T H E S I S # 30
Oddly and perplexingly and sadly, evangelicals seldom speak the name of Jesus. Preachers often neglect Jesus in their sermons.
You are sitting beside a still pond in the morning sun, leaning against a tree, relaxing, sleepy. Birds fly about chattering, frogs rest on lily pads, turtles sunbathe on a floating log, butterflies dot the sky. Pure serenity, real nice.
Five evangelical retirees gathering for their weekly breakfast are a relaxed bunch. Conversations free of controversy while talking a variety of issues makes the gathering…. well…. satisfactory. All five are careful not to upset the tranquil atmosphere draping their table and neighboring tables. Spiritually, everything is as undisturbed as your pond. Oh-oh, here comes Fred.
For no reason, just something to do, you toss a pebble in the water. Ripples ebb from the splash, the pond is disturbed, but only slightly.
Fred isn’t invited to join the five because…. well…. everybody knows Fred. So he just stands at the table, chattering, waiting for an invite that isn’t extended, and in his chatter mentions God because God is his favorite subject. The God word was like your little pebble, disturbing the peaceful ambience, but only slightly. Even the invisible yawning demons were not disturbed.
That was fun, thou thinkest. You throw another pebble, and another, and another. Plunk! Plunk! Plunk! Now the pond is agitated as ripples bump into themselves and scurry across the water surface.
Fred repeats the God word – Plunk! Plunk! Plunk! – making serious ripples in their serenity, the people at nearby tables are getting edgy, the demons are now wide awake. This ain’t good, said one ugly to the other uglies.
Little pebbles are getting boring, you spot a hefty rock, you know you shouldn’t but the temptation is too great, you toss that rock into the innocent pond. Ker-splash! The splash sends little waves across the pond, the birds stop chirping, frogs slide into the water, the turtles draw in their heads.
Insensitive Fred mentions The Name, a hefty rock that – Ker-splash! – shatters the breakfast tranquility. Yes, The Name that’s “above every name that is named”, that name the five rarely speak – not to friends and not to wife and not to kids and not to grandkids. The five look down at their plates, none commenting, hoping Fred will take the hint, turn off his talking machine, just walk away. Which he does.
Fifteen minutes pass, tranquility has returned, you tire of all the peace and calm, you rapid-fire more rocks – Ker-splash! Ker-splash! Ker-splash!– and whoosh!, the tranquility is like gone. The water surface is chaos, birds fly in panic, frogs disappear, turtles hit the water.
Fifteen minutes pass, tranquility has returned, the five re-enjoy their conversation about nothing relevant, even the demons are relaxed. Oh-oh, looks like Fred – just-doesn’t-get-it-Fred – is coming back. This time Fred rapid-fires The Name – Ker-splash! Ker-splash! Ker-splash! – speaking (from his heart, no less!) the wonder of his Lord, his deep appreciation for Calvary, and his desire to know Him more intimately. Demons scatter, those at nearby tables gulp the last of their breakfast, the five glance at their watch remembering obligations.
You may think this analogy a bit harsh and unrealistic. But is it…. ?
Do you remember hearing The Name – The Name that’s “above every name that is named” – mentioned at the cashier line-up at grocery stores (where every christian shops)? Or in your doctor’s waiting room? Or at a kid’s baseball/football/basketball game? Or in your own home? Or in the christian school’s hallway? Or the church foyer? Or in the restaurant where you gather with friends after sunday’s service?
You know what a pedometer is – a meter that counts the steps you walk. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a Jesus-ometer that counts the number of times The Name – The Name that’s “above every name that is named” – is spoken in your hearing? Sadly, at the end of many (most?) days such a meter would register zero. At the end of some preacher’s messages (thankfully not all) it would read between zero and a few.
There is no intended condemnation in these words – there really isn’t. There is a problem, a very serious problem, in Christ’s church that must be confronted to make way for needed reformation. How can problems be fixed if they’re ignored?
So why is The Name – The Name that’s “above every name that is named” – sidestepped by Christ’s own? Because….
Because # one: Christ polarizes.
“Do not think I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” In every nation Christ polarizes. In every social status Christ polarizes. Same in all departments of all business enterprises. Same in every political party. At McDonalds, Walmart, the gym, the hospital, the workplace, the neighborhood, and everywhere there is enmity between Christ and the Christ-less. That’s just the way it is, that’s the world we live in.
The devil, through human agency, vehemently and tirelessly opposes our Lord Jesus. Naturally The Name – The Name that’s “above every name that is named” – brings tension whenever and wherever spoken. And who wants tension?
And Christ’s church is not free of polarization, not at all. The less-than-passionate toward Christ resent (and outnumber) the passionate. There is tension within the family. Passionate, just-doesn’t-get-it Fred, and people like Fred, cause ripples by the mere mention of The Name. Best to sidestep The Name.
Because # two: Christ insists on being lord.
Most are not prepared to surrender the lordship of their life to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is so difficult to stop being one’s own decision-maker, to abdicate lordship of self (or who/whatever).
Lord Jesus does not meet the hesitant evangelical (etcetera) halfway. The fallible must bow to the infallible; nothing less is acceptable in a Christ-christian relationship. Though Lord Jesus, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, beckons the evangelical into closeness, He reads and honors what is written in bold letters across his heart, “THANKS JESUS, BUT NO THANKS!”
Such a christian has decided to keep his Lord at a certain distance. Such a christian is resisting the entreating of the Holy Spirit. Naturally, such a christian avoids speaking The Name.
Because # three: Idols.
An idol is that which replaces one’s First Love. In Christ’s church there is an assortment of idols, some human and some not, each harmful, each deceptive.
Many idols began as God’s blessing. The young lady praying for a christian husband soon placed her answer above Christ. The fellow who got the job he prayed for now uses hours he used to spend pursuing Christ pursuing advancement.
When one loses sight of First Love, one loses sight. Consequently, she who has an idol (as most do) assumes she doesn’t. Avoiding The Name makes it easier for the willfully blind to stay blind.
Because # four: The itch to build.
Not all itch to build, but many do.
Before conversion to our Lord Jesus the contractor had visions of building an enviable construction business, a legacy, something that will ensure his family’s adulation, something to gaze upon with satisfaction in future years. At conversion he became a member of a different society and soon realized the most effective way to attain christians’ approval and adulation and envy is to build an influential ministry. So the same hankering to accomplish is now applied to a new vision. The itch gets scratched, but his motive has improved only slightly.
Many ministries have been created by this unsanctified need to do, to accomplish, to succeed, to be worthy. Maintaining this vision necessitates avoiding the Christ who convicts against self-centered religious ambitions.
Parenting is a ministry. Often couples prefer raising children outside the Bible’s wisdom, trusting instead the world’s fickle methodology. This disobedience devalues the relationship between Dad and Christ, Mom and Christ. The Name will be spoken less.
Because # five: Pride.
Pride stinks. This obnoxious sin is unreasonable simply because everything we have has been given. “What do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast?”
Pride destroys. Pride keeps many from attaining Christ’s salvation, and pride will be the cause of many in Christ’s church to be relationally impoverished.
“God resists the proud.” (James 4:6) “God opposes the proud.” (NLT) “God is opposed to the proud.” (NAS) “God against proud ones doth set himself.”) (YLT) “God sets Himself against the proud and haughty.” (TAB)
The proud resist God and God resists the proud. The prideful may intellectualize many religious subjects, using holy things to puff an unholy ego, but he steers away from the subject of Jesus Christ.
There are many more than these five reasons christians avoid the name of our Lord Jesus.
A heart is limited and can only contain so much. For Christ to increase, idols and needless distractions must be dumped out.
Your speech reveals your heart. To know what’s in there, listen to yourself. What you talk about most is what infatuates you. If you do not monitor your speech you might go on imagining yourself to be a person you are not.
You are not a shackled victim, but rather a product of choices made and words spoken. The ingredients of your heart, the kind and measure, is what makes you you. You can change the ingredients. Improvement is always possible, and this is good news.
To better your life, better the outpouring of words.
To go deeper in Christ you must control your speech.
While we speak The Name sparingly, we all speak I and me excessively. So the solution is simple: Speak Christ more and speak me less.
James 3:2: If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.
James is saying it’s harder to control the tongue than any other faculty, somewhere between very difficult and impossible. But thankfully, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” That’s “through Christ”. I can’t, He won’t, we (Christ and I) can.
Health of words spoken determines health of life. The fruit we bear will be of no higher quality than our speech. Eternity, ours and others, is affected by what we say. Eternal rewards dispensed up there will be relative to our declarations down here. The importance of controlling our tongue can’t be overemphasized.
There is similarity between the person wanting to improve his physical health and the evangelical determined to improve his spiritual health. To better one’s physical health the consumer must, obviously, improve his diet. Not only must he stop eating detrimental food, he must consume wholesome food.
To improve his spiritual health the evangelical must prevent himself from speaking adverse words (non-Biblical words, anger words, envy words, discouragement words, unbelief words, etcetera) and, equally important, diligently compel himself to speak favorable words (Bible words, true words, faith words, love words, encouragement words, etcetera). The more Bible truths spoken, the more improvement to his spiritual condition.
And nothing is healthier than speaking The Name. Speaking Christ will radically transform one’s life. There is power in that name. There is victory in that name.
Speaking Christ will, at first, require determination and perseverance. And courage. It takes grit to speak Christ, yes even in His church, simply because Christ does polarize. Relevance revolves around Him. He is the center. His name pierces.
The unsanctified soul should not be allowed to babble. Like other faculties the tongue can both bless and harm. We supervise what we see, hear, think, eat, drink, and touch; we must likewise supervise what we say.
It’s unreasonable for Christ’s own to go a day, a week, a month without speaking The Name – The Name that’s “above every name that is named.”