This blog is the combined effort of four senior pastors of different churches. Their desire is to point you toward living a God-centered, gospel-focused, Christian life.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Name of Jesus

Recently the volunteer chaplains for North Carolina's Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department were instructed to leave the name of Jesus out of their prayers at official ceremonies.

The Charlotte Observer reports that the directive to leave the name of Jesus out of public prayers applies to events such as police graduations, memorials and promotions. Major John Diggs explained that the goal is to be more sensitive to all the religions of the more than 2,000 police employees. Diggs argues that the policy is not designed to diminish anyone's Christian beliefs, but to be more inclusive to all.  This directive possesses teeth.  Any chaplain unable to comply with this directive will be relieved of service and replaced.

This news story reminded me of the time I was asked to pray to open the Illinois House of Representatives.  I was honored by the opportunity.  A few minutes before I was to pray, an official gave me a paper outlining my responsibilities.  The instructions on the sheet forbid me to use the name of any historical religious figures in my prayer.  I recognized that while the language on the paper was generic, the intent was to eliminate the name of Jesus from the public prayers of the House.  Before praying, I talked with our community's state representative about the instructions that were given me.  I knew that I could not pray if I did not honor Jesus in my prayer.  I was relieved when he laughed and told me to pray freely in Jesus' name as I had planned.  He told me that the state still recognized religious freedom.

The name of Jesus troubles the world.  This name has been the source of hostility from the first century forward.  In Acts 4, Peter declared to the religious leaders the truth that "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)  The religious leaders were alarmed by this message that exalted Jesus and consulted one another regarding the appropriate response to the apostles' message.  After some deliberation they "called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus."  (Acts 4:18)  

Today, many in our country hate the name of Jesus as much as the Jewish religious leaders of the first century did.  His name is so powerful that it cannot be ignored by the world, it must be opposed.  The name of Jesus demands a response as Jesus does not allow HImself to be placed alongside other gods.  The name of Jesus reminds us of Jesus' exclusive claims regarding His Lordship and His salvation.  For us Christians, "Jesus" is the most precious of names.  

We know that Jesus is the only Mediator between God and man .  (1 Timothy 2:5)  We know that Jesus Himself instructed us to pray to God the Father in Jesus' name.  (John 14:13, 14; 15:16; 16:23).  We give thanks to God in Jesus name (Ephesians 5:20).  We know that  God has highly exalted His Son and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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.  (Phil 2:9-11)  How wonderful is His name!!  His is a name we trust.  His is a name we reverence.  His is a name we adore.  

Friends, let us never back away from using Jesus' name in our teaching, our talking and our praying.  Yes, this name will offend many.  Yes, we may feel odd in speaking this name to people who reject Him.  But God gave His Son this name at His incarnation for us to use to exalt Him, to worship Him and proclaim Him.  Our world still needs saving and only one name under heaven can bring God's salvation.  

How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

It makes the wounded spirit whole,
And calms the troubled breast;
’Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary, rest.

Dear Name, the Rock on which I build,
My Shield and Hiding Place,
My never failing treasury, filled
With boundless stores of grace!

 --John Newton

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