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Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash., shared this weekend the third message of a series of sermons on Ten Commandments, telling the congregation about four common, yet unexpected, ways we take God's name in vain.
Driscoll began by explaining what the third commandment does not mean. "The third commandment is not about saying nice, pleasant things and never saying anything that's strong and poignant," he said. "So how should we speak about God? ...What we speak about God is how we worship God."
He read from 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."
We don't name God; God reveals His name to us, the pastor explained. "We do not have the right to exercise authority over God... God copyrights, He trademarks, He patents His name." He allows us to use His name under certain conditions, Driscoll stressed.
What does the word "vain" mean? It means "emptiness, falsehood, in a way that is trivial, light, inconsequential or small," the pastor explained. It's disrespectful; it's dishonorable.
The flip side of that is what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:9, "Hallowed be your name," Driscoll added. "Holy, respected, revered, honored be Your name."
The pastor then shared four ways we often take His name in vain.
One, through false promises, he said, based on Matthew 5:33-35: "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King."
Second, false prophecies. Driscoll read Jeremiah 14:14, "And the Lord said to me: "The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds."
Don't make your stuff up, the pastor said, using the example of those who predict the timing of the end of the world. False prophecies "impose on people things that God didn't say, and those things harm people that God loves," he said.
The third way we take the Lord's name in vain is by false pretenses, Driscoll said, and read Matthew 7:21-23: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"
Many invoke the name of the Lord, the pastor said. People claim all their lives are in His name, but sometimes it isn't for His name, he warned. They use God's name for their own benefit.
False pretense, Driscoll said, is when your words and your works are incongruent. "False pretenses are occasions on which we are pretending. We are pretending to be one of God's people when we are not one of God's people because it benefits us." We want all the benefits, but none of the commitments, he remarked.
Driscoll used an example to make his point. President Barack Obama recently gave an address to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States of America, he said. The president finished his address by saying, "Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you." So Obama was saying, "God please bless them so they can take the life of more children," the pastor said. "That's a violation of the third commandment."
Fourth, we take the Lord's name in vain by false platitudes, the pastor shared, based on Leviticus 19:12: "You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord."
What does the word "profane" mean? "It means the God of the Bible is a God of glory... He is weighty, He is heavy, He is preeminent, He is significant… Profanity is when we treat Him lightly and inconsequentially, and just dismiss Him, and make sport of Him... and fun of Him."
Driscoll summed up by saying, "We're not to avoid God's name or abuse God's name. We're to use God's name in a way that honors God."