Something that’s been on my heart a lot lately is the simple thought that God doesn’t see you by your sin or the things you’ve done wrong. He got up on that cross and died for you by name, He rose again on the third day for you by name, and He has gone to prepare a place for each one of us by name that accept and live by His unending grace. He is coming back soon to call us home by name.
So I guess the question I have for you to think about is this: what is the name you go by?
At some points in my life, I called myself the loner because regardless of whether or not I had friends around, it often felt like I was there just to fill the space. I still have my moments, but moments are not the whole picture. I know that now.
There were some points where I just considered myself a disappointment. I let myself down on promises I made to myself often. I forget things a lot when my mom gives me a list of things to do. Even in moments when I had told someone a friend’s secret for the sake of my friend’s safety I used to consider myself a disappointment to my friend because I’d betrayed their confidence, regardless of the reasons.
Sometimes I felt defenseless or like a victim more than anything, for a number of reasons that some of my past creative pieces outline.
I could go on with the names I used to go by, but ultimately none of those names I give myself matter. None of those were the name that Jesus called me by, though He considered what I called myself in how He called me. He never compromised the identity I was born with, and nor should we when approaching others, but He used the identity I once held to show me just a fraction of the great magnitude of His grace.
I mean think about it, Paul was once the greatest persecutor of Christians, but in every letter he wrote in the New Testament, he introduces himself as a servant of, an apostle of, or a prisoner for Christ, and in a couple of those openings his pupil and friend, Timothy, is included as such. Simon Peter was a fisherman and a gambler, but in both of his letters included in the New Testament he calls himself an apostle, and in 2 Peter he adds that he is a servant of Jesus Christ. When we accept Christ as our Lord and savior, we are dying to ourselves– the identity we held before is no more and we are made new through the power of Jesus’s blood. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” This is echoed from Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Paul continues to build on this idea of becoming a new creation in Christ in Philippians 3 as well, but I think before quoting this it’s important to say that even when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior we are not yet perfect– on this side of heaven we are consenting to the process of sanctification. We are committing to not only resting in God and His promises and trusting that His work is enough to make us perfect come Judgement Day, but we are also considering that He doesn’t keep us from the fiery furnace– He walks in there with us. Philippians 3:12-16 says this:
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
So while in this very moment we are not perfect, the Word tells us of God’s promise to wash us clean of our sins (Isaiah 1:18) and to create in us clean hearts (Psalm 51:10), the work is as good as done. What God says will happen, will come to fruition. What God says will happen is as good as done.
God shows this in a myriad of ways, but I want to go back to Daniel for a moment, before Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walk into the fire. King Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace be heated to seven times its normal heat, which was so hot that even the guards outside the door that threw the three into the fire died. The significance? Seven days of creation, opening line of Genesis is seven words, symbolic of fullness or completion. In that opening line of Genesis, the middle of those seven words in the original Hebrew is two letters– alpha and taw– which are the beginning and end of the Hebrew alphabet.
In other words, when God is at the core of who we are, what we do, how we live… there is nothing that can stop His power that is living in you. Culture changes. We change. Things and people come and go. But one thing is sure, as it’s said in Isaiah and quoted in 1 Peter:
6 A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”
And while we are in the exile that is this life on this earth, Peter points out that we should be conducting ourselves in a way that shows gratitude for the payment of the debt we could not pay. The payment that, when we place full faith in Jesus, makes us righteous before the perfect, holy, and just God. The payment that makes us adopted sons and daughters of the Most High God.
So I ask again, what do you go by? The changing states of mind, past traumas, or other struggles you deal with (not that those are any less valid hurdles in life)? Or do you call yourself a servant of God, a child of God, and someone that– however undeserving– God calls beloved?