have done many things "in His name." But they have never given THEMSELVES to Him. Consequently, Jesus does not know them. Despite being called by His name, and expecting to enter the kingdom, there is nothing about them which Jesus can recognize. They have, in effect, taken the name of Jesus in vain.
Get a NEW Name
In scripture, God gives a new name to those who have come into a new relationship with Him – or into a new phase of relationship with Him. Often a new name indicates a change of character – precipitated by that change of relationship with God. Thus, we have ABRAM – which means "high father" – becoming ABRAHAM – which means "father of many nations." His name change goes back to the fact that "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." This was a new step for Abram in his relationship with God, and one which changed things between himself and God forever.
If we are to be named by God with HIS name, or to be named with a name He gives us, it shows that we belong to God – and defines our relationship with Him. And it also shows who WE really are: It reveals our true identity. Thus, to belong to God will NOT stifle our potential. It will fulfill it. To belong to God will not inhibit our personality or personhood. No. Rather, to belong to God will bring us through to our true identity in HIM, and will result in the realization of all that God intends us to be.
The fact is, the only way to get a new name – to discover my REAL IDENTITY – is to be named by HIS NAME! Get that. The only way to be set free and released into the purpose for which God made me is to belong to God. I must be named by His name if I am to discover my "real name" and true identity.
To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he that receives it. (Rev. 2:17)
The fact that the new name is one which "no man knows except he that receives it," shows that this is an individual issue. The name speaks of a individual’s personal relationship with the One he belongs to – and in the One in whom he discovers his true identity.
A simple way to say this is this: God knows us better than we know ourselves. Thus, if we fall into His hands He will bring us into the full potential of everything He wants us to be.
The white stone is absolution from the guilt of sin, alluding to the ancient custom of giving a white stone to those acquitted on trial, and a black stone to those condemned.
Not surprising, the white stone carries in it the new name. Thus, all that God has for us in Christ is given when we receive Him. This should not be surprising. A new birth certainly OUGHT to mean a new name.
Jesus does, in this passage, mention OVERCOMING. This is not a point to be overlooked. POTENTIALLY, we receive everything our new name carries through the new birth. We receive a new relationship with God. We belong to Him as much as we will ever belong to Him. But we have to GROW in this experience. In short, we must overcome our flesh’s desire for self-ownership by continually yielding to God. As we do, we are acting in accordance with our true identity and new name. We are belonging to God.
We "live up" to our new name by overcoming and refusing our old. In effect, we have a new birth OUT of Adam and into Christ. Thus, we need to "break our family ties with Adam," and start yielding ourselves to Jesus Christ.
We have seen that God’s name is on those who belong to Him. These are the "saints," the "holy ones." But the saints are those who are make up the CHURCH. The church, is in fact, also HOLY. The church belongs to God. In fact, the church is the BODY OF CHRIST. It is the BRIDE of Christ. And if that isn’t holy, what is? If the church doesn’t belong to God, what does?
God does not place His name upon individuals, or upon the church, lightly. He takes it very seriously. We had better take it seriously too.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (I Cor. 3:16-17)
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22)
Note that the issue here is one thing: Ownership. To "defile" the temple of God isn’t a matter of merely doing lewd or immoral things in it. No. To "defile" the temple of God is to use it for my own purposes – even if those purposes are religious. It is the use of it for MY purposes that defiles it! Not necessarily the thing I’m using it for.
If there is one thing which has happened over the last two thousand years, it is that people – who claim to be called by the name of Jesus – have been using the church – who they claim is called by the name of Jesus – for their own purposes! And these purposes are often quite religious. But this pollutes the church and makes it unholy.
So how must be keep the church holy? Treat it like it belongs to God instead of to US. That means we must follow the Biblical guidelines for the church. This isn’t an option. We need to do it regardless of the consequences. We are NOT our own.
Paramount to a holy church are holy individuals. No church is going to be holy unless the individuals in it belong to God and are living like it.
But don’t we all sin? Sure. But to live like you belong to God means that you SEEK His will. It means you are learning and growing. It means that you are "set apart" – even though you stumble and fall. Above all, it means that when you do sin, you turn your sin to God. That is what it means to be holy.
In this we see that holiness – in this life – is never going to mean sinlessness. But what it will mean is SURRENDER. It will mean that I no longer trust in my own works, but in His finished work.
Holiness means to seek the will of God. It means I desire to know the will of God, and am unconditionally dedicated to not only doing it, but to becoming the will of God. This is what it means to belong to God. I surrender myself to Him for HIS WILL and for HIS purposes.
So if individuals are living in this kind of holiness, we can expect that the church will then be able to be holy. The result will be what Paul said it would be in Ephesians:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: (Eph. 4:11-13)
The end result of "belonging to God" is that we grow up into the moral and spiritual likeness of Jesus Christ. We shall be, in that case, holy as He is holy, for His holiness shall be ours.
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