The Recovery of Urgency in Religion
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Sunday, May 5, 2013 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1649
Pastor Don Horban

Exodus 20:7 - “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

Psalm 8:1 - “....O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”

Matthew 6:9 - “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

You don’t have to be a theologian to recognize the call to consider God and His Name to be something very special. We move away from the ordinary and the casual when we consider God.


With any reading of the third commandment the first thing that springs to the mind is profanity. What Christian hasn’t cringed as some irreverent soul has turned the air blue with foul, incoherent, God degrading speech? No one does it with Mohamad’s name. Buddha seems safe from ignorant tirades. But for God and quite specifically, Jesus Christ, it is always open season for all forms of gutter expression.

Like a bath that doesn’t feel as hot once it has been sat in for a while, we get used to the muddy way the world refers to God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Television, movies, and many contemporary song lyrics are treating the sacred in a way that once would have been condemned.

This stuff is pumped right into homes - nice homes - Christian homes. And you know the moral edge of your soul is being blunted when you begin not to be pained, or outraged when others delight in profanity.

Perhaps it’s due to our getting used to the dark in this regard that this command specifically reinforces the prohibition with the reminder that, no matter how indifferent people may become, no matter how jaded the senses of even the believing community may be, God will not ignore and forever leave unpunished those who take His name in vain.

And the reminder is there because it usually doesn’t look like God punishes anyone for taking His name in vain. But the promise is that He won’t leave this punishment undone. He graciously allows time for people to acknowledge sin and come to repentance. But He will not forget cherished sin on the books. We are specifically called to remember this.


The command forbids taking God’s name in “vain.” And the sin has much to do with the meaning of that word “vain.” Dictionaries are amazingly helpful in following the Lord. “Vain” - “unproductive, empty, worthless, fruitless - having no real basis or worth, to no purpose, without effect.”

So I suppose there’s a technical sense in which the command covers more than speaking God’s name in vain. It’s about taking God’s name in vain. The people who take the Name of their God are people who attach it to their lives - who sign on under God’s authority - who claim His redemption. We become people of His Name.

It is important to remember the setting of all these commands. None of them is addressed to atheists. They are commandments for the people of God:

Commandment #1 - not to the atheist, but the believer who fails to give God the ultimate priority in life.

Commandment #2 - not to the unbeliever, but the believer who thinks one religion is as good as another.

Commandment #3 - not to the pagan, but the believer who takes all the weight out of the significance of the God He speaks of.

The third commandment has this important message for us today. Perhaps the worst blasphemy is not profanity, but lip service. It’s not so much the rejection of God’s name that’s being addressed here, but the acceptance of it without conviction. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do the things I say?”

True, there are many things covered in this command. It does condemn vulgar, blasphemous speech. I think it does cover the way people invoke the Lord’s name in the making of vows and oaths which they forget about or refuse to keep: Leviticus 19:12 - “You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.”

I think we all know and appreciate those warnings. But this command probes deeper. It launches a frontal assault, not just on unbelief and blasphemy, but on mild religion - head religion - religion without urgency - acknowledgment without priority. It’s the sin of taking a faith that is meant to be obsessive and living it out, instead, as something marginal, detached from the rest of life, and cool.

And we are meant to see that we - God’s people - those initially addressed by all the commands - can be numbered among thousands who break this third command, while we would never dream of uttering a blasphemous word.


God does not command us to honor His name because He’s insecure and needs a lot of attention. The Bible is clear about the reason for Christian people to revere and glorify God’s name:

Psalm 22:22 - “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you....”

Psalm 18:49 - “For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name.

The greatness of God’s name is to be made known - broadcast - to the whole world so that everyone, everywhere will be drawn to Him as the only truly worthy object of worship and obedience.
My honoring of God’s name is to draw the whole world to Him:

Psalm 48:10 - “As your name, O God, so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth. Your right hand is filled with righteousness.”

Psalm 86:9 - “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.”

Listen, the third command is a missionary command. We worship God’s Name because there are millions who don’t. This command invites me to be consistent and urgent in the way God is honored in my obedience and worship and praise so that all people and all nations will be drawn to God by the way they see me praising and prizing Him above all else.


Let me explain. The Bible is so faithful, not only to record the actions of God, but to describe the motive for those actions. If you take the time to look, you will see this everywhere:

You can see it clearly, right back in this book of Exodus. God actually talks to Moses and Pharaoh about why He is going to punish the Egyptians and set His people free:

Exodus 9:13-16 - “Then the Lord said to Moses, "Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, "Let my people go, that they may serve me. [14] For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. [15] For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. [16] But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”

God works among people so that His name will be glorified over all the earth. You understand nothing at all about God until you understand that this is His motive in all that He does. In fact, the Bible says that this is also why He saved and delivered you:

Ephesians 1:7-12 - “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, [8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight [9] making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ [10] as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. [11] In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, [12] so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.”

Now, in just the same way that everything God does, He does for His glory, I, as a redeemed child of God, with His very nature living in my being, I do everything I do for that very same reason. That’s what this command about making God’s name vain is all about. I do nothing, ever that will tarnish or empty or smudge the glory of God before this watching world. I try, in everything I do, to make His praise glorious!

This is the key idea behind Paul’s meticulous instructions in 1 Corinthians 10:31 - “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Press making sure God is revealed as glorious in even the mundane details of your life. Make sure God stand out - make God’s greatness and preciousness vivid in the eyes of others even in the small choices and activities of life.

What Paul means is this principle isn’t just for church services. This must be the theology behind all worship, praise and holy living and service. It’s not just to feel blessed or look charismatic, or to generate some emotional high. It’s all done so people will see and be impressed, not with us, but the greatness of our God! That is the only kind of church God will bless.


We make the difference, one way or the other.

Romans 2:21-24 - “ then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? [22] You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? [23] You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. [24] For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’"

Paul is addressing a problem we all face in our Christian walk. It’s the problem of inconsistency. It’s the problem of knowing the truth, but not always doing the truth. It’s also the problem of having one standard of behavior for others and another standard for ourselves. And these Jewish people weren’t keeping the law themselves the way they instructed others to keep it.

And Paul says this behavior “blasphemed the name of God” among the gentiles - the pagan people (24). In other words, people can actually come to see God Almighty as being less than He actually is because of my actions and attitudes. I can make the name of God vain in the eyes of others by my carelessness or disobedience.

On the flip side, there are things we Christians can do, right now in this world, that will cause people to sit up and take notice of the greatness and majesty and value of our God.

Let us close with just two examples from the scriptures:

Most of us can quote these familiar words from 1 Peter 3:15 - “....but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you....”

Every time we hear those words quoted in some personal evangelism class, we all think the same thing. “Of course, I could witness in that situation. Who couldn’t? Now if I can only get people on the street to just walk up to me and say, ‘Hey, whoever you are, why are you a Christian?’

Those verses seem to describe a situation too unreal for words. But that’s only because we don’t read them properly. Let’s try looking at them one more time: 1 Peter 3:13-15 - “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? [14] But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, [15] but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you....”

Now things start to make sense. No one will ever just walk up to me out of the blue and say, “Hey, why are you so hopeful and confident in Jesus Christ?” That’s not going to happen.

Unless. Unless they are so shocked, so totally speechless about something I’m doing, that their curiosity won’t let them sleep until they find something out.

And that’s exactly what Peter is talking about. He’s talking about a case of flagrant abuse of my rights - a case where I’ve been so obviously wronged that nobody in his right mind could help but see it. And a case where the obvious solution is to strike back and settle things until they’re made right.

But this bystander pagan notices something that, to him, is like watching Martians land in an alien space ship. I don’t do the obvious. I don’t even try to get what’s coming to me. I totally take the undeserved pain. I totally absorb the loss. And I just smile, and pray, and let it all go.

And the watching pagan just can’t believe anybody would or could ever do that. There must be something else in my life that is more important to me than my comfort or my rights. And he can’t stand it. He just has to know. And so he’s compelled to ask. And Jesus comes into his heart. And God’s name gets glorified in one more person.

Here’s another example of living for the glory of His name: Psalm 96:8-9 - “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! [9] Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!”

You guessed it. The Bible links taking God seriously with the way I use my money. This verse makes a directly link between ascribing glory to God’s name, and bringing a worthy offering into His presence.

And here’s the connection. I make the name of the Lord vain (empty, of no reputation) before the world when they see that I live the material side of my life just like everyone else. But when I bring my offering, and especially when the giving of my gift comes at the expense of other material acquisitions I could have made, God gets noticed. His fame is spread. His priority in my life is made visible.

Please notice the way Jesus told His followers how important this demonstration of priority is in Matthew 6:31-33 - “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

A thousand times over people preach and teach from these verses as though Jesus’ main concern was just to keep His disciples from worry. And I think that misses His point. His main point isn’t His disciples at all. His main point is found in verse 32 - “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

Here is Jesus’ point. “The pagans are seeking after the material things of life. That’s what they live for. And if you live for the same things they will never see how tremendously satisfying I am. Your materialism will keep them from discovering me. You will effectively shut the glory of God out of their lives. Don’t do that!”

That’s what we’re talking about - living in a way that is so radically different, it makes God stand out and shine. So Church, let’s rid our lives and our congregation of anything that would make His great name vain among us. Ascribe to the Lord the glory that is due to His name! And make His praise glorious.