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This is post 2 of 3 in the series “THE POWER OF …”

The Power Of The Master’s Name

Philippians 2:5-11

“What’s in a name?”

Shakespeare asked that question and then answered it—and his answer indicates that a name doesn’t matter much. He said: “A rose by any other name still smells as sweet.” However, the German poet, Goethe, took a different tack. He wrote: “A man’s name is not like a mantle which merely hangs about him, but a perfectly fitting garment which like the skin, has grown over him, at which one cannot rake and scrape without injuring the man himself.” Goethe was a lot closer to the Bible’s message than Shakespeare, for in the Bible, a name is more than a label of identification. A person and a person’s name are indistinguishable. The person is the name and the name is the person. That’s the truth of the Scriptures. The people on our church staff will tell you that the one thing which is guaranteed to get me upset is when we pronounce or misspell or omit a person’s name. So there is tremendous importance attached to a person’s name.

Of course, of all the names in history, none is so significant, so sacred, so sublime, so superlative as the name of Jesus. Paul, writing in Philippians, exclaims: “God…bestowed upon Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” The songwriters put it this way: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There is something about that name.” Yes, there is something about that name…

First, Jesus’ name is the sign of privilege.

Have you ever noticed how we react when people use or misuse our names? If someone mispronounces our name in a funny way, we feel foolish. If someone forgets our name, we feel like we ourselves have been forgotten. If someone remembers our name, we feel good all over. One of the things that I have noticed as a result of our television ministry is that a lot more people know my name. I get stopped in restaurants and on the street and in other places. Once in a while I even encounter someone who wants to take my picture! Now that feels good. I understand, of course, that it is not because of me. Sometimes it is because these people and I share the same faith in Jesus Christ. Other times it is just because of television. (Television has such an impact in our society that people will line up to get the autograph of a weatherman, for heaven’s sake.) So it is either Jesus Christ or it is television that is being acknowledged by those public greetings. But that doesn’t alter the fact that it still feels good to have someone know my name.

In the Gospel of John, Chapter 10, Jesus says a most wonderful thing. He says: “I know the names of my sheep, and my sheep know my name.” He is underscoring the deep, loving relationship which exists between the children of God and the Son of God. He knows them by name and they know Him by name.

It is a marvelous thing to be so known by God. Just think of it: the Creator and Sustainer of everything that is—the One who is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable—the One who has within Himself all that is wise and powerful and holy and good and true—the One who sits in eternity and inhabits the whole universe—the One of whom we can say that the stars in the skies are nothing more than the sets in the rings on His fingers—the great, eternal, and all-powerful God knows your name and mine. There is a tremendous sense of privilege to know that you are His and He is yours forever.

John Peyton was a great missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the Pacific. Peyton, in both his writing and his preaching, used to hearken back often to his days as a boy growing up in Dumfries, Scotland. His family lived in a little cottage there. In the back of the cottage, there was a small room to which Peyton’s father would go for his personal prayers. The young boy would frequently hear his father praying, speaking the name of Jesus in those prayers with such intimacy that he seemed to be a part of the family. And when his father would come out of that room, John Peyton could see a glow on his father’s face and he knew that his father had been in the presence of God. Commenting on that, John Peyton said: “If the worst catastrophe I could conceive of were to fall upon me and my ministry”—and in his ministry in the New Hebrides, he did confront terrifying difficulties and problems—”If the worst catastrophe I could conceive of was to fall upon me, still, my memory would take me back across the years, and I would listen tff the echoes of my father’s prayers, and I would see that glow in his face again. And I would know that my father had not only given me his name, but he had also given to me the name of his Saviour.”

Let me say to every parent within the sound of my voice: Give your children your name, yes; but give to them also the name of Jesus. Yes, there is something about that name. It is a sign of our awesome privilege of belonging to God.

Also, Jesus’ name is the source of power.

I heard about two fellows who were driving along in Southern California. They passed the city limits of a town. The name of the town was on a sign: “L-A J-O-L-L-A.” The fellow driving the car said: “This is La Hoya.” The other fellow said: “No it’s not. It’s LaJolla.” The driver said: “No, in Spanish you pronounce J-o-l-l-a as ‘Hoya’—’LaHoya’!” The other fellow said: “That’s ridiculous. Just look at it. There it is—‘Jolla’.” The driver was a bit perturbed by now, so he said: “I am going to pull into that place just ahead, and you ask that man standing in the door what the name of this place is.” So they pulled off the road, rolled down the window, and the fellow said to the man standing at the door: “Sir, can I ask you to do something for me? Would you please, very slowly and very distinctly, pronounce the name of this place?” The man said: “Certainly. Bur…ger… King.”
Well, some names are a joke—but not the name of Jesus. Oh, there is great joy in having the name of Jesus, and it even at times fills life with the sound of joyous laughter, but it is no joke. Rather it is a source of tremendous power.

Dean Cromwell was the head track coach at UCLA for many years. He used to call all of his athletes “Champ.” Someone asked him why he did that, and he replied: “Well, they all want to be champions, and inside they all are champions. So I call them by what they want to be and what they have the capacity to be.” Is it any wonder that he produced a lot of winners on his track team?

Just so, there is something about the name of Jesus that, recognizing that it is yours, gives you a power and a self-understanding that doesn’t come in any other way. Do you remember in Acts 4, when Peter and John were arrested because they healed a man? They stood trial and they were asked: “How is it that this man was healed?” Peter immediately replied: “I’ll tell you how. This man was healed by the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”

Now we may not all have the gift of healing, but we all do have some gift of the Holy Spirit. And when God gives us a gift of His Holy Spirit, He also gives us the power to exercise that gift, to develop that gift, to utilize that gift. It is a sad thing that so many of us have not taken the time to discover what our particular gift is and to claim the power that God is ready to pour into our lives.

There was a general who called up his motor pool one day, and the soldier answering the phone said: “This is General Fathead’s motor pool.” The general began sputtering in rage. He said: “Soldier, do you know who this is?” The soldier said: “No.” The general screamed into the phone: “This is your general!” There was a pause, and the soldier said: “Do you know who this is?” The general replied: “No.” The soldier said: “Tough luck, fathead!”

I want to tell you, it is more than tough luck not to know the name which will enable you to become all that God means for you to be, and not to have the power that name makes available to you. We must never forget the power of the name we bear. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. That name prayed over and over again—even if you don’t pray anything else but that name—that name will give you power. St. John Climacus once said: “Flog your enemies with the name of Jesus, for there is no weapon more powerful in heaven or on the earth.” Yes, there is something about that name. The name of Jesus gives us power for even the most dangerous and perilous places in life.

Then, Jesus’ name is the secret of prayer.

That is why we as Christians always conclude our prayers by saying: “We pray in the name of Jesus Christ.” In John 14, Jesus says: “Whatsoever you ask in my name I will do it.” That is His commitment to us. He says to us that God is ready to work through us in the world. Understand, please, that He is no giving us carte blanche. He is not saying that we are to pray about anything that pops into our minds and then expect God to hop into action. God is not some celestial bellhop, there to do our bidding. He is simply saying that when we truly pray for things in His name, He will be glad to respond.

But how do you know that a prayer is being truly prayed in the name of Jesus? Let me suggest five tests for you. One, is the prayer in the direction in which God’s will is moving in your life? Two, if the prayer you are praying is answered, will it bring you closer to God? Three, does the prayer seek God’s blessing upon all who may be involved? Four, does the prayer seek to build God’s Kingdom on earth? Five, if the prayer is answered, will it bring something into your life that God can enjoy with you? When a prayer passes those five tests, you can pray that prayer freely and boldly in the name and the power of Jesus—and in the way that is best for you and for Him and for His kingdom on earth. Jesus will answer that prayer.

I know that there are times when we feel that we are being knocked around or even knocked down. There are times in life when we are battered and crushed by the circumstances of our lives. Well, my beloved, the promise of the Gospel is that in such times, Jesus is always there. And if, in those times, we will pray for peace and for power; if in those times, we will pray for those things which build courage and produce patience; if, in those times, we will pray for the ability to be an example of what a Christian ought to be in such circumstances; if, in those times, we pray prayers that are prayers in His name, then those prayers will be answered.

Jesus.

There is something about that name. Across the years of my ministry, I have seen and experienced the power of that name. I have stood at countless bedsides of pain, and I have spoken the name of Jesus, and seen the comfort and the peace it brings. I have held the bereaved in my arms and felt their bodies shake with sobs, and I have whispered the name of Jesus in their ears and watched as hope and confidence have gripped them again. I have seen the rantings and ravings of the angry, the vicious, and the obscene stopped when just the name “Jesus” is forcefully spoken. I have seen just the mention of His name bring strength to sinners, encouragement to those who are discouraged, empowering love to those who are young, and buoyant hope to those who are older. Jesus. It is just two syllables, but I tell you that there are people all over the world who would die for those two syllables. I am one of them. There is no question about it in my mind. There is no doubt about it in my heart. There is no anxiety concerning it in my mind. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. There is something about that name.

Well…

O. Henry, the great American short story writer, wasn’t really named O. Henry at all. His real name was Sidney Porter. Early in his life, he was arrested, convicted, and jailed for the crime of embezzlement. While he was in prison, he met a guard whom he came to love and admire, a guard who did much to turn his life toward good. That guard’s name was Orren Henry. So when Sidney Porter left prison, in order to build for himself a new life, he left behind his old name which he had disgraced, and he took for himself that guard’s name. He lived the rest of his life and wrote all of his short stories under that name. As he walked out of the prison to begin this new life of his, the guard called out to him and said: “Take good care of our name!”

Here’s the word I leave with you today. Take good care of the name of Jesus. Don’t ever say it in anger or in frustration. Don’t let it slip easily and casually across your tongue. Don’t ever forget that there is peril in misusing that name. But also, don’t ever forget that in speaking or singing or whispering or thinking that name aright, there is grace and strength and power. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Please, take good care of His name…

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