It should be the desire of every believer to become more like Christ every day, and understanding the Ten Commandments helps us reach that goal. Last week in The Big Ten series we started looking at the third commandment; this is part two of that message. Exodus 20:7 says, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
Last week we talked about the significance of God the Father sharing His name, Yahweh, with His people. We said when someone gives you their name it makes deeper relationships possible. When God gave His name, He became accessible, personal. His children knew His name. The rest of the world only knew His titles.
Then we said something even more amazing, more intimate happened: God entered the world through Jesus Christ, and He came even closer. The name Jesus means “Yahweh saves.” The great “I Am” became our brother, our friend, our savior.
When God gave us His name, He allowed us to know Him personally, intimately; but He also opened Himself up to people misusing and abusing that name. Before we talked about how we’re breaking the third commandment, we needed to understand the significance of His name. We needed to understand that as Christians we break this command when we carry, bear, or lift up God’s name in a way that dishonors Him. In other words, we must ask ourselves, does my life reflect His glory, His holiness, His righteousness? So, last week we laid the foundation. Please go back and read or listen to the first sermon if you missed it.
Now, what are some ways we are breaking the third commandment?
1. We break the Third Commandment whenever we misrepresent Him with our life choices.
Whenever our lives distort God’s character in any way, we misrepresent the name we carry.
Let me try to explain. When a player joins a professional team, they represent that team. When they put on the uniform, they’re expected to live a life that reflects well on the organization. So, players and entertainers often have what they call a Morality Clause in their contract. Morality clauses are a way to control off-the-field or off-the-set behavior. It’s a way for an employer to limit certain conduct of its employees in order to protect its public image.
Morality clauses started in the entertainment industry in the 1920s when Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, a famous comedian and silent film star in the early days of Hollywood, was arrested and charged with the murder of Virginia Rappe in San Francisco, after a night of heavy drinking. At the time, Rappe was a 25-year-old actress with a few parts under her belt, and Arbuckle was a well-paid star under contract with Paramount Pictures. Press coverage of Rappe’s death and Arbuckle’s arrest was relentless. Studio bosses were concerned about the effect of this scandal on their box office profits. And, even though the charges against Arbuckle were reduced and he ultimately was found guilty only of drinking bootleg alcohol, the studios began inserting morality clauses into their standard contracts.
Now you might be thinking, “Thanks for the history lesson, Pastor, but what does that have to do with me?” Well, a lot, actually.
The Bible says when we become a follower of Jesus, we “put on” Christ. In Romans 13:14 Paul instructs believers to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” The phrase put on Christ means to figuratively clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The goal is to reflect the glory of God to the world. In other words, when you claim to be a Christian, you represent Jesus Christ to the world. The Bible says we are ambassadors of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:20). We play for Christ’s team. We put on a uniform bearing Christ’s name, and whenever we misrepresent Him, we dishonor His name. Hebrews 10:29 says, “How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
One of my good friends in Nigeria is Daniel Asama. He named both his boys Daniel. Now both boys carry the family name. He said that in his culture, if they go out in public and act in a disrespectful or dishonest way, people will say, “You are not Daniel Asama.” In other words, you are misusing the name and don’t deserve to carry or bear it.
2. We break the Third Commandment by not fulfilling our promises.
Psalm 15:4 tells us that the person who loves God keeps his or her promise even when it hurts. When Jesus talked about the third commandment, he said his followers don’t need to swear oaths in God’s name because we already carry or bear God’s name. So, any promise a follower of Jesus Christ makes is an oath, because it’s made in the name of Jesus whether we invoke his name or not.
Remember that when you gave your life to Christ, you died to self. Your life is now hidden with Christ in God. With Paul, we can say, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
There is no reason to say, “I swear to God” because you should live in a way that no one questions your character and honesty. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 5:37, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.”
3. We break the Third Commandment when we say the words without meaning the words.
How often have we come to church and started singing about the greatness of God, without thinking about the greatness of God? When I’m singing about the greatness and mercy of God while I’m thinking about where I’m going to eat after church, I’m using His name in a flippant way. And that’s dangerous. It’s dangerous for us to get so comfortable with God that the thought of a burger replaces our thoughts of Him during worship. A heart that can think about Chipotle while singing about God isn’t actually singing about God.
Now, if you were thinking about lunch while I was explaining this, don’t worry; you’re not going to lose your salvation. It’s just a part of our growth curve. We are in the process of sanctification. We are learning and growing, and now that we know, we can work on it.
This one is really hard for someone like me. My mind is going a mile a minute. I am constantly asking God to forgive me for drifting into another thought while I’m talking with Him. But when I ask Him to forgive me, He brings me back, and as I am being sanctified my thoughts begin to drift less often.
4. We break the Third Commandment by using profane language.
To profane is to take something holy and make it common. Whenever we use the words “God” or “Jesus” in empty ways, without thinking, we profane God’s name. When we misuse Jesus or God’s name in our conversations, we take something holy and make it common. Christians say, “Oh my God, Jesus Christ, OMG” way too often, and honestly, this habit needs to end in our lives.
Catch yourself whenever you do it, ask for forgiveness, and break the habit. You can put a jar out and when you misuse God’s name you put in a dollar and we will send it to Nigeria to buy chickens. Do whatever you need to do to stop misusing His name.
5. We break the Third Commandment with false teaching.
Our culture makes a habit of this. People use God’s name in a way that is contrary to clear Biblical teaching.
This happens on social issues, like defending your sexual choices, for example. I’ve had so many people say to me while cheating on their spouse, “But this is my soul mate,” or “God led me to this person,” or “I have to be true to myself,” or “I’m sure God wants me to be happy.” But God’s Spirit will never lead you to do something that is clearly against His Word. In Ephesians 5:3 we read, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.”
Your personal choices, your thoughts on the social or political issues of the day, your feelings, don’t represent the mind and heart of God. How do I know this? Isaiah 55:8 reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” And Matthew 15:9 says, “But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”
When we talk about God in a way contrary to His clear teaching in scripture, we are misrepresenting Him and misusing His name.
6. We break the Third Commandment by cursing other people.
Whenever we use the words “God” and “damn” in the same sentence, we are asking God to curse the one we refer to, whether we realize it or not. We are asking God to bring eternal punishment on the other person.
In Luke 6:27-28 we read, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” Since we carry the name of Jesus our words need to communicate God’s grace and His salvation, not His damnation.
When we hope for harm or misfortune to come on another person, we dishonor God. Remember the pastor who said, “Not God bless America, God damn America”? He was breaking the third commandment.
Now before we start thinking politically and agreeing too much, we need to turn the tables and ask ourselves: where are we doing the same thing to those with whom we disagree? Are we asking God to save them, or to damn them? Are we praying for them to change, or hoping for their destruction? Do we hate “them”, whoever they are, so much that we want God to bring His wrath instead of His mercy?
I know this is a lot to take in, but we need to realize the significance of our words and actions. I also want you to realize God knows you’re not capable of fulfilling this commandment by your own effort. That’s why Paul writes in 1 John 2:1-2, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
If you’ve fallen short in this commandment, ask God to help you grow. Ask Him to bring it to your attention when you fail. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
A few weeks ago, I said it was impossible for us to fulfill any of these commandments consistently. That’s why Jesus had to come into the world—to do what we were incapable of doing. It took a perfect person to perfectly fulfill the law: enter Jesus. In 2 Cor. 5:21 we read, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Keeping the Ten Commandments is impossible alone, but God isn’t asking you to do it alone. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
If it’s your desire today to have Christ in your life, to have your sin covered by perfection, then I want you to pray this simple prayer:
Father, I know I can’t have a relationship with you by my own effort. So, I’m asking Jesus to come into my life. God, I pray that you fill me with your Spirit and adopt me into your family. Father, show me my purpose and help me to become more like you every day. Thanks for loving me and saving me. And thank you in advance for changing me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.