Some moms serve up soap as an entrée for the “potty mouth.” But is cleaning it what it means to not take God’s name in vain? This sermon explores four common, yet unexpected, ways we take his name in vain.

Pastor Mark Driscoll

Exodus 20:7

September 29, 2013



“Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”—third commandment, Exodus 20:7. As you’re finding your place, my question to you is, do you know what that means? I mean, have you ever actually considered it, pondered it, heard a sermon preached on it?


I really hadn’t thought about it much until I was in college. I became a Christian in college, and I moved into one of those college-guy houses. You know what I’m talking about? Really dirty, super cheap, 57 guys in a studio apartment, one guy living in the food pantry for half price—one of those places. Grace would come over and wouldn’t even use the bathroom because she was too terrified. It required a Hazmat, not a cleaner. A Hazmat crew really was needed in the bathroom—one of those places.


I got my first Christian roommate, and—I’ll never forget—he was sitting over on his side of the room with his back to me, and I was sitting over on my side of the room with my back to him, and we’re studying. At random intervals, he would, with sort of loud passion, just say various food items, like, “Ham and cheese!” You’re like, “What the—?” I’d look over, and he’d just be doing his homework. Wait a little while—“Chips and salsa!” What the—? You know, he really liked peanut butter. How do I know? Because I heard it a lot—“Peanut butter!” He’d really emphasize the peanut butter.


Finally, feeling like a short-order cook at a bad diner, I asked him, “Hey, what’s up with the menu here in our room?” And he said, “Well, I’m trying to obey the third commandment and not take the Lord’s name in vain. So instead of saying the Lord’s name, every time I’m frustrated I say whatever food comes to mind.”


So, I thought, Hmm, that’s different. I didn’t even know what the third commandment was. I was like, “What’s the third commandment?” “Like, when you use the Lord’s name in a bad way.” I was like, “Is that a thing?” He’s like, “Yeah, that’s a bad thing.” I was like, “Oh no,” because I played on a baseball team, and our rule was every time you hit a home run, everybody would yell, “*Ding dong*,” and every time you struck out, we’d say Jesus’ name, and we struck out a lot. And so we said Jesus’ name negatively, publicly, loudly, frequently.


I thought, Oh no, man, I’m in serious trouble. So I started thinking about it. I then went over to my roommate and I was like, “Wait a minute. But you’re saying ‘peanut butter’ “or ‘chips and salsa’ or ‘ham and cheese,’ but God knows your heart, and in your heart, you’re really cursing, aren’t you?” He’s like, “Yeah, I guess I am.” I said, “OK, well this whole thing is peanut butter.” That’s what I told him.


At the end of the day, it got me thinking, “Like, wow, have I been using the Lord’s name in vain? Have I been using the name of Jesus wrongly? Am I guilty of violating the third commandment?” I had to go look up the third commandment. What is the third commandment? What does it mean? What does it not mean?



Before we jump into it, let me tell you what the third commandment does not mean. How many of you had moms who would serve soap as an entree if you had a “potty mouth”—to use your granny’s language, right? You would say a word and mom’s like, “Ah ha ha, have some soap, OK?”


What your mom thought—so tell your mom this—is that there’s a list of good words and a list of bad words, and if you are a good person, you’ll say the good words but not the bad words, and if you say the bad words, we’ll fix it and you’ll have to eat soap, OK?


I don’t think it’s that simple. In fact, I’m very convinced that it’s not, because we should use bad words for bad things and good words for good things. And we really cause problems when we use good words for bad things or bad words for good things. That’s why Isaiah says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” Bad words for bad things, good words for good things.


I’m not arguing for a potty mouth. I’m not arguing for inappropriate speech. But the Bible does have some strong language. Let me just say that, OK? I was going to read some stuff from Isaiah, but you probably couldn’t handle it. I was going to go to Ezekiel, but we’d have to “boop, boop, boop” me on YouTube, because it’s, like, sort of frank. You jump to the New Testament, Paul tells some Galatians to remove some appendages. It’s sort of a thing. And in addition, Jesus says some stuff to the religious guys, like, “Your mom shagged the devil” and “you’re a bag of snakes.” Kind of strong. Kind of strong.


In Amos 4:1, he has got a little message for a women’s Bible study in Bashan, and so he says, “To the cows of Bashan.” Now, how many women, you go, “Yeah, our group needs a name. “Oh, what will it be? The Sisters United? The Sisters of Perpetual Awesomeness?” “Cows, OK? All in favor?” Offensive, right? Always offensive, cross-culturally offensive. There’s no culture you can go to and be like, “Dear, cows” and they’re like, “Oh, can we get shirts? We love that.” OK?


The Bible has some strong language. That’s why they murder prophets, why they murder Jesus, why Paul starts an occasional riot. So, it’s not always like, you know, greeting cards and, you know, pithy statements that you would read in some fortune cookie. The Bible does use strong language. It doesn’t use it frequently, but it uses it strategically. And it can’t just be, “Use good words!” No, use good words for good things, bad words for bad things.


I’ll give you an example. Some years ago, I was in a conversation with some pastors, and they were saying, “Hey, did you hear about what so-and-so did?” I was like, “I don’t know, no.” “Well, he stole a bunch of money from the church, and took the church secretary, who was younger than his daughter, and ran off with her.” So, one of the guys says, “Yeah, it was quite an indiscretion.”


Wrong word. We need a bigger word. OK, because “indiscretion” is when you’re playing Scrabble, and it’s coming down to the end, and the box is almost empty of tiles, and you’re neck and neck with your opponent, and you’ve got a z. And you know it’s a ten point deduction if you don’t dump that z before the end of the game, so you try and get away with spelling “buzzer” with one z instead of two. That’s an indiscretion, right?


If you grab the money and the secretary and run away from the church, we need a bigger word. Something like “adultery,” to quote Jesus, “son of the devil”—something like that. We need a good, big word that articulates rightly a bad thing with a bad word. Do you understand what I’m saying? I always hate when people will be like, “They had an affair.” What, prom? You know, I mean, use the right word. Use a good word for a good thing, use a bad word for a bad thing. And the third commandment is not primarily about, “Oh, just only say nice, pleasant things and never say anything that’s strong or poignant.”



So, this leads to the question, “How should we speak about God?” That’s the question. How should we speak about God? So, Exodus 20:7, Ten Commandments. First one, there’s one God. Second one, we worship him alone. Third commandment, how we speak about God is how we worship God.


So, here’s what he says: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”—pay attention to that word, “vain”—“for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Really emphasizing this, like two barrels on a gun here. Not in vain, not in vain, all right? Very much emphasizing this big idea: don’t take God’s name in vain. You say, “Well, what if I do or what if I have?” “He will not hold him guiltless”—so there’s going to be some consequence. It might be something minor; it might be something major.


I think it’s in Leviticus chapter 24, around verse 11, there’s a guy who takes the name of the Lord in vain, young guy, dies. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine if today on Twitter, God just said, “Everybody who takes my name in vain is going to die today.” It would really free up some Internet traffic, right? I mean, it would really thin the herd on that one. “OM—” pow! Right? So, this is serious. How many of you are like, “Oh, I don’t want God to punish me.” God’s got our attention here.


A couple things I want you to know about this.



Number one, we don’t name God. God tells us his name. Some people are like, “Oh, well, who do you think God is? And what’s your name for God? And what’s your spirituality, your religion, your philosophy, and your ideology?” “I think God is this,” and “I think God is that,” and “I think God’s name is this,” and “I think God’s name is that.” “And I think that everybody’s talking about the same God—we just use different names.”


No, we don’t. There’s one God, and he tells us his name. And we have no right to create a name for God because that’s an act of leadership. For example, when you were born, your parents named you because they were in authority over you. If we name God, we’re exercising authority over God. We have no right to exercise authority over God, he is in authority. We don’t name him; he reveals his name to us. He says he is the Lord, the Sovereign One, the One who’s over all.


In fact, here, it’s the name Yahweh. It appears almost seven thousand times in the Old Testament. It was such a sacred name and the Jews were so fearful of violating the third commandment that many wouldn’t even say the name of God for fear of misstating it and enduring the consequences.



Something else I want you to know is that God copyrights, he trademarks, he patents his name. How many of you work for a company, and the name of the company is not public property? How many of you work for a company, and their icon and imagery belong to the company? That’s why, if I decided, for example, to start a coffee company, I couldn’t say, “Oh, I like the name Starbucks and I was thinking about a green mermaid. If I put that on the cup, I bet you that would increase sales.” I would find myself in grave danger because I have no right to use that branding, to use that trademarked, patented naming and imaging because I have no license agreement to use it, OK? Think of it in that way.


God owns his name. He will allow us to use it under certain conditions, but he’s patented it, trademarked it, he’s branded it, he owns it. It’s his name and how it is treated should be according to his requirements. You get that?


All that being said, God says, “Don’t take my name in vain.” Well, what does that word “vain” mean? It’s super important. It means “emptiness,” “falsehood,” “in a way that is trivial, light, inconsequential, or small.” It’s disrespectful; it’s dishonorable.


You need to know that every commandment has two sides. So, when it says, “Don’t commit adultery,” what it’s saying is, “Be faithful to your spouse.” When it says, “Don’t covet your neighbor’s goods,” the flip side is “Celebrate the grace of God in the lives of other people without getting jealous.”


Here, when it says, “Don’t take God’s name in vain,” the flip side of that is what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:9, where he teaches us how to pray. Remember the line? “Our Father who art in heaven”—what’s he say? “Hallowed be your name.” Holy, respected, revered, honored be your name. The opposite of hallowing God’s name is taking God’s name in vain. So, Jesus teaches us how to not violate the third commandment, by honoring, by hallowing the name of God.



Well, this leads us to some practical implications and applications of the third commandment. I want to proceed from the theology to what this means for you and me. If it’s so serious that God has, depending upon how you slice it, 613 or 614 laws in the first five books of the Old Testament, and then he boils it down to ten in the Ten Commandments, and he places this one, number three, in order, it’s a big deal.


If he warns us that if we disobey it there are consequences for us, we are to be people who then ponder, consider, prayerfully, carefully look at our life and our words and ask, “Am I violating the third commandment?” So, I want to show you four practical ways that we commonly do this, taking the Lord’s name in vain.



Number one, through false promises. Jesus says this in Matthew 5:33–35—so we’re going to look at the Lord Jesus, the teacher, the rabbi, and him articulating for us the third commandment in fuller understanding.


Here’s what he says: “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely.’” So, he’s picking up the big idea here of the third commandment. “‘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 of God, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.”


Think of it this way: an oath includes a vow or a promise. So, if you’re a believer and you give your word, it’s a form of an oath. “I promise.” Or a vow is, for example, when a husband and a wife stand in a church in the presence of God and witnesses, and they read their vows, which are not just like, “I hope if all goes well, best case scenario, here’s what I might do,” all right? It’s a promise. It’s an oath. It’s a vow.


It’s a vow, and we’re not to enter into those things lightly or haphazardly. And when we do, we are guilty of disobeying the third commandment and entering in to a false promise, giving our word for something that we have no intention of executing on or following through with.



But what we want is we want people to think that we are serious, to think that we are committed, so we will include spiritual language and God talk to make it all seem very dependable.


They were fearful in Jesus’ day of saying, “I promise, I oath, I vow.” They would raise their hand, in the presence of God Almighty—“I don’t know if I want to go that far. I’m not sure I’m going to follow through with this. I might not. I might, I might not,” “I’m certainly not going to,” “I’m not really into this,” “I’m not all committed to it,” “I want to keep my options open and change my mind later.”


So, instead of vowing, promising, making oaths to God, they would pick something spiritual, or sort of take it down a notch. So they would say, “Well, I promise by heaven,” or “the throne of God,” or “the earth that he made,” or “the great city of Jerusalem. I promise on these spiritual things.”


Now, we do this same thing. We do it. For example, oftentimes you go into court. Sometimes, they’ll make you put your hand on the Bible. Let’s say you’re an elected official, you win, you get installed. What do you do? You put your hand on the Bible. “I swear to uphold and do the right thing.” Do you? I mean, do you honestly think that every politician who puts their hand on the Bible is saying, “Oh yeah, and I’m going to read the book every day and make sure I do what it says.” You all chuckle. Thanks for paying attention. I mean, really, we don’t even think that. We think, “Well, that’s just religious pageantry. That’s kind of like a fake thing.” You know, because you can’t walk up to a politician and go, “Hey, hey, hey. I was reading the Bible and the policy does not fit. It doesn’t fit. Have you not read Galatians? Come on!” They’re like, “Come on, we weren’t taking it that seriously. It was like a lucky rabbit’s foot. This was a little religious thing we did, kind of little ceremony. We littered a little God in there so everybody would sleep better at night. We didn’t really intend for this to be taken that seriously.”


Another way we do it is we say things. You ready? OK, both of you are fired up—awesome. OK, finish the sentence.


Here’s what we do when we make false promises: “I swear to—” fill in the blank. “I swear to God.” OK, you’ve heard that one. Are you going to do that? “Oh, I swear to God.” Did you do that? “I did not do it.” I think you did it. “I didn’t do it. I swear to God I didn’t do it.”


How about this one? Ready? “As God as my witness.” Oh, so you’ve heard that one. “As God as my witness, I’m going to do this.”


How about this one? “I swear on a stack of—” Oh, you’ve heard that one. “I swear on a stack of—not a Bible, bring me a big stack of Bibles all the way up to here. I’ll swear on all of them. Bring all the translations. I’ll swear on them all.” Sometimes you know that that person’s lying, but they’re saying religious, spiritual things hoping to get you to believe them.


So, here’s the little kid version: “Cross my heart.” So Jesus, cross right here over my heart. “Cross my heart, hope to die.” I would never tell my kids to throw that last part in. That’s a real—right? Hope to die, really? You’re sure? You’re serious?” “I don’t really mean it.” But it’s our way of saying the same kinds of things that Jesus is rebuking in Matthew 5. He says, “Don’t do that.”


Here’s how James says it, Jesus’ brother: “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes.’ Let your ‘no’ be ‘no.’” And don’t start throwing all kinds of religious language like, “Bring me a stack of Bibles and some holy water, and watch me make a sign of the cross.” And “I’m going to cross my fingers behind my back because then it’s not true.” I mean, just, done with all that. How many of you did that as kids? “I promise.” Do you pinky promise? “I double pinky promise. Whatever, OK, yes or no?” And if you say ‘yes,’ do it, and if you don’t intend to do it, say ‘no.’



I’ll give you an example. I’ll give you some painful examples for every one. So, some years ago, I had a buddy, friend, guy I knew. Nice family, nice guy. Found a house that he really liked, kind of one of those cool Craftsman homes that’s sort of sweet, needs some work, but if you really work on it, could be pretty great.


So, he decided, “I’m going to move my family in there and renovate this home, and we’re going to make it our house.” Good idea. So, I’m talking to him. “How’s it going?” House is torn up. I mean, it’s hard to know how a family can live in the thing—it’s a construction zone. “It’s going good.” I said, “Well, how are you paying for this? Did you get a construction loan? Did you roll it into the purchase?” Like, “what are you doing?” He said, “Oh, I’m paying for it out of pocket because, you know, I don’t own the home yet.” I was like, “What? OK, you’re renovating a home you don’t own?” How many of you already sense trouble on the horizon? He’s dumping a lot of time, energy, and money into the renovation of the home. I said, “What do you mean you don’t own it?” He said, “Well, I’m going to buy it once I get it all done. Right now the guy’s not ready to sell it, but he promised me he’d sell it to me for a price.” “Did you get a contract?” He said, “No, because we’re brothers.” He’s talking about brothers in the Lord. “We don’t need a contract, Pastor Mark. We’re brothers.”


Really, really? Because the first brother killed the other one and then, like, you keep reading the book, and they do nefarious things to one another, these brothers. Jacob and Esau? Not so good. Keep going. Joseph and his brothers? Not so good. I mean, just start at the left, go to the right. Good luck finding two brothers that are, you know, riding a tandem bike, wearing matching sweatshirts, and singing praise songs. Good luck finding those two brothers in the book. I can’t find them. You need a contract. “Oh, we don’t, Pastor Mark. We’re brothers in the Lord, and he gave me his word. We shook on it.” Well, tell that to the real estate judge. “Hey, we pinky promised.” “Oh, well, if you pinky promised.”


True or false, Christians need a contract? True. True. Didn’t have a contract. I was like, “Are you sure?” “It’s fine.” “OK.” Waited until the home was well underway, lots of work done, equity value up, market bounced back, kicked the family out of the house, sold the home, pocketed all the money. “Brother.” That’s a violation of the third commandment. It’s taking God’s name in vain. It’s a false promise. It’s pretending that we don’t need to abide by laws or formalities because we’re brothers, it’s Jesus, “I love you, bro,” and it’s going to be great. Come to find, the guy’s just a con man, and this is kind of what he does.


See, sometimes it’s a lot more difficult than, “Well, did he ever use a bad word?” He is a bad word, OK, right? False promise.



Number two, false prophecies, Jeremiah 14:14—second way that we violate the third commandment—“And the Lord said to me”—so God’s going to speak here—“The prophets are prophesying lies”—and here’s the big problem—“in my name.” So, they’re invoking the name of the Lord.


See, in the Old Testament, the prophets would say, “Thus saith the Lord,” or “In the name of the Lord.” Gerhard von Rad is an Old Testament scholar, and he says that according to his estimation, more than two hundred times the Old Testament prophets say, “Thus saith the Lord,” or “In the name of the Lord,” and what they’re saying is, “My words are God’s words,” and they come without authority.


But God says, “Actually, there’s a bunch of guys running around writing books, speaking at conferences, filling up churches, selling products, and they’re saying stuff I never told them to say. They’re making stuff up.” Does this still happen? All the time, OK?


So, test everything by the word of God—including what I say. You know what? We want to be a Bible-based church. We want to hear the word of God, not just the opinions of men and women. “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name.” That’s the problem. It confuses people. “I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them.” These guys are rogue; they’re on their own. “They are prophesying to you a lying vision.” Why? Because it’s often profitable. “Worthless divination”—super spiritual, ooh, dreams, visions, new spirituality, got a new book, figured out how to put some religions together and get a new experience, all that kind of garbage—“and the deceit of their own minds.” God’s not real big on religious pluralism. Did that sort of strike you as I read that? It’s like some things are wrong. That’s why 1 John tells us, “Don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits because Satan sends out demons, and they can give people lots of spiritual power, great spiritual experiences. It all is to lead people astray.”


So friends, this can include false teaching and false doctrine. What Paul in 2 Corinthians 11 says to the Corinthians, who are kind of a young, naive, urban, hipster church, is, “I’m afraid, just as Satan deceived Eve, you’re being deceived and following a different Jesus.” See, the Mormons have a Jesus, but he’s not eternally God, the second member of the Trinity. He’s a created being; he’s a man who became God.


See, the Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about Jesus, but he’s the archangel Michael, not the Creator God, sovereign Ruler of all. The Muslims will talk about Jesus, but they don’t think he’s God, rose from death, or died on the cross in our place for our sins. They think he’s a prophet, but not even the best prophet because he’s not even as good a prophet as their alleged prophet, Muhammad. Lots of religions, lots of philosophies, lots of ideologies are going to grab the name of Jesus and then pour into that name someone who’s not him. All of that would fit under the rubric of false prophecy.


This includes false predictive prophecy anticipating the future. How many of you have heard somebody predict the end of the world? You heard this? This drives me nuts. Jesus says, “No one knows the hour or the day of my coming,” and there’s always a guy like, “I do, I do, I do. I got a book I wrote based upon a mathematical formula that came to me after I fell off my bike not wearing a helmet, and I’ve got it all figured out.” No, you don’t. If Jesus doesn’t know, you don’t know.


Remember a couple years ago, a crazy guy bought all the billboards declaring the end of the world on a certain day? Remember that? True or false, he was wrong? Yeah, wrong. And then he adjusts, like, “Oh, I got the math wrong,” and he moved it a little bit. And then he’s like, “I was wrong.” You think? You think? You really think you’re wrong? Yeah, we all think you’re wrong. You know why? We’re here. That’s how we know you’re wrong.


Be careful because, see, when we say, “Thus saith the Lord,” what we’re doing is we’re trying to increase our credibility, and in so doing, we’re decreasing his credibility. Because if it doesn’t come true or it’s not the right thing, then other people say, “I don’t know. I mean, he says God told him. Apparently God’s bad at math, God doesn’t know what he’s doing, and God doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”


Those Christians are all fools. And it may increase our authority, but it diminishes his authority. We’re making a withdrawal from God’s account that we have no right to.



So, sometimes it works like this. I’ll give you the more street version: “The Lord told me.” It seems like you guys are bothered by that. How many of you’ve done that one? You’re like, “The Lord told me.” Well, if it’s a verse, we’ll talk, but if it’s, “The Lord told me,” what sometimes that is is like, “I know what the Bible says. I don’t really like what the Bible says. I want to do something that the Bible says not to do, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to say the Lord told me, and then I’m over the Bible and you can’t tell me ‘no’ because who are you to disagree with the Lord?” It’s tricky, sneaky, right?


Like, a gal I talked to recently said, “Pastor Mark, my boyfriend and I moved in together, but we really prayed about it first, and the Lord told us it was OK.” Really? Who’d you pray to? Hugh Hefner? You dialed the wrong number. You dialed the wrong number. If the answer you got was, “Live with your boyfriend,” “The Lord told me.” well, guess what? The Lord wrote a book, and he says, “No.” That’s just a bunch of peanut butter.


How about this one? “The Lord told me to tell you.” I love that one. Really? He didn’t call me. I don’t know, was I on the other line? I missed that one. Why can’t he call me? “The Lord told me to tell you.” Really? Well, the Lord told me to tell you to stuff what you were going to tell me. I don’t know what we do now. We’ve got a real conundrum here, right?


But it sounds very—“Oh, well, the Lord told you to tell me.” Some people are tender-conscienced; they mean well. They’re like, “OK, well if the Lord has a word for me, well, give me the word from the Lord.”


“Single ladies, all the single ladies”—to quote that great theologian Beyoncé—the single ladies, hear me on this. Watch out for this guy. Watch out for this guy: “The Lord told me to tell you that you’re supposed to be my wife.” Any of you ladies ever met that guy? Tell him this: “Pastor Mark says you’re a false prophet. And how do I know? Because I’m not going to date you, let alone marry you.” Right?


See, this is spiritual abuse. This is, “The Lord told me to tell you.” The Bible also says, “Honor your mother and father, listen to the leaders in the church, seek good wisdom, test everything by Scripture.” You don’t get just to, you know, walk around and pull out the “Hey, God told me,” wave the flag, “So, you’ve got to do what I say because God told me.” No.



I’ll give you a troubling, painful example. I was in Australia some years ago talking to a pastor who had all these questions about, “How do you know if something’s from the Lord or not from the Lord? And how do you discern it? How do you unpack it?” It was like, Man, this guy had a lot of very specific questions, which usually indicates there’s some life issue that was painful that his questions are orbiting around.


So, I asked him, “OK, what happened?” He said, “Well, here’s the deal. When I was about ten years old”—I’m working off memory now—he said, “I was part of a Pentecostal, kind of tent revival, visiting evangelists, prophets, teachers, preachers, and a guy prophesied over me that I would die before I was 13.” Can you imagine what the next three years looked like for that boy? I mean, I’ve got kids—I can’t even fathom. That’s horrifying. This kid was terrified. He sort of gave up any hope of, “I’m going to get married. I’m going to have kids. I’m going to grow up.” Just let all that—“I’m going to die.” Like, “There’s a cliff at 13, and I just walk off it.” His thirteenth birthday was not a good day.


Well, now he’s an older man. It was a false prophecy: it didn’t come true. It’s exactly what Jeremiah’s talking about. It gripped him with fear, it controlled his life, it robbed his—I would say, it was child abuse. And that’s what false prophecies do. They impose on people things that God didn’t say, and those things harm people whom God loves.


How many of you get really frustrated when you never said something, and someone goes out and says, “They said blank,” and you’re like, “I never said that.” Or, you said something, and then they twist it, and it sounds exactly like the opposite of what you said, and you’re like, “That is not what I said.” Do you get frustrated when people do that to you? So does God. God says, “Don’t go to my kids and tell them to do things because you got a word from me. I am not saying that.” It’s false prophecies.



The third way is false pretenses. Jesus says it this way, Matthew 7:21–23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord.’” So, hear this. OK, we’re still working off the third commandment, “Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Here, they are invoking the name of the Lord, saying, “Lord, Lord.” They’re invoking the name of the Lord. “Will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day”—the Day of Judgment, the most important day, the last day, the final day—“many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord.’” They’re invoking the name of the Lord. “Did we not prophesy in your name? “We went out and said, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ and ‘The Bible says,’ and ‘God declares.’ And cast out demons.” We had a little bit of supernatural power. We did some pretty amazing things. “In your name”—we invoked your name. “And do many mighty works in your name.”


These people are standing up, and they’re saying, “Our whole life was in your name. Everything we did was in your name. All our ministry, everything we accomplished—it was all in your name.” But it wasn’t for his name. It was in his name, but it was not for his name. They were using God’s name for their own benefit. “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, go to hell, you workers of lawlessness.’”


So, it’s your words, “Lord, Lord,” and your works, and false pretenses are when your words and your works are incongruent. I’m not talking about just a believer struggling to live a consistent life by God’s grace. What we’re talking about is someone who says, “Lord, Lord, Lord,” and all their words are betrayed by all of their works. All of their words are betrayed by all of their works. It’s false pretenses. 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. It’s associating with God and his people to get benefits that we have no right to because what we want is all of the benefits and none of the commitments.


Some examples, case studies. How many of you are leaders or owners in a company or a business? Is it OK to let others know that you are a Christian? Yes or no? Yes, it’s totally fine. I mean, many Christians, in fact, are looking for a Christian. Like, if I could find a mechanic who loves Jesus, I’d like to give them my money to help feed their family because Galatians says to do good for all people, but especially those of the household of faith. You know, I like giving my money to people who love Jesus because I want to help them and their families. So, there are well-intentioned Christian people who are looking for Christians to hire. So, if you put a fish on your business card, or put a fish on your website, or put a fish on your advertisement, or put a fish on your company vehicle, they think, “OK, that’s one of Jesus’ people.”


But if you’re going to present yourself as one of Jesus’ people, you need to conduct business in a way that honors Jesus. You can’t steal from people, rip them off. You can’t over bill. You can’t take advantage of people and under deliver. And then, you certainly can’t go to Corinthians and say, “Hey, brother, you know what the Bible says: we can’t sue each other.” And this happens, “in the name of the Lord,” but it’s not for the name of the Lord. Somebody who’s getting the benefits of waving the Jesus flag without any of the obligations that are to ensue.


I’ll give you a couple examples. I’ll make them political. I tend not to get into politics a lot, but I think this is illustrative. Every time somebody runs for office, they start talking about God. “And God bless America.” Really? Which God? And who are you? And since we’re talking about God, do you know him? Will you obey him? You put your hand on the Bible, but do you intend to actually pay any attention to it?


I’ll give you a couple examples. I’ve not been in trouble in a while, so I want to resolve that.



Number one, there was recently a prayer meeting in Iowa for abortion where they called it a blessing. My guess is the children would disagree. And a gubernatorial candidate got up and prayed this publicly. I’ll read it to you. “We gave thanks, oh Lord, for the doctors, both current and future, who provide quality abortion care.” What? Don’t sprinkle a little God talk over genocide. Nazis did that. I know what I’m saying is very strong and offensive—no accident. Don’t sprinkle a little God talk around murder so it seems like a blessing. “We thank you, Lord. We thank you, Lord, for the ability to kill unborn children.” You think God’s in heaven going, “You’re welcome. amen. Less children—that’s what I’m about. That’s why I came as a baby to a single, poor, rural mother who was a teenager probably because I just hate kids. That’s why when the kids came to me, I just wanted nothing to do with them because I hate kids”? Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.


Some of you say, “Is this political?” No, it’s actually biblical. We’re going to get into “Thou shalt not murder,” coming up in a couple weeks. We’ll pick this back up. I’ll give you another one. I know some of you are offended. We’re going to offend everyone, we’ve got a little time left.



President Barack Obama recently gave an address to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States of America. Finished his address by saying, quote, “Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you.” God, please bless them so they can take the life of more children.


I was pro-choice, pro-abortion before I got saved. I understand why people hold this position. I had a change of heart and mind. I’m a father of five kids. I cannot fathom how I used to think. Some of you’ve had abortions. Jesus died, he forgives you, it doesn’t have to be the end. But to stand up, “Thank you, God bless you, may he pour out grace so you could take more lives”—that’s a violation of the third commandment. That’s taking the name of the Lord in vain. That’s not serving the name of the Lord; that’s using the name of the Lord. That’s not honoring the name of the Lord; that’s dishonoring the name of the Lord.



I’ll give you another occasion. I was driving into church today and saw another one. Ready? Want to see it? Want to see what I saw? Here we go. [Shows photo] Church sign out on the road read “Jesus had two dads, and he turned out OK.” I drove by it.


See, I get that Christians and non-Christians disagree. I get that there’s a big cultural debate and issue. I get that once in a while, we just got to lean over the plate and take one for our team. I get that we should love our neighbors. I get that we shouldn’t expect non-Christians to think, act, or agree with the Christians, and obey the Bible. I agree that we shouldn’t impose morality: we should evangelize people and get them a new heart and a new desires through the Holy Spirit. I agree that we shouldn’t pick out a particular group of people and be particularly mean toward them.


But when a church says, “Well, a lot of people are driving by. What’s the one thing we could put on the reader board? ‘God is gay.’” The third commandment. Don’t just use God’s name. Don’t just sprinkle God talk among godless things and expect the naive to not see the difference. It’s pretty prevalent today, right?


I mean, let’s just be honest. Jesus isn’t spoken very well of. You start talking about the God of the Bible—he’s really taking a beating right now. Late night talk show hosts, the really hardcore, sort of militant atheists, the Dawkins and the Mahers in our day—man, they really get a good crack at it. Muslim sells a best-selling book reimaging Jesus as a political figure and not a Savior.


But when a church joins the fools’ parade, it’s concerning. See, I expect people to say horrible things about me. But if it’s my own kids, we’ve got a real problem in my family because I love them. And if my kids are the ones who are saying horrific things about me and misrepresenting me, well, then they’ve really dishonored their father. One old theologian said it this way: “It’s kind of like sitting on your dad’s lap and slapping him in the face.”



Fourth way we take the Lord’s name in vain, false platitudes. Leviticus 19:12, “You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.” So, get the echoes and intonations of the third commandment. “I am the Lord. Watch what you say. Don’t make oaths unless you intend to obey them.”


Here’s the big idea I want to unpack—one word: profane. What does that mean? And again, some people say, “List of good words, list of bad words.” Profane, not profane. Good words for good things, bad words for bad things. I’m not advocating potty talk, but I am saying that we need to understand what this means. And what it means is this: the God of the Bible is a God of glory. He’s a God who’s glorious. What that means is that he is weighty, he is heavy, he’s preeminent, he’s significant. And profanity is when we treat him lightly, inconsequentially, just dismiss him, make sport of him, light of him, and fun of him. We make the heavy God light. We make the glorious God inglorious.


Back to my original definition, it’s using God’s name and therefore projecting and presenting God in a fashion of emptiness, falsehood, triviality, lightness, or inconsequentiality. He doesn’t even matter. He’s not big; he’s just small. He’s not heavy; he’s light. He’s not amazing; he’s ordinary. He’s not holy and different from us; he’s common and much like us. That’s what it means to cause God to be profaned and to use his name in a way that is profane.


Sometimes, church people do this by lots of religious vernacular and colloquialisms, just sprinkling God talk in everything. I’ll give you some examples. You ready? “Praise the—Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” No. The Bible does say to praise the name of the Lord, but some people do it all the time. They need to back off. They’ve robbed it of its majesty.


“It’s Tuesday, praise the Lord!” “We’re going to do meatloaf tonight, praise the Lord!” “If I get hit by a car, well, at least it wasn’t a truck, praise the Lord!” Hey, back off, all right? If you’re using God’s name all the time, it’s losing its weightiness.


How about this one? “Lord have—” You said it, not me. OK, “Lord have mercy.” Somebody comes up, “I got cancer.” “Oh, Lord have mercy. Let me pray for you.” That’s OK. But just all the time. “Oh, they dropped the third in four, Lord have mercy. Oh, gas went up, Lord have mercy.” Like, what does this have to do with the Lord? I mean, that guy can’t catch a ball. That car gets bad gas mileage. I don’t know if we need to invoke the Lord for all of this. I don’t know if everything needs to end with “Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, thank you Jesus, Lord have mercy.”


Some people are like, “Well, it sounds very spiritual.” It also can make God trivial. OK, we’ll just do this. You ready? Social media, texting, “OMG.” Now, for some of you, there’s a little attorney that lives in your heart that wants to argue with every point. So, some of you, at this point, your little attorney’s marched out. “You know what, you can’t judge. The Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not judge,’ and ‘OMG’ might mean ‘Oh my goodness.’” We all know that’s a bunch of peanut butter, right? We all know that.


What do you think? Should we be throwing out “OMG” in all of our texts, and our social media, and our posts? Just “OMG, OMG,” yes or no? How many say yes? OK, I’m going to unfriend you. OK, who else says no? Probably not a good idea. Probably not the best way to speak God’s name in a public fashion.


How about this one? You say something wrong, you do something wrong. You hit your thumb with a hammer. OK, here it is, here it is. You’re a bad shot—“Jesus Christ!” Any of you ever done that? OK, it’s amazing, isn’t it? We don’t say the name of another God. I’ve never heard on the job site, “Chubby Buddha!” Never heard that. Never heard that. “Hare Krishna!” Never heard that. You know why? There’s not as much power in those names. We go for the big name—Jesus’ name.


Christian, true or false, we probably shouldn’t do that? Probably shouldn’t. We should say Jesus’ name but not as a curse word. How about “GD”? I’m not going to say it; you know what I’m talking about. Should we drop that? Should we drop the “GD” bomb? I don’t think so. And sometimes, even well-meaning Christians will violate the third commandment with false platitudes, kind of religious, spiritual, littering the landscape with all kinds of God talk. It just sort of comes out; they don’t even think about it.



It comes out sometimes even with well-meaning Christians who are thinking, “Well, we can find something in the culture and make it relevant to the unbelievers so that we have a bridge to talk to them about Jesus,” and we end up with something called Christian t-shirts.


I’ll share a few with you. [Shows T-shirt depicting Jesus as soccer goalie] OK, if profanity is treating God in sort of a disrespectful, light, irrelevant way, do you think “Jesus saves,” Jesus the soccer goalie—do you think that maybe is dancing on the line, if not crossing over it? Now, I like soccer. I mean, you know, all things considered. I like Jesus. I like his beard. There’s a lot here to commend, OK? But God becoming a man and dying on a cross to atone for the sins of the world so that we may be saved from Satan, sin, death, hell, and the wrath of God is not best illustrated by knocking a ball out of a net.


OK, let me do another one. All the soccer players are now offended, OK. Here’s another T-shirt—I’m not making these up, OK? This is what’s amazing. Reality’s so ridiculous, you don’t even need to make stuff up. [Shows T-shirt depicting beer can] “Bloodwiser.” How many cans do you need to drink before you come up with this idea? That’s my question. “Bloodwiser,” he’s the “King of kings.” So, remember the “King of Beers,” Budwiser? This is “Bloodwiser.” “The wise men knew his blood’s for you.” How many of you are like, “This just feels wrong. This just feels nasty.” Like, “I think if Jesus comes back and I’m wearing this shirt, I’m taking it off. You know, I’m just going to take it off.” “Hey Tom, how come you’ve got no shirt on?” “Don’t worry about it.”


Oh, but there is a verse down here. It’s Isaiah, I think, 1:11. Us old guys are having a hard time seeing it. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” Well, there’s a verse on it, so it must be OK. You can always tell an evangelical with a bad idea because there’s a verse nearby. Anyways, OK, next one.


All right, here we go: “A blood donor saved my life.” Not exactly what happened on the cross, amen? How many of you have given blood and thought, Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to save billions from hell?


OK, let’s do one more. [Shows photo of a young Pastor Mark Driscoll] This is a hypocrite from a few years ago. This is me when I was young and hopeful, OK? That’s in the rearview mirror. I am neither: I am old and jaded. But when I was young, and it wasn’t that long ago, sadly—I probably had these boots at the same time, but the boots have lasted longer than me—I did a series called “Vintage Jesus,” and I was trying to show how the culture talks a lot about Jesus, and we can go to the Bible and answer their questions and try to build a bridge. So, I wore some Jesus T-shirts, and I probably wouldn’t do that today. I don’t think it was a good idea. So, I wouldn’t wear that shirt today because it doesn’t fit, and I think it violates the third commandment.


How many of you are like me? You say, “Yeah, looking back on my life and really giving some consideration to the third commandment, there are some stuff I would say differently, there are some stuff I would do differently,” yeah? See, when God saves us, he doesn’t just want our heart—he also wants our mind. He wants us to start thinking differently.


So, some of you say, “Does that make you a hypocrite?” OK, a repentant hypocrite who’s trying to learn, by the grace of God. And maybe you, like me, have got some things in your past where you go, “That wasn’t a good idea.” Yeah, let’s all grow in grace and do better by the grace of God.


So, then it comes down to this: God gives us his name, says not to use it in vain. So, we don’t want to use it in vain. Some become so fearful they don’t use it at all. Well, 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.



So, who is this God? This is really important. Who is this one God (first commandment) that alone is to be worshiped (second commandment) and that is to be worshiped by how we speak of him and to him (third commandment)?


We’re in Exodus 20. Go back to Exodus 3. There’s a guy named Moses who’s actually going to be delivering the Ten Commandments, and he has an encounter. Do you remember the story? OK, this God in Exodus 20 meets with Moses earlier in the book in Exodus 3. There’s a bush that’s on fire but not being consumed. Moses is out in the wilderness, sees a bush that’s on fire, not being consumed—I’m summarizing—walks up to the bush, and the bush talks to him.


The bush has kind of a big ask: my paraphrase, “Go to the most powerful man in the history of the world, who rules the biggest empire that has ever existed and thinks that he alone is god, and tell him to let my people go, a few million of them, destroy their entire economy. ‘Let my people go to be free to worship me.’ Otherwise, the real God is going to crush the false god. It’s going to go bad. Hustle up. Tell him that the bush is pretty fired up,” OK?


Moses has a question, and he’s trying to respectfully ask it. It’s kind of funny. “Well, who should I say has sent me?” And you can kind of read between the lines. “Like, hypothetically, I walk up to the most powerful man on the earth and say, ‘The bush is very unhappy.’ May not get the results we’re hoping for, OK?”


So, what happens in Exodus 3:14? God said to Moses, gives his name: I Am Who I Am—Yahweh. And he said, “Say to this people of Israel, I Am has sent you.” So, God’s name is what? “I Am.” Moses goes in, says everything, God judges, everything happens, they get liberated.


Here, we meet him at the base of Mount Sinai. Thousands of years later, Jesus Christ is walking the earth. John 8:58, “People want to know who are you? Who are you, Jesus?” Here’s what he says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Like, he’s in his thirties. He’s in his thirties. “How old are you, Jesus?” “I’m older than Abraham.” Abraham’s been dead for thousands of years. Sort of peculiar. You’re like, “That’s a lot of candles on your birthday cake. “You’re older than Abraham? Because a few thousand years ago, there was Moses who gave us the Ten Commandments, and before that there was Abraham, and you’re older than Abraham? You’re way back at the beginning of the story?”


Yeah, because he’s God. He’s eternal God. He’s preexistent. He’s eternally existent. And then he says something mind-blowing. You ready? “Before Abraham was”—what’s he say? “I am.” What did God tell him in Exodus 3:14? What did God tell Moses? “Tell them, ‘I Am’ has sent you.” Jesus comes along and says, “I’m older than Abraham. My name is I Am. May have heard of me.” He’s claiming to be God, the God who spoke to Moses, the God who was before Abraham, the God who created the heavens and the earth.


They know that he’s claiming to be God, so they picked up stones to stone him. That’s for blasphemy. He’s claiming to be God. Don’t let anybody tell you, “Jesus isn’t God. Jesus didn’t think he was God. Jesus didn’t say he was God.” The whole reason that they kept trying to kill him and they eventually did is because he kept saying he was God, because he’s God. Three days later, he rose and said, “I told you so.”


Jesus isn’t dead; he’s alive. And he didn’t violate the first commandment: he is the only God. He didn’t violate the second commandment: he lived without sin. He didn’t violate the third commandment: he didn’t say anything that’s not truthful about himself. So he says, “Truly, truly, I say to you.”



So, what should we do? The answer to the third commandment is to honor the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We sit in this privileged place of human history where we know who this Lord is. It’s Jesus Christ. And I want you to hear about who Jesus is and how we’re to respond to him from Philippians 2:5–11.


Here’s my close: “Having this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”—all right, God wants us to think biblically—“who, though he was in the form of God”—Jesus is eternally God—“did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” He didn’t stay up in heaven and say, “I deserve glory, not humility. I deserve wealth, not poverty. I deserve to hear the angels sing, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.’ I don’t deserve to go down there and hear, ‘Crucify him, crucify him, crucify him.’” He let go of his rights. “But emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant”—like a slave—“being born in the likeness of men.” God became a man. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”


When we make much of the name of Jesus, we are honoring a humble God, we are honoring a loving God, we are honoring a serving God, we are loving and serving a forgiving God.


Here’s what’s amazing: when we take the name of the Lord in vain—and we all have—we deserve punishment. That’s what the third commandment says. Jesus comes as the Lord that we have taken the name in vain of, and he goes to the cross, and he substitutes himself, and he suffers and dies in our place for our sins, so that for people like you and me who have violated the first commandment, have false gods, violated the second commandment, worship things other than god, violated the third commandment, have taken the Lord’s name in vain with our words and our works, he goes to the cross, and he humbles himself, and he who is without sin dies in our place for our sins and says, “Father, forgive them.” That’s our Jesus.


That’s why we like to talk about him and sing about him, because there’s no god like him. There’s no god alongside of him. There’s no god that’s equal to him. There’s no god that loves like him. There’s no god that’s humble like him. There’s no god that serves like him. There’s no god who forgives like him. And Jesus goes to the cross, and we don’t need to be punished because Jesus took our punishment, even though he was the one we sinned against and he had every right to punish us.


So, as we understand who Jesus is—and wWhat Paul is seeking to do for us here is get Jesus up, to get him big, to get him high, to get him back in glory. As we magnificently behold the name, and the glory, and the goodness of Jesus, we become smaller and happier. That’s why people hike mountains, they want to feel small. That’s why people go outside in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere to gaze upon the stars, because they feel like nothing. That’s why people drive to the edge of the Grand Canyon to peer over the cliff, because it reminds them that they’re not the center and it’s not all about their name. And when we feel small and we’re in the presence of something greater, we feel liberated and freed because we now see ourselves in the place that we truly are—not that big, not that important, not that significant—and it’s liberating and freeing.



As we hear of this great God-man Savior Jesus, then we have to respond. “Therefore God has exalted him”—so Jesus is in heaven right now, he’s ruling and reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords. He’s no longer in humility; he’s in glory. “And bestowed on him”—the what? Here we go—“The name.” “The name.” Third commandment—don’t take God’s name in vain. Jesus’ name is the name, “the name that is above every name.”


So when you meet someone, “Hi, my name is—,” remember my name. Don’t forget my name. “When you see me again, I want you to remember my name. “Follow me on social media. Look at the places I go, the things I eat, the people I know, and the bands I listen to, the books I read, the thoughts I have, and then become my friend and know more about me. “Know my name, know who I am, know what I’ve done, know who I am, know how I feel, know where I’ve been. Pay attention to me, my hurts, my wants, my needs, my dreams.”


It’s not about your name; your name is not the most important name. His name is the name that is above every name. It’s a world filled with addiction to the self, self-worship, self-actualization, self-glory, self-help, all idolatry, all—maybe even saying, “God’s going to help me be all I can be and God’s going to help me do all I can do.” It’s taking the Lord’s name in vain. It’s using God for your glory, not serving God for his glory. His name is the name that is above every name, and if the Holy Spirit is in you, that just feels right. It feels good. It makes sense because it’s all true.


He goes on to say, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.” Do you know what this looks like? Surrender, submission. A guilty criminal takes this position. A surrendered soldier takes this position. A humble servant takes this position. A deferential citizen in the presence of a great king takes this position. Bend the knee—it’s submission, it’s service, it’s being teachable, humble, repentant, accountable, knowing that it’s not about your name. It’s about his.


When he allows us to be called Christians, he’s imparting to us, sharing with us, his name. “That at the name of Jesus”—how many knees should bow? Every one. “In heaven”—the departed saints right now, they’re gathered around the throne of Jesus. Today they’re not singing a song to Tom, and tomorrow they’re not singing a song to Sue. Everybody’s singing every day to Jesus. It’s about his name.


Right now, God’s people are in the presence of the resurrected Lord Jesus and they’re singing his name, they’re celebrating his name, they’re rejoicing in his name. “And on earth”—I would invite you to be one of those people today who bends your knee to Jesus and receives him as Lord, God, Savior, King, and Christ. And if you don’t, it mentions those under the earth. Nobody goes to hell until they’ve bowed their knee to Jesus. Nobody goes to hell until they’ve bowed their head to Jesus.


Here’s the question that you need to ponder: will you bend your knee to Jesus today for salvation or on the last day for damnation? The question is not, will you bow your knee? The question is, will you bow it now or bow it then? Will you bow it now for salvation? Will you bow it now for eternal life? Will you bow it then for damnation? Will you bow it then for eternal condemnation? Everyone will bend their knee because he is worthy. He’s given us a great opportunity to do so today for life and not death, for joy and not destruction.


“And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is”—what? “He’s the Lord, to the glory of God the Father”—for the weightiness of the fame and the name of the God who saves. If you’re not a Christian, you’re in grave trouble. You need to turn from sin and trust in Jesus. If you are a Christian, this is where you examine your heart and you ask, “Lord Jesus, how have I misspoken about you or I’ve cowardly failed to speak up for you?”


Then, we’re going to respond, and the way we overcome the third commandment is by singing about Jesus, talking about Jesus, and praying to Jesus, amen? We’re going to collect our tithes and offerings. We’re now going to respond. Our money says, “In God we trust.” We know who that God is. Then, we’re going to take Communion, remembering Jesus’ broken body, shed blood. We celebrate Jesus. We celebrate the humble servant who died for his enemies to make them his people. That’s good news, right?


As you partake of Communion, you get to celebrate Jesus’ broken body, shed blood, saying, “You know what? I’m a violator of the third commandment. God should punish me. Praise God, Jesus took my place, was punished for me. God does not punish me because Jesus lovingly, humbly took my place and was punished for me.”


Then, we’re going to sing. We’re going to sing the name of Jesus. The way that we overcome the third commandment and not take the Lord’s name in vain is to celebrate, to sing the name of Jesus. And as we’re preparing to do that and as you’re preparing your heart, I need you together to get passionate because of the name, the fame, the reputation, and the good news of the glory of Jesus Christ, and to sing together. There are lots of places where there are conversations about Jesus today, but many of them are not honorable—they’re dishonorable. They’re not worshipful; they’re horrible. When we come together, we’re Jesus’ people and we want to lift up Jesus’ name, amen?

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Mark Driscoll

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