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Christians must exercise care
with God’s name, Hemphill says

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The church in America today is in need of revival and restoration, and God will provide it for his own name’s sake, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Ken Hemphill said during the first chapel of the fall semester at the Fort Worth, Texas, campus.

“The issue of God’s name is that his character is ultimately tied to that name,” Hemphill said, underscoring the importance of realizing that God’s people carry his name.

Hemphill recalled his own father’s admonition to him as he left home for college: “Son, I have only one thing to give you. It’s my name. Don’t do anything with it that I wouldn’t do.”

Just as a young man’s behavior at college affects the reputation of his father, the lifestyle of God’s children affects his reputation, Hemphill stated.

“What assumptions will your colleagues make … about the nature and character of your God because of your behavior and your actions?” Hemphill asked the seminary audience in his Aug. 28 message, titled “The Lord Provides” and based on his recently published book, “The Names of God.” It is a book, he said, “that has been somewhat of a quest throughout my ministry.”

Hemphill focused on a passage from Ezekiel 36 in which God tells Israel through the prophet that he has allowed them to be conquered because they “profaned my holy name” in unrighteous living.

But the passage goes further, Hemphill said. In the following verses God promises to restore Israel for his name’s sake.

“The nation had wrongly concluded that God could not protect his people from conquest and exile at the hands of people who served other gods,” Hemphill said, adding, “They couldn’t understand that this was the punishment of a holy God.”

God could not allow this assumption to continue, “thus God declares that he will revive and restore his people for the sake of his name, his character, his reputation,” Hemphill said.

Hemphill went further to bring the message of Ezekiel home to the church of today, asking, “Why would God bring restoration to our nation, to our convention, to our churches? We look at our nation and its moral climate and we cannot say that we deserve it.”

Statistics show that Christian lifestyles in the United States today are not very different from those of nonbelievers, Hemphill said, citing divorce and teenage sexuality as examples.

“You must wonder,” he said, “if God said to Israel, ‘You have profaned my name,’ what must he be saying to Christianity in America today?”

Hemphill also alluded to problems facing the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Many of you have grown up in a denomination divided, bickering, and you’ve not seen a passion for holiness,” he said. “We ask what is at stake? I would tell you it’s his name, not the Southern Baptist Convention’s name and not this seminary’s name. What is at stake is the name of God.”

And that is why, Hemphill said, God will bring restoration and revival to his people: for his own name’s sake. “If revival is going to come to our convention, to our state conventions, to our churches and to our seminary campus, it will be because of his name,” he said.

Hemphill went on to detail from Ezekiel 36 some elements of restoration. These included the return of the people to the promised land, which for the church today means a return to God’s ways.

God promised that his people would be given the ability to live in the land and abide in his ways and no longer depart from them, Hemphill said.

Other elements included being cleansed from impurities, being given new hearts, being given the ability to obey God’s commands and to detest sin, and being made fruitful.

“That’s what he came to Israel with,” Hemphill said. “He said, ‘I had to punish you for my name’s sake. But I promise to restore you for my name’s sake.’ What is at stake is the name of the sovereign God of the universe who desires that the nations may hallow his name.”

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  • Tony Imms