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Abusing the Lord's name
- Jacob Ninan
One of the Ten Commandments is, "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain" (Ex.20:7). We usually think of this as referring to people who use the name of God, Jesus or Christ as swear words or exclamation phrases. If we look at it in that way, it is not very difficult to refrain ourselves from doing those. But have we considered how we new covenant Christians can be disobeying the spirit of this commandment?
Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter" (Mt.7:21). We Christians are the people who use God's name often. We talk about Him, sing about Him, have His words decorating our rooms, use bumper stickers and T-shirts to advertise Him, etc. Those who write and preach about Him use His name much more. But the crucial issue is, after having made much of His name, how much we are taking care to do His will in the different areas of our life.
If we are only 'talking' about God and not really doing His will, aren't we guilty of taking His name in vain? None of us can boast that we are doing all of His will all the time (Jas.3:2). If we actually dare to boast like that, we are deceiving ourselves (1Jn.1:8). In spite of the best of our intentions we fail because of weakness, ignorance or carelessness. So the deeper question is whether we are wholehearted in our intention to do God's will all the time.
Sad to say, honesty compels us to recognise that even our intention is not right all the time. Are we agreeing to tolerate failure if we admit to failure at this level? No. But admitting this could be the first step towards repentance and more seeking after God's mercy and help. We need help both to will and to do His good pleasure (Php.2:13). And whenever we fail we need to get back to God in honesty and repentance.
Let's avoid playing games with words here. Let's not use "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," "seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus," etc., to turn our eyes away from looking at the reality of our lives in comparison to what He wants us to be and do. It pays to be honest before God, even if it causes us pain to see ourselves in the mirror of God. It is only when we see ourselves that we we cry out to God for mercy and help (He.4:16), and it is only then that He will come running to us with mercy and help (He.2:18).
When we profess the name of the Lord so much in our life, it is our responsibility to do our best to ensure that what people see when they look at us represents Him. We can't sidestep the issue by saying, "Don't look at me, look at Jesus!" What people see along with the name of Jesus which we proclaim is us. While we will continue to be imperfect in many ways in spite of our strongest desire to be perfect, still let us press on to perfection for the honour of the name of God we profess (He.6:1;Php.3:12).