Have you ever wanted a new identity? I did when I was in middle school. We moved in my sixth-grade year and I decided I would introduce myself to everyone as JoHannah, my given name. My family and friends had called me Jo my entire life—a name I didn't like. Most of my friends teased me that it was a boy’s name, and an annoying cousin loved to call me Josephine. I actually liked my full name much better, mostly because I wanted to be taken more seriously, so our move provided the perfect opportunity to change my identity—and it worked. Since then, I’ve gone by JoHannah.
Name changes in the Bible, however, were entirely different from this. They were not done on a whim. Look, for example, at Genesis 35:10-12 (NLT):
God blessed him, saying, “Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.” So God renamed him Israel. Then God said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! And I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you.”
Jacob's name change has nothing to do with his desires and everything to do with God’s promise. He was calling Jacob into a new identity and purpose, one that would have impact on the whole world.
Lest you think that was only true of Jacob, consider 2 Corinthians 5:15-17 (NLT):
He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
We are all new creations in Christ, called to a new and better life than the one we left behind. And we are given the strength and help to live that life by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us.
Rejoice in the fact that you are a new creation and that God has given you a new beginning. That means that whatever baggage you’ve left behind can stay there. You are forgiven and the Holy Spirit wants to walk with you and help you live a life that honors him in all you do.