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Your Name

Pastor Robin Fish
Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church  
Laurie, MO

view DOC file

Thu, Jan 1, 2009 

If I were to ask you what your name is, you would undoubtedly think I was being funny and, of course, you would be able to tell me your name.  You would probably think I was losing it if I were to tell you that your name is not what you think - at least it is not, if you are a Christian.  If you are a Christian, you wear the name of Jesus Christ.  Before the world, your name is what you would have answered at the beginning of this article.  If you ran around calling yourself Jesus, they would commit you to an institution or walk around you, giving you a wide berth and funny looks.  But your name is - or at least includes - Jesus Christ.

The world sees you that way.  They would never admit it, but every time you do something unfortunate - either unfortunate evil or unfortunate dumb - the world assigns that behavior to all Christians and, therefore, to Christ Himself.  One Christian does something shameful, and the world says, "Eh!  So that is what Christians are like!" One believer does something that does not make sense - something crazy or something stupid - and the world chuckles and says, "Hmph! Those Christians are nuts!" Every one of us is painted with the same brush, except, of course, if we are doing something good, fine, helpful, praiseworthy.  Then the world says, "Well, that's just that one guy (or gal)." Like it or not, you wear the name of Christ.

And it is your name!  You have been adopted into the family of God.  Jesus is your brother, in addition to being your God, your Lord, and your Savior.  Now, you will find it difficult to find this precise language in Scripture, but you will find the same basic ideas.  For example, Ephesians 2:19, "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household".  You are of God's household!  That means that you are a family member.  Peter agrees.  He writes, 1 Peter 4:17, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" "If it begins with us", "the household of God"?  Those words tells us that we are His family.  We are said to be adopted, Romans 8:15 says that you have received a spirit of adoption as sons, and Ephesians 1:5 says, "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will."  In fact, Jesus even calls us brothers: Matthew 12:50, "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."

The name of Jesus is ours, but not as a natural possession - it is ours by the gift of God.  Here are few quick Bible Passages that say something about our being called by the name of our Lord: (Acts 15:17) IN ORDER THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME, (James 2:7) Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? (1 Peter 4:14-16) If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.  (Revelation 3:12) He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.  (Revelation 22:4) and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.

Now, the last two passages speak about our situation in glory, but the truth is that we are already in heaven, because that is where God lives and rules.  We are presently also living in the flesh, so it is not so clear to us, at least by the testimony of our senses, that those things are so.  But they are.  We wear the name of Christ, even in the title, "Christian".

Wearing the name of Christ is a spiritual reality that is not always evident to our sight in this world, but, as I said earlier, it is seen by the world, even though they do not understand what they are seeing.  All they know is that they hate it.  Mindless persecution arises at the name of Jesus.  People caricature the faith in order to cast aspersions on it.  It really isn't the conduct of Christians that they hate, or what we stand for socially or morally.  What they hate is that we carry the name of Jesus Christ, who is the arch-enemy of their master, Satan.  He hates, and so he inspires hatred in them.  This truth accounts for Paul's teaching that 'we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the powers and the spiritual forces of this world.' That truth is just a little difficult to keep in mind when we have to deal with the devil's hatred coming out of the face of a flesh-and-blood person.

We Americans have had the blessing for many years of not facing terrible persecutions for our faith.  The era of blessedness may be coming to an end in the not-too-distant future.  In other places in our world, Christians have been tortured and murdered - martyred - for the faith.  Right now, in Europe (in many countries) and Australia and even Canada, one can be arrested, prosecuted and jailed for a clear confession of Biblical truth.  Which confessions cause what problems varies from country to country, but many things that we believe on the basis of Scripture are being labeled "hate speech" in our world.  In nations where the state controls the church, objecting to women in pastoral office can bar one from being or remaining a pastor, and in certain places can lead to jail.  Homosexuality is protected against Biblical prohibitions.  Speaking the truth of Acts 4:12 too clearly ("And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.") can be construed as hate speech toward Moslems or Hindus or Buddhists.  Oddly, vitriol and even physical attack against Christians are often not viewed as hate, or even illegal in many of these same places.

On the other hand, wearing the name of Christ is not a bad thing.  When I begin with the world's response, I might leave the impression that it is uniformly unfortunate to be recognized as wearing the Name.  It is not.  People in true need, those searching for peace and forgiveness still find comfort in that name and come seeking it wherever they can see it.  There are few things as pleasant as helping someone who is truly in need, genuinely repentant, troubled by life, and who light up at the preaching, teaching or confession of the Gospel.

The name of Jesus Christ is a great blessing.  In the time of the Apostles, God was demonstrating that truth through those men as they healed the sick and even occasionally raised the dead by invoking the power of the name of Jesus Christ.  But even that physical healing is just an outward demonstration of the truth that bearing the name of Christ is a good and blessed thing.  We are the sons and daughters of the God who created all that exists.  We are His not by our genetics, or by our effort applied to meeting certain criteria, but by God's gracious choice.  He has made us members of His own household, and counts us in Jesus Christ - in that name - as those who are as precious and as righteous as His only-begotten Son.

When I speak the Word of God (or you do) I exercise unbelievable power.  It is not actually beyond believing, in truth, but there are no words to define the nature and greatness of the power.  It is the same exact power by which the world was made, and all of the forms of life in it were created.  It is a power to bring to faith beings who are incapable of believing on their own, or assisting in the process of coming to faith.  Of course, it is no cheap parlor trick or optical illusion, or even something impressive to behold in the eyes of the world.  There are no flashing lights or smoke-bombs going off when I exercise that power, so the world around me is not impressed.  It is not that God could not do that, He did it once in grand fashion on Mt. Sinai.  His display overwhelmed those who saw it and brought them to plead with Moses that they would not have to see any more of it.  God doesn't seem to be working like that any more, at least for now.

But to change somebody who hated God and desires to do evil into a child of God who seeks to serve Him with a holy life is a great miracle.  To cause one to die and be born again, as God does in Baptism, is an extraordinary exercise of power.  It doesn't change the physical landscape.  It doesn't increase the contents of one's bank accounts.  And it doesn't draw the fawning attention of the media, so people tend to overlook the power.  Because we cannot see with our eyes the eternity of the life begun there, the world that does not believe is not impressed.  But we accomplish by the power of God the things the world would gladly pay fortunes for, if they could capture it for themselves in that way.

When you wear the name of Jesus, as all believers do, you possess everlasting life.  I know that I will never die, just as surely as I know that my body will, if the world lasts long enough to see that day.  I am going to experience the taking off of this tired sinful flesh and the putting on of it again, only when I put it on again, it won't be tired, or old, or sinful any longer.  It will be renewed, refreshed, and transformed.  But between the taking off and the putting on, I will not be dead, but alive with my Lord.  It is wonder to ponder it, and something to be looked forward to just as one might look forward to any unique and wonderful experience.

As I await that day - or, actually, those days (the dying of my body day and the resurrection of all flesh day) - I live as one of the most favored and blessed people on earth.  I am the child of God!  He loves me and He watches out over me, and He causes all things to work together for good for me - and not just for me, but for all those who are called by Him into faith and according to His purposes.  There is nothing to fear in life, because nothing really bad can happen.

I can imagine them happening.  That is one of the challenges of the faith.  We all can imagine horrible things happening, 98% of which never do.  The world tempts us with pictures of disasters and wild imaginings, and stand around clucking its tongue (so to speak) saying, "You can't really believe that stuff, can you?" "Are you serious about nothing bad happening?  Look around you!" The problem is, I can only see with my eyes.  I cannot see what is really happening, or how it is to experience those things.  I can only imagine, and my sinful flesh can be tempted to fear and terror.

But I have the promises of God.  And I have the name of His Son.  When I look at my life, I even have experience to show me that God is true and faithful.  I personally have fifty-eight years of being spooked by life and discovering that I still live, I can still rejoice and thank God, and that nothing was as I feared it might be.  Nothing in life in this world has been forever.  Pain comes, but it also goes.  I have had to face difficult things, but I have found blessings hidden in them such that I cannot tell you what that I have experienced that I would undo if I had the power.  Sure, I would be glad to undo the pains, but then I would lose the blessings I discovered in them or with them.  I would happily avoid the sorrows, but the joys that came to me because of my sorrows would have to be gone too, and I don't want to give them up.

Most of all, however, it is the issue of faith.  God has made promises, and most of the ones I value are not about my day-to-day life right now.  I either take God at His Word about them all, or I decide that I am the measure of what is real and true.  And I am not that wise, not even in my own estimation.  I have been give a name, however; "Christian", one of those Jesus Christ people.  It means that I have the good will of God and His promise of guidance and protection.  It tells me that He is not going to give me more than I can handle - although He often gives me more than I want to handle.  It tells me that I am already beyond death and dying, I did that in Baptism.  I have a source of power that can do anything - and the Bible says that God works in me and through me with that power.  The troubles I have in this world is not with what God has promised, but with my limited ability to manage the part of me that doesn't know God or want to believe: the sinful flesh.  But I have a name.  It is a good name.  It is a wonderful name.  I share it with all of my family, all those who have been adopted, like me into that family of God.

So, what's your name?

Yours in the Lord,

Pastor Fish

These sermons are for the Church. If you find it useful, go ahead and use it -- but give credit where credit is due. Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church's Website can be found by clicking here.

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