This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain

This week I want to deal with a specific one of the Ten Commandments - taking the Lord's name in vain. I am going to be taking this from a unique perspective, because although a lot of space has been devoted to cussing, etc., over the years, there is a more familiar, insidious way the Lord's name has been taken in vain over the years, one that many people (sadly even Christians) don't seem to realize. Actually, it has two parts, and those we will focus on.

To start, we go to Matthew 21. Jesus has just ridden into Jerusalem on the donkey, and after all the initial fanfare (keep that in mind also, as it is part of this too!) He goes to the Temple. Matthew 21:12 says He cast out the moneychangers - people who were selling all manner of things, from sacrifices to trinkets - and He strongly condemns these practices in verse 13 by saying "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it into a den of thieves!" Now it is time to begin some strong teaching here! How many of you, in this day and age, have entered these big megachurches and encountered an atmosphere similar to a mini-mall? My first experience with that came in 1992 in Anaheim, CA, when I visited a very well-known charismatic megachurch, and within the foyer of this church there were coffeeshops, bookstores, and all sorts of other stuff - anything you wanted, from trinkets to T-shirts, from Bibles to booties - was sold in this atmosphere. It was also Sunday night when I visited this particular church, and instead of the worship of God, the whole place had the atmosphere of a flea market - no holiness, no reverence, nothing! Not even 10 years later, I started seeing the same thing in "megachurches" here in Florida as well, and it is pretty commonplace now. However, although churches have been building shopping centers in their sanctuaries, at the same time spirituality has been deficient - the average books now on the market have little to do with spiritual things, but are rather glorified psychology and self-help books with a "Jesus" thrown in for good measure. In case you are wondering how this is taking the Lord's name in vain, I will tell you - Jesus is not a sales pitch; He is our Lord and Savior, and He died a very violent death to give us a totally free gift of eternal life and salvation. Therefore, when you have hucksters trying to "tap into the Christian market," in a sense those are the modern-day moneychangers, defiling that which is holy, and thus taking the Lord's name in vain. Now, let me say I do not condone cursing and foul language, but I have to say I can deal with that better than I can with those taking the Lord's name in vain by using it to make a buck. There is now - well, it has been around for a while now - this fad called "WWJD" (what would Jesus do?) that has also created a lot of lucrative business for people who use the religious angle to make a quick buck, and although there are some professing but theologically illiterate Christians that think that stuff is the proverbial "bee's knees," in reality it is also taking the Lord's name in vain, and thus an abomination. My word to those who are sincerely following Christ; do not buy that junk, and to answer the WWJD question about it, let me say that He would probably repeat what he did in Matthew 21:12-13 by throwing that garbage out of churches and horsewhipping those who are taking advantage of the marketing angle with it. Honestly, I would hand Him the whip to do it too - these people need some sense knocked into them! So, as for WWJD, He would probably incinerate every piece of cheap junk that has WWJD on it. Something for you all to think about, isn't it?

Related to this is another way that people often take the Lord's name in vain, and that is through false praise. When Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey on Palm Sunday, many people yelled "Hosanna" at Him and threw palm branches in His path; a mere 6 days later some of those same people were calling for His blood and crucifixion. What was true then is true today - churches are filled with people who are fluent in "Christianese" but deficient in spiritual maturity. Some use the name of Jesus flippantly without knowing Him personally. They wave their hands around, dance jigs in the church aisles, speak in tongues - they really have it down to a science, I give them credit for that! - but their heart is far from God and they do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. My good friend Perry Stone, in a teaching on his "Manna Fest" program, spoke about this to a degree also when he did a teaching on the parable of the wheat and tares; I will not steal his thunder (watch the teaching on his website and hear it for yourself! www.perrystone.org) bu essentially he said the tares and wheat look the same until the harvest, and then the tare looks different. And, tares were considered toxic too, because they produced a fungus that could contaminate the wheat and make people sick if they found their way into the millstone for grinding. In the latter days, as the harvest approaches, there are indeed many tares in the wheatfield, and many will have done their damage to good wheat already. Look at the general attitude of many church people today, and you will see that for yourself. Jesus Himself said, in the Biblical text, that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven. We must remember, even Satan believes Christ exists, so that is not the measuring-rod of our salvation. Rather, we are saved by our faith in God's grace, and that grace is conveyed in the ultimate act of love of God for humanity - He gave Himself to die for our sins, and if we believe He did that, truly repent, and accept Him as our Lord and Savior, then we become born again and are on the pilgrim road of salvation. Anything else is a doctrine of demons, and we are to reject and condemn it.

That being said, I know some reading this are going to accuse me of judging, and those individuals love to throw around Matthew 7:1, which of course says "judge not, lest ye be judged." No, it is not our place to judge, and perfection is not a badge of salvation - a sincere spirit is. None of us are perfect, and I don't think that anyone who truly serves Christ expects anyone to be. However, the overlooked part of this is spiritual growth. Many who freely bandy about the "judge not" verse (they also take the Lord's Word in vain, as they quote it out of context to justify themselves) have erroneously embraced a Calvinistic principle that says once they are saved, there's nothing more to the Christian life; no change is required, you can be free to enjoy even the worst things of the world as long as "Jesus" is in them, and that is all you have to do; all that is next is you blissfully die and go to heaven. That attitude is a result of poor discipleship, and is part of this new trend in churches that more or less sanctifies sin while demoting Christian living - it is called "seeker-sensitive church," and it is the worst attack the enemy has launched against the Church in all its existence. In the past, a great deal of effort was invested by godly pastors to instill into their people a desire to seek the Lord with all their heart through prayer, fasting, and staying in the Word. Pastors then were truly called - many have weeped and anguished over their people, and some have even "stood in the gap" and literally battled demons for their souls. You hear little of that today, because unfortunately church has become a big fun-house, and to even mention such things will often risk getting you called a "freak," a "legalist," or a "Bible Belt fundamentalist looney" or perhaps the biggest insult (in their eyes anyway) of being accused of being "bound by tradition." There are too many professing Christians who, in recent generations, have decided they know more than the Lord Himself, and thus they have created a new "Church" in a sense. However, if you read Scripture, this is NOT a "Church" you will want to be part of - it is the latter day church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-17) that will in time morph into "Mystery Babylon" (Revelation 17:3-6), an evil system that will, in the latter day, persecute the Remnant. We already see that happening to a degree, as those who stand for the Truth are often viciously persecuted by those professing to be Christians because simply put, the latter are Christians in name only; they follow their carnal desires, do whatever they want because they feel like somehow they are immune from God's laws, and they have no conviction regarding what they do because the Holy Spirit doesn't dwell in them. These are people who take the Lord's name in vain - they openly say all the right things, but their hearts are not right. One day, many of those same people, should they be alive, will proudly wear the mark of their own damnation upon their hands when the Antichrist demands their worship. Many will be so ignorant and deceived that they will even believe the Antichrist to be Christ. There are many pieces of "religious" literature, much of it selling millions of copies and paying for expensive perks for its authors, and there are many so-called "Christian rock" music groups promoting the same message, out there today deceiving people by the millions. It is heartbreaking, but not to be totally unexpected - tares are abundant in the wheatfield today, and are infecting the wheat with the fungus of unrighteousness. It is becoming harder and harder, without the true discernment of the Holy Spirit, to tell the difference (the Bible says even the very elect will be deceived - II Timothy 3 is an entire chapter that deals with this, so I encourage you to read it for yourselves), which is why we need to be suited up with the "Armor" of Ephesians 6 more so than ever. It is important that we know our faith, know the Word of God, and even more grassroots, know how to discern spirits in the Body of Christ. If we are caught with our guard down, we risk deception ourselves, and this day and age is a prime growing season for tares for some reason. That being said, let us be careful to understand that not everyone who throws the name of Jesus around so flippantly is of God - as a matter of fact, they take His name in vain.

I know this week's lesson was maybe a little harsh, but it is a dose of strong medicine the Body of Christ needs today, because there is much impurity in the Church that needs cleansed. Jesus promised in His word that He would return for a Church "without spot or wrinkle," (Ephesians 5:27) and the only way that can happen is to be truly purified by His Blood, shed for our sins. Many "seeker-friendly" and "purpose-driven" fads and fashions are floating around in Christian bookstores, and loud "Contemporary Christian Music" stations blare the name of a "Jesus" who is not the Jesus of the Bible. They do this not because they are led by the Holy Spirit to bring your soul to Christ to be born again by His blood, but rather they do it because they want to baptize their respective bank accounts with lots of green paper with dead Presidential portraits on it. They will not love you, talk to you, nor do they even care that you may really need Christ in your life - to them, all that is of concern is how much dough you pay for a book, CD, or concert ticket. Come out and be ye separate from them as Scripture commands, and seek the true Christ, the One Lord and Savior who died for your sins. You are better than all that garbage, and God wants to restore you to what He intended for you to be, yet sin stains us. Therefore, if you are one of those people who has come to realize that "Self-help" books and guides to living a "Purpose-Driven Life" prove meaningless, then receive the true Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. And, feel free to write if you need prayer for this decision, because the days are short and you may not have the opportunity to do so again.

God be with you all, and I will be back next week with another fresh teaching from God's Word.