For The Love of Books

What’s In a Name? Finding Your True Identity

“But as those of us who have experienced divine grace know, we are changed by such lavish mercy and love.”

By Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop, excerpted from The Soul of a Hero

One day Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples tossed out a variety of options they had heard from the people around them. Some thought Jesus was John the Baptist, back from the dead. Others said he was Elijah. Some said he was one of the other prophets.

Then Jesus looked at Peter and asked, “Who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Bingo! Ding ding ding! Give that man a prize!

Jesus gave Peter an A+ for his answer and called him blessed, because God the Father had revealed to him Christ’s true identity.

Photo credit: Diana Vargas

Jesus then used this discussion as a stepping-stone to help Peter claim a new identity from God. Peter’s given name was Simon, which derives from the Hebrew word shema (“to hear”). But from then on, Jesus told his beloved disciple he would be known as Peter, or Petros in the Greek, which means “rock.” What man wouldn’t stand a little taller being called The Rock? (Look at the movie star who adopted that name—his self-esteem looks pretty intact.)

Jesus went on to describe the meaning and the mission that would accompany Peter’s new name. He would become an influential leader among the “called-out ones” (ekklesia) and would use his spiritual authority and power for good.23

But Peter would need every drop of power available to him, because his life wasn’t going to get easier. He would falter at times—at really important times—and he would sometimes seem to be anything but a rock. Three times he denied that he even knew Jesus, shortly before the Crucifixion.24 But Jesus forgave Peter and reminded him of his true identity and mission. He is patient and persistent like that. In fact, when Jesus appeared beside the Sea of Galilee in his resurrected body, he gave Peter a chance to verbally affirm his love for him three times—once for each of the denials. And Jesus asked Peter—again three times—to do something for him, to take on a mission of great importance: “Feed my sheep.”25

Photo credit: Mahyar Motebassem

As he was about to depart for heaven, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, commissioned Peter to feed the sheep that Jesus loved so deeply. In other words, Jesus wanted Peter to nourish his followers by teaching them to love, forgive, and encourage one another.

It’s also interesting to observe that Jesus never said anything directly to Peter about messing up so completely and publicly. There was no berating, no “I’m so disappointed in you” admonitions. Jesus simply reminded Peter of their mutual love and gave him a fresh addendum to his mission. In so doing, Jesus said to Peter, “You know I love you, and I know you love me. All is forgiven. Relationship restored. Now we have work to do, a vital mission to accomplish.”

I can’t help but think back to the scene of Aslan speaking privately to Edmund and then refusing to let anyone mention Edmund’s failures again. Edmund was back on track. He was a prince. Time to get on with being princely!

But as those of us who have experienced divine grace know, we are changed by such lavish mercy and love. Thereafter everything we do has more humility and gratitude attached to it. In truth, our pride dissolves, and we become much more tolerable, approachable, and authentic.

Photo credit: Tim Marshall

Here’s a revealing and encouraging prayer exercise: Ask God to give you a new name, one to go along with your first name—Beloved.

We know a man named Brian who lost years of his life to a drug addiction. He prayed about his identity and sensed God telling him, “You have been calling yourself ‘Broken’ for years. But I call you ‘Healer.’ You are a beloved Healer.”

Brian began to write a new “identity narrative,” or inner story, for his life. He saw that none of his past pain in life, none of his struggles, would be wasted if given to God to be used for good. God used all of Brian’s past failures and heartaches to widen his compassion and deepen his understanding of others who are in pain.

Brian began to find unique ways to heal and grow and recover. As he got help, he became “strong at the broken places” and encouraged other hurting folks in their healing journeys.26 In time, Brian became an addiction counselor. Addicts trusted him because they knew he understood their unique struggles, and they found hope because Brian was living in his new identity, attaching himself to a new name, and embracing a new story to go with it.

Photo credit: Tobias Mrzyk

It isn’t what happens to us in life that determines how we experience our unfolding story. It is how we think about what happens to us. Our perspective changes everything, and a fresh perspective can turn a vital switch in our brains and alter the trajectory of the rest of our lives. Nothing can give a man a fresh perspective and a new lease on life like claiming a new identity. One way to do it is to take any negative name you call yourself (or that someone in your past has called you), any name that is holding you back, and exchange it for a name that bubbles up from the truth of who you are, the way God sees you.

This concept can be life altering for you. Take some time in the next few days—today, if possible—to walk and talk with God. You already know your first name is Beloved—your identity is settled and you are God’s child, completely loved. But ask him for a second name, like a nickname just between you and him, and see what happens.

Your new name might come to you as you walk or later as you read Scripture. It could come in a song or as a word from someone else out of the blue. Be open and receptive. God is very creative in how he speaks to his kids.

Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez

When God gives you your new name, let that new identity soak into your spirit and your life. As it does, you will be transformed. Over time it will change how you relate to others as well.

It might help to write down the name or names that the belittling voices of doom, gloom, and ridicule have called you in the past. These will serve as a point of contrast. Perhaps you recall the name that bullies called you at school, or an abusive parent used when he or she was angry. Maybe there is a false and demeaning name you automatically call yourself when you mess up. Ask God for a contrasting, true name—a better name, a great and uplifting name to take its place.

Scripture and hymns often use metaphors from the natural world to describe God: Lion of Judah, Fount of Every Blessing, Light of the World. Word pictures easily sink deep into our memory, and such vivid images are powerful in helping us overcome limiting labels from our past.

Take time to pray and ponder your true identity in Christ—the person you really are at the core—covered by grace, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Allow the Spirit to give you a word picture and a unique nickname to describe how God sees your soul, the valiant warrior that may have been hiding until now. Ask for a name that will encourage you, expand your vision, and prepare you for the next stage of your hero’s journey.

Featured image credit: Eberhard Grossgasteiger

The Soul of A Hero by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop

If you are a man who is stuck and empty and ready for change, this is the book for you. If you are someone who would love to see the man in your life with the spark you used to see in his eyes, this book is a superb gift for him.

When people hear the word hero these days, the movie cliché of a superhero rescuing a desperate woman instantly comes to mind. But answering the call to be a godly hero is far from that mistaken scenario. The lives of too many guys are full of pain and frustration and an aimless desire to either medicate the pain or find another victim to rescue—the furthest thing from being a hero. The world needs men who are running on all cylinders, passionate about what they do. In The Soul of a Hero, bestselling authors and respected counselors Stephen Arterburn and David Stoop guide men to a better, hope-filled life by helping them rediscover their true God-given calling: to be a hero.

When men live into their true identity as heroes, temptations lose their allure and depression gives way to energy. Men who once felt as if their best years were behind them find a second wind to help them live every moment to its fullest. This book calls and equips men to become the heroes their wives, sons, daughters, friends, and coworkers want and need them to be.

In The Soul of a Hero, you will learn how to start from empty and transform yourself into a man who is thriving with purpose, joy, and true grit.

Learn more HERE.

Isabella has been creating stories since she first learned how to write. She comes from a big Puerto Rican family all located in Chicagoland. They enjoy playing board games, cooking Puerto Rican food, and telling stories together. Isabella lives with her best friend turned husband, Dan.

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