Ten Commandments – A Name That’s Worthy

Exodus 20:7

I have had the opportunity to visit 28 different states and each state has a wonderful beauty and uniqueness that is all it’s own. From the coast line of Washington, to the mountains in New York, to the beauty found in the plains of Kansas we live in a beautifully diverse country. And many places not only recognize their unique position, but some even celebrate it. For example, I have never been to a place that celebrates itself as much as they do in Texas. Texans love Texas. They have the state flag or or a Texas star on everything from the trucks they drive to the lawn furniture on the back deck, to the paper towels in their kitchens.   

While I love living in Alabama, we don’t have the same amount of state pride that Texas does. When we first moved to Port Arthur the church threw us a Welcome to Texas party; they gave us plenty of items emblazoned with the Texas State flag, or Texas Star. They gave us several books on Texas history and traditions. But one of my favorite gifts was small note book where one of our members had hand written an introduction to Texas. It’s a list of 50 things that makes Texas better than any other place in the world. And in true Texas fashion, number 8 on the list is a little drink that was not only invented in Waco Texas but has been a source of pride of Texas since 1885.

Now this morning I have a bottle of that Texas drink, and while the label and logo have changed over the last 135 years one thing has remained, the name Dr. Pepper. And they have gone to a great expense and effort to protect that name, because their name represents everything they are as a company.

The Dr. Pepper company knows that there are plenty of knock off’s and generic versions available in different grocery stores. W.W. Clements, a former president of the Dr Pepper Company, said while people might try to imitate the taste, they can’t because the taste of Dr Pepper as one-of-a-kind. "I've always maintained you cannot tell anyone what Dr Pepper tastes like because it's so different. It's not an apple, it's not an orange, it's not a strawberry, it's not a root beer, it's not even a cola. It's a different kind of drink with a unique taste all its own.” He’s not wrong. I saw this very eloquently described this week in Wal-Mart by a 3 or 4 year old little girl. Her mom told her she could have a drink, and was trying to talk her into getting Dr. Thunder, the Wal-Mart version of Dr. Pepper, when the little girl said very loudly, it’s not the same.

The Dr. Pepper company is not concerned about knock off versions because they know when you see this name there is no doubt you are about to experience the real thing. Dr. Pepper knows that the name carries an expectation, and so does God. That’s why the Third Commandment is so important. God wanted to let the people know that His name was sacred, because when people saw or heard His name, that it would carry certain expectations. But He also knew that the way we use and say His name would be what set those expectations.

The New Living Translation says: “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name. And the Voice says You are not to use My name for your own idle purposes, for the Eternal will punish anyone who treats His name as anything less than sacred.

The first thing I notice about this text is how seriously God is about the third commandment. It is easy to understand that God is serious about the first commandment. The Children of Israel were coming into a relationship that they had never experienced before. God was not saying that He wanted to be their favorite god or their most important god. Jehovah was saying that if He is not Lord of all then He is not Lord at all.

When God established the second commandment, He was saying that there is no way we can fully understand or comprehend Him.  When we try to shrink God down to a size we can manage we are no longer serving the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior of the world. God is to big for us to try to get Him to a manageable size. If we can understand Him or manipulate Him then He is not the all powerful God that invited us into a relationship with him.

So now we get to the third commandment and God says that we are to keep His name pure. I find it interesting that there are only two commandments that carry a warning; the second commandment against idolatry and the third commandment about keeping His name sacred. God is intent that we keep His name pure to the point that He says that He will punish anyone that misuses His name.

I believe the reason that God is so sensitive about His name is because our name represents three things:

Your name represents your Reputation.

When you hear someone’s name you automatically think of their reputation. There is a reason that Aldof and Jezebel never makes the top names for babies in the United States. These is a connotation associated with those names. God wants to protect His name because it is the basis of His reputation. But unfortunately, people formulate their view of God not based on what He has done, but on those of us who wear His name.

Far too many people claim to wear the name of Christ, falsely believing that they are making His name attractive. Yet, our community is filled with broken people who have a desperate need to be accepted and belong, who’s greatest desire is to find real forgiveness and instead of gathering to worship they choose to be anywhere else. John writes in 1 John 2:6: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. In other words if you are going to wear Christ, or God’s, name then you have to live in such a way that you protect God’s reputation. 

If you call yourself a Christian, you are wearing His name. But does your life make that claim as well.  John is warning us to be careful because a lot of people say that they belong to Jesus but their actions and life don’t back up what you say. Just because you claim something to be true, doesn’t make it true. If you are going to wear His name, then you must live out His love.

Your name represents your Character, or as my dad used to remind me, who you really are when no one is looking.

In the scriptures, the significance of a person's name defined their life. A name wasn't just a label. It stood for the person, revealed his character and identified his role. When Jacob was born, he was clutching his twin brother Esau’s heel. That’s why Isaac and Rebekah gave him a name that means heal grabber or deceiver. Yet, God changes his name after an all night wrestling match. Jacob became Israel, which means one who struggles with God. And that name eventually became the way of identifying the entire Hebrew nation, they were a people that struggled with God.

Remember we are wearing His name, so what do your words say about the character of God. I grew up with this idea that our job was to spot the error of people and make sure we told them about how displeased God was with them. We used how Jesus called the Pharisees out in Matthew 23, as our permission to make sure people fell in line with how we interpreted the scriptures. There were a long line of sins in peoples lives, and we needed to make our own whips and drive those sinners out of the temple. And while we might have had the best intentions, we turned God into a monster that keeps people away instead of invites them in.

John declares that God is love. It is His character. Jesus, who is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) welcomed broken people, hurting people, sinful people to come and find rest. That’s the true character of God, and if you are going to wear His name, then you must live out His love.

Your name represents your Authority – You name carries the weight of your knowledge, power, and understanding. For example, if I got a note saying that for the rest of the year all Oxford City School classes will release at noon on Fridays and it was signed by the Oxford Park Director Don Hudson, Rylan better be in class at 1:00. But if I get an email from the superintendent Dr. Goodwin, then he can pack his books up at 11:55, because names carry authority.

God doesn’t want His name misused because when it’s mentioned He wants people to immediately think of all that He is, He wants people to think of His loving nature, His power, His holiness, righteousness, and His willingness to forgive. God doesn’t want people to hear His name and immediately think bad things about Him. God doesn’t want people to get the idea from us that He’s in the condemning business when He’s in the saving business. God especially doesn’t want people rejecting Him because others have given Him a bad name.

That’s why we have to be careful how we use God’s name and make sure that we are not misusing it. Let me suggest two different areas in which the name of God can be used in vain.

We can misuse God’s name through our speech

This part of taking God’s name in vain seems pretty clear. We know that Gods name is holy and when we use it in a flippant manner, or use it as an adjective we are using God’s name in vain. We understand that when we use God’s name to condemn someone that we are using God’s name in vain. But very often we dismiss the third commandments significance because there are other things on the list that sound much more serious. But when we take that position we are showing that we have ignored all of the teachings found in the Old and New Testaments that point to the fact that what comes out of our mouths is more than a matter of words; it points to the condition of our hearts.

Jesus said A person full of goodness in his heart produces good things; a person with an evil reservoir in his heart pours out evil things. The heart overflows in the words a person speaks; your words reveal what’s within your heart. (Luke 6:45) The words we speak tell the truth about what is in out hearts. When we use our words to condemn, to hurt, to put someone in their place we are revealing the truth about how close we are to Christ. What in the world could be more unholy than condemning someone or something in the name of the God who desires for all men to be saved?

When we take the name of God and misuse it, we reveal something about ourselves, either we misunderstand the nature of God, or we just don't care about Him. God and Jesus have become adjectives, and that’s the problem. The point God is making with the third commandment is that we shouldn't utter His name unless we mean something by it. We ought to have respect for that which is holy. God is not just background noise in our lives. He is the reason for our lives.

But much more often We misuse God’s name through our lifestyle.

When God established His covenant with the Jews, the nation of Israel carried the responsibility of bearing God’s name. The Jews became God’s people. That meant that they bore the responsibility for carrying God’s name to the rest of the nations of the world. When others looked at Israel, they saw God’s people. They got an idea of what God was like. They had a responsibility to live up to their role as the bearers of God’s name.

In very much the same way you and I carry the name of God everywhere we go. Our community bases their understanding of what God is like from watching us, and other’s who claim to wear His name. Brennan Manning once wrote, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle.”  When our community struggles to believe in God, usually it is because those who make the claim to be His followers choose to live like the rest of the world. When we make the choice and refuse to share with those who are in need, when we give in to sexual temptations, when people know that we can tell a dirtier joke, when we are quick to gossip or slander someone we disagree with, we are taking the Lord’s name in vain.

Listen to what Paul says in Romans 2:21-24: “As you teach others, are you failing to teach yourself? As you preach against stealing, are you stealing? As you tell others not to commit adultery, are you committing adultery? As you treat idols with disgust, are you robbing temples? As you brag about the laws in Moses’ Teachings, are you dishonoring God by ignoring those laws? As Scripture says, “God’s name is slandered among the nations because of you

Paul was a firm believer that God’s name was slandered because of the way they were living. They were teaching and saying all the right things, but they weren’t living it. And as a result, God’s name was taken in vain. You understand that the world says the church is full of hypocrites because it is. If we are going to wear the name of Christ then we must make sure that our life is demonstrating what we are claiming. It doesn’t do me any good to get upset when someone calls me a hypocrite when my life is slandering the name of God. 

It’s easy to talk about God, to mouth the words: Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow, to be the first to say God bless you when someone sneezes, or put Jesus bumper stickers all over the back of our cars. But faith isn’t just talking about God. Christianity isn’t about words; it’s about living out our relationship with God. The bedrock of this command is our sincerity to God in terms of using His name with reverence. God is holy. He deserves our reverence and our worship, not just our words, but our genuine, sincere faith and worship. When we talk about God, we need to mean what we say.

This commandment is calling us to authentic faith. God doesn’t want you to merely say that He’s number one; He actually wants to be number one. When it comes to God, we need to practice what we preach. If you’ve given your life to Jesus, then you bear His name. When you call yourself a Christian, you’re saying that you are His representative. Your actions are a reflection on His reputation. We cannot call ourselves a Christian and act like the world. If we are to bear Christ's name, then our lives must have a quality about them that reflects the meaning of His name.

As Christians, we carry around the name of Christ wherever we go. We are the people of God. Wherever we go and whatever we do reflects back on God and how the world thinks of Him. Using God’s name in vain is more than a ban against cussing, it’s a call to holy living.

Ultimately, the question we need to answer for ourselves is this: What does my life and my language tell others about God?

Today as we gather at the tables we are invited to think about how we cause others to think about God. As we take the bread we acknowledge we have been added to the body of Christ. As we take the cup we are reminded that Jesus offers us forgiveness because of His overwhelming love, that should cause us to share His love with others. Let’s make our way to the tables. 

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