How You Might Break the Third Commandment in Church

How You Might Break the Third Commandment in Church

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” –Exodus 20:7

I’m ashamed to say that I broke this one in church the other day. You might be surprised by that. Why in the world would a preacher of the gospel be guilty of dropping one of the big “no-no” curse words? But that’s not how I broke it. I didn’t use God’s name in a string of expletives. I used it in a worship song.

Here is how I broke it. And have broke this commandment countless times. I was singing a song and mouthing words which extolled the greatness of God whilst thinking about whether or not our family would eat at the new Mexican restaurant or go with the quick and cheap McDonald’s run.

Bless the Lord, o my soul…(a fajita sure does sound good)….worship His holy name….(but can our budget fit in eating out?)….Sing like never before…(ugh, not McDonald’s again)…O my soul…(maybe if we ordered off the lunch menu)…I’ll worship Your holy name…(Yep, Mexican it is).

Then I’m drawn back into the song and raise my hands a little. Me. A commandment-breaking worshipper who just said the Lord’s name in vain while singing praises to Him. If we think this is only about not saying certain words then we’ll miss the real meaning of the third commandment. I really appreciate John Piper’s summary definition:

So it doesn’t just refer to a certain tone of voice or a certain use of the word. It’s dealing with God and speaking of God in a way that empties him of his significance.

When I’m singing about the greatness of God’s mercy and I’m thinking about fajitas, I’m using His name as just a flippant thing. And that is dangerous. It’s dangerous for us to get this comfortable with God, because it causes us to think we’ve got a grasp of Him. A heart that can think of fajitas while singing about God isn’t actually singing about God. And yet I’ll check off my “worshipped God today” box. Seasons upon seasons of this will dull our faith. Peter Krol says it well in reference to the Bible:

Beware the deceptive wiles of familiarity—that sweet but double-edged virtue that makes you feel at home in the word of God. Familiarity of the tender variety persists in reminding you of the gospel and deepening your communion with Christ. But if you’re not careful, cold-hearted familiarity will betray you with kisses, poison your wineglass and watch impassively while your life slips steadily away. You might not even realize it’s happening.

Unexamined familiarity will prevent you from looking at the Book. Because such familiarity crowds out curiosity, it imperceptibly stiffens necks, hardens hearts, and deafens ears. Familiarity may lead us to assume things that are not in the text, and it may blind us to things that are.

Thankfully, God’s mercy extends to us law-breakers. He consistently rescues us out of cold familiarity and brings us back into true worship. Being aware of our propensity to have wandering minds and hearts will help us as we engage in worshipping God through song. And when we do catch ourselves thinking about fajitas and becoming commandment breakers, we use this to rebuke our hearts and draw us back to the sufficiency of Christ. This is where worship will deepen and gradually distraction will fade.

This article originally appeared here.

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Mike Leake
Mike Leake serves as an associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Jasper, Indiana, and is pursuing a Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Nikki, have two young children. Mike’s writing home is mikeleake.net. Mike is also the author of Torn to Heal:God's Good Purpose in Suffering.

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