Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ask the Pastor: How do the Ten Commandments Apply Today? Part 3

 The Third Commandment
      “What’s in a name?”
That question, asked years ago in a Shakespearean drama, has evoked different answers at different points in history. Today, very few people put much stock in what their name means, or where it originated (at least, not in the United States). During the times of Scripture, names were very important, and carried great meaning for the individual. While the importance of names has ebbed and flowed depending on culture and geographic location, there is one name that has carried the same amount of innate significance throughout history. 

The third commandment reads, 

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” 
(Ex. 20:7 ESV)

This command, given to Israel thousands of years ago, carries at it’s root a moral principle that we would do well to take seriously today. 

The current climate. The names of God and Jesus are two of the most commonly used swear words in our society today. People invoke the name of God to curse something without a second thought as to the ramifications of their actions. TV shows and movies have become filled with blasphemy, which has both set the standard for our culture and reflected the attitudes already present within our culture. 

See, when taking God’s name in vain became acceptable practice in Hollywood, there was almost no protest from the American people. The practice was in that sense simply a reflection of the hearts of our nation’s citizens. On the other hand, the use of God’s name as a curse word propelled our country farther into the hole it had dug for itself. Now, people, including Christians, were becoming desensitized to this. Families who would never allow a plumber or electrician to swear while working in their home began to allow characters on TV to commit blasphemy in their living rooms and bedrooms. Christians who would never even think about using God’s name in vain started putting limits on how often they would allow it to be done in their home, as if somehow once or twice wasn’t “really” blasphemy. As a nation, including many Christians, we have lost sight of the significance of this command.

                Why is this such a big deal? That’s a great question! There are several reasons that we need to break open our shell of insensitivity in this area.  

  •  First, God said don’t do it! That should be reason enough! When the God of the universe tells us not to do something, it should in and of itself move us to obey! 
  • Second, it is a violation of man’s purpose for existence. You say, “huh??” Why do we exist? Why did Creator God give us a will, emotions, ears, eyes, brains, and our very lives? The Westminster catechism sums it up pretty well. “The chief end of man is to glorify God…” That is the core of man’s reason for existing, to have a relationship with God and bring glory to His name. The problem is, when we profane God’s name, or allow others to do it in our presence, we are behaving contrary to our intended purpose!!! What do you do with something that doesn’t do what it was designed to do?? You throw it away! Why do we feel that we can violate our very reason for existence in such a flippant manner and not suffer any consequences?     
  • Third, the name of God is a holy name. When God gave the third commandment, it carried great significance. Remember the “Lord’s Prayer”? Our Father, which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. The very name of God is holy. The Jews knew this, and at various points in their history took many different types of drastic actions to ensure that they would never use the name of the Lord improperly.  
However, there is more to this than simply not swearing while using God’s name. When God says that His name is not to be taken in “vain,” He uses a word that means “empty or for no purpose.” Whoa!! Now the stakes have been raised significantly! This goes WAY beyond swearing. Anytime we use the Lord’s name in an empty fashion or without purpose, we commit blasphemy! When we throw up fickle little prayers that are devoid of thought or purpose, we blaspheme, when we use God’s name for our own purposes and agendas, we are toeing the line of taking His name and making it devoid of true meaning. 
                A command with consequences. Note that the second half of Exodus 20:7 gives a pretty stark consequence for those who take God’s name in vain. You see, God is serious about His name. He has in essence filed a massive slander suit against our nation in which He is the prosecution, judge, and jury. Unlike some civil court in which the only cost is financial, I believe the consequences of our actions against the Almighty have been much more severe. How can a man or woman who profanes the name of God then try to lay blame at His feet when their lives are ruined? What gives the blasphemer the right to charge God with blame for anything that goes wrong in his life, regardless of how severe it may seem? He has chosen to declare war on the Creator of the universe! 

For those who claim that their use of God’s name is just a habit, I have simple advice. Matthew 12:34 states that what comes out of a person’s mouth is a direct reflection of what is in his heart. The person who takes the name of the Lord in vain is not a person who is indwelt with the Spirit of God. The offense is not against the pastor who was standing in earshot, or the parent who may have overheard. It is an offense against the very God of the universe, and until it is made right with Him, guilt will hang over the head of the offender. The solution? A personal relationship with God and the indwelling of His Spirit, along with the forgiveness that this relationship brings. 

Christians, it’s time for us to break the shell of desensitization that has formed around us concerning the name of our Lord! His name is holy and worthy of praise and honor! May God grant us grace and strength to take a firm stand in our lives and homes for the sacredness of His Holy Name!  

 I’d love to interact on this subject or any others through this blog (by leaving a comment below) or my email: pastorbrian@hughes.net. God Bless!!!

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