"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. -- Exodus 20: 7 (ESV)
There are parts of the Bible that we seem to grow more and more desensitized to as Christian culture finds itself sliding further and further into the world. It seems that adultery and marital vows are not taken as gravely as they ought to be when entering into a covenant relationship with God. We have also become so desensitized to the pervasiveness of money in the church as another example. We excuse spending millions of dollars in building expansions while applying for charitable benevolence at your local church is harder than applying to Harvard. One area however that is simply not spoken about anymore is actually one of the Ten Commandments. In fact, it is number three, right after serving other gods and bowing down to graven images. So it must have been pretty important to the Lord. Yet in today's Christianity, we use the Lord's name as a catch phrase, an exclamation, or an acronym on social media platforms. We ought not to be so careless with something God instructed us to be so careful with. The key verse today taken from the Ten Commandments spells out not only the prohibition but the fact that God will not hold one guiltless who takes His name in vain. It is important that we first understand the "why."
Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. - Matthew 6: 9 (ESV)
This is the beginning of the Lord 's Prayer! Hallowed means holy, set apart, and greatly revered. Beloved I think sometimes we simply forget who is the God we serve. The one who spoke the entire universe into existence. Whose only Son led a sinless and perfect life and died a criminal's death, our death, for us. He is holy! In the Old Testament, there had to be so much separation between the people and the presence of God because of His holiness. God told Moses that any man would die if they were to merely see Him. When Isaiah confronted His presence he trembled and fell down saying he was a man of unclean lips. The Apostle John fell before Him as well. In Revelation we see the elders and angels bow before Him.
This is simply not taught anymore from the seeker friendly pulpits. It doesn't sell well. It cannot be marketed. So instead, we hear about how we are friends with God, leveraging one verse from Hebrews regarding Abraham, while ignoring the entire canon of Scripture that outlines a holy God that is deserving of our reverence. This buddy Jesus is made out to be our wingman instead of our Lord. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is not allowed within the purpose driven paradigm. Instead the buddyship of Jesus is packaged and sold. Faux worship music is crafted to reinforce this poor theology and we now have a generation of people who call themselves Christian but who do not reverence God. Who think nothing of typing "OMG" in tweets and posts. Who consider the taking the Lord's name in vain as outdated as eight-track cassettes and Pong. This is the traditional way of thinking of taking the Lord's name in vain. A literal vocal statement of the name of God that is devoid of the reverence He is due. While I agree that is one aspect of it, let us reason today and see how else we have transgressed so that we might ask for forgiveness and hold His name in the correct awe it is due.
Before we get into the different ways of taking the Lord's name in vain we need to be mindful of, a quick word about the usage of the word, "vain." It is interesting to note that vain essentially has two different meanings, both of which apply. The first means fruitless. To do something in vain means nothing came of it. When we abuse the name of the Lord for carnal reasons, no glory is brought to Him and thus it is fruitless. Screaming "Jesus Christ" in anger does not bring any glory to Christ. I would wager the vast majority of the tweets and posts we make with OMG are hardly giving any reverence to God. No respect for His power. For His Son's sacrifice on Calvary. For His grace offered to us. For the salvation we did not deserve. The second definition of vain however means to have an overblown and overstated opinion of oneself. How perfectly fitting. When we take the Lord's name without the proper respect and reverence, we are thinking not of Him when we say it. We are being selfish. We are being vain. Now, onto the considerations for this commandment as it applies to us today.
When we do not obey God we are in fact taking His name in vain. How so preacher? Well as Christians, we have taken His name and the only question is what do we do with it? How do we represent it? The Bible says that the unsaved will know us by our love for one another, which is sorely lacking in the church as a whole. We do a good job of paying lip service to it but all it took is a carnal election season this year to show how much disdain Christians had for one another. The Bible says to redeem the time we have with those on the outside of salvation but the church has spent more time hating the very people that need the Gospel the most! We so easily forget that we are in fact ambassadors for Jesus Christ!
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. -- 2Corinthians 5: 20 (ESV)
What is the number one reason why the unsaved say they will not go to church? Because they view Christians as hypocrites. Jesus spent a great deal of time speaking against hypocrisy for a reason. An ambassador represents who sent him. When we do not obey the Bible we are no longer representing Christ. Jesus Himself lamented this multiple times:
"Why do you call me 'Lord Lord,' and not do what I tell you? -- Luke 6: 46 (ESV)
I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth? -- Luke 18: 8 (ESV)
We spoke earlier about the Lordship of Jesus Christ and when we do not see Him as Lord then we do not feel compelled to do as He has commanded. It is hard enough fighting our sin nature and our flesh without properly understanding the basis of our relationship with the God we claim to serve. If you do not obey God then He is not your friend. Do not fall for the Joseph Princes of the world selling snake oil disguised as holy water. If He is not your Lord then you most assuredly are in fact His enemy. One of the poorer thought out theologies in the church today is the nonsense about inviting people into a relationship with Jesus. Everyone is already in relationship with Christ. The only question is what the status of that relationship is. Does the Lord prefer sacrifice or obedience? How serious does He take it? Consider the story of Uzzah in the Old Testament. King David was bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. They placed the Ark on a new cart and were dancing and rejoicing on their way. There were songs, lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals. Uzzah was instructed to assist in driving the cart and when the Ark was in danger of falling because of a stumbled oxen, Uzzah reach out and steadied the Ark with his hand. Now we see how serious obedience is to God:
And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him dead there beside the ark of God. -- 2Samuel 6: 7 (ESV)
What did Uzzah do wrong? He was merely doing as instructed by his king and thoughtfully ensuring the Ark did not fall to the ground. Ah but it does not matter because Uzzah should never have been in charge of the Ark to begin with. God had decreed generations before that only the Kohathites, who were part of the Levites, could move the ark and only then upon their shoulders suspended by wooden poles. It may seem a harsh punishment and David certainly thought so but they knew better beloved. They still chose to disobey God, even if their intent was benign. We see every day Christians taking the name of the Lord in vain through their actions and words. Disobeying the commands of God regarding how we are to treat each other and redeem the time with those on the outside of salvation looking in. I am sure we have all the right reasons and excuses in our deceitful hearts but God is not impressed. Just ask Uzzah. When we act in this manner we are in fact not thinking about God. We are not concerned with bringing glory to His name. We are acting in pure vanity; disregarding the reverence His name is due through our obedience. So many Christians completely destroyed their witness for Jesus Christ this election season, pastors included. Beloved, when we chose to take the name of Christian, we have chosen to take His name. We chose to be His ambassadors; to represent Him and Him alone. We need to be very careful what we do with it.
Secondly, when we claim direct revelation that never occurred we are in fact taking the name of the Lord in vain. This occurs on two levels. First on the personal level. How often have we heard the claim form Christians -- "God told me." It seems in Pentecostal circles we can Jesus-fy anything our wicked hearts desire. To make matters worse, we often blame God for things that are contrary to His own Word! God did not tell you to get a divorce. How do we know? Because the Bible says that He hates divorce. We approach the will of God from such a pagan mindset. That there are two paths to choose from and only one is the will of God. Our job we think is to figure out which path to take. To try and discern His will by choosing the right path. No beloved. The truth is there are many paths and His will is in all of them. There is no game God is playing. He has given us His will. It is called the Bible. The closer we are to that, the better path we will choose. We have to stop over-spiritualizing everything. The Bible says the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. What truth? The Bible! The things of God are foolishness to those who are perishing so an unsaved person can read the Bible and be moved by its prose. He can be touched by its poetry. He can be intrigued by its stories. He cannot discern however what God is saying without the indwelt Holy Spirit to guide him into those truths. So you may convince yourself that because you saw ten Florida license plates today that God has confirmed you should move to Florida but that was not God. That was you wanting to move to Florida and looking for anything to tell you the decision is of God. The Lord did not tell you to marry that unbeliever because His Word expressly says that we should not be unequally yoked. It is bad enough that we do these things to ourselves but when we then claim direct revelation for things that God never said, we most assuredly take His name in vain. Out of our pure vanity and a lack of reverence for His name do we do such things.
Secondly, when we follow false teachers that constantly defame the name of the Lord we are in fact taking his name in vain. Who we stand in agreement with matters beloved. "The Lord told me" is not a substitute for "the Bible says." One of the fastest growing preacher trends is the direct revelation card. I have not watched a single Joseph Prince sermon where he has not claimed the entire sermon was given to him directly by God. He routinely claims that God Himself gave him his heretical greasy grace gospel. We of course know this is impossible because the Lord would not contradict Himself. He is not man that He should lie. The liar is Joseph Prince. Whether he is lying outright to his listeners or lying to himself is completely irrelevant. Prince is hardly alone. The majority of cult of personality preachers claim that God directly reveals to them the sermons they deliver, no matter how heretical they might be. Realize what they are saying when they claim this beloved. They are claiming that the sermon they are about to preach is on the same level as Scripture. That it is God breathed. We should want no part of listening to a preacher who has such disregard for the name of the Lord and the holiness of His name.