A New Name, a New Identity, a New Life

“As a pastor, I frequently encounter folks in need of a new name. The good news is, Jesus offers us exactly that.”

For our From the Front Lines series, we asked several pastors to share the stories of their church plants. These pastors will be checking in online with regular updates on their churches and experiences, allowing readers a front-row seat to the ins and outs of church planting.

Village Church: Update No. 3

Each week, I begin my Tuesday with a good group of friends with the sole purpose of challenging and encouraging one another. It is honestly one of the highlights of my week, and I make this time a priority in my schedule, even though it means getting up and out much earlier than I would prefer. (Were you aware that 6 a.m. is an actual time?)

One Tuesday morning recently, we got on the subject of naming our children and the difficulty in choosing a name that represents them well and passes the ever-important “playground test.” One can never be too careful in choosing a name or underestimate the ability of a junior high boy to turn that name into an awful nickname that your child will be stuck with forever. Ask anyone with a remotely inappropriate-sounding name how their middle school experience was, and bring extra tissues for their weeping.

One of the guys at the Tuesday morning table is a child psychiatrist, and he mentioned that one of his clients has some trouble with his name. The client’s mother refers to him as one name, while the child refers to himself with a different version of his name. On the surface this seems harmless, but the good doctor observed that this inconsistency with his name is symptomatic of a deeper issue (he is a shrink, after all.) Not wanting to add to the confusion, he asked the child what he preferred to be called and received a lackluster, “It doesn’t matter.” The doctor observed that this sense of namelessness was emblematic of this child’s search for his identity. Put more simply, this kid is lost—he doesn’t even know his name.

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I often wonder about the difficulty in settling on a name for ourselves … but not the actual name that our parents gave us, or the one we have chosen to legally represent us (Chad Ocho Cinco?). I’m talking about the name we have accepted as a label that defines our identity. For some, it is a noble moniker like “mother” or “teacher.” But for many of us, our identity is wrapped up in our failures or shortcomings. It’s a name that we have accepted, yet we wish would remain secret. Labels like addict, liar, jerk, disappointment, sinner, ugly, ashamed, guilty … the list goes on and on.

As a pastor, I frequently encounter folks in need of a new name. The good news about Jesus is that he offers us exactly that: a new name. A new identity. A label that we were made for—or more accurately, was made for us. In Revelation 2:17, it says, “I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” And Revelation 3:5 says, “I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.”

I know that these verses may be of little comfort to you if you are in the midst of a naming crisis, but I want you to know there is hope here. These statements are a view to the heart of God. He has a name, an identity for each of us. This name that he wants to give us changes our label, it frees us from the identities we have accepted. It calls us to find our identity and validation in Jesus and what he has done, not in what we have accomplished or failed to accomplish. Jesus is where our name is found. When we call on his name, he calls out our name.

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Here’s to finding a name worth remembering.

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