The second way that we break the third command is in our attempts to use God for personal gain. And if you’ll write the word here “pretense.”
This is when we use the name of God to impress other people. A second way of pretense is to exploit others for financial gain. When you hear someone in a letter, or an evangelist, or a Bible teacher on TV, on the radio and say, “If you don’t give this money, God is going to take me home and kill me.”
That’s called exploitation and manipulation. That’s using the name of God. “This ministry will not last unless you send this money. You have to do it now. God has revealed to me that you’re to give it. And if you give it, I guarantee God will give it ten times back to you.”
That is manipulation. That is misusing. That is lifting up or bearing or taking the name of God in vain. It’s pretense. It’s exploitation.
Or I’ve actually, historically, seen the name of God used to justify evil and prejudice. Do you realize there are a lot of Bible believing Christians that were saying, slavery! Slavery! I mean, “It’s real clear… some people are one color, other people, the Bible…”
You know, Cain! Cain had a mark on him. We know what the mark is. And in the name of Scripture and God they promoted slavery, the Inquisition, the Crusades, racism.
There’s a lot of things been done in the name of God, the misuse of His name that it violates the third command. Jot down, if you will, Isaiah 48:1. “Hear, O Israel, house of Jacob, who swear by the name of the Lord and evoke the God of Israel but not in truth or righteousness.” He says, stop. He says, stop. Don’t misuse My name.
The first way is perjury. The second way is pretense. And the third is the most common in everyday, irreverent conversation called profanity.
This is when, just, words, kind of, casually come out of our mouth. I’ve divided profanity because I don’t think we want to lump it one big basket into, what I call, level one, level two, and level three profanity.
Jesus’ words make it clear that every single word that comes out of your mouth and my mouth matters to Him.
Matthew 12:36 and 37. I’ve put it in your notes. Jesus speaking says, “I say to you that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified and by your words you will condemned.”
I don’t know about you, that’s a verse that I almost wish I hadn’t memorized. Do you think of that? Every careless word that men shall speak. You know why? Because in Luke 6:45 He tells us what our words really mean.
It’s why James in James 3 says, if you could ever get a hold of your tongue, I mean, you ever get a hold of your tongue and what comes out of your mouth, you will be able to guide your entire life.
Because Jesus would teach that the good man out of the good treasure of his heart springs forth what is good and the evil man or the evil woman brings forth what is evil. For that which fills your heart comes out of your mouth.
If you ever really want to know your attitude about a person. If you ever want to know what’s really going on in your heart, if you will, kind of, listen to your speech and your tone of voice and whether it’s negative, or cynical, or put down, or critical. You can know exactly what’s in your heart when you hear the words coming out of your mouth.
And according to this, it’s very clear that profanity, the casualness of our words with regard to the name of God is serious business to Him.
So, level one profanity is what I called it is casualness with God’s name. Last night, we sang a lot of songs and God’s name came up in them. If you were thinking about God as Redeemer and Lord and what He’s done for you as you sang those songs, with that word, you were worshipping Him in spirit and in truth.
If, however, when you were singing some of those songs, your mind, kind of went, and you kept saying the words. I think it’s fine to stop if you need to think about something.
But if you kept singing and saying the word “God” but your mind was over here about a business deal when you get back, or your mind was over here or mind was over here in a casual way, you were saying the name Yahweh or God or Jesus but there was no thought behind it.
You weren’t engaged with the Author of that name. His character, His reputation, who He is and what He’s done. That’s casually taking the name of the Lord in vain.
Or if you’re like me, there’s been times where, in a group, you couldn’t think of what to say and you were just saying, “Well Lord, well Lord, well Lord, I just, Lord…” have you ever been in prayer meeting where you wonder, people can’t figure out, it’s like it’s a filler word. It’s like a filler word.
We pray to God as though evoking the name of the Creator of the universe who sent His Son and died, and bled, and rose from the dead, and will bring all of life and all the galaxies into judgment, that holy, most sacred name… we use it as a filler word. Well, I’ll tell you what, that doesn’t go over well in heaven. That’s a casual use of His name.
Or as an expression of fear. “Oh God!” Or as an expression of excitement. “Jesus, man alive, can that guy play!” And I know what you’re saying. Chip, I think you’re being really picky here.
You know, it just slips out. It’s just a habit. I’m not really taking the Lord’s name in vain. I don’t mean anything by it. I really don’t mean anything by it. I mean, really, I’m not taking His name in vain. I don’t really mean anything by it.
Listen carefully. That’s the point. You don’t mean anything by it. That’s the point. Every time you use the name God or Lord or Jesus and you don’t mean anything by it, instead of meaning it to represent His character, His reputation, His deeds, His holiness, His love, His power, and what He means to you, it’s lifting it up without purpose. It’s lifting it up vainly. It’s lifting it up, even unintentionally, with evil intent. Do you get it?
Boy, you know, this is one too, I just have to confess. Not growing up in the church and not studying the Ten Commandments until I was a pastor for, you know, ten, twelve, fifteen years.
Man, I got news for you, I violated this the greater part of my Christian life. Man, I had to start retraining my mind about what would come out of my mouth when the name Jesus or God or Lord.
The second level of profanity is contempt for God’s name. This is calculated malice toward God. This is the line I saw in a little Bart Simpson cartoon where Bart bows his head and says, “We made all this stuff so thanks God for nothing.”
It’s just contempt. This is the Da Vinci Code. This is when someone who says, this is all based on historical fact and they make Jesus out to be having an affair with Mary Magdalene and all this gross kind of stuff. Or the Last Temptation of Christ where Jesus is a homosexual. That’s contempt for God’s name.
The third way, third level of profanity is cursing God’s name. Literally, when someone says, take this in the right spirit, since we’re teaching, “God damn” something. They’re uttering a prayer.
God damn. They’re asking that the One who has the power to separate someone from Him, all eternally, and place them apart from Christ and His love forever and ever. They’re uttering a prayer: “God, I want you to damnate this person and their soul forever and ever.”
That’s what people are saying when they use the name of the Lord in vain.
And notice Exodus 27 says, “I the Lord will punish anyone who misuses My name.” And jot down under that just before you turn the page, Leviticus 24. If, by chance, you’re thinking, you know what? The first two commands, I was with you. I think you just went a little bit over the top. You know, I think you’re being a little bit too nitpicky.
Leviticus 24 is the first violation of the third command I can find in Scripture. Can anyone tell me. Two men are fighting. And in their fighting, one of them takes the name of the Lord in vain.
You know, I can only guess, you know, he caught a right upper cut and, you know, then he got hit in the stomach and then he got really upset and then he blurted out the name of the Lord in vain.
Can anyone tell me? That was the offense. What was the punishment? It was capital punishment. They were to stone him to death.
See, here’s what I want you to know. God’s name isn’t something to be carelessly thrown about. God’s name is holy. God’s name is reputation. God’s name is who He is. God’s name is what He’s done.
When it comes to our lips, our hearts and our minds need to be filled with who the God of the universe is. What He’s like, what He’s done, and what He means to us.
And you know, here’s the deal. If you, over time, can discipline and practice and ask the grace of God to help you do that. If you never take the name of the Lord in vain, you’ll never violate commands number one and two.
Because there’ll be no other gods before you because you’ll be thinking about Him in a way like never before. And I’ll tell you what. Your means of worship, it will be holy. It’ll be the right way. There won’t be any idols because His name and who He is and what He’s done will come out of your mouth in such a way that some major transformation will have occurred in your heart.
Well, let me apply this as we wrap it up because here is a, I think, a pretty important question. Is, why is it, then, that otherwise intelligent people profane God’s name?
I mean, I’m just gonna guess, in a group this size, there’s gotta be a handful of people at least who basically came into this morning, had a nice breakfast, thought it was going to be a real nice sunny day. A little bit cooler than you thought.
But it was going to be a great time around God’s Word. And you are now sitting here, in your most honest moments thinking, I take the name of the Lord in vain on a regular basis. And whoa.
So, how could a person who loves God, like you, who’s an intelligent person find themselves sitting in a room where you came to learn about the Bible and possibly be someone who takes His name in vain on a regular basis?
How could that happen? I’ve got three explanations. One. The spiritually uninformed. You just simply don’t know better. You know? You just, it was like, you know what? I heard, don’t take the name of the Lord in vain.
And I thought that was not cussing. And I do pretty good. I mean, now and then, when a hammer on my thumb it sort of pops out but, you know? I don’t cuss. I don’t take the name of the Lord in vain.
You were spiritually ignorant, okay? Until this morning. Consider yourself now informed. Okay? Consider yourself now culpable before the God of the universe to take His name with a new level of seriousness like never before.
And you know what? It will do something marvelous for your spiritual life. It really will. Because see what we have, what we have going is, here’s the view that we have of God. God is small. God is trite. God isn’t holy.
You know what? He’s become everybody’s good buddy. He’s been everybody’s self-help genie. I want you to know that the God of the Bible is to be feared with reverential awe. He’s a consuming fire. We need to get this balance of His great compassion and we need to get this sense of His otherness, and His holiness, and His creatorship.
We need to get a high view of God. It is only when you have a high view of God that out of reverential fear, you obey Him. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. And it is almost absent in the church today.
Everyone’s stooping so much. We gotta connect with the culture. Connect with the culture. I got news for you. I think we can connect with the culture. But I think we’ve fallen into the culture.
I see more of the culture in the church than I see the church transforming the culture. And it starts with me. Starts with you. This, you know, let’s quit blaming Hollywood and the culture and the newspapers and the magazines and all this junk and what’s on TV.
They only put on movies and on TV what people buy. And we claim to be forty-plus million of Americans. If every Christian had a high view of God, Hollywood would go broke. No, they wouldn’t. You know what they’d do?
They’re smart. They’re not trying to pollute the world. They’re trying to make money. It’s just easy to make pollution type films because people will pay to see them.
If the standard was, this is what we accept, and they made the highest margins on this kind of money, I’ll tell you what, movies would change.
So let’s not throw stones at what ought to happen out there. Let’s ask God for us, beginning with us individually, that we repent. And we get a high view of God. And we live differently. And we speak differently. And we have this standard.
And when all of our Christian friends say, “Oh, that movie was good except for this, this, this, and that.” And you say, “You know what? It’s this, this, this that makes it unacceptable to me. God bless you. You have your convictions, I have mine.
I’m not going to support that kind of garbage.” And you say it lovingly, nicely, winsomely, without a self-righteous, judgmental type attitude that I sort of, just, threw in there. So, you can do better than me.
Second, is not only the spiritually uninformed but the spiritually undisciplined. You know, you’re a believer, you’re trying, it just slips out. Casual profanity. And what I would suggest is, if it slips out, whether it’s casual profanity with God’s name or whether it’s cursing, I would suggest that rather than getting all down on yourself, what I would say is, there’s probably something that God wants to do in your heart.
In other words, if God’s name is casual, there’s something that’s disconnected between your heart and His. If you still find yourself swearing, you know, different people struggle with different stuff but in the first few months, actually, boy, I swore like a sailor all my years growing up.
But as I got into the Bible and no one told me I had to but I just, I went to a camp and I started reading morning and night, morning and night, morning and night as my mind got renewed. I can’t tell you the day. I can’t remember when I quit cussing.
But all I can tell you was, if you are in the Bible on a regular basis and digesting it, God will clean up your tongue. Because your tongue is just a mirror of what’s going on down here. If you got a real problem with profanity and you’re a believer and, boy, you know, you say, boy, damn, wish I could quit. And, ooh, gosh, that’s not right. You know?
You know, I’m just saying, I’ve got friends, you know? I’m glad they’re honest. But you know what it usually tells me? It usually tells me there’s a deficiency of what’s going in their mind and their heart. And God wants to deal with something down in here.
And then third is what I call the spiritually dead. You know, I want to guard God’s name. But, you know, people that don’t know God, it doesn’t bother them when they take His name in vain.
They don’t even hear themselves. And I have not taken it upon myself to be the Holy Spirit police for unbelievers. When people don’t know God, they’re going to take His name in vain.
And I think there’s some creative ways when people are cussing like that and as I read recently one guy said, “Boy, you do a lot of your praying in public, don’t you?”And the guy said, “What in the world are you talking about?” And he was GD this and GD that. He said, “Well, you understand that you’re uttering a prayer.”
And, you know, I don’t expect, what it tells me is when people have very, very foul mouths and use God’s name in vain, it tells me they’re not connected with Him and they don’t know him and they have great spiritual need and what I need to do is have compassion, I need to pray, I need to move into their life.
And my goal is not to figure out how I can clear up their tongue. You know what? That’s just the evidence. My goal is to figure out how can God use me to reach their heart?
And by the way, if you happen to, you know, someone invited you to the camp and I, kind of, don’t know who comes to these camps. But if you just cuss and swear on a regular basis and everything I said is, like, this doesn’t bother me at all.
Then I would say, examine yourself. Because if the Spirit of God lives in you, then His name will matter to you because His character and His reputation is important to you and what He did on the cross is paramount to your life.
And therefore, there will be a sensitivity to the name of Jesus. There’ll be a sensitivity to the name of God and Lord.
And so I would encourage you, just together, to do a little analysis and say, “Lord, could I unconsciously or consciously be a part of breaking oaths, perjury, and taking Your name in vain? Could I unconsciously or consciously have a level of pretense in my life where I actually use Your name as sort of a door opener in relationships or even financial exploitation. And then, Lord, is there profanity? I mean, is it casual level one, I’m thinking and I just need to, you know, jolt and get really clear on this or, you know, is it level two or level three?”
And when you take the name of God seriously, you will find your view of God will get large and big and holy. And you will find a lot of other, like dominoes, things will get solved in your heart and your life.