By the way, whenever I write about theology or expound on the Word, I don't ever claim that I'm perfectly right about anything. It's just the way my brain processes things, and they can be fun to think about. So, as with any writer who uses the Bible as fodder, take whatever you read in this place as a starting point, dive into the text, and discover for yourself what the Word says.
But I said what I said about Hell and about names and the Book of Life yesterday because, well, there are simply too many among us who worry about such things. They're overly concerned with getting their names in the Book of Life, with living perfect, with living up to the expectations of God. And the truth really is that you can't. By your own merit, by your own life, you simply can't. Which is why I think it's good news that we each get a new name, one that can be written in the Book of Life.
Now, as we labor to make our names worthy, there are two basic attacks we must ward off. The first is this: Your past will never let you think it's possible.
We've all had those moments, those times we could have done things better or at least, differently. We've all messed up. We've all fallen down. And when we read this verse about unclean and detestable in Revelation, those moments come back to haunt us and we start to think it's too late. We start to think it's impossible. Our names could never be there. We've messed up too much.
This is a trick. It's an attempt to get a man so discouraged that he gives up and abandoned his attempts at holy living. Unfortunately, it works too much of the time.
But suppose you're one of those men (or women) who takes the grace of God seriously, who believes you are not who you once were, that you can grow, and that God can redeem you. Good for you. But now, the attack shifts and that little voice in your head says, "Look at who you were...and who you are now. You've come a long way. Probably far enough."
This is also a trick. It invites you to live a life of comparison. You compare the person in the mirror to the one you used to be and figure out, today isn't nearly that bad. You really have come a long way. You're a far cry from perfect, but further still from despicable. This trick is aimed at getting you to settle. And once you settle, you live your entire life by comparison - you're driven by those you find better than you, but more often, you're satisfied by those who you deem lesser. "At least I'm not a ....." Or "At least I don't...."
The trick is in remembering - remember who you are, you detestable, despicable, unclean, fallen man, or remember who you were, you remarkable human being who has now grown out of that phase. Neither is the thing God wants you to remember about yourself.
What God says is, "Remember who you were intended to be." Or "Remember who you will be." Which comes from a foundation that says, "Remember who I Am."
You can read through the Bible for yourself - remembering is a large part of the story of God's people. They come together to remember where they've been, who they've been, what they've done. And God frequently reminds them of the same things. You were a sinful people, He tells them. You made idols. You disobeyed My commands. But every story that the people tell of their past or that God reminds them of always comes back to the way God arrived in it. Every story about who the Israelites were is followed by a holy but that reminds them who God is, which sparks the memory of who they are meant to be.
You were slaves in Egypt. But I led you out to a Promised Land. You were prisoners of Babylon, but I brought you back. You were prostitutes, loving other gods, but I won your hearts. Over and over and over again. And, I don't know if you understand this if you haven't been in barren shoes, but when someone is fighting for you, you start to remember all the things you ever wanted to be. You start to remember every hope you ever had. And you sort of start to think that maybe it's possible.
That's why God always says, "Remember your past. But remember the glorious way I came into it." Because that draws us forward into who we were created to be. It reminds us of the hope we had that we are better than this, that there is something more. It sets our sights on the image of us as God intended us, and makes us look to the Creator and His incredible goodness and grace.
Then we're not satisfied with resignation. We don't believe we're stuck being who we were.
We're not content with comparison - we're not looking back or looking around to determine who we are.
We live our lives by consecration, aiming for that created nature that God intended us to have and unsatisfied until we get there.
Then we get there and realize that was us all along. We are named by our createdness, cast off our unclean nature, and enter into the City of God.
It's a remarkable thing. And it starts with the way you remember. So ask yourself today what you believe about your past - are you destined to die there, comfortable to live there, or called to come out of there? You know the answer.