How to Honor God’s Name

honor

We have learned that there is one true God. Like it or not, the God of Judaism and Christianity is that God. There is no other. Some people may think differently, but there is only one God and He alone is to be worshipped. All morality and ethics descend from that one true God. It is He who decides what is right and what is wrong. This absolute view of morality is a huge pill for the moral relativist to swallow. In his world, sometimes a thing may be wrong but other times it may be right. Right and wrong change from age to age and from culture to culture. The moral relativist lives in a completely grey world where there is no black or what – no absolute truth. People like this populate college campuses all over the world, indoctrinating young minds with their poisonous views.

In the world of faith, this shouldn’t be the case, although it often is. The Bible, which is the very Word of God, teaches us that there are most definitely “wrong things” which are to be avoided. We call those things “sins,” and the topic of sin takes up more space in the Bible than prayer. In God’s view, all of man’s problems can be distilled into one: Sin.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NIV)

Everybody sins; some sin more than others, but all people sin. In fact, it’s worse even than that. David saw his problem as a lifelong problem he had no control over:

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5 NIV)

The context of this psalm is a well-known one: David’s adultery with Bathsheba. 2 Samuel 12 tells the story of Nathan’s encounter with King David in which he reprimanded the King for his sinful acts. David knew he had not only committed adultery and was instrumental in the murder of Uriah, but he also knew that somehow his sins against people – Bathsheba and Uriah – had harmed God. Psalm 51 is essentially David’s prayer for forgiveness, although what he wrote about himself is applicable to all sinners.

Verse 5 succinctly points to what theologians have come to call the doctrine of “total depravity.” An essential doctrine all orthodox Christians hold to is total depravity, which teaches that all men are born sinners. People do not become sinners as they age although men sin volitionally as well. David, without the benefit of a seminary education, wrote under the inspiration of God a profound theological truth: man is doubly guilty. He was born a sinner (through no fault of his own) and he commits sins (by his own choice).

Is all sin the same?

No human being is guiltless and we all sin. But does that mean all sin is equal in God’s eyes? Or, put another way, is there such a thing as “the worst sin” of all? A great many Christians think not. The prevailing thought in Christianity is that “all sin is sin” and that no sin is any worse than any other. In a sense, it takes a lot of faith to believe “all sin is sin,” because in this view the person who steals a pack of paper clips from his office has committed just as grievous a sin as the person who just committed a murder. As I wrote, it must take a tremendous amount of faith to hold to this view because at the very least it goes against all common sense and reason. Although both are sins, is it reasonable to think that stealing paper clips from work is just as bad as committing a murder? God doesn’t think so. Not all sins are equal; there really is a sin worse than any other. In fact, this “worst of all” sin is so bad, it’s the only one God declared He would not forgive: Committing evil in God’s name. It’s actually the third of the Ten Commandments, and traditionally it goes like this:

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (Exodus 20:7 KJV)

Exodus 20:7

That’s not the best translation of the third Commandment and it has led most people into a complete misunderstanding of what this Commandment is all about. “Taking the name of the Lord in vain” has come to mean using the Lord’s name in a frivolous manner. So, for example, the person we all know who says, “Oh my God” all the time is guilty of committing this sin. Or the co-worker who declares at quitting time, “God, what a horrible day I had,” has broken the third Commandment. However, this is not at all what the third Commandment prohibits. Remember, this is the only commandment of the Ten that God says He will never forgive, therefore it must be far worse than merely using His Name for no good reason.

The Hebrew rendering of Exodus 20:7 looks like this:

You shall not carry the name of the Lord your God in vain…

The NIV comes closest with its translation:

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7 NIV)

To “carry” or “misuse” God’s name is to commit acts of evil in the name of God and this is what God will not forgive. This naturally raises a simple question: Why? How can God forgive a person who, say, commits murder yet not forgive the person who commits that same evil in His name? The answer is as simple as the question, and it goes back to why King David wrote Psalm 51. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and he caused a completely innocent good man, Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, to be killed. Yet, when you read Psalm 51 the victim’s names are nowhere to be found. We do, though, read this:

It is against you and you alone I sinned and did this terrible thing. You saw it all, and your sentence against me is just. (Psalm 51:4 TLB)

David was a man of God and he knew better. By committing those sinful acts when he knew full-well he shouldn’t, he was “carrying God’s name” as he committed adultery and planned Uriah’s murder. When an unbeliever commits evil acts, God’s reputation – His name – isn’t brought into question. But when a believer commits evil acts he harms God’s reputation – he, as David wrote, sins against God.

Modern example

In our day we see a glaring example of this happening routinely: the evil committed by Islamists in the name of Allah, who some have taken to be the God of Judaism and Christianity. Of course, Allah is a made up god, but enough people in the world believe otherwise, therefore when Muslims kill, torture, murder, bomb, and behead “infidels,” the one true God’s reputation is hurt, and by extension that of good people of all religions.

The evil done in the name of Christ by the church in centuries past has caused many to leave that church and to even question the existence of God. And it’s no surprise that the modern “atheist movement” gained momentum shortly after the 9-11 attack. After all, who could possibly worship a God who causes/allows/perpetrates such horrible acts of evil? As Dennis Prager noted:

People who murder in the name of God not only kill their victims, but they kill God, too.

It’s easy to see why the greatest sin of all is religious evil and why it’s the only sin God won’t forgive.

Matthew 12:31, 32

Over in the New Testament, our Lord taught a similar thing, but with a slight twist. It’s important to remember that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi and that His teachings were really just teachings about the Law of God. He said this:

Don’t misunderstand why I have come—it isn’t to cancel the laws of Moses and the warnings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them and to make them all come true. (Matthew 5:17 TLB)

The teachings of Christ were revolutionary, but at the same time, they were really teachings about the importance of the laws of Moses and the Word of God, which was the essentially the Old Testament. With that in mind, in Matthew 12, Jesus issues this ominous word that relates back to the third Commandment:

Even blasphemy against me or any other sin can be forgiven—all except one: speaking against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come. (Matthew 12:31, 32 TLB)

Within the context of Matthew 12, Jesus is clearly linking what He referred to as “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” to attributing the work of the Holy Spirit – the work of God – to Satan. This is precisely what the Pharisees had done a few verses before. Jesus had just performed some miracles, including casting a demon out of a person.

But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “He can cast out demons because he is Satan, king of devils.” (Matthew 12:24 TLB)

The onlookers, the rank and file Jews in the crowd who had witnessed these miracles, rightly concluded that Jesus could very well be the long-awaited Messiah. It took theological egg-heads to get it wrong. Which reminds us of what G.K Chesterton’s crime-solving clergyman once pointed out that it was the professionals who built the Titanic, but it was an amateur who built the Ark. And it was these professional theologians who, in giving credit to Satan for Jesus’ miracles, had planted seeds of doubt in the minds of the Jews.

Recall that the third Commandment prohibits doing evil in the name of God because it harms God’s reputation. Here, that act is referred to as “blasphemy.” To “blaspheme” is to speak an insult against someone, defaming their character and reputation. The “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,” then, is ultimately defaming the reputation and character of God. There is no forgiveness for that, either in this world or the next.

 

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