Who does God say that you are?

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I cannot even begin to describe how stressed my husband and I were when, after the birth of our daughter, we had to give her a name. As a natural planner, I had a list of future baby names long before I was even married, but not even this was enough to help once it came time to fill in the form electing the name she would use and identify herself with through life. We felt a heavy burden of responsibility! For two weeks we changed her name, testing different options to find a name we felt best represented her personality (which is not an easy thing to determine for a newborn). Eventually we landed on a name–Lacey, which felt like it was the best fit for her. More than three years later she has grown into her name and it reflects her perfectly: “kind, creative and driven, with a natural ability to connect with others”.

Recently I wrote a piece for Record about people in the Bible who were designated new names (if you missed it, check out The Ten: Bible characters who received new names). It’s interesting to see that each name change came at a poignant moment, with the new name marking a revolutionary moment in their lives. Naomi (meaning “pleasant”) asked to be called Mara (meaning “bitter”) on return to her homeland, after she lost her husband and sons. Joseph impressed Pharaoh so much that he went from imprisoned slave to second-in-command of all of Egypt, adopting not only a new Egyptian name (“Zaphenath-paneah”) but also a wife from a powerful Egyptian family.

There are also the stories of Abram (Abraham), Jacob (Israel) and Simon (Peter). These three men had something in common: they had questionable moments in their lives, moments that would have shaped the picture of what others, and maybe even themselves, saw as their identities. Abraham showed a flawed faith when out of fear he told Pharaoh that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife; Jacob was dishonest in how he acquired the birthright from his father; and Peter fell asleep when asked to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane and denied knowing Jesus three times, even after saying, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” (Matthew 26:35 ESV). 

But God looked at these three and knew that they were not what they did in their moments of fear or faithlessness, or even what others said they were. And they were also not what they may have thought of themselves. They were who God says they were: forgiven, free, called and set apart. God’s designated new names captured the divine essence of who each of these men were to become: Abraham, who fathered a nation; Israel, who struggled with God but overcame and was blessed; and Peter, who was a rock for the building of the church.

Just as these people were designated new identities by God, so are we as followers of Christ. We take on this identity when we choose to accept the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. When we embrace this identity, some of the things we become are:

  • A new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17); 
  • a child of God (John 1:12); 
  • a friend of Jesus (John 15:15); 
  • justified and redeemed (Romans 3:24); 
  • an heir of God (Romans 8:17); 
  • a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19); 
  • an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20);
  • chosen and adopted (Ephesians 1:4,5); 
  • a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20); and,
  • no longer a slave, but free (Galatians 5:1).

These names are God’s way of letting us know that we are known, loved and designed for a greater purpose than we could ever imagine. You are forgiven, free, called and set apart. God’s identity for you is a reflection of His everlasting love.

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