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09/07/2017 A New Name

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A New Name
Contributed by Rodney Buchanan on Jan 5, 2003

Scripture: John 1:25-42

Tags: New Year's Day

Denomination: Methodist

Summary: As we think about the new year, we need to see that: 1. God is always doing a
new thing. 2. Only God can bring about real change. 3. God’s new name for us means a new
beginning.

I love to read the comics, and one of my favorites used to be “Calvin and Hobbes.” Calvin
and Hobbes are talking about the new year when Calvin says, “I’m getting disillusioned 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’s still the same There’s still pollution and war
and stupidity and greed Things haven’t 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 usual erudition, “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 some satisfaction over our successes, and we experience
some 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 as Hobbes says, the future just keeps
turning into more of the present. If we are not careful to allow the fresh breezes of the Holy
Spirit to blow across our lives the future will not be full of exciting new possibilities, positive
change and new growth; it will just be more of the same.

It happened that two men were talking about one of their colleagues and one said, “Did you
know he has 30 years of experience in his field?” But his friend’s response was, “Actually, he
has not had thirty years of experience. He has had one year of experience thirty times.” The
future kept turning into the present for him.

As we think about this new year, I would like to say first of all: God is always doing a new
thing. When we live in harmony with a creative God we keep experiencing new things, and
discover that we are constantly growing in new ways. Growth is a principle that God has built
into the universe. He loves doing things in new ways. He says, “See I am making everything
new ” (Revelation 21:5). That is the exciting thing about knowing God. The Lord spoke
through Isaiah the prophet saying, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See,
I am doing a new thing ” (Isaiah 43:18-19). What a thrilling God we serve How exciting to
be at the point where we sense that God is wanting to do new things with our lives, and in
our life together as a church How wonderful it is to walk with him.

But letting God do a new thing in us is sometimes threatening. And even when we want to
experience what God has for us it is not always easy. How many of you know what it is like
to be determined and resolved to change some things and see your resistance shattered the

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same day you made your resolution? The problem is that we are soon overcome by old
habits and forget our resolutions, and our resolve goes out the window. Turning over a new
leaf seldom affects us in a lasting way. What we need is not inspiration, but transformation.
We need a change in our lives that comes from God. What every person needs is something
that will permanently affect their life situation. Something that will truly satisfy the longings,
the needs, and the aches of life. Something that will bring true and lasting change.

The second thing we need to realize is: Only God can bring about real change. We cannot do
this by ourselves. We need something beyond us. That “something” is a Someone. That
Someone is Jesus Christ. During his life here on earth he never left people the same. He
always affected them permanently. They either became devout disciples, or dangerous
enemies, but they were forever different. They either permitted him to help them or claimed
they did not need him. But to those who allowed him, he made new people. The change was
so real, and so permanent, that he gave them new names as a sign of what he had
performed in them.

Look at Simon Peter, the one who would forget Jesus’ teaching about turning the other cheek
and slash a man’s ear off with a sword; the one who fled when danger neared, and denied
his Master with a curse. Jesus dared to call him the “Rock.” He knew his real name. Everyone
knew that Simon was a man of hot emotions. He was unstable. His temper flared. There
were times that he was uncertain of himself, and times that he couldn’t make up his mind.
His emotional reactions were completely unpredictable. A rock was the last thing most
people associated with Simon. Everyone knew that his vacillating emotions were his
weakness, but Jesus had the audacity to call him the Rock. Jesus saw through Simon’s
weakness and told him that his weakness could be his strength through the transforming
power of God. Jesus knew that he would use Simon’s fiery emotions and his impetuous
actions to accomplish his purposes in the world. That is what every man, woman, and young
person here needs today. We need someone who can look beyond our faults and weaknesses
and not only love us, but expect the best from us. Someone who will believe in us. Someone
who will give us another chance; someone who will call us by another name. Here is the
grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only he has the power to turn our weaknesses into our
strengths.

Perhaps you are one of those who constantly criticizes yourself. You are more than aware of
your weaknesses and imperfections. You feel inadequate and guilty. You feel that much of
what you do turns out wrong. You have had more than your share of failure. Jesus gives you
a new name. Perhaps you are one to whom sin has dealt a deadly blow — your life and
others has been affected by your errors — and you live with shame. People expect you to
fail. Jesus gives you a new name. Each of us needs someone who can see a spark of good in
us, and is willing to fan that ember into full flame. There is one person above all people who
can do that — the person Jesus Christ. He is aware of the good in you. He is aware of it
because he planted it there. He says you were made in the image of God. He gave you your
life, and wants to become a part of your life so that he can develop God’s image in you.
Listen to these wonderful words of the Lord: “You will be called by a new name that the
mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’S hand, a royal
diadem in the hand of your God” (Isaiah 62:2-3).

I am amazed as I catch the overtones in people’s conversations of how much they think of
God as seeing only the bad in them. They believe he is more aware of their failure than he is
the good that is in them. They think that God is waiting to find something that they say or do
wrong so that he can pounce on them. Please know that God is much more concerned over
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the good in you than he is 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, “Whenever our hearts condemn us. . . . God is
greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20). He is calling us “forgiven.”
He is using a new name for us, but all the while we are insisting our name hasn’t changed.

Sooner or later everyone reads or hears about Cervantes’ story of Don Quixote. Cervantes is
thrown in prison in Seville. Finding himself in the middle of a band of cutthroats he tries to
divert them by telling them his story of Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha. In the story,
Quixote pictures himself as a chivalrous knight. He goes forth to right all the wrongs of the
world and take it by storm, but the Don is a man who lives in a world of impossible dreams.
His armor is shabby and his horse is sagging. He rides for his fair lady whom he calls
Dulcinea — “Sweetness.” But Dulcinea is far form a fair lady. She is a prostitute in a country
tavern. She assures him that she is “the most casual bride of the murderous scum of the
earth.” Her real name is Aldonza. She resents Quixote’s intrusion in her life and screams at
him saying she is no kind of lady. But the Don persists, “And still thou art my lady.” He says
that he sees heaven when he sees her, to which she replies that all she can see is a dream
covered with rusty tin. Soon Don Quixote’s family tries to make him face reality. They oblige
him to see the world as it is by shocking him into reality. As they begin to succeed, his health
and his spirit begin to break, and he is at the point of giving up his impossible dream. But
just then Aldonza comes into his room. She looks at him with grateful eyes and says, “You
looked at me and called me by another name — Dulcinea.” Aldonza had become a lady; her
life renewed by someone who dared to believe in her and call her by a new name.

There are many times that it seems that God is foolishly interfering with our lives in a
quixotic manner. He sees what we are and yet insists on calling us another name. He dares
to dream the impossible dream. We often talk about believing in God, and forget that he may
also believe in us. He is saying he believes in us, but we think of ourselves as failures. We
yell and scream and flaunt our wickedness before him, refusing to believe that he could be at
all serious, but all at once we begin to wonder if perhaps it could be true. Could God love me
after all, even when he sees what I really am? Could it be that my life could be different? Is
it possible that the Bible is for 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)? And what about the
verse that says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s
business. Instead, I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Could it be that our names have
been changed? We are calling ourselves failures while he is calling us friends. Could it be that
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?

The third thing we need to realize is that: God’s new name for us means a new beginning. It
sounds unbelievable, but it seemed unbelievable when God changed Abram’s name to
Abraham. Abram and Sarai were childless, but God called him Abraham: “Father of
Multitudes.” He made him a father of a nation. Sarai he called Sarah: “Princess.” What a
marvelous and transforming imagination God has How full of love his heart is. How powerful
his Spirit, to take our failures and give us a future. How marvelous of God to take people
who were headed nowhere and use them to fulfill his plan for the world. Can God really know
all my faults and sins, and still love me that much — enough to give me a new chance in
spite of my failures? Can he give me a new name?

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
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being in the ministry is the opportunity to see people change — often dramatically. Never
underestimate the power of God in your life — or any one else’s.

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 just as everyone had expected. He cheated his brother out of his birthright; he
deceived his father, and cheated his father-in-law out of his possessions. But when the Angel
of the Lord came to him, he asked his name. When he replied that his name was Jacob
(schemer, trickster), the Angel replied that he would no longer be known as Jacob, but as
Israel — “Prince of God.” Imagine it Not only was Jacob’s name changed, his heart was
changed as well. He was never the same again.

Those the world called tax collectors, Jesus called disciples. Those called sinners, Jesus called
companions. Those scorned as immoral, he called forgiven. Those called common fishermen,
he called fishers of men,. A crucified thief he called an heir — an heir of the paradise of God.

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 time to give other people a new chance. It is a time to try and expect
the best from them; to realize that perhaps with a little help and trust from you they could
be different. Give people a new chance to begin over again with you. 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 for ourselves? We serve a
God who forgives our mistakes as well as our sins, and he calls us to do the same. This is
why Jesus warned us about calling other people names. He said, “You have heard that it was
said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to
judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to
judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But
anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22). 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.

The book of Revelation gives us some interesting insight. It talks about those whom the
world has rejected because they dared to trust in God. It lets us see how they turn out in the
end — how God had seen them all along. The people of God who were looked down on in the
world, beaten down by the world, and even put to death by the world, are now seen from
God’s perspective. In the world they were dressed in rags, now they are dressed in dazzling
white robes, spotless and pure. The world had seen them as losers, but here they are called
overcomers. On earth they were unloved and lacked respect, but now they are the chosen of
God and loved by him. Listen to these powerful words of the Lord found in Revelation: “Him
who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I
will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new
Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him
my new name” (Revelation 3:12). Again we hear the Lord say, “He who has an ear, let him
hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the
hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only
to him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17).

Don’t settle for the disparaging or flattering names the world gives you. Don’t be satisfied
with any name or title the world wants to call you, until you have been given a new name by

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God — the one he has given you and knows you by. All other names are false and frivolous.
There is no name better than the one he has called you. You don’t need the accolades of the
world, you need a new name and a new heart given to you by God. Listen to what he is
saying to you. Listen for the new name he is calling you in spite of your failure, and believe
that you can change by the power of that NEW NAME working in your life. Even when you
have lost all confidence in yourself, he still has confidence in you, for he sees what his Spirit
will do in and through you. His love is transforming and can make you brand new. Your new
name will be a sign of the new you.

“But now, this is what the LORD says — he who created you. . . he who formed you. . . :
‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When
you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they
will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames
will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. . .
you are precious and honored in my sight, and. . . I love you. . . . Do not be afraid, for I am
with you’” (Isaiah 43:1-6). He gives you his new best name of love.

Rodney J. Buchanan

January 5, 2003

Mulberry Street UMC

www.MulberryUMC.org

Rod.Buchanan@MulberryUMC.org

Questions for January 5, 2002

1. Can you remember names you have been called? What were the names and who said it?

2. What kind of names have you called yourself?

3. Have you felt yourself living up to the names you have been called?

4. What kind of name would like for God to call you?

5. What affect would this new name have on your life?

6. How is God like Don Quixote in his actions toward Aldonza?

7. Why is it important for us to call other people names that heal rather than hurt?

8. Think of some of the people mentioned in Scripture whose names were changed. The
names did not always seem to fit the personality. Why did God do this, and what affect did it
have on them?

9. Read Isaiah 62:2-3. Read these words as God’s word directly spoken to you.

10. Take time to say what name you would give for the person next to you. Affirm them in
the way you think God would if he were speaking through you.

11. Read Revelation 2:17. Imagine the day that this will happen for you.

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