We go through life wearing various badges. The clothes we ware, the perfume put on and the trainers we slip into. When you go to a conference you hang a badge round your neck. For many years we might put on a mother or husband badge on but even those aren’t always forever. We wear designer labels but long for something more permanent. A tattoo is pretty permanent, expressing something about us or something we want to be. It will always be there and always say what it says at least until erased by a lazar or decayed in the grave.
In Toy Story a boy called Andy writes his name on each of his toys. They belong to him and ware his name with pride. When Woody starts to wobble, Buzz Light-year encourages him by saying:
“Somewhere in that pad of stuffing is a toy who taught me that life’s only worth living if you’re being loved by a kid. And I travelled all this way to rescue that toy because I believed him.”
When they doubt that love, or get anxious that they will be left behind or lost they look at the name on the soul of their foot. In his letter to the Christians in Philadelphia Jesus promises to tattoo the name of God on their soul in such a way that neither laser surgery nor death will erase it. They belong to him and have access to him. Not only that but he will write his name on them too.
And there I could leave it but I can’t. A challenge arises in my mind that Jesus promises to write these names on them if they overcome, not to help them overcome but after they have done so. It is true that much of the NT encourages Christians to live out of who they are but there is also anther class of verses that talk in terms of our nature being demonstrated and proved by how we live.
On the one hand:
- Rom 6:2 How can we who died to sin still live in it? (ESV)
- Rom 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (ESV)
- Rom 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (ESV)
- 1 Cor 6:20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (ESV)
- Eph 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (ESV)
- Col 3:4-5 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (ESV)
But on the other:
- 1 Cor 15:2 …and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. (ESV)
- James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (ESV)
- 1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (ESV)
- 2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (ESV)
I tried to ignore this for a while and didn’t really touch on it in preaching, but it crops up so much in the letters Jesus writes to the churches that I can no longer ignore it:
- Rev 2:10 Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (ESV)
- Rev 2:17 To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ (ESV)
- Rev 3:5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. (ESV)
- Rev 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. (ESV)
What I think is going on is this. We are both pushed and pulled through to eternal life and that is not something we are unfamiliar with. The same “you can do it” that propels athletes out of the starting blocks drives them through the finishing line. It helps an athlete to know they have it in them to win, and it helps them to know there will be an affirming of that victory at the end.
Somehow we can be sure of who we are now in Christ and enjoy an internal sealing of that fact by the Spirit, yet be motivated by a future confirmation of our identity and external crowning of it by Jesus. I know I belong to Jesus and nothing can separate me from him, yet it really helps to think of the finishing line, and Jesus standing there with a pen to write his name on me, a crown to place on my head, a white stone to give me, and hidden manna to feed me with. To the Christians who are in danger of flagging Jesus says “think about the finishing line and the awards ceremony”. This does not work against “think about who you are” but with it so that they are both pushed and pulled through to victory.