Kevin Welborn | @TheKevinWelborn
Imagine this scenario…you are on an airplane seated next to a total stranger. Conversation begins. I know this already seems implausible, but pretend this is happening back in an era where humans interacted with one another.
How would this dialogue begin? Probably with small talk. Something like, “Hot outside today.” Or, “What’s the deal with Chicken McNuggets?” Or my personal favorite, “Flying somewhere?”
You get the idea. Soon a series of standard questions will surface. Particularly, inquiries as to what your name is, where is your hometown, and what do you do for a living. These are fairly non-invasive questions with the end game being to determine this stranger’s identity. What makes Dave who he is?
One can actually ascertain some understanding about another person by asking a few simple questions. Obviously though, this in itself doesn’t create a complete understanding of the person in question, nor does it conjure up an authentic relationship.
Isn’t it interesting the way we choose to identify ourselves? I am from Texas, so I feel bound to let everyone know that and that Whataburger should be never more than 5 miles away from any one person. I also discuss that I am a pastor, father, and husband. My dad owned a real estate company and my mom was an elementary school teacher. See? You know a bit about me already.
One thing that is lost on American culture is the meaning of names. Kevin means kind-hearted and handsome. My mother also happens to be a prophetess, apparently. However, I am sure there are Kevins in the world who are surly and homely looking.
To us, names mean little more than a moniker, or a label.
This is not so in the biblical era. Names MEANT something! For example, Abraham means “father of many”. He had many sons, many sons had Father Abraham. But, let us focus on another man from Genesis. His name is Jacob, which literally means “heel grabber”.
Heel grabber was a Jewish term that means “liar or deceiver”. If you know much about the account of Jacob, his name was an appropriate one.
One night, Jacob physically wrestles with God, which is recorded in Genesis 32. After the bout, God asks Jacob his name. Jacob, at this point defeated and humiliated, says “I am Jacob”. Recall that names mean something, so he really is saying, “I am a liar and deceiver. I am untrustworthy.”
God changes his name to Israel, which means “God contended”. Keep in mind, this is no simple name change like an adult may go to the courthouse and fill out the appropriate paperwork to change a name. This is an overhaul of Jacob’s identity. He is no longer a liar, because God has changed Jacob’s very being.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, if He has forgiven you of your sins then the Bible says you are a new creation. The old self is dead and you are a brand new creation in reality! Your identity is no longer liar, stealer, or addict. You are a child of God, Jesus has given you His righteousness! The name Jesus, which comes from the name we know as Joshua, means that “YHWH is salvation”.
God sees you as forgiven, clean, and righteous. This is your identity. (Click to Tweet.)
Kevin Welborn is the pastor at Highland Baptist Church in Clovis, NM. He is married and has two daughters. He loves his native Texas, sports, and exploring creation. The most famous person he has ever met is someone you have never heard of. You can contact Kevin on Twitter at @theKevinWelborn.