What’s in a Name: Identity, Purpose, Freedom and Joy – The Stream

Recently, through a divine chain of events in ministry, I was reminded of the significance of a name. Our very name, an important piece of our identity, means something special to the Lord — the One who identifies us.

I help operate a specialized children’s program in Israel, Johnny’s Kids, a ministry serving children with physical and/or intellectual disabilities in educational capacities. In one of my recent volunteer visits, I observed notable learning growth in a 9-year-old girl with intellectual disabilities who had been very behind in speech. At first, she had hardly been able to say anything at all; she couldn’t even say her own name. After just a few weeks of speech therapy at the center, she was able to speak her name for the very first time — a monumental feat. When her parents heard her say it, they were utterly overwhelmed with joy.

Upon seeing their awe-stricken faces in the peak of such a profound moment, I was gently reminded of the verse in Revelation that speaks to the importance of our new names — our renewed identities in Christ Jesus.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” (Revelation 2:17)

You Matter

You might be reading this thinking, “I don’t think my name really means anything.” Maybe you’ve always felt like you’ve had a ‘boring’, ugly or insignificant name. While you might personally feel this way, I can assure you that God does not.

God sees you, knows you and passionately loves you. He’s known you perfectly since before you were formed in your mother’s womb, and He considers you wholly remarkable; from counting the very hairs atop your head to loving the simple beauty in your name, every part of you is significant to God.

Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” (Isaiah 49:1)

Stepping Into Our True Identities

When we give our lives to Christ, our new identity — our new name — is in Him. In our redemption, we take on the name of Jesus. Through the sanctification process, our hearts are transformed; the old dies away, and the new overflows from within us, taking on the identity of our Savior.

It is within this holy growing process — that which is sanctification — that we are able to boldly step into freedom, becoming who we have always been meant to be. This is the most beautiful ongoing experience we have the opportunity of undertaking on this side of heaven.

Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43: 6-7)

Created for More

We are made in the image of God, regarded as important because we are loved deeply by a good Father, identified in Christ Jesus who died for our sins. Our names, deemed significant by the Creator, matter. More so, our redeemed Spirits, taking on the name of Christ Jesus, matter most. When we step into our new identities, we embrace the Body of Christ, a deeper calling, a purpose in life to share the Gospel, serving those around us and esteeming others higher than ourselves.

We are each designed with special gifts, passions and skillsets. God created only one of you; there has never been another before you, and will never be another after you, that is you. You are wholly unique, special and valued. God intends to use your holy gifts and passions alongside others to cohesively build up the Body of Christ.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5)

Let us each step into our identities audaciously for the sake of Jesus. Let us own our new names, bold because of what the Lord has done. Let us do this for the sake of others, firm in our own identity so that others might learn theirs. As we step into the calling of becoming more like Jesus each day, our gifts and identity surrendered to the Lord, we will inevitably experience new levels of freedom, purpose, joy and love that we have yet to know.

David Vanderpool, MD, is a surgeon who leads the international nonprofit, LiveBeyond. Working in Haiti since 2010 to provide clean water, nutritional support and healthcare, LiveBeyond also established a school and the Johnny’s Kids program to assist children with special needs, named in honor of Dr. Vanderpool’s brother-in-law who had Down syndrome. LiveBeyond launched Johnny’s Kids in Israel in 2021.

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