Tuesday 4 October 2011

Say my name, say my name

1. A false name

Last Sunday, we looked at the church of Sardis. According to the risen Lord Jesus, this was a church with a reputation. He says to them, “You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1c). The Greek word “onoma” translated here as “reputation”, literally means “name”. The Christians in Sardis had made a name for themselves.

It reminds me of the Old Testament account of the tower of Babel. Gathering their resources together, the men of Shinar built the first skyscraper, saying, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves.” (Genesis 11:4) They were building a monument to their achievements in technology; to their advancement as a civilization. More than that, they were building a name for themselves. They were building a reputation.

In Sardis, we saw how their reputation had blinded them to the reality of their condition. “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die,” Jesus warns them (Revelation 3:2). The Christians in Sardis had abandoned the gospel: what they “received and heard” and had failed to “obey” (Revelation 3:3). Unless they repented, their vain trust in their reputation would even blind them to the reality of impending judgement: "I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you."

2. A worthy name

However, Jesus does find “a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes” (Revelation 3:4). Literally, verse 4 reads, “But you have a few names (onomata) in Sardis”. Jesus has taken special notice of these few individuals. He calls them “worthy” - that is, worthy not simply of praise, but truly worthy of Jesus’ attention. Jesus knows their names.

3. A secure name

Furthermore, Jesus promises that all who overcome the temptation to compromise their trust in him and hold firmly to the gospel, will have their “names” (onoma) securely written in the book of life and acknowledged before God in heaven.

He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
Revelation 3:5

Dear friends, before God’s throne we have but one strong and perfect plea: Jesus our great High Priest, whose name is Love. If that is true for us, we can boldly sing:

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

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