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About this series
God's Boundaries for Abundant Living
Psychologists tell us that boundaries provide security, protection, and self-esteem. Long before psychology, God provided ten clear boundaries to protect His people from harm and give them the highest values ever recorded on the earth. "God's Boundaries for Abundant Living" gives a fresh look at the Ten Commandments and will help you discover God's boundaries for your highest, best and most abundant living.More from this series
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. I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, maybe you’re a little tired and have you ever been in a little small group meeting and they’re people you really know.
And I’m going to just admit this so I get this out of the way. And, you know, you’re praying and maybe you are not feeling as close to God or you’re not quite as in tune as you want to be and your mind is, kind of, wandering.
And there’s four or five people and, I mean, it’s a prayer meeting at church and it’s really important or in a small group and so and so prays and so and so prays and so and so prays.
Or, like, Saturday morning, we were out on this piece of property praying. And as we were praying, I mean, this lady, she was so moved by God, she started to, kind of, weep.
And you know, have you heard someone in that, “Oh, God, thank you.” And down deep in your heart of hearts you’re sort of at a, Oh, God, I’d like to be a little more connected right now but I’m just not quite into this at this level but I’m going to trust by faith.
But instead of, praying and speaking in a tone of voice of where you’re really at, you found yourself doing something like, “Oh God, please…”
Because other people in the room were praying in a way that demonstrated a level of intensity and sincerity and what you wanted to project was, you had that same level of integrity and sincerity and the fact is, you didn’t.
But the way you used God’s name was in a way that indicated that you were a lot closer to Him and a lot more serious about what you were praying than was really true.
You ever done, has anyone other than me ever done that? Please don’t raise your hands. But that’s, you take the Lord’s name in vain. You see, it’s pretense.
A second way of pretense is to exploit others for financial gain. I mean, Jesus vitamins. Jesus dolls. I got news for you. There’s going to be some people that give an account of using the name of God to sell stuff. You don’t use God’s name to exploit. 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.”
Anybody here ever had someone call you from your church and you don’t know them? Or get a letter from a company and you realize, how did they get my name and it sounds real personal?
You know, at our church, you know, we had thousands of people involved and so we came out with those directories, right? With the pictures?
I wonder how many Christians use that directory as a mailing for their business. Or for finding all the phone numbers so they can make calls to solicit business. You know what that is? That’s using the name of God in vain.
You know why you make a pictorial directory and put everybody’s address and phone number? Is so brothers and sisters can get to know one another and love one another and support one another.
Not so somebody, somewhere, somehow can use a buck. To go to a church for business contacts, to make appearance in certain places at certain times to be aligned with Christian things in order for financial profit is taking the name of the Lord in vain.
And God 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 brings 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 20: 7 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 going to guess, in a group this size, there’s got to 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.
Don’t take - help me - 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.
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.
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.
Lord, I want to thank You for the time together, and God, I confess to You now that I still fall short, and I thank You for this reminder that You are high, and holy, and lifted up.
I pray that it would matter more because You would matter more. And that You would fill in the name Jesus, and God, and Lord with content of Your love and Your holiness, and Your concern, and the Your eternality and the reality of who You are in our hearts like never before. In Christ’s name. Amen.