The Ten Commandments Part 3
Revere the Name of God
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 16, 2005


Main Passage: Exodus 20:1-17 (NLT)


[Top section used at the beginning of the service as a welcome/teaser]

Top Ten Things You’ll Never Hear in Church:

10. “Please let me teach the Junior High Boys class.”
9. “Could we mic the trumpet?”
8. “I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went 25 minutes over.”
7. “I wish there would be more than just one offering per service.”
6. “Personally, I find witnessing much more enjoyable than golf.”
5. “Don’t you love it when we sing songs we’ve never heard before?”
4. “Hey, it’s my turn to sit in the front row!”
3. “I’m selling my boat so my family can be here ever Sunday next summer.”
2. “I've decided to give our church the $500 a month I used to send to TV evangelists.”
1. “Pastor, we'd like to send you to this Bible seminar in the Bahamas.”

Those are ten things you’ll never hear in church. Later on this morning we’ll be continuing our look at a much more important Top Ten List, God’s Top Ten. Today, we’ll be talking about the use of certain words or phrases that I wish you wouldn’t hear in church or anyplace else for that matter as we explore commandment #3, “Do not misuse God’s Name.”




In your Sunrise Update this morning you’ll find some notes you can use to follow along with the message. And right at the top you’ll see the numbers 1-8 with a blank after each one. What I want to do right now is give you a test. I know, that’s a scary word. Don’t worry, your future does not depend on this test and there won’t be any marks attached to your permanent record. And even if you’ve never been here before you can ace this test. This is a simple eavesdropping test. Basically, the test is this: If you were sitting in Tim Horton’s and you overheard the person next to you say these words, what would you assume is his profession? I’m going to say a phrase and would like you to guess what sort of person would speak this way. Who would use the following sort of sentence? Ready?

1. Interfaces to such service modules as database handlers can be packaged using macros (Computer programmer)
2. Cantilever those joists (Carpenter)
3. 50% of the line is a facultative placement, the other 50% is on a treaty with an excess loss provision of 1 million (An insurance salesman)
4. She’ll require an equilibration before a final restoration (Dentist)
5. I’ve ordered an EEG (Doctor)
6. The Apgar score was 10 (Paediatrician)
7. The D’s plus/minus rating and the cager’s GAA were both factors of arbitration in the expired CBA. (Hockey commentator)
8. You got 18 by avoiding the monkey. (Video gamer)

[adapted from Bill Hybels, “The Ten Commandments” audio tapes]

Let’s check your score…


How’d you do? Anybody get them all? (Remember, one of the Ten Commandments is do not lie.)

Some of them you probably guessed right off the bat. Only a computer programmer would be talking about databases and macros. Only carpenters talk about cantilevered joists. You could make a judgement call about each person right away based on the terms they used. They’re dead giveaways.

For those of you who are paying attention, you know that we’re in our third week of our Ten Commandment series. So obviously today we’ll be talking about the third commandment, which says…

[PowerPoint – Commandment #3]
Exodus 20:7
Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God.

So I want to talk with you this morning about some of the terms people use that are dead giveaways… terms that speak volumes about the people who use them. But these terms aren’t restricted to certain occupations. In fact, they seem to cross all vocational, educational, sexual, ethnic, political, and social lines.

Consider these phrases: “Oh God.” “Oh my God.” “Jesus.” “Jesus Christ.” When people use, or rather misuse the name of God it reveals a lot. It speaks volumes about their character. In fact, I would say that you can take people who misuse the name of God in this way and place them in one of three categories.


People who Misuse God’s Name Verbally May be…

1. Uninformed

These are people who throw the name of God around without thinking twice simply because they don’t know any better. They are not intentionally cursing God. Their words are not directed to God or about God. Many of these uninformed people are not even aware of their profanity. Their profanity is simply a habit pattern for their speech. They’ve never been told, they’ve never heard a sermon on the third commandment, and they don’t realize the seriousness of what they’re doing. Well, just in case you fit into this category, let’s take a look at the verse where we find the third commandment:

Exodus 20:7 (NLT)
“Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.”

To believers, He’s saying to never, ever use His name carelessly, even in prayer, song, or conversations. He’s saying, “Be careful with my name.” To everyone, He’s saying “Don’t ever, under any circumstances, use My name to curse or express anger or frustration. Don’t do it.”

I love the Indiana Jones movies. Do you remember that scene in “The Last Crusade” when Indy misused the name of Jesus? Do you remember what his father did? He slapped him! Then he sternly warned Indy, “That’s blasphemy.” That’s a great scene in the movie. Aren’t there times when you would just love to slap someone who misuses the name of your God? Well, in Old Testament times, the penalty was much greater…

Leviticus 24:10-11, 13-15 (NLT)
One day a man… got into a fight with one of the Israelite men. During the fight, this son of an Israelite woman blasphemed the LORD’s name… Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take the blasphemer outside the camp… Then let the entire community stone him to death. Say to the people of Israel: Those who blaspheme God will suffer the consequences of their guilt and be punished.”

God takes the misuse of His name very seriously. But why? Really, what’s wrong with that? What’s the big deal? Why is it such an offence? What ever happened to “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”?

Consider this: How people use your name reflects on who you are… your character, your reputation. Have you ever heard the sentence, “It’s my name on the line?” What’s that really saying? It’s saying that it’s my reputation… my integrity… that’s on the line. That’s what my name represents. Or how about the sentence, “You dirtied my name”? If you say that, you’re saying that your credibility has been damaged. Or how about when you hear someone say, “Stop in the name of the law.” (Actually, I hope you’ve never heard anyone say that.) When you hear someone say that, you know that they’re not just talking about a name; they’re talking about the power and authority that the name represents.

So a name is much more than a name. A name reflects on the character and reputation and credibility of a person. And when the name of God is used in such a way that it degrades who He is, it’s a serious offence. Hey, you’d feel the same way if people threw your name around like that.

Let’s look at it in the context of the two commandments we’ve already covered. If you missed those messages you can find them on our website. Two weeks ago, we looked at the first commandment which stated…

[PowerPoint – Commandment #1]
Exodus 20:3 (NLT)
“Do not worship any other gods besides Me.”

Basically, the first commandment tells us to honour God as God by giving Him the place of priority in our lives. Then last week, we looked at the second commandment…

[PowerPoint – Commandment #2]
Exodus 20:4
Do not make idols of any kind.

This commandment tells us to refuse to reduce God to less than He is. We refuse to reduce Him by comparing Him to man-made objects and even limited mental images of who He is. We never reduce who He is by trying to capsulate who He is with an idol. We refuse to reduce Him.

And this third commandment tells us not to reduce Him by misusing His name. Instead, we should revere His name and hold it in high esteem.

Think about the Lord’s Prayer. What’s the very first request made in that prayer? You have, “Our Father, who art in Heaven…” That’s just the address. What’s the very first request? “Hallowed be Thy name.” Hallowed, or Honoured, be Your name. Respect for the integrity of the name of God is so important that we should be spending focused time praying for it.

The Israelites were so committed to honouring God as God that they refused to even risk misusing His name… they wouldn’t even say His name. Whenever they were referring to God, they would simply refer to Him as “The Name.” That’s how Holy His name was to them. How far we’ve come since then. Everyday you hear people misusing His name in various ways. How many times is it because they’re uninformed and just don’t know any better?

These people need information.

If that’s been you, consider yourself informed.

James 4:17 (NLT)
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

So if you use God’s name and you aren’t speaking about God or speaking to God, then you are misusing God’s name. It is not just another word and it’s not a way we use to emphasize a point. It is a holy name that belongs to a Holy God.


2. Uncontrolled.

There are those who have heard the third commandment, and even agree with it, but aren’t able to control themselves.

Let me give you an example that’s kind of related to what we’re talking about this morning. Back when I was a teenager I used to play hockey, and so I was exposed to all the colourful language you’d find in the locker room of teenage boys. Plus, I attended public schools and was privy to a vast vocabulary there. So while I was never one to use obscene or foul language myself, I was constantly immersed in it and sometimes I would even find myself thinking those words in my head even though I didn’t want to.

I remember one particular occasion when I went out to Burger King with my mother, my brother and my sister. We were sitting there just having a casual conversation when all of a sudden out slipped one of those four-letter words. (No, not that one. Not that one either. Maybe that one.) It wasn’t part of my regular vocabulary, but there it was. I had said it. And even though what I had said wasn’t as serious as misusing the Lord’s name, it was still a word that’s considered coarse and I knew as soon as I said it that something was horribly wrong. My brother had his head down, my sister looked shocked, and my mother was coming my way. And I remember that being a day when I had my mouth washed out with soap and water.

What had happened? I had been living in a culture where I was constantly taking in foul and profane language, so at some point it only makes sense that it would affect my own speech. What goes up must come down, and what goes in must come out. I didn’t want to say it, it wasn’t a habit of mine, but I just couldn’t help myself.

Romans 7:15, 21-23 (NLT)
I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate…
It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.

So even when we want to do the right thing and we want to obey God’s law (which in this case is revering His name) we just can’t do it. We can’t help ourselves. Our sinful nature keeps getting in the way and winning out. And perhaps this is never more true than when dealing with controlling your tongue. The Bible has something to say about the tongue and how hard it is to control.

James 1:26 (NLT)
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are just fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

James 3:6-8 (NLT)
And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself.
People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison.

Psalm 19:14 (NLT)
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to You, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Perhaps a scarier reference can be found in the words of Jesus Himself in the New Testament. In Matthew 12 He said…

Matthew 12:34 (NLT)
“For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.”

There are people who misuse the name of the Lord simply because they can’t control what they say. They’ve lived around it, they’ve absorbed it, they’ve made a habit of abusing His name, and they can’t help themselves. But you can’t solve the root of the problem by washing their mouths out with soap and water. Because the root problem isn’t their mouth. It’s much deeper than that. So what do they need?

These people need transformation.

They need to be changed from the inside out. They need to have their hearts and minds transformed so their words will be pleasing to God.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Paul wrote those words to believers, but they were believers who still needed to allow God to transform them from what they were to what He wanted them to be.


3. Ungodly

These are people who may or may not know that God commands that we not misuse His name. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Because they don’t care what He wants, they don’t give a hoot about His reputation, and they think nothing about kicking His name around. If they did, they wouldn’t bring up His name only to drag it through the mud.

Think about this: when you say someone’s name, you bring up their memory. You make people consciously or subconsciously stop and reflect on who they are. When I say the name Terry Fox, for example, whether you want to or not you immediately picture the young man who bravely set out to run a marathon a day to cross this country raising money to fight cancer. Hearing his name reminds us of his essence. So when someone misuses the name of God, they’re bringing up His essence and then slamming it into the dirt.

You ever play King of the Castle when you were a kid? You remember… it might have been on a hill or a big snow pile and you’d wrestle with the other kids to make it to the top or the hill and be King of the Castle while the other kids would be… the dirty rascals. Now, it would have meant nothing if there had of been nobody at the top of the hill to push off… if you could have just waltzed up the hill without any effort. The whole point is to push the others out of the way and down the hill, taking the high ground yourself.

And people are doing the exact same thing when they misuse God’s name. God is holding the high ground, so if people want to show how important they are then they “shove” God, or they “shove” Jesus, off the high ground so they can occupy it themselves. They are saying, at least subconsciously, “I’m better than God. Look, I’ll prove it. I’ll slander His name and He won’t do one thing about it.”

People misuse the name of God as a way to reduce Him and elevate themselves.

You never hear someone say, “Bob-damn you” or “Sue-damn you.” Why not? Because it doesn’t have the same effect when the name belongs to someone on the same level or lower than you. But when you replace the name of Bob or Sue with the name of God, it’s much more dramatic. Why? Because the stakes are raised, and you are declaring that you have the power to order God around.

You ever wonder why, in a society that in so many ways is rejecting God, we still use His name in the form of profanity? Even atheists use His name. Go figure. There’s just something about the name of God that transcends any other name. And if you don’t cherish the Name, you’re not going to protect it; you’re going to abuse it.

When someone tries to make a dramatic statement, they will often invoke the name of our Lord. It’s not uncommon to hear the name of Jesus Christ on the lips of unbelievers. Yet you never hear the names, “Tom Brown” or “Mary Jones” used in quite the same way. Why not? Because it would be less impressive, less dramatic, and less powerful. And besides, they are trying to make an impression. “Look at how powerful I am. I can use the name of God whenever and however I want and He won’t do one thing about it.” Again, it may be consciously or subconsciously.

So what’s the result of all this? The result is a society where the name of God is viewed with less and less respect and honour. And all you’ve got to do to prove this is turn on the TV. I remember the very first time I heard the phrase, “Oh my God” used on TV. It was on an episode of Too Close for Comfort in the early 80s. I wasn’t even looking at the TV at the time. I was in the basement doing something else with the TV on in the background, and when I heard them say, “Oh my God”, I can clearly remember being shocked and just staring at the TV wondering what was going on in our society. I was, like, 11-12 years old at the time, but I was very much aware that the name of God is something to be treated with respect and not just used for emphasis. I’ve got to say, I’m still sensitive to it and I think I always notice it, but I can’t say it shocks me anymore. I wish it did.

It was the spring of 1997 when I was watching an episode of E.r. and I first heard the name of Jesus used as profanity on network television. I remember being shocked again and having a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. And what I really wondered was “why?” Why are there some words that are still banned from network television while the name of Jesus can be thrown around as profanity? Misusing the name of God is the worst form of profanity, so why has it become so acceptable? As I said earlier, the ultimate result of the misuse of God’s name is a society where the name of God is viewed with less and less respect and honour. To a world that has become calloused and is essentially immune to the shock of blasphemy, it’s just not that big a deal anymore.

But I’ve got to say, to the One whose name we’re destroying, it’s a very big deal!

So we have the uninformed, and what they need is information. And we have the uncontrolled, and what they need is transformation. And then we have the ungodly, and what they need is conversion.

These people need conversion.

They need to die to themselves and come alive in a new relationship with Jesus Christ. Is that what you need today?

Someday everyone will bow down in honour at the name of Jesus, whether they want to or not. But I’ve got to tell you, it’s much better for you to choose to do so now than wait to be forced to do it then.

Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)
Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of Heaven and gave Him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Now before we finish up, there is one other category I think we need to look at. The three categories we just looked at involve people who misuse God’s name verbally. But I think there’s a whole other category of people who misuse the name of God in their behaviours. We’re going to call this group the unfaithful.


Those Who Misuse God’s Name in Practice Are…


I’m talking about people who call themselves by the name of Christ but don’t show it by the way they live. When you call yourself a Christian then you are calling yourself a follower of Christ. In fact, the word “Christian” literally means “little Christ.” So if you call yourself a Christian you are in effect taking His name. And if the way you live does not reflect your commitment as a Christian then you are misusing His name. When you call yourself a Christian then live like the devil, what does that say? What are you doing to the name of Christ with the way you are living?

These people need dedication.

They need to dedicate themselves to truly live for Him, determine to Honour Him in every area of their life, and devote every part of themselves, including their tongue, to Him.

There’s a story I heard several years ago. It’s a story I’ve never read in any history books, so I don’t really know if it’s authentic or not, but it’s a story that still challenges me today. And I want to share that story with you this morning.

It’s a story about Alexander the Great and a young soldier who abandoned his post during battle. This young soldier was later captured and brought before his commanding officer, Alexander the Great. Now the spectators in the court were familiar with the character of Alexander the Great. They knew him to be a man of courage and loyalty, a man who despised cowardice and betrayal. And knowing the character of Alexander the Great and knowing the crime of this young soldier, the spectators pitied him. They were sure this would be the end of this young soldier.

So the soldier was brought into the presence of Alexander the Great, and he stood there intimidated by Alexander’s glare. After a brief silence, Alexander the Great addressed the soldier by asking, “What is your name, soldier?”

“Alexander, sir,” came the reply. A breath of relieve flowed across the court. Perhaps, just perhaps, Alexander would show favour toward this young soldier who shared his name.

Alexander the Great leaned forward in his chair and repeated, “What is your name soldier?”

The soldier, surprised to be asked this question again, answered, “Why, it’s Alexander, sir.”

Alexander the Great rose and stood before the soldier. Angered, he repeated, “What is your name, soldier?”

“Alexander, sir! It’s Alexander!”

At this, I can picture Alexander the Great with all of his strength and with all of his stature taking hold of the soldier and throwing him to the floor. And I can picture him towering over the soldier as he pointed his finger at the soldier and exclaimed, “Then change your conduct, or change your name!”

The name “Christian” means “Christ-follower”, or “little Christ.” And if that is the name you have chosen, you need to embrace the truth of Jesus Christ and reflect who He is, or you must change your name. Simple as that.

This morning if you take the name of Christ as your own, let me challenge you to examine your life by searching your heart, your deepest motives and your attitudes toward other people. Then ask yourself this question: “Can God sign His name to my life?” Look at your daily schedule and your priorities and how you spend your money and ask, “Can God sign His name to my life?” What do your activities, recreation, sex life, work ethic, and maybe even the way you drive your car say about the One whose name you carry? Can God sign His name to every activity of your life?

Colossians 3:17 (NLT)
And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.

You are His representative. You bear His name. Does your life bring Him Honour?




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