This is a subject that has lain heavy on my heart for quite some time. It is a brief study on our attitudes, conscious and unconscious though they may be, of how we treat our LORD. How much thought or consideration do we actually give to what it means to take the name of the LORD in vain? Firstly, let's see what to take in vain means.
From the dictionary we see the meaning of vain as being:
1. Having or showing an excessively high opinion of one's appearance or abilities.
2. Useless or meaningless: a vain boast.
Phrases-in vain without success. Take someone's name in vain, use someone's name in a way that shows a lack of respect.
Origin-Latin vanus, 'empty, without substance.'
To understand what it means for an individual when they are being vain, or walking in vanity, let's see the definition of vanity: noun
1. Excessive pride in or admiration of one's own appearance or achievements.
2. The quality of being worthless or futile.
From the beginning, GOD SAID, and yet how much of what God said do we believe? The first example given in the Bible of taking that which God said, and twisting it to suit one's own agenda is given in Genesis 3:1-5 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" And the woman said unto the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die." And the serpent said unto the woman, "Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."
It is the easiest thing in the world for man to take the things that God has said, and interpret them to accommodate and fulfill our own lusts and desires. The serpent was the first to distort the meaning of what God said, but man has been faithfully following his example down through the ages. God means what He says. We do not have the freedom to interpret God's Words in any manner that suits us. In the opening verse we see that God will not hold him guiltless, which is another way of saying "will hold guilty or accountable," the man or woman who presumes to take His Name in vain. This concept of taking the name of the Lord in vain is given very little attention today. We make the monumental assumption that we are already wise, and that we already understand what it means to take the name of the Lord in vain. When reading the opening verse, the natural man assumes that taking the name of the Lord in vain means: to swear, or curse. Does it? Is that the only application? Could there be more involved in the keeping of this commandment that we are just overlooking? Do we fully comprehend that we will never grasp the things of the Spirit with our carnal understanding?
Jesus said in John 4:24 God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in Truth.
Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
John 6:63 It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
Galatians 3:3 Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
And yet repeatedly in our Christian walk, we make carnal assumptions regarding Spiritual matters. We are like little children, always wanting more than we are able to handle. My little grandchildren are so eager to try a new toy or activity, that they cannot bear to wait to hear all of the instructions and directions. They can barely contain their excitement as they hop from one foot to the other crying, "I know, I know." How much like little children are we when it comes to spiritual things? Our maturity has nothing to do with having gray hair. It has everything to do with being led by the Spirit of God and not by our flesh. In contrast, how many of us, having immediately concluded that we already know what taking the name of the Lord in vain means, are already bored with the subject and eager to move on to meatier, weightier matters?
We see no need to give any further consideration to what God is saying here. We can all agree that cursing and profanity have no place in the mouth (or thoughts) of a born-again believer. We are told in James 3:10, Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not so to be. Yet are we correct in our assumption that God made "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain" one of the Ten Commandments simply because he didn't want people to swear? Is it possible that there are things mankind can do using the Name of God which are much more offensive to God? And if so, what might they be? How will we know what they are so we can recognize and avoid them?
There is a rising epidemic in the Christian world today of those calling themselves prophet's and apostle's, pushing their own doctrines and agendas, all the while claiming to be authentically sent by God. The Church overall is lukewarm and materialistic. Jesus said that this would be the state of the Church in the last days, and so it is. You may be wondering, "What does this have to do with using the name of the Lord in vain?" Well, it has everything to do with it. Consider for a moment, the following verses:
Jeremiah 14:14-15 Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spoke unto them: they prophecy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of naught, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophecy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.
Jeremiah 23:21-32 I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? Saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? Saith the LORD. I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? Yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell his dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? Saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? Saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.
Jeremiah 27:15 For I have not sent them, saith the LORD, yet they prophesy a lie in my name; that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, ye, and the prophets that prophesy unto you.
Jeremiah 29:8-9 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.
This is not the first generation to have Prophet's and Apostle's. Yes, there is a great need for anointed, Spirit led leaders: for those who lead by example. The darkness in the world has never been greater. We have a desperate need to know the mind of God in these days. We have seen in the above passages of scripture, that God is sorely displeased with all that would presume to use His Name in pretense. We should realize that just because someone claims to be a prophet or an apostle, we are in no way supposed to just sit back and take their word for it. We are to judge all things by the Spirit within, and by the written Word.
Rest assured, we will be tested and tried as long as we are in this world. We will encounter those who make great claims, who exhibit charisma and sound very spiritual and wise. Multitudes may flock after them and hang on every word that comes out of their mouths. They may be highly esteemed by the religious community, and demonstrate signs and wonders. Yet in spite of all the apparent validation that they are the real deal, they are in fact imposters. As a believer, you may be faced with just such an individual, and when you are... your reaction is one of disgust and revulsion. All around you, others seemingly are being washed in waves of love and glory, and here you sit, appalled and sickened within your spirit by the display you are witnessing using the name of Jesus. You may be in the minority of popular opinion, but you are not wrong. Because of the time in which we live, this kind of testing must come. We continually choose which voice we will listen to and obey: the voice that is popularly accepted, or the still, small voice of the Spirit? "To whom much is given, much will be required." It is evident from these passages that God hates imposters; those who tell lies in HIS NAME causing his people to err and be led astray.
Each and every one of us have been commanded to follow Christ! Complying with this commandment requires all of our focus. Compliance is not optional. We must diligently strive to become less of self, and more of Christ, daily. We must learn to live by the power of the Spirit of God within these earthen vessels, instead of by the power of our carnal, reasoning mind. We must be more concerned with pleasing God, than with pleasing men.
What the Church needs today is a wake-up call. And by the Church, I mean every one that claims to be a born-again believer in and follower of Jesus Christ. There can only be one head on a body. We are Christ's body in this world; we must move and say and do only those things that we are directed to by the head. If we are moving on our own, without receiving the order to do so, we are like a spastic limb having convulsions. Christ's body in this world today is diseased and dysfunctional. Christ is coming back for a Church (Body) that is pure, Holy and without blemish, prepared for His returning. We all need to press into our own personal, intimate, relationship with the Father and the Son.
Today we have all manner of teachings and doctrines. Yet there is only ONE Gospel of Christ. The people want to get a word from the Lord, and will run to and fro after this one and that one, trying to satisfy their hunger for knowledge. Fear worldwide has never been greater. Wars and genocide's, the threat of nuclear holocaust, broken families and economic hardships, unexplainable weather patterns and natural disasters all seem to be on the increase. And in the midst of all this unrest, the prosperity brokers are fervently peddling their watered down message that "God only wants to bless you, no genuine repentance required." Is this something new? Actually it's a very old tactic that has worked very well down through the centuries. Jeremiah 5:30,31 A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophecy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?
We would do well to recognize that truly there is 'nothing new under the sun,' when it comes to the heart and mind of man. We are not nearly as original as we imagine ourselves to be. And when it comes to spiritual maturity, we are still in diapers. We like having a form of godliness. We like being comfortable and self-righteous. We are quite content to keep God at a distance. A majority of people would prefer to write a check to meet their religious obligations, allowing them the freedom to live their lives as they want, without interference.
We are no different than the Israelites of old. They were called, they were chosen by God to be a peculiar people set apart unto Him. Yet those adults who witnessed the miraculous interventions God wrought in their Exodus from Egypt, never entered the Promised Land. They wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, and died there. Why? Because they refused to believe God, in spite of the miracles and physical manifestations that they witnessed with their own eyes. The attitude of the Israelites in the wilderness demonstrates the heart and thinking of man without God. Without God in the sense that man refuses to submit to God. Man's nature is to rebel against authority, to seek to preserve self, and to have it's own way. God was there, they just didn't want him. They wanted to be set free from the slavery of the Egyptians, but they did not want to serve God any more than they wanted to serve the Egyptians. Reading on in Exodus we see what happened when Moses came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments. (20:18-20) And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, "Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die." And Moses said unto the people, "Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not."
This passage is a blatant example of man's relationship with God. When God reveals himself in even a small measure, it is a fearful thing. The people did not run to the mountain to joyfully embrace God. Quite the contrary, they withdrew and stood afar off. They told Moses that they would prefer that he go up to the mountain and hear what God had to say, then come back and tell them. Consider if you will, how Moses responded. "Fear not, for God is come to prove you." To prove means to test or try. "That his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not," is a statement of what our attitude should be. To fear God, is to reverence God. We need to keep a reverential fear of the LORD before our faces, or in the forefront of our thinking and attitudes at all times. It is only when we have this heart attitude toward God that we can cease from sin. It is not possible to remain withdrawn and 'afar off' from God, and still be close to God at the same time. This is a heart attitude within man. God is omnipresent. God knows every thought we think; every secret desire of our hearts. He is never far from us, regardless of how we feel. Either we come into the proper, reverently fearful relationship with God that Moses walked in, or we are distant, removed, separated from God, as the Israelites preferred to be. That is having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Going through the motions, without ever really connecting with God at all.
What we see boldly demonstrated today are mega-Churches, with charismatic leaders, building huge ministries using the name of Jesus, merchandising Christ. We hear self-proclaimed prophets spreading messages of peace, prosperity and blessing, and the people love to have it so. This is not the abstract, abhorrent branch of some denomination or cult; it is the accepted norm. Should we be swayed by the material manifestations of power and wealth being demonstrated as validation of authenticity? Should we assume that because God has not struck these leaders dead that they have received and are operating with His approval? Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. To work iniquity is to be engaged in wickedness, under the guise of doing good works. Not everyone is who or what they profess to be. Many false prophets are strutting across platforms of congregations today, making great claims, and all the while they are using the name of the Lord in vain. They are claiming to be sent, when God did not send them. They are pushing their own doctrines and agendas, as if they could possibly manipulate God in any way. They are lost to their own vanity and drunk with the admiration of their followers. They are fleecing the flock they should be protecting. They glory in their prosperity, claiming it as evidence of God's blessing on what they are doing. "My brethren, these things ought not to be so." What will separate the Spirit filled child of God from the imposter's? Consider that the Lord warned us in Matthew 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. We are living in the days when this warning is coming to its fulfillment. We need to wake up and realize that we will be held accountable for what we believe, whom we listen to and obey, and even for every word that we speak.
Matthew 12:37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. I pray that we will be stirred to seek the Lord with our whole heart. May we grow up in Christ. Hebrews 5:14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age (complete), even those who by reason of use (practice) have their senses (judgment) exercised to discern both good and evil. May we learn to listen to the voice of the Spirit, recognizing when the name of the Lord is being taken in vain. May we no longer rely on our natural understanding, but judge all things by the Spirit.
I pray that we will all examine our own hearts. We cannot contain God in a religious box, predicting and controlling events. May we gladly lay down all that we have been taught, all that we think we know, and be conformed to the image of the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit within our hearts and lives. May we be aware, as never before, just what our responsibilities are. May we be filled with a passionate love for God. May we grow and walk in spiritual discernment. May we fear disappointing God more than we fear the rejection of men. May we develop a burning jealousy for the TRUTH, and no longer sit silently by while arrogant, vain men and women make merchandise of Jesus. May the same fire burn within our bellies that burned in our Lord when he drove the money-changers out of the temple. A burning zeal emboldening us to take a stand against all that would attempt to make the price that Jesus paid on the cross "empty, and without substance."