August 21, 2006

Blessed be the Name

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20.7

I’ll go ahead and say it up front: I go absolutely nuts when I hear Christians (Christians!) using God’s name as an expression of surprise, or worse yet, frustration. ‘O my God!’ ‘Good Lord!’ ‘Jesus Christ!’ These phrases are absolutely unfitting for any person to have on his lips, much less a Christian! To say such things is inexcusable. And other corruptions like ‘Gosh’, ‘Gracious,’ and ‘Jeez’ are no better. We all know what you’re really meaning to say.

OK, OK, maybe I am being too harsh. When those things slither out of your mouth, surely you are not using them intentionally to belittle God and His name. In fact, you may say: ‘I’m not trying to blaspheme God’s name. I don’t even realize I am doing it.’ But that is just the problem! We think so little of God that His name just slides off our tongues without us even realizing it. God is so far in the back of our minds that we can hear His name from our own lips and not even notice the name of the Almighty, infinite, Creator God! This is unacceptable. The LORD will not hold them guiltless who esteem Him so lightly!

And what about all the ‘Christian’ jokes that we often hear and tell? ‘Our Father in heaven, Harold be Thy name’? That is blasphemy! And jokes about the church, or other things of God are little better. They teach us to treat the things of God casually. They numb our wits to the fact that what we believe about God and His church is a matter of heaven and hell!

It is precisely this cavalier attitude toward the things of God that makes us the joke to the rest of the world. Think about it. When a cartoonist makes jokes concerning Allah, the whole Muslim world is in a rage. Crowds gather. Riots ensue. When a ‘Christian’ comedian pokes fun at the things of God, crowds also gather—with cash in hand to get front row tickets!

Am I saying there is no place for humor in the Christian life? No. But the Third Commandment is saying that we should never speak of God in a way that we would be afraid to do to His face. As A.W. Tozer pointed out—no one walks around Buckingham Palace telling jokes about queens. And there will be no work for Christian comedians in heaven either—bank on it!

Now there is one more form of blasphemy that I want to mention—when we pray, preach, teach, or sing things about God that we really don’t mean. Have you ever prayed things you didn’t really mean—maybe because others were listening? I have. And it is blasphemy. Have you ever sung in the worship service, but not paid a lick of attention to what you were saying? Have you ever taught something to others, but had no intention of applying it to yourself? In every case, we have misused God’s name! But God’s name is too precious that we should ever talk to Him, for Him, or about Him without really meaning what we say. To do so is abominable.

So how are you feeling right now? Guilty? Good. That is how the Commandments are supposed to make us feel! Now you can flee again to Jesus, through whom “all sins shall be forgiven…and whatever blasphemies [we] utter” (Mark 3.28); and through whom former blasphemers are strengthened, made faithful, and put into God’s service (1 Tim 1.12-14).

All of us, in one way or another, need our mouths washed out with soap. And that is just what Jesus came to do! So turn your misuse of God’s name into calling on His name. And Jesus will turn your blasphemy into blessing!

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