My favorite reading, no surprise I’m sure, is theological in nature. However, I also enjoy several secular type of books. I like law/crime mysteries of which among my favorite author is John Grisham. Periodically I like a good western novel like those written by Louis L’Amour. But by far my most preferred secular writing comes in the form of fantasy. This attraction started early for me after being introduced to an author by the name of Edgar Rice Burroughs. It’s been so long ago I’m not even sure how I picked up “John Carter of Mars,” but once I did I was hooked. (And yes, for those of you who are familiar, I can’t wait to see Disney’s rendition coming out March 9!) I now have all of Burroughs’ books on Tarzan, John Carter and even Carson Napier of the Venus Series. But I also love the fantasy writing of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, etc.
Okay, so wait. What has my reading preferences got to do with the title of this post? Forgive my verbosity but here’s where I’m going. I’m currently reading a series that my youngest son, Zach introduced me to entitled, The Inheritance Cycle written by Christopher Paolini. It is a great fantasy series set in the mythical country of Alagaesia. The main protagonist, Eragon is fighting the evil empire. One of the things Eragon learns from both his father Brom and from his mentor Oromis, is that every person has a “true name.” To put it simply, your “true name” is something that identifies the real you, your essence. If someone learns your true name they can have power over you. Plus, in book 3 we learn that there exists the possibility of changing your true name and doing so releases you from past tragedies and commitments. As I thought of the “true name” implications in the Inheritance Cycle the “spiritual doors” of my mind began to open. I wonder: Do we as human beings understand our true natures before God? Do we as Christ followers really comprehend what it took to change our true names? Here’s what came to my mind as I thought through this.
First, our true identity can never be discovered or understood without a relationship with Jesus. It is only in meeting Him that we get a glimpse of our true name or nature. Without Jesus we have a great tendency to deceive ourselves. Isnt’ this why Jeremiah cried out, “The heart is deceitful above ALL THINGS, and BEYOND CURE. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) We believe we are good. We think by comparing ourselves with others that we stand as “okay” before God. We actually lie to ourselves and believe that since our good deeds out weigh our bad we’ll be saved. But when you read the Bible you realize it doesn’t work that way. In fact, you learn that without Jesus we cannot or maybe more aptly, will not see our true nature.
Secondly, only when we meet Jesus do we get a glimpse of our true name: S-I-N-N-E-R. Interestingly, when people of scripture saw God for who He really was they saw themselves as who they really were. Isaiah said when he met God, “I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and live among a people of unclean lips.” (Isa. 6:5 NRSV) One day the apostle Peter was told by Jesus to cast his fishing net into deep water. Peter did as he was told and hauled in a huge load of fish. How did Peter respond? “Thanks dude! This is awesome!” No. Instead of voicing appreciation he felt he had to confess his sin before Jesus’ power. In fact he said, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5) You see it time and time again in scripture. Those who see themselves exposed in God’s light are strongly convicted of their sinful nature, their true selves. Our true nature is sinner, one who deserves nothing but eternal separation from God.
Thirdly, and this is the best part! Jesus, by His grace, takes our name “sinner” and changes it to a new true name, His name. That happens only because He is capable of changing it if we will allow him to. Of course what we are talking about is God’s grace. What a contrast between our true human name or nature as sinner and our new spiritual nature or name, Christian. It gives me pause and deep dedication to Him when I think of how, by His grace, He has changed me.
“Here’s what took place in my life: I tried keeping rules and being good but it didn’t work. Christ’s life showed me that I was a sinner but also how He wanted to change me. So I identified myself completely with him. I am no longer driven to impress you or God because Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is a life saved by grace and lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20-21 SEV)
I am so grateful for what Jesus gave in order to change my true nature into my new true name!