HABIT #3: MODELING INTEGRITY
10 Healthy Habits for Building Strong Families ❧ Part 6
We are working through a series of messages called:10 Habits of Every Healthy Family. They’re based on God’s Ten Commandments. God gave them primarily for the home. Together, they form the necessary habits to build strong families.
Have you ever wondered why so many of God’s Ten Commandments are written in the negative? Why did God write so many of them this way? Remember, these commands are Divine shorthand. They’re meant to short and to the point, so you’ll remember them. Every word is carefully chosen out of love. That may seem strange since the commandments seem to weigh more heavily on the negative than the positive: You shall not… worship false gods, not make false gods, not take God’s name in vain, not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, not bear false witness. That’s a lot of You shall nots! How can this be love?
Imagine you and your family were taking a long winding drive up a steep mountain. Once at the top, you pull into a viewing area perched over a steep cliff that drops thousands of feet below. All that is separating you from a sheer drop off is a little fence. The moment you stop the car, your four-year-old throws open the door and makes a mad dash for the cliff’s edge. What are you going to say to him? Are you going to speak to him with a gentle quiet voice? Now, Joey, I want you to understand cliffs are dangerous. No! Your heart’s going to leap out of your chest and you’re going to shout: Joey! Stop! Stop right now! Don’t go any closer! Now, are you being unloving? Absolutely not! In much the same way, God is doing that with the Ten Commandments. They are meant to grab your attention for our safety; to keep us from running over the cliff.
This morning, we’re going to look at the third command: You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name (Exodus 20:7, NLT). Most people think this command has to do with swearing – not taking God’s name in vain. But that only scratches the surface. At the core of this command is the habit of modeling integrity which we’re going to look at today. I want to look at three aspects of God’s name with you this morning: 1) What makes God’s name so important? 2) Ways we misuse God’s name and 3) How does God want us to use His name? What Makes God’s Name So Important?
I. It represents His person. God’s name represents His character, His personality. God is not some impersonal force like Star Wars that can’t be known. He is knowable and His name reveals what He is like. In Exodus 34 God calls Moses to go back up on the mountain to receive a second set of Commandments after the first set had been destroyed. (By the way, do you know who the greatest law breaker in the Bible is? Moses, he broke all Ten Commandments at once!). Before Moses went back up on the mountain, he asked God: If I have found favor in Your sight show me Your glory (Exodus 33:12-13). God’s response was I will Moses. Here’s how, I will proclaim My Name before you (Exodus 33:19). That is, God would show Moses His character. Exodus 34 tells us after God passed by Moses in His glory, Moses heard these words: The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 34:6-7, NAS). God’s name represents His character. He is knowable. Every name He gives for Himself in the Bible (Yahweh-Tsidkenu, Yahweh-Jireh, et al) reveals how He meets our deepest and greatest needs. He is the God who cares, loves, and provides. He is the God of relationship.
II. It reveals His power. In the movie: The Lion King, there’s a scene where a group of hyenas surround the two lion cubs in an elephant grave yard. The hyenas are taunting the cubs to call Mufasa, the king of the lions for help. Each time the hyenas hear Mufasa’s name they shudder in fear. Names have power, but there is one name that has more power than any other – God’s. There is power in the name of God. Just before David took the giant Goliath down with a sling, he declared: You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied (1 Samuel 17:45, NLT). Names have power. There is power in the name of Jesus Christ. The Bible says God gave His Son the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow (Philippians 2:9-10). When demons heard Jesus name they screeched and tore themselves from their victims. By the authority of Jesus name the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the deaf heard, the dead were raised. The power of Jesus’ name still heals sin broken lives today! There is power in the name of God!
III. It reserves His promise. God’s name holds a promise of either blessing or curse. You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name (Exodus 20:7). Circle the word “misuse” (נָשָׂא – nasaw). That’s a good translation of the Hebrew word used here. It means doing something in God’s name that bears a false witness of His character. It’s giving God’s character a blackeye. When people who claim to know God do evil in His name, they are doing damage to God’s character. One of the frequent arguments against God and Christianity has to do with evil done in His name. God’s name is so important that He promises if we misuse it, we will not go unpunished. Is God’s name important? Absolutely! It is so important it is in the top three of the Ten Commandments! Ways We Misuse God’s Name
I. Profanity. The word profane comes from two Latin words: pro – before and fane – temple, meaning: before the temple. It means cheapening God’s name to the lowest level; dragging it through the sewer. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you (Matthew 12:36-37). Long-time respected Bible teacher Jack Hayford tells of a time he and his family were on a family outing. They pulled into a gas station to get some gas. The attendant walked up to the car chewing on a toothpick. He greeted Jack warmly and began filling the tank. As he did, he looked down at the tires. You know, he told Jack, your G-D tire is about to blow. If it does, you and your family will have a wreck. If I were you, I’d get a new tire. Jack said: Could you take care of that? Sure can, came a toothpick chewing reply. While the man worked on the car, it seemed to Jack every other word was G-D this, G-D that. This G-D car and these G-D tires and those G-D highways.
Finally, Jack couldn’t take it anymore. Sir, I don’t want God to damn my car. I wish you wouldn’t say that. The man looked startled. Oh, he said, I’m sorry. Jack then said: You know, sir, you work with tires, and you spared my family from an accident – and I’m grateful. But I’m a pastor. I work with souls. And when I heard you talking like that, I thought, ‘He spared my family from disaster; I want to spare him from disaster.’ You need to know that using God’s name in vain is a very expensive thing. You can’t do it and not pay a price. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29).
II. Frivolity. This means using God’s name carelessly or lightly. Another name for this could be irreverence. Paul includes this idea when he writes: Let there be no . . . Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God (Ephesians 5:3-4). What is foolish talk? Offhanded phrases we say without thought: Oh, Lord. Or, statements we don’t really mean: God is good! It could even be something we hear a lot among believers: God bless you. We throw it out there, but don’t really mean it. We’re just offering a religious nicety. Or, let me get more to the point: songs we sing in worship. We sing the words but don’t take them seriously. That hits close to home! Bible scholar David Wells describes the problem this way: One of the defining marks of our time [is] that God is now weightless… He rests upon the world so inconsequentially as not to be noticeable. . . Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider Him less interesting than television, His commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, His judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, and His truth less compelling than the advertiser’s sweet fog of flattery and lies. If those of us who do know God fail to take His name serious, then how can we expect those that who don’t know Him to take His name serious?
III. Hypocrisy. (Jesus) On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws (Matthew 7:22-23). I don’t think anything turns our kids away from knowing and loving God than our own hypocrisy. Sometimes we think church on Sunday is the most important time to worship the Lord. But it’s not. Worshiping God is a way of life that is focused mainly on the home. Parents are the primary spiritual caretakers of their children. That makes the home the most important place for our kids to see the Lord at work in our lives. The opposite of hypocrisy is not perfection. None of us have arrived. The opposite of hypocrisy is genuineness. To profess to our kids that we know God but live a life that does not poses God smacks of independence rather than dependence. God says: How you treat My name shows what kind of relationship you have with Me. What are the ways we misuse God’s name? Profanity, frivolity, hypocrisy. How Does God Wants Us to Use His Name?
I. Reflect. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father (Colossians 3:17). Another way of saying this is: Think about the Lord Jesus in the right way. What we think determines what we say and do. Our thinking even affects our looks. One of my favorite lines from the Christian comedian Ken Davis is his comment that some Christians look so sour that they need to send a missionary to their face!
As believers we’ve been called to represent the greatest name there is – Jesus. Our looks should reflect Him. I’m not talking about representing His name at church, but the home. One of the number one places we need to work on our conduct and our speech is in the home. I cringe when I hear parents call their kids degrading names or treat them without respect. When children hear enough verbal abuse, they begin to reflect it in their looks.
Someone once asked Abraham Lincoln to meet a man. But Lincoln said: I don’t want to see him. But his friend protested: You don’t even know him. Lincoln replied: I don’t like his face. To this his friend responded: A man can’t be held responsible for his face. The president said: Any grown man is responsible for the look on his face. Lincoln was right. His own face is an example. Even though many might think he looked somewhat homely, his integrity and compassion transcended his basic appearance making him look noble.
II. Relate. When we enter a genuine relationship with God by turning from our sin and trusting His Son Jesus Christ as the One who died for our sins and purchased our forgiveness, God becomes our Heavenly Father. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). We can now call God, Abba, Father. The word Abba is Aramaic and is akin to a small child saying: Daddy. God’s word tells us the moment we trust Christ, God wants us to call Him Abba – Daddy. Why? Because we are now His forever children. I want to speak directly to fathers here.
One of the greatest needs of every human heart is to know and experience the unconditional love and acceptance of a father. I was reminded of this recently when I read about a little boy playing darts with his dad. He said to his father, “Dad, let’s play darts. I’ll throw, and you say, ‘Wonderful!’” I am more than convinced that one of the most essential preparations for launching children into successful adulthood is instilling in them the secure knowledge they are unconditionally loved and accepted by their father. And the most powerful way to do this is for our children to see our relationship with God. We treat His name with reverence and love.
III. Rely. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). The greatest way we can honor God’s name is to completely rely on Him. That’s what He wants us to do. Have you ever wondered why we pray: In Jesus’ Name? Because we don’t have a right to come to God on our own. God is perfect and holy and you’re not. Only a perfect person can come into the presence of God. I don’t have any right on my own to come to God. But through Christ I can. He’s our bridge to God. God promises us that through Christ He will take care of all our needs. It also means we’re praying according to the character of Jesus. Does what we’re asking agree with the character and will of Jesus?
Here’s the bad news though. Jesus said we will be held accountable for every idle word. This includes using God’s name in profanity, frivolously, or hypocritically. The good news is there’s a way to avoid God’s judgment. How? By trusting in the name of Jesus Christ. The Bible says: There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). That’s what you need. We’ve all broken God’s commandment and it means we’re doomed unless we completely rely on Jesus Christ for God’s forgiveness.
Did you ever have your mouth washed with soap as a kid for cussing? I did. Did washing out my mouth change me? No. The problem was not my mouth, but my heart. Whatever is on the inside is eventually going to come out. If I’m filled with anxiety and stress. Anxiety and stress are going to come out. If I’m filled with fear and hatred. Fear and hatred are going to come out. It’s like squeezing a tube of toothpaste. When I’m filled with my Heavenly Father’s love, peace, and forgiveness – that’s what is going to come out. How we talk reveals what’s really going on in the heart. Dishonoring God’s name is a symptom of a heart that is not at peace. Only Christ, the Prince of Peace, can give you the peace you long for.