Titles don’t matter, only your name lasts

Pastor Jeff Struecker

You may not know this, but my parents misspelled my first name when they were filling out the birth certificate. My first name is Jeffery, usually, when you hear that name, the last three letters are spelled R-E-Y. I don’t know what my parents were thinking. Maybe they were super tired. They just got done having a baby but they spelled the first name, E R Y, which technically is pronounced Jeffrey. That’s why I just hate to be referred to as my full name.

 

That is why, I prefer to go by Jeff because if I were there and the doctors asked my advice, I would have been like “hold on wait a second before you fill that out. That’s wrong. It’s spelled R E Y, not E R Y. You misspelled the first name.”

 

I’m using this because I want to talk about names today. I want to talk about how names identify us and the word that I want to dwell deep on today because I think the Bible dwells deep on it, is the word “Christian”

 

When people use that word around you, do they use it as a title? We all know that the word “title” refers to something that you do or they use it as a name.

 

See those names are what people put in their minds when they think about you when they think about how you look, when they think about how you dress, when they think about your emotions and your intellect, they associate all of that stuff with the name. It’s the description of who you are.

 

Titles, however, just refer to what you do and everybody in this room already knows this. You may have the title “classmate” but one of these days, God willing, you’re going to finish school and you will no longer be called “classmate.” Maybe you have the title “co-worker” and maybe you change a job. They don’t call you a coworker anymore. Maybe you have the title of “club mate” because you’re in a fraternity or you’re in a social group with somebody else.

 

Those titles they come and they go and here’s really what I want you to understand. Before we even dig deep into the Bible. Titles don’t matter; what matters is your name.

 

The reason why titles don’t matter is that titles don’t last. When I talk to people about the name of Jesus and I’m asking them their beliefs, there is a word that I’m listening for when they start to describe who Jesus is.

 

Now, people use all kinds of words to describe the name of Jesus and I have asked this of lots of people, “What does the name Jesus represent or to you? Who is Jesus?”

 

Do you know what the word that I’m listening for no matter how you described him, there’s one word that I’m hoping to hear when you answer that question? My Lord, my savior, my king, my rescuer.

 

What I want to know is your relationship with Jesus. Jesus is going to make this abundantly infinitely clear your relationship with God. The Father is exactly what your relationship with Jesus, because of Jesus’ relationship to the Father. If He’s not your Lord, if He’s not your king, He could be a lot of other things to you. But none of those things matter. My King, my Lord, my savior, that’s all that matters.

Titles don’t matter, only your name lasts.

Today, some religious leaders are going to hear what Jesus has to say about himself and about the Father, and here’s really what they’re going to ask, “Who do you think you are, talking like this, Jesus?” This is one of the most powerful parts of the entire new testament. Maybe one of the most explicit parts of the entire Bible where Jesus declares to the whole world, I’ll tell you exactly who I am, since you’ve asked the question, but for us to get there, we need to talk about names for just a second.

This name can defeat Thanos.

Let’s talk about the name, “Thanos”, I did this on purpose for all of you, Marvel super fans out there, I’m actually not talking about the marvel, super enemy, and Arch enemy “Thanos” the destroyer of worlds. I’m talking about the Greek word, “Thanos”, here’s where the Greek word “Thanos” shows up in your Bible, John chapter eight. Jesus is having a conversation with a bunch of hypocritical religious leaders around and they’re trying to trap Jesus. Now, they’re asking some religious and legal questions, and when Jesus responded to them, last week. Here’s how they follow up. They asked him a couple of questions and Jesus answered. The Jews responded to Jesus, aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon.

 

Now hang on to these two words, Samaritan and demon, we’re going to do some work in these two words in just a second, “I don’t have a demon, Jesus answered.” I don’t know what the tone of voice was, but I would have been a little bit upset at this point, I don’t have a demon, Jesus answered, on the contrary, I honor my Father and you dishonor me.”

 

Jesus’ father is God and what Jesus said is true. He is honoring God and they are dishonoring him. Then by default, they are dishonoring God if they are honoring him and he really is honoring the father. Then by honoring Jesus, Christian, you are honoring the Father. On the contrary, I honor my Father and you dishonor me, I don’t seek my own glory. There is one who seeks it and judges, truly, I tell you if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death. The word death in the Greek language is the word “Thanos”.

 

The Marvel comics picked the ultimate villain to be the great supervillain in the Marvel universe, death is the ultimate enemy. Jesus makes a bold statement, he says, I honor my father, anyone who honors me, by default honors the father and they will never see death. Jesus is essentially saying, I am more powerful than death. “Jesus, are you saying that I won’t physically die?”

 

If you were with us several months ago, we were studying through John Chapter three and Jesus has a conversation about what it means to be alive. Now in John Chapter eight, Jesus is talking about what it means to be dead. In John chapter three, Jesus had this discussion with a religious leader by the name of Nicodemus and he said, Nicodemus, you must be born twice. And Nicodemus said, I don’t understand Jesus, how can you come back out of your mother’s womb a second time? Jesus said, “To be born once is a physical birth, but that’s not good enough. Nicodemus, you have to have both physical birth and spiritual birth. You need to be born a second time.”

 

John 8: 48-51 The Jews responded to him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you’re a Samaritan and have a demon?” “I do not have a demon,” Jesus answered. “On the contrary, I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and judges. Truly I tell you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”

 

Born again is the language that Jesus uses. Born twice means physical birth and spiritual birth. The word death that Jesus is using here is exactly the way that his father used it in the garden of Eden. “Adam, I made a tree in the middle of art in the garden. Adam you can do whatever you want, you can have whatever you want. There’s only one thing that’s off-limits. Adam, don’t eat from this tree in the middle of the garden because on the day that you eat it, you will die.” Adam eats the fruit but he doesn’t fall over dead of a heart attack immediately.

 

Wait for a second, God, you said he was going to die. Jesus, you said if I follow you, I’m never going to die. What Jesus is referring to now is spiritual death immediately. As soon as Adam ate the fruit, he died in his relationship with the Father. In fact, when God showed up to hang out with Adam later on that day, Adam ran away from God instead of running to God.

 

What the Bible is saying for us today, what Jesus is saying from John. If you only have a physical birth but are not born again, you will die both spiritual death and physical death. If you have a second birth, a rebirth, a spiritual birth then you will die of physical death. But you will never die a spiritual death. In fact, death is the doorway that you walk through and Jesus is waiting on the other side and you will spend an eternity reaping the rewards of that second birth.

 

Now Jesus is saying I have the power to defeat death and it didn’t escape anybody in the room. Wait a second. We thought that the great rescuer was going to come to Israel and he was going to deliver us from the Roman government and from the military that’s oppressing us.

 

What Jesus is saying to you, Christian is, I didn’t come to make your problems go away, I didn’t come to make life a little bit more convenient for you. I came to rescue you from the ultimate enemy. I came to rescue you from eternal spiritual death. I didn’t come to defeat the Romans in Israel, I came to defeat death itself and that’s what the name Jesus represents for all of us who call him, my Lord, my king, my savior.

Ignore the critics when they call you names.

And so the people here started the words of Jesus. In fact, they used specific words, they said, “you have a demon, you must be a lunatic and demon-possessed. And if you don’t have a demon then you must be a Samaritan.” I want you to know that people didn’t like his message. And if you’re trying to honor him, they’re not going to like your message. In fact, Jesus uses this language, the world hated me and they’re going to hate you too and I want you to know right up front, people are going to criticize you, they’re going to critique you, they’re going to call you names and I just want you to ignore them. As Jesus does, when we pick the story back up in verse 52.

 

Then the Jews said to Jesus. Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died. And so did the prophets, you say, if anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death, are you greater than our father Abraham who died? The short answer to the question is, yes, I am.

 

But are you greater than the prophets who died? The most important question that any human being will ever answer. This is the most important question you will ever ask somebody else. Who do you believe Jesus is? Jesus? Who exactly do you claim to be? Because we’re starting to hear what you’re saying. We’re making the connection and we’re getting really angry about what we’re hearing in Jesus’ day. He’s saying, I can see all of eternity all at the same time.

 

Last week he said, look before Abraham ever came around, I was. I was around at the very beginning when the devil fell from heaven and when the devil started to convince other people to believe lies.

 

Jesus is claiming, not only do I remember the very beginning, but I can tell you what your eternity is going to be like. I can tell you about the very end and I can tell you right now that Abraham didn’t see death, the way that you religious leaders are about to see death. Jesus is claiming to represent the very beginning of time, the very end of time as we know it and everything in the middle all at the same time and people are starting to hear it and they’re saying, do you really claim to be someone that’s bigger and better than Abraham? Because all of our identity is in Abraham.

 

John 8: 52-53 Then the Jews said, “Now we know you have a demon. Abraham died and so did the prophets. You say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham who died? And the prophets died. Who do you claim to be?”

They are trying to discredit him and his theology by referring to him as a demon-possessed. They also referred to him as the ultimate racial slur. In Jesus’s day, there was a visceral hatred for another race of people, it was as bad as anything Dr. King had to deal with in Memphis Tennessee when people didn’t believe that sanitation workers were truly human because of the color of their skin was darker and men had to march around the city with a sign that said I am a man, even though my skin is darker than yours, they didn’t have to. It wasn’t as bad in South Africa when Bishop Desmond had to convince a culture and a society that just because they come from different parts of the continent and just because their skin is different, doesn’t make them any less of a human being.

 

In Jesus’ day, Samaritans were considered subhuman and you never associated yourself with Samaritans. So this is the ultimate racial slur. Jesus, “You must be demon-possessed. And if you’re not, I tell you what, you are filling in your society, the ultimate racial epitaph, you must be a Samaritan.” And Jesus doesn’t let it hold him down, he doesn’t notice how he deals with it. He doesn’t even defend himself, He ignores it and moves on. And I promise you, if you are trying to live for Jesus’s glory, I promise you, you will experience exactly what Jesus said would happen to you. The world rejected me and they’re going to reject you. They didn’t like my message and they’re not going to like your message either, and they’re going to criticize, they’re going to complain. They’re going to call you some names and I’m telling you, Christian, don’t let it hold you down, don’t let it hold you back. Don’t even give it any attention. Just keep on honoring the Father and exalting king Jesus because he will ultimately take care of you. He will ultimately judge and stand up at your defense, you don’t have to defend yourself,

Act in the Father’s name. 

 

Jesus is dealing with his name and they ask the ultimate question, who on earth do you claim to be Jesus? I struggle a little bit with this very next verse because what he’s saying is, I didn’t come from my own glory, I didn’t come for my own fame. I came to act on behalf of the father and to make His name famous everywhere I go.

 

Listen to how Jesus responds. If I glorify myself, Jesus answered, my glory is nothing. I struggle with this verse until I read what he says next, my Father about whom you say, He is our God, He’s the one who glorifies me, Jesus says, I don’t have to work hard to make my name famous because if I honor the name of my Father, He will make my name famous. You don’t know him, but I know him and if I were to say to you, I don’t know him, I would be a liar.

 

Jesus said last week like you and your father, the devil who is the originator of all lies, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father, Abraham, rejoiced to see my day, he saw it and he was glad. Everybody in the room asked, Abraham is an old man, you’re a young dude standing right in front of us right now. Jesus, how is it possible that you can say Abraham saw your day and he was happy, he rejoiced to see it?

 

In the book of Genesis, Abraham really does see Jesus, in fact, what the Bible tells us is that Jesus shows up at his tent and has a meal with Abraham and says, “Abraham, your wife is about to get pregnant and have a baby.”

 

What you’re really trying to do is to get your way to God going a different route because Abraham believed God and then God credited to him as righteousness and Jesus is saying, Abraham saw my day and he was happy to see it and I came so that the father would get the glory, not me.

 

I’m going to get personal for just a second. As followers of Jesus, we are supposed to model our life after him, which means we’re supposed to value what he values and his message is supposed to be our message, his methods, the way that he does business is supposed to be the way that we do our business.

 

What motivated Jesus, the mission that he was on is supposed to be our mission. Jesus is saying, I don’t care about my glory, I only care about my father’s glory and I try to make his name famous and as I make his name famous, he will, in turn, take care of me and stand up on my behalf.

 

John 8: 54-56 “If I glorify myself,” Jesus answered, “my glory is nothing. My Father—about whom you say, ‘He is our God’—he is the one who glorifies me. You do not know him, but I know him. If I were to say I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him, and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

 

When I read those verses, to be honest, it hurts a little bit because if I were to pay attention to how much of my time and my energy gets spent on my glory and how much of it gets spent on his glory, I’m a little bit ashamed to say, I don’t live as Jesus lives, I don’t focus as much on his glory and the father’s glory as I do on my glory most of the time. So here’s some bad news for you, I don’t think God is all that concerned with your glory, I really don’t think God cares that much about my glory or even the glory of this church.

 

What he wants is, his sons and daughters to be consumed by his glory and passionately make his name famous. And by doing that, God says, I’ll take care of everything else. If you’ll just focus on me, spend your time and your energy on my glory and make my name famous, I’ll take care of everything else. What I’m saying is you and I are supposed to live like Jesus and when I look at the way that I live and the way that he lived, I can see a huge disconnect here.

 

This brings up one of those most powerful statements and all of the bible about who Jesus is, he’s really declaring that he is more than just the son of God. CS Lewis was a brilliant Oxford English professor, but he was also a militant atheist for most of his life. And then finally, a friend of his, by the name of J. R. R. Tolkien, started to have some conversations with C. S. Lewis about Jesus and Luis became a Christian.

 

In the course of becoming a Christian, Louis decided I’ve been living for my own fame, I’ve been living for my own glory, I want people to understand who Jesus is. So, he writes a book, actually, he delivers some, gets this public radio addresses on the BBC that becomes a book entitled, “Mere Christianity.” In that book, C. S. Lewis says, you cannot ride the fence on the name of Jesus.

 

Today, I hope every single human being here in my voice right now, hates that name with a passion or worships him with every fiber of your being. Anything else in the middle is a gross, terrible mistake. Lewis says, when you really hear who Jesus claimed to be when you really face it at that level, you’re left with only three options and if I am Louis, I would take away one of those three options. He says when you read Jesus’s words next in their own when you consider it in the context, either you have to say this man was an absolute fraud and he is a liar. As bad as the devil for trying to deceive people into who he is. Or Lewis says, there is another option. Maybe he really believed what he says next and he was crazy because nobody would have those kinds of statements in their right mind. So Lewis says he must be a liar or a lunatic or wait, there’s a third option and the third option is he really believed what he says and he really is who he claimed to be.

 

In that case, he can only be one other person, he can only be Lord, Louis. C. S Lewis’s Mere Christianity says, he is either a liar lunatic or Lord, he does not leave room for anything else.

Call him God the Son. 

 

When people use the phrase, Son of God, when I asked them, “who is Jesus to you?” they say, he’s the son of God notice I didn’t hear the word my in there. Not only is he the son of God. Jesus claimed to be God made into flesh. The Jews replied, you aren’t 50 years old yet and you claim to have seen Abraham who lived a long time ago and Jesus said to them, I need you to understand the technicality of the Hebrew language.

 

At this point, Jesus said to them truly, I tell you before Abraham was, I am Yahweh, the most sacred, the most special word in the entire history of the Hebrew people. And when the Jews spoke the name of God, they refused to use that name because they were afraid that they would use it improperly and they would be guilty of violating the 10 commandments.

 

When the Jewish religious wrote and transcribed the Bible and make a second handwritten copy. The Bible. When they get to this word, stop what you’re doing, wash your hands and write it while your hands are trembling a little bit. That’s how sacred and how special the word Yahweh is. The word Yahweh is literally God’s way of referring to himself in the book of Exodus.

 

When Moses says God, you’re telling me to go back to your people and tell them that you’ve sent me and I don’t even know who you are, so who are you and God says, Moses, I am, Yahweh and Jesus just said in no ambiguous terms before Abraham was, I’m Yahweh! Everyone in the crowd heard what he just said and they are so angry and so offended that they immediately passed judgment on him, sentenced him to blasphemy, and are going to kill him on the spot immediately. So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus was hidden and he went out of the temple. And what Jesus just said in the Bible is I am not only the son of God, but you are looking at God, the son in your midst, and no one in the crowd that day missed it.

 

John 8: 57-59 The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden and went out of the temple.

I need to stress this to you because every heresy and blasphemous religion, every false religion on earth gets this wrong. You see, almost all of them are willing to admit that there really was a dude by the name of Jesus who lived a long time ago in Palestine and he was a good dude. And that’s where they stopped and just claiming that Jesus really lived and he was a good guy isn’t half-truth. When it comes to Jesus’ identity and his deity half of the truth is a whole life, you see, only in the authentic faith of the bible do we claim not only was there a guy who lived in ancient Israel 2000 years ago, he was a good man, meaning he did good things for people, but he was actually more than just man, he was God who left heaven and came down on earth to become a human sacrifice on my behalf because if he doesn’t leave heaven and come to earth, I am still a slave to my sin. last week’s sermon and I have no hope of being forgiven, finding freedom and being born again, and experiencing eternal life with God the Father in heaven.

 

I want to ask you, is the name “Christian” that you use as a moniker to describe yourself. Is that a title meaning, is that what you do? Where is that name? Who you are? Because I’m afraid in American culture we toss the word Christian out there like it’s a title only in fact if you watch the media, it’s not only a title, it’s a slur, it’s a word that they use to make you talk bad about you, but the name Christian is more than just a title, it’s who you are, it’s your relationship to the father that’s only possible through the son.

 

Christian literally means a follower of Christ. I don’t even like to use the word anymore to refer to myself because it’s been so distorted and so confused that people hear the word Christian and they think, “oh you go to a church on a Sunday morning instead of on a different day of the week.” And I’m like, no, I think you’ve got it all wrong, Christian is not my title, that’s my name. It’s so important to me.

 

I’m going to wrap up with this, when somebody asked me to refer to myself like anything else, I need you to tell everyone that hears about this, that I am a born-again Christian.

 

I gave my first real interview. I was ordered to do it against my will by my commander in the army. There was a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer by the name of Mark Bowden who showed up right after we returned from Somalia and Mark Bowden did an interview with only a couple of rangers and my battalion commander ordered me, I told him no and he said Jeff, I’m not giving you an option. You go meet with that reporter and you go give him an interview. The end of that interview. Mark Bowden said Jeff, you’ve told me the whole story now against your will. Is there anything else you want people to know about you? And I said, yeah, Mark, would you let the readers of this news article know, that I’m a born-again Christian and no exaggeration. Mark was like, man, I’ll just tell you right now, I don’t even need to ask because if I try to put that in newsprint for the Philadelphia Inquirer, my editor is not going to let me put that in there. And I said, Mark, I need you to look me in the eyes and I need you to at least ask the question, can I print that? Jeff Struecker is a born-again Christian. So he goes back, he writes the articles that break the internet and it eventually becomes a New York Times bestselling book.

 

When my name shows up for the first time in that newsprint nowhere next to it is my identity in Christ. But if you were to read the book, Black Hawk down the very first time that name shows up, Mark Bowden was good to his promise. And it says, Jeff Struecker is a born-again Christian and then it starts to describe what I did.

 

Here’s why that was such a big deal for me. I don’t want my identity to be in what I do, I didn’t want people to call me ranger, I wanted my identity to be in who I am, not what I do. I wanted people to associate the name with my savior in heaven and that’s why I asked Bowden to print, Jeff Struecker is a born again Christian and when people hear your name, I hope that you are so passionate for Jesus, his glory that they can’t miss who you are.