This morning I had the privilege of leading morning worship and preaching at Elm Park Baptist Church.
The pastor, Colin Phillips, has started on a series of talks studying the “Names of God” and suggested I could speak on the names of Jesus. And this is what I did, although in the time allowed I actually only talked about Jesus.
As usual we start with our Bible passages:
Luke 1:26 – 34
26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
I understand that Colin has started as series of talks on the names of God.
So I thought it would be appropriate to look at the name of Jesus.
As we established earlier in our children’s talk everyone has a name.
In Hebrew society often the eldest son would be named after the father or another significant male relative. Just listen to this from Luke 1:57 – 63 “ When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”
John means “God is gracious”.
Jesus which means “God saves” or “God is salvation” was a fairly common name at the time of Jesus. But as we heard the angel Gabriel tells Mary her son is going to be very special.
You may say to yourself, as many people do, “I don’t need saving from anything.”
“I’m a good person. I go to work, pay my taxes look after my family and I’m kind to animals. So what do I need saving from?”
What about all the wrong things you’ve said and done?
Or perhaps the good and kind things you just didn’t do?
Or what about all the evil things people get involved with, which look so innocent? Ouija boards, seances, fortune telling, tarot cards and the Charlie, Charlie challenge. All of which are very dangerous. The Bible makes it very clear that God’s people are to have nothing to do with any of this stuff.
Maybe you think “Oh that’s all in the past. It doesn’t count anymore” “I was younger then and a bit wild. You know how it is?”
Sadly the Bible tells us God doesn’t see it that way. In Hebrews 4:13 we read “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. “
In English law there is something called the Statute of Limitations which basically says that you have 12 years to go after someone for a debt they owe you. After that you can’t do anything. However with God there is no such get out. You are answerable for every misdeed; every wrong thought you ever had.
It’s like going round the supermarket putting goods in your trolley. You can pile it high, but there comes that awful moment when you arrive at the checkout, and the reckoning begins. Every item has to be paid for. There is no putting stuff back on the shelves or telling the cashier you’ve changed your mind and don’t want certain items.
Each and every item goes through the scanner and you are told the price.
I can’t pay that!
So how do we deal with all this sin?
Many people ignore it and hope it will be alright on the night.
Others try and argue their way out of the corner. If God is loving then he wouldn’t punish us. He’ll let us off and we’ll be okay.
You’d be amazed the number of folk who assure me that their loved ones are in heaven because they were good people. Oh he wasn’t a Christian but he was a good man and led a Christian life style.
You can only live a Christian life by being a Christian – acknowledging that you cannot save yourself, and that you accept that Jesus has paid for your sins.
One man once told me that he lived a Christian lifestyle. He ran a cycle shop. So I asked him if I lived a Cyclist’s lifestyle, dressed in spandex, wore a cycle helmet, carried a water bottle and talked about different designs of bike and gear sets would that make me a cyclist. No it would not. I am not a cyclist until I get on my bike and pedal!
Other folk assure me that all religions are the same as they all worship the same God. Jesus gave as a yardstick to see if that was true. See John 5:23 “He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.” So if people merely say Jesus was a good man, or a teacher or a prophet or even an archangel, they have got it wrong. Unless you acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, you have got it wrong.
It’s a bit like standing out by the bus stop in Rosewood Avenue. near to the church. If you want to go to Rainham, then the 165 is the bus for you. Its no good hoping for the No 5 to take a diversion on its way from Canning Town to Romford to pick you up and take you to Rainham. Its just not going to happen. Not all buses go to Rainham and not all religions take you to God. Jesus is the only way.
So how does Jesus bring salvation?
The Bible tells us that there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. The old Jewish system of sacrifices may bring God’s forgiveness for the wrong things we have done, but straight away we sin again. There was a never ending cycle of: sin, sacrifice and forgiveness. Jesus’ death on the cross was the one perfect sacrifice that could bring lasting forgiveness for all the sins of the world and bring us peace with God.
Jesus is the only human in history who has led a perfect sinless life.
Jesus’ last words on the cross as recorded in John 19:30 “When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” Then bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.”
And that offer is available to anybody who wishes to accept it.
Getting back to our supermarket trolley full of sin, it is as if Jesus walks up to the customer at the check out and says “Would you like me to take care of that for you?” If you say yes to Jesus, then the bill is paid and you can go free.
Jesus also came to save us from the Devil who has been at work deceiving and misleading people since the days of Adam and Eve.
A family I visited this week told me that the now deceased lady was very spiritual and had been into “healing”. Sadly she had been a Christian but had gone the way of eastern spirituality, and she sought out healers from all over the world to heal her cancer. She was a firm believer in the healing power of magic crystals.
Jesus’ name also conveys God’s authority. We read in Philippians 2:8 -11 “ And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
And as Christians we can have Jesus’ authority and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us in each and every situation we face.
Jesus said that his followers will do the things he did whilst on earth. At the end of Mark’s gospel, Jesus commands his disciples” 15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
So we are to act under his authority, the highest power in the entire universe and to expect to see things happen.. Whilst sadly many men and women do not acknowledge Jesus’ authority here and now, there will be a day when they do, either joyfully because they are believers or because on that day it is obvious who Jesus really is and they no longer have a choice..
However the demons recognise Jesus’ authority and you can read in the gospels how Jesus set people free from demons. There are similar occasions in the Acts of the Apostles. There is a salutary tale in Acts 19 when non believers try to tackle demons. We read “ 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 [One day] the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.”
I once talked to a lady who some years before had been fascinated by “automatic writing” where a demonic spirit gets into a person and they start writing prose, verse, essays etc. She allowed the spirit into her and started writing. The lady said eventually she could not stop it. Her husband told the spirit that he was the householder and that the spirit was not welcome there and had to go. Of course it did not. Fortunately a local Christian minister was called and he commanded the spirit to go in the name of Jesus and it went straight away.
There is no other way to get rid of evil spirits. We do hear of silly people who think that you have to assault the possessed person, pour boiling water on them or rub chilli peppers in their eyes and then shout loudly at the demon. What dangerous nonsense. You follow the model you will find in the Bible which is to command it to go in the name of Jesus.
Just as an ambassador acts on behalf of his or her country, under the authority of the government, so we Jesus’ followers can act under his authority as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Finally, to summarise I think that the worship song “There is power in the name of Jesus” does capture for us the significance of the name that is above all names:
There is power in the name of Jesus;
We believe in His name.
We have called on the name of Jesus;
We are saved! We are saved!
At His name the demons flee.
At His name captives are freed.
For there is no other name that is higher