“What’s in a name?” the fair Juliette famously asked her Romeo. In Shakespeare’s classic tale, names kept the two lovers apart.
What about Jesus’ many names? Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace. This Christmas Eve we explore the names of Jesus, discovering who Jesus is and how His names bring us closer to Him.
His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Those names of Jesus were written by the prophet Isaiah, 800 years before the birth of Christ. I don’t know if you knew this, but in ancient times when parents had children, they put a lot of time and thought into naming a child. In our day, naming children doesn’t really mean too much. It’s not that big of a deal. Some parents just look in a baby name book and find out what the popular names are. A family in our church did that with their first born son. They had two requirements: * One, the name had to be easy to spell and easy to pronounce. * Two, it had to be a name that didn’t have a nickname. So they looked in a baby name book, starting with the As and got to the first name that fit their requirements and named their firstborn son Adam. From what I understand, the mom changed her mind during labor and decided she wanted to name him Matthew — which would have been a great choice in my opinion — but the dad wouldn’t let her do it. A lot of families get cute with names. * One family has the last name Cross. They named their son Chris. Think about that. * The Dwyers named their daughter Barb. * A family with the last name Early named their son Brighton. * The Pitts named their kids Cheri and Harry. I’m not kidding! * The Balls named their daughter Crystal. * The West family named their son Easton. * There was actually a famous art collector from Texas with the name Hogg. Her father was a Texas Governor. He named her Ima. Rumor was she had a sister named Ura. * And then, there’s the former heavyweight boxing champion — George Foreman. Do you know what he named his sons? George George George George And I don’t know how long it goes… but they’re all George. In ancient times, however, they didn’t just play around with names. Sometimes when a child was coming, they would reflect and pray for months. They wanted the name to mean something. Well, 800 years before Jesus was born the prophet Isaiah made a prophecy about the long-awaited Messiah. He said: “The Messiah is coming. He will be born, and his name shall be…” And the minute he said, “…and his name shall be,” everyone got quiet because names were important. The next words that came out of his mouth would reveal, maybe, the character or the mission or the true identity of the coming Messiah. So he gave him four names. He said, “Here’s what Jesus Christ is going to be like. Here are these four wonderful names that tell us the truth of who God is.” And in the moments that remain, I want to walk through these four names. And I’m going to ask you to be very quiet in your heart and your spirit because God may speak to you in these next few moments. Jesus said this in Revelation 3:20, and he says it still today — “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and I will be with you, and you with be with me.” Jesus is saying, there will come a day if there hasn’t already when he comes knocking on your door — the door of your heart. He may be knocking right now. And it may be as we go through these names you’re going to realize, God wants to be this for you, and you could open your heart to him. Alright, the Prophet Isaiah said: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the first name he will be called is Wonderful Counselor I don’t know anyone in this world who wouldn’t do well to have a wonderful counselor at their side — * Someone who knows more than you know about a whole range of subjects. * Someone who cares for you enough to come alongside you and impart wisdom and knowledge to you lovingly. * Someone whose counsel can keep you from making unwise choices and screwing up your life. * Someone whose perspective is higher than yours, whose wisdom is deeper, and whose commitment to you knows no bounds. What a gift a wonderful counselor would be to each of us. You know, when Jesus was born all those centuries after this name was given, and then he grew up, the writers of Scripture say that he matured in every field of knowledge. And when he began his teaching ministry, the crowds doubled and tripled and quadrupled. He offered more insightful, trustworthy, penetrating wisdom and counsel than the world had ever heard before. And often, when he would end his teachings, people would just stand there dumbfounded. And they would say, “Who is this man? Where did he learn this stuff? No one has ever been this wise.” Those who have studied the teachings of Jesus ever since have agreed that he’s in a class of his own. And still today, even around our church, people sit in small groups, and they discuss and compare notes with each other, and they shake their heads in wonderment at how Jesus has been a wonderful counselor in their lives. A professor at Princeton shook the foundations of academia when he announced that the only hope, in his opinion, for a turnaround in our crime-ridden culture is a massive recommitment to personal spiritual development. He ended his very controversial argument by saying, “We ought to be building churches, not more jails, or we will reap the whirlwind of our own moral bankruptcy.” I hope you’ve come to this same conclusion. It’s time to respond to the one who is knocking at the door of your heart. I don’t know what your religious biases are, but the assessment of the impact of Jesus Christ in a life is undeniable. * He changes people’s hearts for the better. * He lifts their aspirations. * He builds their character. * He restrains their temptation from evil. * He reduces hatred. * He produces love. * He generates hope in this life… and hope for eternity. Jesus wants to be your Wonderful Counselor. You know at Christmas, we’re all challenged to reconsider what counsel, what wisdom we’re building our lives on. Who are we following? What are we banking on? So I just want to ask you today — whose counsel are you following? What path are you on? And is it working? Will it work beyond the grave? * You need a wise counselor. * You need a trusted advisor. * You need someone who will listen and never lose patience. * You need someone who will give wisdom and never falter. * You need supernatural insights. * You need guidance from Jesus that you can’t get from any other source. Maybe right now you’re assessing relational commitments or personal values or business ethics, and a wrong decision could mess up your life terribly. Maybe you’re experiencing the pain of those wrong decisions right now. Listen. Jesus is knocking right now, saying, “I will be a wonderful counselor, if you will let me. I will guide you. I will give you wisdom… if you will just pour out your problems before me and then spend some time listening to me.” Jesus longs to be your wonderful counselor. And then Isaiah tells us Jesus will be called Mighty God Isaiah said, “It’s a beautiful thing to have a loving counselor, but don’t forget, he’s more than that. He’s the sovereign, all-powerful God. He’s the Alpha and Omega, the Creator, the Sustainer of the universe — Mighty God.” This is the title that created conflict for Jesus from the day of his birth in the manger. People in that day and people still today say, “Come on, babies aren’t born to virgins and God doesn’t put on human skin and cosmic kings don’t lie in feeding troughs.” But as Jesus grew up and began his teaching ministry, the conflict about his deity just deepened… because he didn’t just claim to be the Messiah — He proved he was. Scripture and secular historians agree: * No human being had ever taught with the wisdom and the authority of Jesus Christ. * No human being ever demonstrated the personal integrity, the moral standard or the compassion for people that Jesus did. * No human being before or since has demonstrated the power to heal the sick, to make the lame walk or the blind to see. * And to top it all off, no human being before or since proved his claim to deity by resurrecting from the dead and appearing widely to believers and non-believers alike, and then ascending to his Father. Normal human beings don’t just conquer the grave. I was reading about all the passings of famous people in 2022 — the rich and famous, the movie stars, the political leaders, the business leaders, the sports celebrities who died in 2022. You need to know that the death rate for human beings is still hovering around 100 percent. We all die… but human beings don’t just resurrect and come back to life. But Jesus Christ did… and He proved it widely. More amazing still is that the writers of Scripture teach that the same power that brought Jesus back to life is available to us — to you and me right here and right now. Do you need a mighty God right now? * Maybe you’re facing the biggest challenge of your life. * Maybe it’s an overwhelming task. * Maybe you’re a single mom, and you have small children. You need to raise them and support them… and you don’t know how you’re going to do it. * Maybe a doctor gave you some very bad news, and you’re hanging on by a thread. I remember getting a phone call one Christmas Eve from a father who was desperate for God to heal his son. His son started having uncontrollable seizures. He called me because his son was sick, and it was getting worse. And so I did the only thing, really, that human beings ultimately can do, and that is I prayed over the phone. I said, “We need a mighty God right now,” because here is this precious little life, and when you get right down to it, we really can’t control very much. Maybe you’re in a situation right now that’s far beyond your ability to control. And Jesus is knocking at your door. He’s saying: “Let me be for you a mighty God. Aren’t you tired of trying to do everything on your own strength? Aren’t you tired of trying to carry burdens that you weren’t designed to carry? Won’t you let me step in and be a mighty God for you?” And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God… And then the prophet Isaiah gave him the name — Everlasting Father Maybe you’re alone today. It’s a hard thing to be alone. I know someone whose mom died when he was real little, and so he was filled with anxiety and fear as a kid. Days were bad, but nights were even worse. He was a little kid. At night when he couldn’t sleep, he would get out of his bed and tiptoe down the hall and knock on his dad’s door. If you’ve ever had little kids, you know what it is like to be sleeping, and you hear that pounding on your door sometimes, “Daddy, can I come in and go to sleep in your bed?” and his dad would say, “Okay.” He would lie in that bed, but he would still feel alone… and his eyes would be wide awake, so then he would talk to his dad. He said he would ask him one question. He would say — “Daddy, is your face turned towards me?” Because he needed to know that his father’s face was looking at him, that his father’s eyes were directed right towards him, even in the dark, even though he couldn’t see. His father would say to him, “Yes, son, my face is turned towards you.” And then he was at peace, and then he didn’t feel alone, and he could go to sleep. Maybe you’re alone. But Jesus is right there with you, standing at the door of your heart. He wants you to open the door so he can be part of every moment of your life. He wants to go through each day with you. He wants to be your Everlasting Father. You don’t have to be alone, but you have to open the door. Isaiah tells us, “God will be your father, and you will be his child.” I think this is — in my humble opinion — what the soul of every man, woman and child on this Earth requires. And when that relationship with the heavenly Father is not in place, then there’s all kinds of fear and insecurity; all kinds of warped relating patterns because that fundamental relationship is not connected. You know, everyone is born with a deep yearning for a dad — a father whose irrational and consistent love would meet an inner need for care and protection. And this is the kind of need that even good earthly fathers can’t ultimately provide. Well the writers of Scripture teach us that the truth about you and the truth about me is: * We need a father who gives us perfect love. * We need a father who gives us perfect wisdom. * We need a father with perfect tenderness. * We need a father who is not limited by schedule, or by resources, or by geography. * We need a father who is with us all the time in this life and in the life to come. * We need an Immanuel father — God with us. I have a feeling you may need that kind of father-love in your life almost as desperately as you need your next breath of air. Well it’s available. It’s being offered to you this Christmas as a gift — a gift of grace if you’ll receive it. You just have to open the door of your life to Him. And that really is the good news of great joy available to all people. His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and — Prince of Peace We have a difficult time gaining a sense of peace in this world, don’t we? Dissonance rules the day. Just read the news and you’ll see senseless war or ruthless shootings of innocent people. * Why is it that we cannot establish or sustain peace? * Why is it that marriages and families and business partnerships and friendships spend inordinate amounts of time on interpersonal conflict? * And why is it that peace eludes even the privacy of our hearts? * Why is it that so many people feel a low-grade restlessness most of the time? * Why is it that most people feel an underlying tension or sense of conflict within them? * Why is it that conflict deadeners in the form of pills and drugs and other escape endeavors set records every single year? The writers of Scripture would answer these questions by saying an outside power is absolutely necessary to turn dissonance into peace. The writers of Scripture teach that Jesus Christ is the single reconciling agent in the universe. Jesus came to bring peace. He came primarily to bring peace between us and God… because we’ve been separated from God by this huge chasm of our own sin — of my own unrighteousness, of the acts that I’ve done that were wrong, the things that I didn’t do that I ought to have done, the moral debt that I’ve accumulated that I could never repay. So Jesus comes as the Prince of Peace. He died on the cross; he paid the debt that I could not pay so that I could be reconciled, forgiven, and things could be set right between me and God. You see, Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart right now, saying, “Won’t you just receive the gift of salvation — of life and forgiveness — of peace?” This year is our ten year anniversary as a church, and I would say we’ve probably had five hundred plus people get baptized in the last ten years. If you’ve not experienced it, what happens is people will come forward, with a couple hundred people watching, and get baptized, saying — “Jesus knocked on the door of my heart, and I opened it, and now he’s my savior, and now there is peace between me and God.” If you’ve not experienced it, you need to come to Blue Oaks in person the next time we have a baptism service. It’s powerful to see one person after another after another come forward to proclaim that. One man at our last baptism service came forward. His wife told me she had been praying for him for 30 years. 30 years! For 30 years Jesus just kept knocking at the door of his heart. When you go to visit someone and you go to ring the doorbell or knock on the door, how long do you give them before you give up? We live in a pretty impatient society — maybe thirty seconds, and then you’re on your phone, sending a text message, “Where are you? I’m knocking on your door?” 30 years Jesus knocked on the door of a heart, and finally it was opened. You may be listening today, and Jesus has been knocking on the door of your heart for a long time. Maybe this is your day. Maybe this is the day for you to open the door of your life and say, “I want there to be peace between me and God. I want to receive forgiveness, not to try to earn it but to accept it as a gift for which Jesus lived and died on the cross and was raised again.” Maybe for you, Jesus is knocking right now. You’ve never let him into your life. You’ve never received the gift of forgiveness. I hope you will be very quiet right now… and that you will respond… because sometimes what happens is, if you keep not responding and not responding and not responding — even though God always loves you and God always accepts you — eventually you just lose the ability to hear him. When I was younger, I felt an inner conflictedness that just rose to a level of pain that I could no longer endure. So I admitted my sinfulness before God and said, “If you have a better way, I’m open to it. If what Jesus did on the cross can change the way I’m thinking and feeling and living, I’m open to it.” I prayed a prayer of repentance and faith in Christ and just said, “I open my life to you.” And the first overwhelming sensation that I felt that day was a feeling of peace — the end of an internal conflictedness, a sense that a price had been paid, that my sins were forgiven, that my eternity was secure. I remember just feeling relaxed and at peace. Well, that’s available. It’s available to you as a gift. I’ll just say it one more time. Jesus is knocking at the door of your life, but you have to open the door and you have to let him in. The God of the universe has to become your personal Savior. The truths about Christ have to be personalized. You need to, in faith, open the door and say, “I need that. I want that.” And when you do, Jesus will become exactly what the prophet Isaiah promised he would be. * He will become the giver of wise counsel that you can build your life on. * He will become the source of power that will enable you to overcome the trials of this life… and overcome the grave so you can be with him in the life to come. * He will be your loving Father. * And he will give you peace. I want to give you an opportunity in these next few moments to make a decision about what you’ve heard and seen and felt today. Maybe you’re still getting over the fact that you’re watching a church service. Maybe you’re just beginning your spiritual journey. If someone would have told you six months ago you would be watching a church service online, you would have laughed. But your life took a turn and you’re here now, and maybe you’re ready to open the door of your life to God today. Maybe you used to be close to God and you fell away. Something happened in your life that disillusioned you, that disappointed you, that caused you to drift away. But you’re back today… and all throughout this service you’ve been saying, “I glad I’m back. I think this is the direction I want to go. I think this is the counsel I want to build my life on. I think I need this Wonderful Counselor, Might God.” Maybe you’ve walked with Christ for a long time and you’re just so filled today because it’s Christmas — the birth of your Savior. You’re just filled with worship and thanksgiving. Well, as we pray right now, no matter where you are in your spiritual journey, I just urge you to respond sincerely to the God who’s standing at the door of your life, who loves you so much, and is knocking. I want to invite you to pray with me right now. You may want to close your eyes as we do this. I’m going to ask in your heart and your spirit that you be very quiet right now, not just in terms of noise but in your spirit in terms of setting aside distractions and so on, that you just listen for God to speak to you right now. Maybe you’re dealing with tough decisions or areas of confusion. You just don’t have the wisdom you need to make the best decision possible… and Jesus is saying right now, “Won’t you let me be to you a wonderful counselor?” Will you say yes to Him? Maybe you’re carrying burdens too large for any human being to bear, and the truth is, there is some weakness in you. And Jesus is saying, “Won’t you let me be a mighty God in your life?” Will you say yes to Him? Maybe you’re alone today — maybe because of divorce; maybe because you’re single and you don’t want to be; or maybe you’re married, but you feel separated in your heart. God says, “Won’t you let me be an everlasting father? Won’t you just let me wrap my arms around you, and you be my beloved child?” Will you say yes to Him? Maybe you you’ve never allowed Jesus to come into your life and have never received his gift of forgiveness and new life. You’ve just been stubbornly keeping the door shut. Would you just be very quiet right now, for Jesus stands at the door of your heart. The king of the universe has laid aside his crown and his robes. He became like one of us. He’s saying to you right now, “Won’t you let me be the Prince of Peace? Won’t you stop with all of the stubbornness and just open the door?” Now, God, I pray for those who are ready to open the door of their life to you… I pray they would be able to say to you right now… “I don’t have the wisdom I need to live life to the fullest. I’m at a crossroads and I don’t know which way to go. I need your guidance. I need your wisdom. I need you to be my Wonderful Counselor.” God, I pray there are people who will say today… “I’m carrying this burden that is too heavy for me to carry. I’m weak and I need you to be a Mighty God in my life.” God, I pray there are people who will say today… “There are people all around me, but I feel alone. God, I need you to be my Everlasting Father. I need your comfort. I need your care. I need your protection.” God, I pray there are people who will say right now… “I’m sorry for keeping the door of my life shut to you. I’m sorry, and I’m done with that. I want you to be the Prince of Peace in my life. I’m done with all the stubbornness and I’m opening the door.” I pray that there are people who are willing to say this very moment, Christmas 2022… “I admit my need for a wonderful counselor… for a mighty God… for an everlasting father… for a prince of peace.” God, if people have claimed those statements, would you move powerfully in their spirits right now. Cause many of us to decide to open the doors of our lives to you, and welcome you in. And we pray this prayer in name that is above all names — the name of Jesus. Amen. Alright, now Lauryn is going to lead us in a song. Blue Oaks Church Pleasanton, CA