Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Your Real Name
Pastor Steve Schell
John 1:35-42
Each of us has two names: the name our parents gave us and the name God gives us. If our parents took the time to listen to God when they named us, those two names may be the same. In that case our given name is prophetic. It reveals something about God’s plan for us. Whether or not the name our parents gave us holds such meaning, the name God calls us always does. That’s because He knows how He designed us in our mother’s womb. David saw this truth and declared it in worship. Listen:
“For You formed my inward parts, You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You. When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth, Your eyes have seen my unformed substance, and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained [for me], when as of yet there was not one of them.” (Psa 139:13-16)

This has to be one of the psalms David wrote when he was an older man. He’s expressing the kind of insight that usually comes with age. He’s looking back on his life and realizing that he had simply played a part in a plan that God had determined before he was born. Before he drew his first breath, God knew the gifts and capacities he would need in order to fulfill what God was going to call him to do. In David’s case, he was going to be a warrior and a king, so God “wired” those abilities into him while he was developing in his mother’s womb.

The psalm reveals David’s humility. He’s acknowledging that everything he has accomplished was not because he had taken control of opportunities and willed himself to greatness, but because he had cooperated with God’s plan for him. In this psalm, he’s worshipping, not boasting; he’s marveling that God knew exactly who he would need to be, in order for him to do all He had planned for him to do, He’s giving the glory for an amazing life back to God. But what you and I need to realize when we read this psalm is that what was true for David is also true for us. What he discovered about God’s plan for his life we need to discover as well. We too have been “woven” in our mother’s womb with a plan in mind. We can ignore it, fight it or pursue it, but we can never change it.

Naming Peter (Jn 1:35-42)
DBS (Sunday, Monday, Wednesday)

Andrew went and found his brother Simeon (Ac 15:4) and led him back to the place where Jesus was staying. When the two men arrived, Jesus looked intently at Simeon and said to him, “You are Simon (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Simeon), the son of John, you will be called Cephas.” Then the apostle John adds an explanatory note. He provides for us the Greek name which has the same meaning as Cephas. That name is “Peter” which means “stone” or “boulder.” Cephas is an Aramaic word (Aramaic: the Hebrew that was spoken in Israel after they returned from exile in Babylon) which means “rock.” Many people have noted that the Greek word “petros” (Peter) can mean a small stone, or even a small pebble, but Jesus didn’t call him “petros,” He called him “Cephas,” which was not a proper name. It was the Aramaic word for rock.

The power in a name
What was happening? Why did Jesus change Simeon’s name, or at least add a new one? As we read through the Bible, we discover that God attached great importance to names. He might change a person’s name as He did with Abraham (Ge 17:5), Sarah (Ge 17:15) and Jacob (Ge 32:27-28). At times He might even tell a parent what to name a child before the child was born (Lk 1:13, 31). And as we follow the lives of each of those He named, it becomes apparent that He didn’t choose their name based on who that person was at the time. Instead He looked into the future and saw who that person would become after He had done His work in them, and then that’s what He called them. The names He gave revealed not only His knowledge of the future, but also His confidence that He could guide that person through whatever obstacles might come and develop their character, until they fulfilled the reality which their name announced.

By giving a person a new name God was saying, “At some point in the future, your name and your nature will be the same.” And, at the same time, He was committing Himself to see that it happened. So, that person’s name became a promise which strengthened their faith and kept their hope alive as they journeyed through the challenges of life. Some didn’t see the meaning of their name fulfilled until they were old. Some, like Abraham (Heb 12:13), never saw their name fulfilled during their lifetime, but the promise contained in their name didn’t stop working even after they died.

What Jesus saw
Jesus looked at Peter and prophetically saw the man he would become. In other words, He saw the person God had designed in his mother’s womb. He saw what Peter could be/would be once he became a true disciple of Jesus Christ. By telling Peter that some day people would call him a “rock,” He was assuring him that he would become a solid, reliable man, the kind of person around whom a community can be built. That was not Peter’s reality at the moment. He was rash, impulsive, headstrong, self-confident, vain and changeable (Maclaren, p. 72). In time he would indeed become the person Jesus saw, but not until he had first failed miserably, been restored painfully and been baptized in the Holy Spirit (Ac 2:14).

At this point we need to make a very important distinction: Jesus was not announcing Peter’s fate. He was not removing Peter’s will. He was not taking control of his brain. That’s not the way God works. He wants children who love Him and choose to follow Him, but there is a plan, a plan for each of us which God set in place long ago. Listen:
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)

Here’s how it works: God has a plan. He knows the contribution we need to make in order for Him to reach the people who are willing to come to Him. He guides our formation from the moment we are conceived. He puts into us certain capacities and dreams. He “molds” us until we can fulfill His plan. Then, after we’re born, he reaches out to us, calling us to come and follow Him. He starts wooing us when we’re very young. Then, as we mature, He invites us, even presses us, to surrender our plans and take hold of Him. From start to finish, He commits Himself to be our Father; to protect, provide, discipline, teach, empower until we reach His goals. Which, by the way, are never small. They’re always greater than we thought possible. This is because His plans take into account the miracles He’s going to do. He doesn’t look at our natural abilities and then estimate what He thinks we can accomplish. His plans are meant to make us partners in His great eternal work. He asks us to help Him do something that will change people’s destinies. Our part is to do what He asks; His part is to open doors, provide resources, protect physically and spiritually, bring to us people to help us and sometimes to do absolutely crazy miracles so we can fulfill His impossibly great plan. This is what He sees when He names us. Not who we are at the time; not our list of personal goals; not the pathway that will bring us the greatest sense of fulfillment… He sees our part in His plan.

Unfilled plans
When we speak of God’s plans this way, we soon begin to feel confused because it’s obvious that many are not in the process of fulfilling some wonderful plan. Even many believers seem directionless and lethargic. What’s wrong? Does God have plans to powerfully use some and not others, or is the problem that some have chosen not to pursue His plan and some have not? The answer, of course, is that God has a plan for everyone, there’s a “name” that He calls each of us, but it’s possible for someone to never start, or complete, that assignment. And when all is said and done, there is only one thing that makes the difference.

Staying close (Jn 15:4-5)
The key is staying close to Jesus. If we’ll spend time with Him day by day, we’ll start becoming the person He intended us to be. Fulfilling God’s plan is actually easier than we think. Since God designed us certain ways, doing what He wants us to do is instinctive. We tend to do it without even knowing it. Yes, it’s a great help to understand how I’m made, but even if I don’t, I’m still designed that way. So when I’m close to Jesus and when I’m full of the Holy Spirit, I automatically start being the person He intended me to be. Here’s how Jesus described the process:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:4-5)

The new name Jesus gave Peter assumed one thing: that Peter would spend time with Him; that he would follow Him, watch Him and listen to Him, that he would stay close to Him day after day. At that moment Jesus was standing right in front of him, inviting him to spend the next three and a half years with Him. But 2,000 years later we can’t do that, or can we? We actually have something Peter didn’t have. We have God’s written Word in which He recorded much of what Jesus did and said. So it’s still possible for us to walk with Him day after day. But to do so we have to give Him something very precious: time. It took time with Jesus for Peter to become a “rock,” and it will take time with Him for you and me to do the same.

1) Does your name hold a special meaning? Did your parents tell you why they gave you the name they did?
2) What person in the Bible do you see most like you? What does that person’s name mean? (You might have to look this up.)
3) Have you sensed that God has a plan for you? What steps have you taken to participate in that plan? What steps will you take in the future? 

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