I am not one of those people who remembers names well. I am really good with faces, but not so much with the names that go with the faces. I am working on it.
In my professional life I was a classroom trainer, providing education and skill development in the field of sales. At any given time, there would be anywhere from 5 to 25 in my classroom. Our office administrator was efficient in preparing both sticky name tags to be worn and standing tent cards for each person registered for class. You would think that their name plastered on their chest and labeled at their places at the table would be sufficient for me to call each of them by the correct name. Not really.
Have you ever had a name just stick in your brain that wasn’t the right one? Several years ago I had a gentleman in my class named Kevin. I don’t know why, but in my head he evidently looked like he should be called John. He was in my class every day for an entire week and I repeatedly called him John rather than Kevin. It was embarrassing and I apologized over and over, yet it just seemed to keep coming out my mouth when addressing him. Being a very good-natured fellow, by day three he had marked out the name Kevin on his tent card and written in John! Evidently he found it too much trouble to continue to correct me each time and agreed to be John for that week.
There are many people who don’t like the names they were given at birth and take the steps to legally change them. I suspect, however, that the majority of folks who don’t really like the monikers chosen for them have just learned to live with it. They may go through their whole lives experiencing this little cringe every time they hear their name.
In biblical times and still in certain cultures today, names are chosen for their meanings, not just how the sound rolls off the tongue or whether or not it will be an attention-getter. When a parent named a child, they were speaking their desires for the character development and the future of that child. When God chose certain people to accomplish His plans, He often changed their names: Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob became Israel, Saul became Paul. These people found their true identity in the new name God had given them.
So what name identifies you? Shame? Regret? Failure? Perhaps Depression? Unloved? Abused? Worthless?
One of my favorite songs is “Redeemed” by Big Daddy Weave. Here are a few lines:
All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear you whisper “child lift up your head”
I remember oh God you’re not done with me yet
I am redeemed, you set me free
So I’ll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain
Now I’m not who I used to be
Because I don’t have to be the old man inside of me
’cause his day is long dead and gone because
I’ve got a new name, a new life I’m not the same
and a hope that will carry me home
Abram meant “high father”, Abraham meant “the father of many or of multitude”. One of the meanings of the name Sarai meant “argumentative”…interesting. Sarah meant Princess. When God changed Abraham’s name, he didn’t go around calling himself or Sarah by their old names. He took the new ones. He didn’t introduce himself by saying “God calls me Abraham, but my real name is Abram.” He no longer had his old identity, he had a new one. A new one full of promise and hope and faith. (Genesis 17)
God has given you many new names: Redeemed, Forgiven, Righteous, Sanctified, and many more. My personal favorite? Beloved. He has given me a new identity and wants me to no longer define myself by the old. I don’t have to explain it to anyone and it doesn’t really matter if they don’t believe it. It’s mine. I’ve got a new name.
What do you call yourself? You know the Bible says you’re righteous, but do you continue to identify with your sin more than your righteousness? You know the Bible says you are loved, but do you live out your days with the emptiness of rejection from your past rather than experiencing the passionate love God has for you?
If so, it’s time to realize that God didn’t just give you these new names because they sound good. They now define who He has made you. They speak into your character development and your future as His child. These new names were given to fill you with promise and hope and faith.
You’ve been renamed. Take it!