What’s in a name?

Sermon: Sunday, 21st May, 2023
Speaker: Geoff Murray
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

We’re going to look at the meaning of the name of Jesus in Matthew 1:21. This name gets to the heart of the deepest problems in us and our world. The problem of sin. We read that the angel appears to Joseph and says, ‘You are to call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.’ That is the meaning behind the name. The Lord saves. In other words, as a Bible commentator put it, it’s like his name is ‘God to the Rescue!’

Jesus has, in his very name, the answer. He will save his people from their sins. Jesus saves his people from their sins in three very specific ways. He saves from the penalty of sin, he saves from the power of sin and lastly, when Jesus comes again or we die, whichever happens first, he saves us from the presence of sin.

Jesus saves from the penalty of sin

We can go online and find out answers for most things, but the question you might get various different answers on is: how can I be saved? You might be thinking ‘Saved from what? I don’t need to be saved!’ In the same way that there are penalties to pay in life when we break the speed limit, misbehave in school, or consistently turn up late for work, it’s no different with us and God.

The Bible tells us that all have sinned against God, broken his laws and his standards and that the penalty for that is God’s judgement. Now of course we have done good in our life, but that doesn’t cancel out our wrong. It would be like receiving the penalty notice for speeding and replying to the authorities, ‘But think of all those times I kept the speed limit.’ Or being docked wages for always being late and saying, ‘Well, I suppose if you think about it, I always get my work done in the end.’

Think of it, if we have sinned against God and the penalty is judgement and we reply, ‘But I’ve done good as well though.’ It still doesn’t remove the penalty for your offences.

What are the offences we are supposed to have committed against God? It doesn’t take long to establish that when we go through the most basic of his commands: the ten commandments. As we can see, even going through a few of the commandments, we have found ourselves on the wrong side of God’s law. The penalty for that is God’s judgement.

‘But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God will repay each person according to what they have done… ‘But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.’ (Romans 2:5–6, 8)

But Jesus steps in and he will save his people from their sins. As we’ve just seen recently at the end of Luke’s gospel where Jesus was crucified, this was not a general symbol of his love, nor a moral example of laying down your life for others, but primarily as a payment of the penalty that stood against us.

‘God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith.’ (Romans 3:25)

For those who don’t think they’re good enough to be accepted by God. Who see that the penalty for sin was looming but it was taken by Jesus for them and they therefore trust in Jesus’ sacrifice in their place to pay the penalty for their sin, it is them for whom the penalty of sin is taken away.

If you see you sin and your need of a saviour, and you put your trust in that saviour Jesus as one who paid the penalty for your sin, that penalty is removed. You’re no longer to pay the penalty of eternal and everlasting judgement. You’re free. Do you believe that Jesus died to pay the price for your sin? That He died to save you from your sin? If you believe that, you are free from the penalty of sin.

Notice the emphatic wording of the sentence. Not that he might save his people from his sin, or he could save his people from their sin, but that he will save his people from their sin. If your trust is in him, it is no gamble, it is not a case of ‘hit and hope’, he will save you from your sins.

There have been some new faces at church over the past wee while, perhaps you are a Christian, perhaps you’re not sure where you lie with Jesus, you’re unclear maybe what Christianity is all about. Here being a Christian is brilliantly summarised by a guy called Michael Green

Christianity is not good advice about morals. Christianity is about God and what he has done for us.

It’s the common misconception isn’t it? Christianity is about being good, and as a consequence, people in society look down their noses at Christians because ‘They think they’re so good.’ Or as someone I know often says of Christians, ‘That’s not very Christian of them.’

Though following Jesus means we seek to obey what he says, it doesn’t mean Christianity is about being good, it doesn’t mean we think we’re good people. Christianity at its utter core is all about Jesus Christ, it’s in the name.

What do you think of Jesus? How will you respond to him? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved from your sins! There’s no two ways about it. Not that Jesus might save you or he could, if your faith is in him, he will save you from the penalty of sin which is judgement because he took that judgement for you. Put your faith in him then! Trust in him and he will save you from your sins.

Jesus saves from the power of sin

As Christians, in order to function well, we need the right fuel and that fuel is Jesus. Jesus didn’t just save us from the penalty of sin by taking our judgement on himself, he also saves us from the power of sin and the sway it holds over our lives.

Why obey God? Why do what he says? If your answer is ‘Simply to keep God happy with me’ or ‘because it’s the right thing to do’ or even ‘because God told me to’, sin will continue to have power over you. You will not be able to break free from destructive sinful patterns of life, your joy will be shattered, and you will hate God.

Instead, as Christians we seek to obey God, we seek to honour him with our lives, not to keep him happy, not because he said so, but because he saved us and we are grateful! He saved you not because you deserved it, not because he looked to you and thought how worthy you were, not because of anything in us, but because of his free, undeserved kindness! God have his only Son to pay the penalty for your sin so you could be free from that!

And then out of gratitude and love for God we seek to live for him because he has saved us and so our joy is in him! When our joy and gratitude is in him for all he has done we no longer obey in order to keep God sweet, we no longer obey because its the right thing to do, we obey because we love him and because we love him we want to obey, we want to follow, we want to give our lives for him!

‘Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.’ (Colossians 2:23)

The law cannot set you free from the grip of addiction, nor set you free from destructive habits built up over time. The law cannot remove your envy, nor take away your bitter anger. The law cannot heal division and strife. It can tell you not to sin, but it has no power to remove our desire for sin in our hearts.

It is when our joy is in Jesus that our obedience flows and that the power and dominion of sin no longer holds sway! If we want freedom from the grip and dominion of sin in our life, we must replace our warped sinful love for sin and as we see Jesus in the gospel, instead love him. It is love for him which will remove the power of sin over our lives.

Are you finding yourself in repetitive habits that you want to break? It might be the grip of people’s opinions and you’re always fearful of what people think so you bend over backwards to appease them but just end up feeling empty.

It might be that you keep losing your temper with your family and you just wish that temper wasn’t there. Your short temper flares up in a moment and then instantly you regret it, you’re too ashamed to even say, ‘Sorry.’

It might be that you are finding it hard to be a Christian witness at work, you find too often that you’re getting dragged into things that you wish you weren’t. It feels good at the time joining in with the banter, it’s a good laugh, but then you get home and you slump on the sofa feeling a failure in your inability to be a consistent witness at work.

Or maybe your friends are gossiping about someone and you know its wrong but sometimes you find yourself joining in. It’s fun to have a chuckle at someone else’s expense, it takes your mind off all of your shortcomings. But the niggling feeling in the back of your head is, ‘I shouldn’t be doing this…’ and that niggling feeling gives way to guilt and then shame.

The good news of Jesus Christ is that you’re exactly the person Jesus came to save. Those sins are exactly the types of sins that the angel said Jesus would save you from. Isn’t that the best news ever? Doesn’t that make you want to sing for joy?

Friends, it is that right there that removes the power of sin over your life! That knowledge that…. ‘For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!’ (Romans 5:10)

Do you feel the weight, the guilt, the regret of sin, addiction, destructive patterns of life? In steps Jesus who will save his people from their sins. That’s how you and I are enabled to follow Jesus. That’s how you and I are able to obey God. Not out of obligation, not out of duty, out of a joyful gratitude, thankful for the fact that Jesus never gave up on you, he’s never given up on you, and he never will give up on you. You who feel so inadequate, you who feel so guilty, you who don’t measure up, it is you that Jesus came to save.

And because he hasn’t given up on us, how can we give up on living for him? No, because he hasn’t given up on us, our response is one of joy, gratitude, and loving obedience! In the face of Jesus and his grace, the power that sin holds over us has to go. Sin is no longer the dominant love in your heart, Jesus is. Sin is no longer the dominant power in your life, the Holy Spirit is!

So if your default position, as mine is, is to think of obedience in terms of just keeping God off your back, or just because it’s the right thing to do, sin will not go. But friends, we have a saviour who has saved us from the penalty of sin, let that good news free us from the power that sin has over us and lets live for him!

Jesus saves from the presence of sin

How often we look on at our world in disbelief and sadness at the brokenness of this world and we just wished things were different. How often we can look at our own lives and see things that aren’t right and wish things were different. How often we let out that sigh when we realise we’ve sinned and that sigh says, ‘I’m so done with this!’

Jesus will save us from the presence of sin when we die or when he comes back, not right now. Sin will always be present in this life. Right now we wait with sighs, with frustration because sin is present, but there will be a day where Jesus will save us from the presence of sin, where sin will be no more. How can I be so sure?

‘But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.’ (2 Peter 3:13)

‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practise magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practises falsehood.’ (Revelation 22:14-15)

Sin will literally be shut out. There is no space in Heaven for sin. Sin will be removed forever. No more wars, no more greed, no more pride, no more hate, no more injustice!

That sin you have always struggled with, GONE!
That addiction which has a strong hold on you, GONE!
The jealousy, GONE! The anger, GONE!
The bitterness, GONE!

Friends, if your faith is in Jesus, he has saved you from the penalty of sin, he is saving you from the power of sin, and one day, praise to his name, he will save you from the presence of sin!

We’ll no longer look on at the world and ourselves in horror, sadness and dismay, we will look on him in wonder, worship, and delight! We will no longer suffer because of the sin of others, we will no longer sin against God ourselves. Sin, evil and wickedness will be no more, paradise restored! And all made possible by Jesus who will save his people from their sins.