Has someone ever put a label on you? Weirdo! Loser! Freak! Some of these labels are oftentimes placed on us throughout high school, college, and even at the workplace. Labels are needed to define a particular thing. Without labels we wouldn’t know salt from sugar, right? But sometimes labels can be misrepresentations of who you really are. As Believers, negative labels are put on us by the devil from our pasts. Liar! Fornicator! Adulterer! Cheater! Hater! If we allow it, these labels can easily define us. But how detrimental can these labels be if we desire to draw near to the Lord? How can they stop us from becoming everything God initially labeled us to be? Let’s take a look.
There are two prominent examples of identity changes in the New Testament:
- First we see in Matthew 16:16-18, that Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter. Notice that the change of his name occurred AFTER he confessed who Jesus was in His deity. We can safely conjecture that Simon was ridiculously unstable. Throughout most of his time with Jesus, he was constantly doubting and questioning everything. Many would label Simon as “the foolish disciple.” However, Jesus took that label given to him and flipped the script by giving him the name Peter, meaning “stone.”
- In Acts 9, Saul has a life changing encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus. In verse 5, Saul clearly recognizes Jesus’ voice. Notice again, the name change occurs AFTER the acknowledgement of who Jesus is. Fast forward to Acts 13:9 and it’s clear that Saul is now also known as Paul. Now, Saul was a man who persecuted the followers of Christ. Easily, the first label that comes to mind when thinking about Saul is “murderer.” But Christ saw differently, he saw him as Paul, meaning “humble.”
Peter and Paul could’ve easily let the labels of the world define who they were. However, when they recognized who they were in Christ, everything about their identity changed. Saul “the murderer” went on to write two-thirds of the New Testament. Simon “the foolish disciple” evangelized, spreading the Gospel in various places. It wasn’t just about the name; it was about the new identity that came with the name. By changing their names, they were no longer being defined by their past, but by who they were in Christ. Again, both Peter and Paul could’ve easily allowed the labels from their past define their future. But instead, they put on the labels given to them by the Lord.
Beloved of God, what labels are defining you right now? What labels has the devil put on you that you have yet to take off? These labels will stop you from drawing closer to the Lord because you'll focus more on the labels than you will on Him. Labels of your past can not define who are now in Christ. If you are struggling with a besetting sin that you can’t seem to shake; “failure” is a label of your past—“OVER-COMER” is your new name given to you by Christ. Low self esteem does not define you; when you see “ugly,” change your name to “FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE” (Psalm 139:14). Peter writes it best, the Lord called you by name out of darkness into His light (1 Peter 2:9). No label could ever change that.
Today, identify yourself in His grace by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal His love to you. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul goes on to encourage the reader that nothing can ever separate you from His love—not even your past. Right now, where ever you are, CHANGE YOUR NAME! Your identity is not in the girl that broke your heart, or the father that was never there for you. It’s not in what you did last night or even that lie you told before reading this post—it’s in Jesus Christ. Your new label, your new name, your new identity is found in His grace. Know who you are in Christ!