It was 1999, in Sierra Leone, and a fisherman, Solomon Vandy, dreamed that someday his son, Dia would become a doctor. Unexpectedly, rebels invaded his village and kidnapped Solomon forcing him to work in diamond mines. Eventually, he was released through all sorts of various circumstances and after being separated from the rest of his family, he was able to locate his wife and daughters and be reconciled with them. But upon finding them, he learned that his son was not with them. Solomon began to search for his son but when he found him, he realized he had been recruited and brainwashed by the rebels. His son had forgotten where he came from and who he was.
Take a moment to read Solomon’s encounter with Dia upon finding him.
Dia points a gun directly at his father ready to shoot him. Solomon Vandy carefully and kindly speaks to Dia: “Dia what are you doing? Dia! Look at me! What are you doing? You are Dia Vandy, of the proud tribe Mende. You are a good boy who loves soccer and school. Your mother loves you so much. She waits by the fire making plantains…with your sister N’Yanda…and the new baby. I know they made you do bad things but you are not a bad boy. I am your father…who loves you. And you will come home with me and be my son again.”
Solomon slowly approaches his son and looking him in the eye says, “The cows wait for you. And Babu, the wild dog who minds no one but you…”
[Tears pour down Solomon’s face and Dia starts crying as well but he still points the gun at his father’s face.]
“I know they made you do bad things but you are not a bad boy. I am your father who loves you, and you will come home with me and be my son…again.”
[Tears stream down Dia’s face as he hears his father’s kind reminders and the acceptance in his voice. Finally, he puts down the gun. The father touches his son’s head and then pulls him close to himself. Dia slightly resists and then finally resting, leans into his father’s chest.]
That’s from the movie Blood Diamonds. Dia had forgotten who he truly was because he had been kidnapped by an evil warlord who brainwashed him and told him he didn’t have a father and therefore he wasn’t a son. The warlord had given him a name that wasn’t truly his and so he was acting accordingly until his father showed up and told him who he truly was!
Do you know who you truly are . . . or has this world deceived you with empty words?
Has someone or something tried to tell you that you are something other than a beloved child of God?
Ephesians 5:6 says, “Let no one deceive you with empty words… Walk as children of light…”
Paul knew what it was like to be deceived by empty words. He knew what it was to wear a name that didn’t belong to him and so he acted accordingly. He was a lot like Dia until the Word of His Father found him on the road to Damascus and told him who he truly was. He had been deceived with empty words and needed to know that he was God’s child—a child of the light. He needed to be stripped of his false identity, his false name and be reminded of the new name God had for him.
Names are really big in the Bible. We usually pick names because they sound pretty but in the Bible they mean something, and they often create something. Actually, all things are created with words that are names. God says, “Let there be plants” and there are plants. “Let there be fish” and there are fish. “Let us make man in our own image” and there is man. . .
Early on in Scripture, God calls the name “Jacob.” That’s interesting because Jacob is a human name. Jacob literally means “heel grabber” or “supplanter” or even “cheat.” He cheats his brother, the firstborn, out of his birthright and (as you know) was born grabbing his brother’s heal.
His parents named him Jacob, and then, God named him Israel. God named him with His Word, who appears as a man. And so, of course, that’s Jesus—the firstborn of all creation. He wrestles with Jacob all night long, prevails, and then gives Jacob his blessing, which is a birthright, and then names him Israel: “You don’t just wrestle with your firstborn brother, Esau, you wrestle with your firstborn—Jesus—Son of God and Word of God, which means wrestles with God.
Well, my point is that God called Jacob and named him Israel. He knew Jacob’s human name, and He even used it to reveal his Divine Name. And He did it through His Word—Jesus. Jesus is the Word through whom God names everything.
Often, throughout Scripture, Jesus gives a new name and sometimes He gives new meaning to old names. I suspect that He always does both.
But sometimes we doubt God’s name for us or we struggle to wait for the revelation of His name for us and we try to seize control. In Genesis 11 all those orphaned and widowed from the garden get together and say, “Let’s make a name for ourselves. Let’s build a tower that reaches to Heaven” (Gen. 11:4). When God finds out about this plan, He comes down and busts up their tower and tears it down. He takes away their name—their false name—because it’s not truly who they are.
Have you been trying to make a name for yourself? Don’t be surprised if God comes along and tears it down. He tears them all down; it’s called death. That’s a drag. But He has another name for you, not one you build that reaches to heaven, but one He builds that comes down to you.
In Ephesians 1:32 Paul wrote: “Christ is raised and seated above every name that is named.” The victory we have in Christ is greater than every name others try to put on us and greater than every name we try to name ourselves with. And God will go to whatever lengths necessary that you might know who you truly are in Christ.
God’s presence and love are unstoppable and relentless. He never gives up:
“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
In Ephesians 3:14 he wrote: “The Father names every family on Earth.”
You have a name spoken by the Father, already created by His Word.
Your Heavenly Father names you much like Father Solomon named Dia in Blood Diamond: “You are Dia Vandy, of the proud Monde tribe…” He named his son and then he said, “I know they made you do bad things, but you are not a bad boy.”
Can you hear God speaking these words to you? “You are [insert your name], of the tribe of the creator and sustainer of all things…” He names you His and then says, “I know they made you do bad things, but you are not bad.”
Paul wrote, “Anyone in Christ is a new creation, the old has passed away, the new has come.” If you hang on to the old, identify with the old, name yourself with the old, you can’t claim the new creation–your inheritance.
So, maybe we shouldn’t name ourselves saying things like, “I’m neurotic, psychotic, an alcoholic, or a sex addict.” If you mean by that, that you struggle with those things; if you mean that you are tempted and fail at all those things…well, ok…but that’s not who you are! Those things, those names are not your identity.
It’s not that you can’t say the name which you have made for yourself; in other words, it’s not that you can’t confess your sin, it’s that you can’t receive that name for it’s not who you truly are. So, as soon as you recognize sin, confess the sin, but don’t name yourself with the sin and don’t name others with their sin.
You are a new man, created in the likeness of God.
You have a new name, and it’s also Christ’s name.
So any name that doesn’t fit on the risen Christ doesn’t fit on you.
Paul writes, “Don’t even joke about these things.” There is to be no filthy talk, no foolish talk…” (Eph. 5:4). You thinking that you are something other than what God says about you is filthy talk.
The Father knows who you truly are.
You are His child, a child of the light: “therefore walk as children of the light.”
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” —1 John 3:1
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It is a compilation of devotional thoughts from Kimberly and excerpts from two of Peter’s sermons: “Talk This Way” and “Pergamum and Your Name.” To read, watch or listen to the sermons in their entirety click here: Talk This Way and Pergamum and Your Name
Discussion questions are available for “Pergamum and Your Name” here: 11.12.2017 Discussion Questions
Discussion questions are available for “Talk This Way” here: 4.21.2013 Discussion Questions
Image adapted from “Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros, 2006)