I was soundly converted in Jr. High. I went to Hume Lake Christian Camp and distinctly remember recognizing the heinousness of my sin against God. I had heard the gospel several times, but something clicked on that occasion and I knew that I needed to repent and confess my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior.
One of the first obvious changes that occurred in my life was a strong desire to clean up my language and that of those around me. Whenever I heard someone using curse words I would correct them. I remember even asking permission from my closest friends to punch them in the arm whenever they cussed.
Yes, I realize this was an immature response. I was brand new to my faith. Plus, I was in Jr. High, so cut me some slack! Things were a lot less complicated in those days. I can assure you I’m no longer quite so easily offended by cursing.
However, I do think the instinct to correct someone’s language is telling. And maybe I should be more offended than I am. It probably isn’t a sign of maturity that I so readily tolerate foul language today.
As we consider the third commandment this morning, it is related to our language, but it goes much deeper than using curse or swear words. The third commandment calls us to think, speak, and act in ways that are consistent with our profession of faith. It is a broad topic, but it is specifically related to our relationship with God, which is expressed through our use of His name. This is not so much condemning coarse language as it is condemning an improper approach to God.
Read Exodus 20:7
The Serious Nature of the Third Commandment
The third commandment is every bit as serious as the first two commandments. In the first commandment, we are forbidden from worshiping false gods. In the second commandment, we are forbidden from worshiping the one true God in a false manner. In the third commandment, we are forbidden from devising false ways of speaking about God. All three commandments are equally offensive and deserving of God’s just judgment.
Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.Leviticus 24:16
I’m not suggesting we should operate under the same civil law of Israel’s theocracy, but at the very least, this passage reveals the significance of breaking the third commandment. Even outsiders who were visiting Israel had to abide by it.
The third commandment is not merely encouraging us to clean up our language. It demands more than watching our mouths, it should impact the way we speak, think, and feel about God. Like the first two commandments, it is about worship. It is about how we approach God. What is your attitude when you come before God? What is your posture as you speak to God in prayer? What fills your mind and your speech when you actively and passively worship God?
The Name of God Matters
Names matter to everyone. Names reflect a man’s character. It is for this reason we protect our name from being misrepresented. We do not want a poor reputation to be attached to our name. We take pride in the preservation of our name.
Thankfully, my name was fairly simple. I never had any embarrassing nicknames given to me. But I know some people who were so disturbed by the drama and trauma represented by their first name that they had it legally changed. It feels like starting over. So much about who we are is wrapped up in our name. And, if our own name is such a big deal, then God’s name matters all the more.
God’s name represents the respect He is owed because of who He is and what He has done. The multitude of names for God that we find in Scripture reveals different aspects of His character. They are set forth in their relation to mankind. Since His name reveals what He has done, we can see that any aspect of revelation is relevant to our keeping of this commandment. We must come before God with a right understanding of His name in order to worship correctly.
God’s name represents His divine and eternal nature and attributes. The opposite of taking His name in vain is to take it up with all seriousness. Whether we are reading, praying, meditating, or conversing we ought to maintain a proper recognition of His holiness and worthiness.
God’s name represents His redemptive acts in which He kept His covenant promises. Whenever we think of Christ as our Redeemer we should have in mind His role as our Prophet, Priest, and King.
- As our Prophet, Christ reveals to us, by His word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.
- As our Priest, Christ fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law in His once offering up of Himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.
- As our King, Christ redeems us by subduing us to Himself, ruling and defending us, restraining and conquering all His and our enemies.
In light of all that Christ has accomplished for us, how can we not honor God with our lives?
Approach God With Reverence
Everything pertaining to how God reveals Himself is deserving of our reverent and holy observation. Whether we are coming before God in a corporate worship service or in our own private devotional, we must consider the posture of our hearts. Are we careless and flippant or do we understand the weight of our activity?
When we communicate about God, whether preaching a sermon, engaging in conversation, or writing a note, we ought to consider our primary purpose. Do we keep the glory of God as our highest aim or are we most concerned with how people perceive our personal knowledge or boldness? This may be the pastor’s greatest temptation—to make ministry about bringing honor to their name rather than honoring the name of God.
Does our communication about God tend to foster our own good and the good of our neighbor? Are we filled with humility or pride? Now, I’m going to get a bit personal here, but just know that this convicted me first and foremost!
Christian friends, we would all do well to ask ourselves if our posts and comments on social media foster the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and in the lives of others? Do our words display the evidence of Christ’s work in our hearts?
That’s not to suggest that we should avoid being honest or even controversial. Faithfulness and gentleness are not mutually exclusive. Peace and patience are not incompatible. Self-control is encouraged by love and joy. Hatred of others will not promote kindness and goodness.
I know it is difficult to say anything without it becoming twisted by our current social climate. Facebook and Twitter would find a way to make Mr. Rogers seem cowardly and Mother Theresa seems selfish. But Paul’s wisdom to the Christian community in Galatia is just as relevant today as it was in the first century.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.Galatians 5:22-26
God’s name demands our reverence in thought, word, and deed. This is especially true in worship. On the one hand, we might become distracted from focusing on God in the middle of a church service. On the other hand, we might maintain our focus upon God while our hearts are far from Him. Worshiping God in spirit and truth implies a Spirit-wrought mind and heart that engages our whole person.
We can simply go through the motions with our bodies. We might mechanically stand up and sit down at the appropriate times while our minds and hearts are fast asleep.
The man who does not tremble in the presence of God, though he trusts while he trembles, never worships and never works as he ought to do.G. Campbell Morgan, The Ten Commandments
Neglecting the Means of Prayer
Probably the most neglected means of grace in the church today is prayer.
When we go to God in prayer we ought to come in humility. If the seraphim had to cover their faces, we ought to consider the glory of the One to whom we are praying. We ought to be filled with such a deep gratitude that we have the privilege of praying to God as children to a Father. We know that He who created all things has invited us to call upon Him, asking anything.
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?Romans 8:32
The reality of our redemption fills us with humility and gratitude and ought to drive us to the throne of grace in heartfelt adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication!
Unfortunately, it is far more common for us to come before the Lord in a manner that is hurried and a mockery of His character. We rush through a half-hearted prayer that we have memorized because it is the same thing we always pray. God is worthy of receiving our devoted attention in prayer. This isn’t about how long we pray or how articulate our prayers are, this is about recognizing the authority of the only God who hears our prayers and is capable of answering them.
No doubt God is more patient with three-years-olds who can’t sit still than he is with parents who can’t slow down to get their minds and hearts in the right place. It would be better not to pray over the meal at all, if the alternative is breaking the third commandment.Kevin DeYoung, The Ten Commandments
It is equally offensive to repeat empty phrases we do not mean or lofty ambitions that we have no intention of observing. We may pray the right words but if we fail to put into practice what we pray, then we are no better off. You might know how to recite sentences of praise, but if your heart is not filled with adoration for the God who gives you the breath to recite that praise, then you are better off saving your breath!
No doubt, it is a serious matter to break the Third Commandment in thought, word, or deed. However, if approaching God in a flippant manner results in His displeasure, then approaching God with reverence through Jesus Christ results in His pleasure.
How to Pray With Reverence
You won’t simply start praying and worshiping with a proper reverence simply because you have been warned. The Law reveals your sin and it calls you to repentance. But it is also meant to point you to a Savior who perfectly and fully honored God at all times. It is only because of what Jesus has done that we even have a spot available at the throne of grace.
We come to the Father in the name of the Son with the help of His Spirit! Because Jesus Christ freely laid down His life for us, we can humbly bow before our Heavenly Father and cry out to Him. Not only did Jesus take the sin of our blasphemous and flippant prayers, but as our High Priest, He ever lives to intercede on our behalf before His Father. We know that we never come before God on our own. We go in the name of His Son with the help of His Spirit!
We pray to God with proper humility and reverence for the King of kings and Lord of lords. We lift up the needs of a nation that is desperately searching for light in the midst of this present darkness. We do not come to God with answers, we bring our petitions to Him and we take heed to the answers He provides us in His Word and by His Spirit.
We ask Him to fill us with the fruit of His Spirit and to give us the boldness and compassion to share this message of Gospel Hope! We take the light of God’s truth into a world that has been ravaged by the evil of sin and blasphemy against her Maker. And we point them to the only One who promises to bring true and everlasting justice!
We could summarize the positive side of the third commandment with one verse from the New Testament.
Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Colossians 3:17
The way that we rightly honor God is to live for Him. He made us for Himself. Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We can only do that when we come in the name of the Lord Jesus, which is the name that is above all names!