I love the ‘No other Name’ theme for this forthcoming Hillsong Conference. Our lives these days can be bombarded with so many names and brands, each of them jostling for position and fighting for our attention. Whether it’s a competition between commercial brands, an artist’s desire for a prominent name, a campaign for a political vote, or even just a TV breakfast cereal commercial, the battle of the names is all around us. It’s the world we live in. But there, in the midst of it all, stands Jesus. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He is the Author and Sustainer of everything. And He has claims to fame that no other name will ever come close to.
In Revelation chapter 4 we’re told of a rainbow that encircles the throne of God. Then one chapter later we hear of angels, numbering in their millions, doing the very same thing – encircling the throne of God. This is how it was always meant to be – with Jesus in the centre, and everyone and everything else revolving around Him. That is how life works best – we place the throne of God right in the middle, and then arrange ourselves around that throne.
Every life must have someone or something in the centre. N.T. Wright points out that just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does the spiritual life:
“You can push God, or the gods, upstairs out of sight, like an elderly embarrassing relative. But history shows time and time again that other gods quietly sneak in to take their place.” (N.T. Wright from his book ‘Surprised by Scripture’)
And if someone or something else other than Jesus takes centre-stage, the place of ultimate prominence in our lives, we are in for some problems. The bible word for this is ‘idolatry’ – which of course is not a word in common usage these days. And in fact, that’s an issue in and of itself – for our idols can be even more seductive if we fail to name them. In the bible, idols had names – and so tearing them down in a culture was perhaps a little more clear to navigate. These days so many of our idols are hidden and masked, and our society tends not to recognise or name them quite so directly. But, all the same, if we effectively bow down to them, make sacrifices for them, and arrange our lives around them, then idols they are. One brief example – N.T. Wright reminds us within the same book that the ancient world referenced ‘Aphrodite, the goddess of erotic love’. We would never talk that way these days, but just one look at our society assures us that the same forces are at play. The sexual revolution took hold in the swinging 60’s, monogamy is becoming less of the norm, marketing companies use sex to sell their everyday products, and pornography is rampant throughout culture. As Wright notes, “The goddess Aphrodite, even if unnamed, is served by millions.” It’s easy to see his point. And there is much being sacrificed on this particular altar – for example it’s one reason that divorce rates are higher than ever, and more kids therefore growing up without a father or in a secure family environment. As CS Lewis told us, eventually and inevitably, “idols break the hearts of their worshippers.”
I wrote a song with some good friends last year called ‘Wide as the Sky’. It contains the lyric, “Let all the other names fade away.” That, of course, is where we are eventually headed. One day Jesus Christ will be fully seen for who He is, and every knee shall bow. Every other power or kingdom which fought for authority will fade away. Every name that sought to exalt itself will be seen no more. Every person who harboured an insatiable quest for fame or prominence upon this earth will be forced backstage. And there, right in the centre, there will be one name in lights – the holy and eternal name of Jesus. As C.S. Lewis’s so powerfully describes it:
“When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else – something it never entered your head to conceive – comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever. We must take it or leave it.”
We were made to worship one name alone, and no other name. His name is Jesus.
We’re so excited to have Matt Redman with us this year at Hillsong Conference! Don’t miss out, register now!