in our church, we are continuing with a series called "letters from Jesus," in which we are looking at the seven letters in the beginning of revelation addressed to seven churches in asia. we are imagining what it would be like if we were to receive a hand-written letter from Jesus to our church. what would it say? how would we be encouraged? how would we be challenged?
we've looked at three of the letters now. this week we looked at the letter to the church in pergamum. the letter to them includes some harsh criticism of some of their behavior, but it also says that Christ understands how difficult their situation is. and in case they feel like they are stuck in their sinfulness, Jesus says something amazing to them: i will give you a new name.
the world gives us so many names, doesn't it? our parents, of course, give us our birth names. but the naming doesn't stop there. it continues right on through elementary school, high school, and into the rest of our lives. i was given the name gregory when i was born. then i was flash. i was eldest son. i was curly. i have been named a leader, a team player, and now pastor. along the way, though, the world sometimes offers different names: sinner. loser. shameful. broken one. guilty one. unlovable.
don't be surprised. you've heard these names, too. they are whispered in your ear by the impostor. they are subtly spoken in every commercial ("you are not good enough, unless you drive a new car") and somewhat screamed by many magazine covers ("you are too fat, too ugly, too imperfect if you do not look like this!"). you've heard them swirling around your soul when you've hit the bottom, having succumbed to some temptation and been left to sort of muddle through the guilt of it. you, too, have heard the voices, that you are not worthy of God's love. that you are a failure. that you are not good enough. that you are unlovable.
these are the names the world gives us.
but Jesus, in his love-letter to us (the word become flesh) has given us a new name. we are no longer sinners, but redeemed ones. we are no longer broken, but healed. we are no longer shameful; we are showered by grace. we are no longer unlovable; we are the beloved.
what names have you been answering to lately? what have you allowed to define you? is it only the final Word of God, which is the Truth that will set you free? or is it the voice of the past? or the voices of our culture? is it the voice of scarcity or insufficiency? is it the voice of guilt and shame?
i urge you, then, to listen closely to the Gospel, which is spoken most definitively in the person of Jesus Christ, as it offers you words of incredible grace:
i will give you a new name. you are my beloved.