Idolatry: The Lord’s Name

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 29, 2021 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” -Exodus 20:7

This is a commandment not many people have explored in depth. We know it on the basic level: Don’t use the Lord’s name as a curse word. Some take it a little too far and say it means don’t swear at all (there are other commands about that issue). In many of Ray Comfort’s evangelism videos, he goes through the Ten Commandments, namely lying, stealing, lusting, and taking the Lord’s name in vain to showcase how we’ve all broken the Ten Commandments and we are guilty before God. On a basic level, that’s perfect. It gets the idea across, but there is a deeper level to this commandment that I realized a few years ago and it keeps getting me.

We are called Christians. We who believe the Bible, who claim the name of Christ, who are born again with a new nature and have new life, are called “little Christ-followers.” Our job as Christians is to be ambassadors to this fallen world. We are to represent Christ to this fallen world. We bear the name of Christ. If you aren’t hearing me yet, let me say it again. We bear the name of Christ. When the world sees us, they think: “This is what Jesus is like.” That’s what we are supposed to be. Again, by calling ourselves “Christian,” we associate ourselves with the name of Jesus.

How are we treating that name now? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bungled this one. Paul understood, though. Romans 7 has a lot to say about not being able to do what he wants to do and doing what he doesn’t want to do. But his hope was found in Jesus who would one day deliver him from the flesh that so held him down. The same is true for me. If not for the grace of God continually working in my life, I’d be a real mess even more than I am now. And I know what my sinful tendencies aim towards. If God were to release His restraints on my flesh, I would not be in a good place at all. Yet, God has chosen to take broken, abused, very inconstant clay vessels like Paul, like me, like Jason DeZurik, like Katie Erickson, like many of us, and asked us: “Will you represent me?” While the truth of what this commandment entails hit me a few years ago, the weight of this question had not. The weight of “Charlie Wolcott, will you bear and carry My name to this world?” has not really hit me yet. He wants me, someone still struggling against sin, to carry the name of the thrice-holy God, the Ultimate and Perfect Being, the Almighty Creator, the Everlasting Eternal God, the Righteous Judge? Who am I do so such a thing?

I dwell on this because Israel was asked to do the same thing: “You will be My people; and I will be your God.” They were asked to be the bearers of God’s name. They boasted about it. They were so arrogant about being called “God’s people” that they refused to take God’s message to the world, and they kept it to themselves and thought they were above reproach. They were so serious about taking God’s name accurately that they wouldn’t even say His proper name lest they inadvertently prophane it. But how did they treat it? How did Israel treat the name of God? They boasted it. They claimed it. But at every turn, they went to the idols. They sought the help and relief and comfort that all the pagans boasted they had from their gods, and they didn’t trust in the Lord. They did not live up to carrying the name of the Lord. So many of the prophets told Israel they had forgotten God; they had despised Him, committed adultery against Him, and the list goes on. They took the name of God, waved it proudly as a banner or flag, and then trampled it in the mud.

Those of us who are American citizens and love our country: what is your reaction to people in this country burning and stepping on the flag and disrespecting it, all the while, living off the benefits that the flag represents? My reaction is such people are ungrateful, traitors, hypocrites, etc. If that is our reaction to people living off American lifestyles but desecrating the flag is like that, how much more so should we respond to those who claim the name of Christ and treat Him accordingly? There are so many false teachings going on today that the very term “Christian” is almost meaningless. What denomination are you? Are you an evangelical? What does that even mean anymore? There is so much corruption within the organized church that when the real thing shows up and actually speaks about it, the knee-jerk reaction is: “Oh, you are one of THOSE Christians?”

I have written several times about the dangers of being a “Christian In Name Only.” If we claim the name of Christ and there’s little to no evidence of it, we are violating the 3rd Commandment. But where this issue really comes into play is idolatry with the name of Christ, specifically the creating a “Jesus” of our own making and liking. God’s anger against Israel burned the brightest not merely when they turned to other idols, but created a false idol, a false god, and declared that was “Jehovah.” The heathen were lost, and God will judge them based on the truth they had access to. However, Israel knew the true God and worshipped an idol, all while claiming to be of God and claiming that their idol was God. How much more so do many Christians today practice idolatry every Sunday morning in their “worship services,” singing praise to a god they’ve made up in their own minds, all the while claiming the name of the God who is Holy, Holy, Holy? Do we know who God really is? One of my goals in my writing and such is to portray God accurately, as He is and as the Bible describes Him. When I was a regular attendee of a Christian Writer’s conference and came on faculty a few times, I offered to do a session on “Writing God’s Answer Correctly.” The main theme was to write what God was saying about the given situation, not what we think the answer to be. I never got the chance to teach it but maybe I will sometime soon.

We are to carry the Lord’s Name wherever we go as believers. That means we must present it correctly, and we must also live a life that describes it correctly. I’m not talking about legalism or moralism. The end goal of evangelism should not be that person thinking of Charlie Wolcott but of Jesus Christ. That’s when I’ve done my job correctly. I need a lot more practice in that regard. But how can I evangelize, how I can share the name of Christ, if I am serving an image of my own making and my own liking and calling it “Christ”? In that scenario, I am not presenting Jesus to someone else; I am presenting myself to someone else. We need to learn the difference. Let us take the name of God seriously. Let us represent it accurately in word and in deed. But to do that, we must first discard any false ideas or images we have about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, so we can give a clear message. Next week, I’ll examine the Sabbath.

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