Names can build us up such as winner, champion, helper, friend, lover.
Names can tear us down such as loser, hater, idiot, failure, disappointment.
It’s been said that sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. What a lie! Names can hurt and cause damage that lasts long, long after a broken bone is healed and restored.
A name reveals something about a person or place. When I call someone a snake, everyone has an instant impression about that person. When I call someone a buddy, likewise, an impression is made about that person.
Many of us spend our lives carrying along with us names that we have been given that have shaped and formed our very core identity. These names have defined how we view ourselves and how we expect others to view us as well.
For some of us, those names have been a positive influence and enabled us to go further than we ever thought possible. We have been called helpers, leaders, hard workers, confident, faithful, bold, courageous, dependable, friendly.
For some of us, those names have held us back and entrapped us. We have been called lazy, addicted, disappointing, bad, beggar, lonely, annoying, irresponsible, needy, untrustworthy, worthless.
These names have left us branded for all to see in the world by names such as hurt, broken, ashamed, poor, alone, neglected, abused, quiet, fearful, depressed, worrisome.
Names are powerful and they reveal much about a person or place. As we read through scripture, we come to find just how important names are. One of mankinds very first jobs was to name the creatures of the earth. God called Himself by one name, “I AM.” However, as God’s people got to know God better, they gave Him many names based on His many characteristics. In the Hebrew, they called Him (to name just a few):
El Shaddai – Lord God Almighty
El Elyon – The Most High God
El-Gibhor – Mighty God
El-Roi – The God of Seeing
Adonai – Lord, Master
Yahweh – Lord, Jehovah
Jehovah Nissi – The Lord My Banner
Jehovah-Raah – The Lord My Shepherd
Jehovah Rapha – The Lord That Heals
Jehovah Shammah – The Lord Is There
Jehovah Tsidkenu – The Lord Our Righteousness
Jehovah Mekoddishkem – The Lord Who Sanctifies You
El Olam – The Everlasting God
Elohim – The Creator God
Qanna – Jealous
Jehovah Jireh – The Lord Will Provide
Jehovah Shalom – The Lord Is Peace
Jehovah Sabaoth – The Lord of Hosts)
As people populated the earth, they gave places names based on their attributes or significant things that occured at those places.
In Genesis 28, Jacob was travelling and ran out of daylight. Using a rock as a pillow, he slept and, in a dream, he saw a stairway to Heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. He promised to make Jacob into a great nation and to bless all the people on earth through his children. When he woke up, he named that place which was once known as Luz, meaning almond tree, as Bethel, meaning house of God.
After Samson killed a thousand Philistines with the jaw of a donkey, he was exhausted and cried out to God in thirst. God brought a spring of water forth from a hollow place. Therefore, this place in Lehi was called En Hakkore, meaning spring of One calling.
As you read through scripture, you’ll find hundreds of these sorts of examples. Names are powerful!
You’ll also find throughout scripture where someone’s name was changed. Abram was renamed by God to Abraham, Sarai was renamed by God to Sarah, Jacob was renamed by God to Israel, and Simon was renamed by Jesus to Peter.
Our focus this morning is going to be on God’s ability and willingness to still do this today! Those shameful, crippling, and burdensome names that so many of us are carrying around with us do not have to still be tagged to us when we walk out of these doors this morning! God breaks off the curse over our lives and replaces it with His blessing!
This morning, we’re going to take a look at a man whom we all can relate to. He is a man whose identity was stolen by his problems. He was a man whose life was controlled and bound, who could not seem to find a way to break free. He was a man who fell on his knees at the feet of Jesus and was radically transformed! We find his story here:
1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
Now most of us here have probably never been bound, possessed, and broken by the enemy to this degree. However, all of us have been afflicted and oppressed by the enemy. Most of us can relate to this man’s crying out day and night. Most of us have been so overwhelmed by something that we just couldn’t break free from that our lives became consumed and controlled by it. Some of us have even been so tortured by these things that we’ve even began to physically cut ourselves out of the pain and torment.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.”
Many of us struggle in the same way with this type of identity crisis. When asked who we are, our problems answer for us and define us; and they are many. Jesus knew very well that it was not that man that he was speaking to, but the many demons dwelling within him. As Christians, we also need to have this discernment. We need to be able to see beyond people’s demons, struggles, and problems to see prophetically the true person whom God created.
It’s a bit like this Michelangelo quote that I just recently heart: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He saw the man beyond the problems and set that man free!
10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.
This is one of the most powerful transformation stories that we find in the scriptures! This man living among the dead tormented in agony, crying out day and night, is now in his right mind just sitting there. He fell on his knees before Jesus and Jesus set him free! This man was no longer named Legion, no longer defined by His problems. This transformation was so powerful that people were afraid.
16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I believe that this morning, Jesus wants to do some name changing! I believe that this morning, Jesus wants to set some people free! I believe that this morning, Jesus wants to give us a testimony to take home; to tell everyone how much the Lord has done for us and has had mercy on us!
You see, there is a reason that Jesus is able to change our names. He, being the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One, True, Living God, humbled Himself like one of us, lived the sinless life that we never could, gave His life on the cross:
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
When we bow down to the name of Jesus, not just physically on our knees, but with every area of our lives, He is able to radically transform us! Through Jesus, we are able to cast off every name that we came to Him with and receive a new name. He calls us:
Forgiven (Eph. 1:7), made new (2 Cor. 5:17), healed (Is. 53:5), delivered (Col. 1:13), set free (John 8:36), righteous (Rom. 5:17), an overcomer (Rev. 12:11), more than a conqueror (Rom. 8:37), a carrier of His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19), holy (Eph. 1:4), blameless (1 Peter 1:16), alive (Eph. 2:5), empowered (Mark 16:17-18), complete (Col. 2:10), provided for ( Phil. 4:19), a light to the world (Matt. 5:14), oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor (Is. 61:3), Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted. (Is. 62:12), children of the living God (Hosea 1:10, Matt. 5:9, Rom. 9:26), Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings (Is. 58:12), priests of the Lord; ministers of our God (Is. 61:6)
This morning, I invite you all to come to the altar and to bow down before Him. Come to Him with your problems, those names which have brought you shame and guilt, and leave them at His feet. Shake off this morning those names that those around you and the world have labelled you with and start labelling yourself with the names that God calls you! Greater is He who is living inside of you than anyone else out there in the world; His name is above every namel, therefore, the name which He gives you is greater than any other name that could ever be given you!
* MercyMe – Greater *