Series: Big 10
(based on a series by James Merritt)
“IN THE NAME OF GOD”
We’re continuing on today in our series: Big 10. Today’s message is “In the Name of God.”
Names are used for identification. How hard would it be to have a conversation with someone about someone else if we didn’t have a name? If you wanted to reference someone else, you’d have to describe them: “You know the guy I’m talking about. 5’8” about 165 lbs brow hair brown eyes has a scar on his face and walks with a limp.” It would be a lot easier and a lot quicker to say, “You know, Tom Smith.”
Early on, people were only known by one name: King Arthur, Charles the Great (Charlemagne), Socrates, Plato, Herod. At some point, last names (surnames) were added (usually designating the person’s trade or occupation): Baker, Cooper, Fowler, Archer, Smith, Potter, Hunter.
Parents haven’t always been careful in naming their children. These are supposed to be true instances of bad names for children. One family whose last name is Francisco named their son Stanley. He goes through life known as Stan Francisco. Another family last name of Ball named their daughter Crystal – Crystal Ball. Still another family last name Barr named their daughter Candy – Candy Barr. A real winner was the family whose last name is Tenant. They named their son Lewis and he goes through life known as Lew Tenant. The worst of all is a family whose last name is Trout and they named their twins River and Brooke.
God gave us his name. His name is unique. It’s a description of his personal nature and character. You see, God is just a generic name. God has a personal name. You may call me preacher or pastor but that’s not my name. My personal name is Michael.
God shared his personal name with Moses. He appeared to Moses in the burning bush and tells Moses that he wants him to lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt.
Ex. 3:13-14 – Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
In many translations of the Bible, the personal name of God is written as LORD – all capital letters. When you see that spelling in your Bible, you know that it’s God’s name.
God’s name is “I am.” It speaks of the transcendence of God over everything. It speaks the truth that nothing exists that came into existence before God. It also tells us that everything that exists came from God. Every being is contingent on his being.
Ex. 20:7 – “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” We don’t take God’s name seriously.
There’s a big difference between our name and God’s name. Human beings don’t name themselves unless they went to court to legally change their name. Whatever your name, it was given to you. Your parents named you. I didn’t choose the name Michael Dale Luke. My parents did.
But God is different. No one named God. We don’t tell God who he is. He tells us who he is.
One commentator: “One way for modern American to understand this commandment is to treat God’s name as trademark property. In order to get widespread distribution of his copyrighted repair manual, the Bible, and also to capture a greater market share of his authorized franchise, the Church, God has graciously licensed the use of his name to anyone who will use it according to his written instructions. It needs to be understood however that God’s name has not been released into the public domain. God retains legal control over his name and threatens serious penalties against the unauthorized misuse of this supremely valuable property. All trademark violations will be prosecuted to the full limits of the law. The prosecutor, judge jury and enforcer is God himself.”
How serious was God about this commandment? Lev. 24:10-16 – Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them.13 Then the Lord said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him.
15 Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.
It’s good that things have changed. We’d have a nation full of dead people.
But the Jewish people understood how serious God was when he gave this commandment. There was an ancient tradition among the scribes who copied the scriptures to preserve them for future generations that illustrates this situation. Whenever they would come to the personal name of God in scripture, they would put their quill down, take off their clothes, bathe, put on new clothes, get another quill, write God’s name, then burn the quill and their clothes, put on the clothes they had before and resume their scribal endeavors. They did this each and every time they had to write God’s name.
We have laws against slander. You can’t say something falsely about me that you can’t prove that would damage my name. Why? My name is my character and my character is my reputation. How can we be so careful with our own names yet so careless with God’s?
Let’s look together at the implications of this commandment. Let’s understand how we misuse the name of God. But let us also know what we can do to give God’s name the honor it deserves.
My name is personal to me. It means a lot when people remember it and respect it. Have you ever been around someone who called you by the wrong name? I get that a lot. It happens when you have three first names.
I have an uncle who is extremely intelligent – off the charts intelligent. His intelligence sometimes keeps him from processing ideas and situations like the rest of us do. I was around 10 years old when I first met him. He didn’t think I looked like a Michael. He thought I looked like a Jonathan. So for some time, he simply called me Jonathan.
When someone makes a mistake and calls you by the wrong name, it can be quite an awkward situation. You wonder, “Should I tell them my name or let them go on calling me by the wrong one? The only thing worse than someone calling you by the wrong name is when you’re the one doing it to someone else.
Doesn’t God’s name deserve the same level of respect that we reserve for our own? Doesn’t he actually deserve a greater amount of respect? Shouldn’t we be mortified when we use God’s name in a careless manner?
God says in this commandment, “You shall not misuse my name.” For those of you who are conditioned to the KJV, the term there is not “misuse” but “take in vain.” The word in the original Hebrew means “to make empty.” It’s when we consider God’s name irrelevant or we use it in an insincere manner. We have hollowed out the meaning of God’s name by our misuse.
Because God’s name is important, we should expect that Satan would find ways to pervert it. Let’s look at several ways that we misuse God’s name.
The first way we misuse it is when we use it as a curse. Have you ever worked with someone who thought no one would take them seriously unless their conversation had plenty of profanity sprinkled into it?
Maybe you’ve had a boss who has stressed the importance of their instructions by constantly dropping the blankety-blank bomb. If they wanted you to do something that wasn’t urgent to them, they would request it in a nice way. But the greater the urgency of their request, the greater the amount of cursing in their communication. “Get that blankety-blank report to me right blank-blank now!” Would we like it if someone used our name in such a way?
Profanity has become something we don’t even pay attention to anymore. Our word profanity comes from two Latin words: pro – “out of” and fanum – “the temple.” So profanity literally means” out of the temple .”
When you use profanity, when you use God’s name in vain, when you misuse the name of God, you’re taking the name of God out of its holy temple and dragging it through muck and mire of world’s filthy language. Satan wants us to demean and diminish the name of the one true God.
I’ve always wondered: Why is it just the God of the Bible? Did you ever hear anyone hit their thumb with a hammer and yell, “Hare Krishna!!!” Or in a moment of surprise cry out,” Oh, my Buddha!”? You see, the devil doesn’t care if a false god’s name is taken in vain. He wants the true God’s name taken in vain.
We all know someone who every time they get angry, they request that God damn whatever or whoever they see as the cause of their problem. Did you know that when we tell God to damn someone, we’re telling God to do something he would never do? God doesn’t damn anyone. They damn themselves.
What is the most well-known verse from the Bible? Jn. 3:16, right? But immediately following that statement, Jesus gives us the real truth on this matter.
Jn. 3:17-18 – For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
The second way we misuse God’s name is when we use it as an exclamation point. People use God’s name to express all kinds of emotion – distress, surprise, fear, grief, etc.
Without trying to be offensive here are some examples. A person hears startling news and they exclaim, “O my God!” Or someone sees a particularly gruesome scene and whispers und their breath, “Jesus.” What God is saying in this commandment is God that just as his name tells about who he is, our misuse of his name tells about who we are.
For some, it’s a sign of ignorance. They just don’t know that this kind of language is offensive to God. For others, it displays their lack of belief. For those who have no belief in God then there can be no offense in misusing the name of someone who in their minds and hearts does not exist. And for still others it’s just a matter of lack of emotional control. We get angry, and BAM! BAM! We give people both barrels.
Some people make excuses for people with a lack of control over their mouths. They say, “That’s just the way they are.”
I’m not so sure that excuse is viable in most situations. Not counting people who have physical and/or emotional disorders, people can hold their tongue when they really want to. I’ve been in places where people don’t know that I’m a preacher. They’re language gets pretty salty. But when they find out who I am, their language cleans up considerably and many times, they apologize for using it.
Jesus taught that whatever comes out of the mouth originates in the heart. Mt. 12:34-37 – You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Colonel Sanders became a Christian very late in life. One time he made the comment that “becoming a Christian cost me half of my vocabulary.”
A third way that we misuse God’s name is when we use it as a cliché. We think it’s a good way to sound spiritual. Sometimes we use phrases like, “Praise the Lord” with such regularity that we don’t even know what it means anymore.
God’s name should be used only in matters of genuineness and sincerity. We should never use it without meaning what we say.
When we say, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ and I accept him as my Lord and Savior,” we should mean it. When we stand in front of God as bride and groom and say that we commit ourselves to each other for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to love and cherish in good or bad for the rest of their lives, we should mean it.
When we stand in front of someone and give testimony and claim “With God as my witness,” we should mean it. So many people use God’s name when swearing that something is true. They’ll say, “I swear to God” or “I swear on a stack of Bibles.”
Jesus dealt with this issue in his Sermon on the Mount. Mt. 5:33-35 – Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
God is a witness to every transaction. All promises and pledges are made in the presence of God . It’s something God takes seriously and so should we. Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”
Jesus also said in Mt. 12:36-37 – “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
The fourth way we misuse God’s name is to use it as a weapon. People use the name of
God to intimidate others. Ever had someone say to you, “God told me to tell you…” and then go on to give you their agenda for your life? What do say in return, “I just don’t want to listen to God right now”?
What they’re doing is committing spiritual forgery. Forgery is illegally signing someone else’s name so you can get what you want. They’re signing God’s name to an action or attitude God would never sign his name to.
The fifth way that we misuse god’s name is through endorsement. Businesses today are always looking for some kind of celebrity endorsement. If you don’t think it’s an effective methodology, check out how many athletes have endorsement contracts for shoes, clothes, food, drink, and even underwear.
We misuse God’s name when we link our name to his for our own gain. We shouldn’t treat God’s name in such a way but there are lots of Christians who do. We tend to namedrop God.
Some people commercialize God’s name to further their business’ bottom line. If you’re a Christian and a business operator, be a Christian one but I’m thinking God doesn’t want the Praise the Lord Lumber Company.
Others use it to win elections. Back in 1980, both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan sought to secure the evangelical vote by claiming to be the closest candidate to our religious convictions.
Maybe you feel pretty good about the way you use God’s name. Let me mention two more scenarios.
The first is one of which I’m not too proud to say that I’ve done. I’ve used God’s name to endorse things that I want when I pray. How many of us have prayed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ when all we wanted to do was to get God to give us what we wanted or do what we wanted him to do? James 4:3 – When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
The second scenario is that you can misuse god’s name not only by way you talk but by how you live. Titus 1:16 – They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. We’ll talk more about this issue in just a few minutes.
God’s name shouldn’t be hollowed of its meaning. It should be held as hallowed – holy and set apart to be exalted as being worthy of absolute devotion. Neh. 9:5b – “Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.
Moses relates the third commandment in the negative: “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.” If we were to restate it in the positive, maybe it would be clearer to us. You shall take the name of the Lord your God in earnest.
When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he told us to say in Mt. 6:9 – Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. How do we do that? What are some specific things that we can do to show our reverence and respect for God’s name?
The first way that we should do it is as a claim to authority. By authority, I don’t mean that we use God’s name to boss everyone around. It means that everything we do and everything we say should be done to bring glory to God because in that way we proclaim him to others.
We don’t have all the answers. But we can point people to the One who does. We can’t help everybody on our own. But we can introduce them to the One who can.
In Acts 3, Peter and John are entering the temple for the designated time for afternoon prayer. When they get to the gate called Beautiful, they meet a lame man who is begging for financial help. When he requests help from Peter and John, we hear what Peter said and what God did.
Acts 3:6-8 – Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
God’s name carries with it authority. It’s power to take people who have lost their direction, ruined their relationships, alienated themselves from God and from the purpose God intended for their life, and makes them lonely, broken people and turns them into people who share the character of God.
When Saul of Tarsus met the risen “Christ on the road to Damascus, he was blinded by a bright light and convicted of his sinfulness. Saul went to Damascus and God sent a believer by the name of Ananias to bring a message to Saul.
Saul would become the greatest missionary the world has ever known. But first, Saul had to do something. He had to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ in his life. So in Acts 22:16, Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul, relates what Ananias told him – “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.”
Jesus taught us that when we baptize, we’re to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Our baptism is accomplished in the name- the authority of the Godhead, Three in One.
The second way we use God’s name in the right way is as a call to integrity. We should be faithful to Jesus Christ in everything that we do.
2 Tim. 2:19 – Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” The Living Bible paraphrases the last part of that verse this way – “A person who calls himself a Christian should not be doing things that are wrong.”
There is an old story that comes from the time of Alexander the Great. There was a young soldier who was posted to do guard duty but he fell asleep while on watch. His commanding officer discovered the napping guard and escorted him to the tent of the supreme commander – Alexander himself.
The young man was tossed onto the floor of Alexander’s tent. He was visibly shaken and afraid. The penalty for his transgression could very well be a summary execution.
Alexander the Great eyed the young man in silence for some time. When he finally spoke, he asked the young man, “What is your name?” The young man spoke through trembling lips and barely croaked his name – “Alexander.”
Alexander the Great wasn’t sure what he had just heard. He asked agsin very sternly, “What did you say your name was?” The young man dejectedly said, “Alexander, sir.”
Alexander the Great stared at him in long silence. Finally he said to the young soldier, “Son either change your ways or change your name.”
There are two reasons that many people don’t become Christians. The first reason is that some have never met a Christian and had someone explain the gospel. The other reason is that many people have met a Christian and their walk doesn’t match they’re talk.
If you live no differently than a non-Christian you’re just a bad advertisement for Christ.
If you claim to be a Christian but don’t back it up with the way you live, you’re misusing God’s name. From time you are saved your are to be a 24/7 advertisement of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
Acts 11:26 –For a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. The term Christian as coined in Antioch means “little Christ.” Not meaning to be disrespectful but they were saying, “Oh, look. There goes Christ, Jr.”
Do others look at us and say, “They remind me so much of Jesus Christ. They’re just like him”? Col. 3:17 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The third way we use God’s name in the right way is as a call to intimacy. The very fact that God revealed his name indicates that he wants to be known to us, and he wants us to be able to call him by name.
God reveals his name, “I am,” as the covenant name for his people. God’s desire to be near us and in relationship with us is expressed in his name.
When you’re at a gathering with strangers how welcome do you feel if no one introduces themselves to you? How welcome do you feel when someone comes up and says, “Hi. I’m so and so”?
Imagine being in a room with a famous person – some celebrity. You know who they are but they don’t know you. That person locks eyes on you and makes a beeline across the room, shakes your hand and says, “I’m so and so?” Even if it is someone of authority with a title before their name, they’ve just introduced themselves without the title. How welcome do you feel?
God giving his name is him traveling through the cosmos to extend his hand and introduce himself to you. I am who I am and I want you to know me.
When we misuse God’s name we’ve forgotten two things. Number one: we’ve forgotten who he is. Number two: we’ve forgotten who we are. He is the holy, righteous, perfect God and we are sinful.
Here are three verses on how powerful and precious God’s name is. Ps. 9:10 – Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. How do you know when you know God? When put your trust in him.
Ps. 33:21 – In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. When you trust in name of God, not only will he save you, he will fill you with joy.
Acts 4:12 – “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” The name of God is so powerful, so unique, so one of a kind, so above every other name, the Bible says it is in his name and his name alone that we find salvation. God told Joseph to name the Christ, “Jesus.” Jesus means “God saves.” The name of Jesus
The name of Jesus is so powerful that eventually every person will one day confess his name. Whether they have accepted him or rejected him from their lives, they will verbally speak his power, majesty and glory. Willingly or unwillingly, they will speak his great name.
Phil 2:9-11 – Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Merv Griffin once interviewed Charlton Hesston about his experience about playing Moses in the movie The Ten Commandments. Griffin asked, “Charlton, has making a religious movie impacted your spiritual outlook?”
Heston answered, “You can’t walk barefoot down Mt. Sinai and be the same person you were when you went up.”
Likewise, you cannot experience the risen Christ and walk away the same. His name is Jesus. Will you come to serve him today?
(based on materials by Rick Atchley, Tom Ellsworth, James Merritt, and Mark Driscoll)