Good morning and welcome to Christ’s Community Church. Today we’re beginning a brand-new message series entitled, “Getting Past Your Past”, piggy-backing right on our last series “The Mask” because I believe that God is still working deep beneath the surface in so many of our lives. You know, the bottom line is that many of us have been held in bondage from things that happened weeks, years, and decades ago. Many of us have been betrayed, someone close to us lied to us, said things that hurt us, and we have lowered the mask, but today we’re still carrying around the bitterness, the resentment, and the unforgiveness. And so what we’re going to do this morning is look to the Word of God to teach us how we get past our past.
I am calling today’s message “The New You” and we’re going to look at getting past the names that have been attached to us. You see, for most of us somewhere in our past someone called us something, or somebody described us in some negative way, or maybe you’ve come to believe a lie that was self-perceived about yourself that isn’t even true and one way or the other we’re all living under the labels of the past. Well today I’m believing that God is going to do a work in us, to minister to us, and to help us to overcome that, to get beyond that, and to experience “The New You.”
To begin with, I want to ask you look back in your life and to consider what names or descriptions have been attached to your name? Maybe like Billy the Kid, Winnie the Pooh, or Dennis the Menace. You know, sometimes a name can be harmless such as those given at birth, and the Bible gives us many examples, like Zerubbabel whose name means “born in Babylon.” Other names can express a particular characteristic of a child like Esau which means “hairy,” Edom which means “red,” or Korah which means “bald.” A name can even reflect the condition of the mother, such as Rachel who died in childbirth; Genesis chapter 35 tells us, “As she breathed her last… she named her son Ben-Oni, which means “son of my pain” (Genesis 35:18). And even the name Leah means “exhausted” so we know how Mom was feeling at the moment of birth right?
But here is what I want you to do, I want you to consider what kind of negative label has followed you through life? Maybe for you it was a title or nickname, maybe it literally became part of your name or maybe it was just seared into your soul as with a branding iron when somebody called you a doormat, because you let people walk all over you and take advantage of you. Or maybe you were the brainiac, the party girl, the druggie, the hothead, or just plain lazy and irresponsible? As you think about it, I want you to listen to what God’s Word says and know that God’s power is greater than your past.
Here’s what the Bible says in second Corinthians chapter 5, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In other words, if you have a name or word in mind that may or may not be true about you, maybe you deserve it, but whatever it is, you need to know that what’s true about you today doesn’t have to be true about you tomorrow. You see, the truth of God’s word is greater than any truth you’re living in your life right now. And so it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, or where you’ve come from, because anyone who belongs to Christ (meaning that you have repented of your sins and submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ) anyone who is in Christ, is a new creation, they’re born again, they have a new life, because the old life is gone and the new has come. All of those things, those names, those labels, that sin that once held you back and kept you down has been broken in the name of Jesus. Your past has been washed away and the newness of life is available to you in Christ. And so, number one, that name which once held you hostage, that name that kept you in bondage, will no more, because God will give you a new name.
Today if you’ve trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you’re living in a spiritual “Year of Jubilee.” You’ve been set free from the past, your spiritual debt has been paid, and you’re living in the year of the Lord’s favor. So, in the past someone may have given you a name, a label, or description, but God will give you a new name. In fact, you may have turned away from God, in the past you rejected him and disobeyed; like Israel you might have become a byword and an object of ridicule (1 Kings 9:6-7). But listen to what God said through the prophet Isaiah; speaking to the remnant of Israel, the children of God, the Lord says in Isaiah chapter 62, “You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow” (Isaiah 62:2).
Some of you today have been held back by something that you believed, something that others have called you, but God will bestow, he’ll give you a new name, replacing your old name with a new one now that you believe. Ephesians chapter 1 tells us, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption as those who are God's possession…” (Ephesians 1:13-14). So God will replace your old title, that old label, with a new name. God in calling his people into a new and close relationship with himself gives them a new name. He does this too many times in the Bible for us to look into any great detail, but Abram’s name was changed to Abraham in connection with his new calling to be the father of many nations. Jacob struggled with God and with men and had overcome, therefore he was no longer Jacob the “heel grabber,” but was renamed Israel, the “prince that prevails with God.”
Names in the Bible were much more than a label or designation that set people apart from one another, but they had meaning, and therefore the change of a name was also of great importance. In the giving or taking of a new name, it is the designation of a crucial turning point in a person’s life, often signifying a new identity. Jesus said in Revelation chapter 2, “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it” (Revelation 2:17). He said again to the church in Revelation chapter 3, “Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God... I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name” (Revelation 3:11-12). So there’s a change of identity, a change of ownership, and Jesus said in Revelation chapter 20, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
So having that new name is important and what you’ve been labeled with in the past will no longer be true. God’s going to give you a new name, you may feel unworthy of it, but God is not only going to help you understand, he’ll also help you grow into your new name. You see, God’s not only going to give you a new name, but he’ll also give you the power and the ability to grow into your new name. Today you need to understand that those labels in the past are not who God says you are, because God will bestow upon you a new name.
And the second thing is that God will give you a new purpose. With your new name comes new purpose and you can see God doing this over and over again in his Word. The story of Simon is one of my favorite examples. You know, he’s known as being hot-headed, loud-mouthed, and undependable, but Jesus meets him as he’s walking beside the Sea of Galilee and called out to him saying in Matthew chapter 4, "Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). In other words, come follow me and I’ll give you a whole new purpose in life, because you’re going to be more than a disciple, you’re going to change the world, I’m going to take you and give you a whole new purpose. And so Peter would become an evangelist, he would do things he never thought he could do, and along with his new purpose came a new name that signifies his new identity.
We find that recorded in Matthew chapter 16 where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of man is?” They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16).
Jesus looked at Simon and said in verse 17, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church…” (Matthew 16:17-18). So Jesus said, “Simon, I’m giving you a new name, you are Peter” which means a rock; and he said, “No longer are you rash and undependable, but now you’re a rock. I'm giving you a new name and with your new name comes new purpose: you’re the rock and I'm going to build my church on this rock.” Now for those of you who know this story, you know that Peter wasn’t always a rock from that moment onward, but you know what? He was growing into his new name as he was growing into his new purpose. His new name revealed that by God’s grace he would become a rock.
The Bible tells us in Acts chapter 2, that the very same Peter who would deny Christ three times stood up on the day of Pentecost and preached a message on Jesus’ suffering, dying, and rising again and 3,000 people put their trust in Jesus and the church exploded because of his testimony. Later, in his first letter to the church in chapter 2, Peter reminds Christians that they too are living stones being built into a spiritual house with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-6). Church historians tell us that at the end of Peter’s life they were going to crucify him and Peter insisted that he was unworthy to be crucified like his Savior. So they crucified him upside down. He wasn’t born a rock, but he grew into that name and he died a rock.
There are many of you here today that God is going to give a new name and with that new name comes new purpose and as you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit you’re going to grow into your new purpose. You see, out of whatever name or weakness there was in your past, the Holy Spirit will give you great strength for your future. Out of whatever negative description that once was associated with your name, out of your greatest weakness, God will give you a new name and a new purpose by his power in you. Don’t let your past define who you are today, because you are not what others say you are, you are who God says you are, and he will give you a new name, a new purpose, and the third thing he will give you is a new future.
Through the presence of Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, God will give you a new future. Here’s what He says in Jeremiah chapter 29, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Did you hear that? The God of the universe has plans for you. Plans to give you a hope and a future!
What you need to know today is that for years you might’ve been labeled an addict, you might’ve been full figured, you might’ve been in debt, but this morning in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit you’re going to overcome.
God says in Isaiah chapter 43, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
You see, you might’ve always been the bridesmaid and never the bride. You might feel like you’re stuck in this marriage and it’s never going to get better. You might believe that your kids are never going to grow up to do anything worthwhile. And the devil has you believing his lie and you’re locked into this mindset of negativity. You see, our spiritual enemy doesn’t want you to know that you have a hope and a future, but today God is going to raise you up in his strength that no matter what your weakness, no matter what labels of the past, he is going to give you a hope and a future.
One of the most amazing stories of redemption in all the Bible is the story of a woman who had one of the worst labels you could have. Her name is recorded in the Bible ten times and five of those times there is this negative label tied to her name. We find her first mentioned in Joshua chapter 2 where she’s identified as “a prostitute named Rahab.” Now even though she came out of a culture where prostitution was acceptable you can only imagine what that title did for her psychologically; she had to feel used like a hand-me-down, as if there’s never going to be any love, never a good marriage, and that God could never forgive her. But what’s really amazing is that God in his grace incorporated this Canaanite prostitute to become part of the lineage of King David (Matthew 1:5).
Let me give you a little background. When Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land and they came to Jericho, he sent in two spies to check out the city. It was this woman, this prostitute named Rahab who hid them on her roof, who risked her life by lying to the king’s messengers, and then helped the two spies escape down the outside wall by a rope out her window. Now we don’t know exactly how Rahab came to recognize Jehovah, the God of Israel, as the one true God, but her insights recorded in Joshua chapter 2 leave no doubt that she knew God.
Verse nine tells us that she told the spies, "I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:9-11).
Rahab said her heart melted as she heard stories about God. Her declaration of faith led the writer of Hebrews to mention Rahab as one of the great heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11 (vs.31). James praised her as an example of one who had been justified by works (James 2:25). And I wonder if there are any of you here today like Rahab and your heart is starting to melt because you’ve heard about the great power of our God. You see, when Rahab’s faith sparked, her heart melted, she knew God, and she became a new person. I'm convinced that in whatever supernatural way God chose to work through her faith and through those two spies, that he gave her a new name and she knew it. She knew that she was forgiven, she knew that she was transformed, and with her new name came a new purpose. With her new purpose came a bright new future and God did what no one else would’ve ever thought possible. God brought her a God-fearing man named Salmon, she got married, and it was their son Boaz who married Ruth, who became the father of Obed, the grandfather of Jesse, and the great-grandfather of King David.
For those of you this morning, who feel like you’re never going to be this or it’s always going to be like that because there’s this label this name that follows you through life. Listen to what God did through Rahab the prostitute; she had a great, great, great, great, great grandson whose name just happened to be Jesus Christ, the Son of God; the Messiah born to take away the sins of the world. Now isn’t that just amazing, that from a prostitute named Rahab came Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.
And I tell you that as we close to encourage you not to believe what anyone else says about you, not to believe any of the names or descriptions that have been attached to you, because by the power of Christ you can get past your past and God will give you a new name. You may not be there yet, but as you grow into your name God will give you a new purpose and as you begin to walk in your new purpose he will give you a new future. God will raise you up because his power is made perfect in weakness. You will never be the same. That which held you back in the past is broken in the name of Jesus; and “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
August 14, 2016
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.