God d—it! doing stuff in vain


in vain:  producing no result; ineffectual; useless



It’s long troubled me that we’ve understood “taking the Lord’s name in vain” as giving God a last name that rhymes with gamut.*  Not that I’m in favor of using God’s name as an obscenity (or of frequently asking him to damn things**).  It’s just that there’s so much more to the third commandment than a forbiddance to use the big GD — or his little brother, gosh.

Which is worse?  

  • A hammer-to-my-thumb-induced profanity OR referring to myself as a Christian, while living exactly like everyone around me?
  • Yelling “Jesus Christ!” every time something amazing happens (without genuinely believing these are miracles, I suppose) OR showing my church bulletin to get a discount at Sunday lunch, while having no patience with, or compassion on, the waitress (and not much tip for her, either)?
  • Getting so up in arms about a football game that I’m yelling God’s name at 18-year old kids on television OR getting so up in arms about a football game that I’m yelling anything at 18-year olds on television?

nominal Christianity: taking Christ’s name in vain;
calling oneself a Christian, while looking no more like Christ than before;
claiming God as king, while not acting as a loyal citizen of his Kingdom



I’ve been asking myself lately if nominal Christianity is indeed Christianity at all?

This morning I was reading in the Corinthian letters.  Paul is writing in 1 Corinthians 15 about the gospel which he preached to those in Corinth, and he explains in verse 2:

“By this gospel you are saved, IF you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise you have believed in vain.”  (capital if, bolds, and italics mine)

There’s a lot more to Christianity than believing in Jesus Christ.  And it’s entirely possible to have a useless and ineffectual belief in Christ.

“As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.”  2 Corinthians 6:1

There seems to be more to Christianity even than receiving God’s grace.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not arguing for a works-based salvation.  But I very much am arguing for salvation-based works.  I’m not suggesting man can merit his own righteousness — but I very much am suggesting God intends to make us righteous after calling us as much.  

When we take Christ’s name as our own, his attitudes and actions should follow close behind.  The Spirit of God living in us should produce a change.  

When I believed God was Lord, accepted his grace and mercy, and was baptized, I clothed myself with Christ.  Don’t tell me I got dressed for nothing.***


* There are so very few words in the English language which rhyme with the obscenity conjunction of
damn and it.  I kind of feel sorry for all the poets who I’m sure get stuck with that word at the end of a sentence.  If I were writing poetry and felt the need to include such strong language, I suppose I’d make sure it came at the beginning of a line.  That would also probably be good for effect.  
** Oh, the incredible power of the tiny, little comma.  [ie. “God, damn it.” — no longer a cuss word, but an appeal to the Lord to condemn to hell whatever inanimate object with which the speaker is currently dissatisfied.]  For more on commas, see my favorite animals, the oxford comma and you.
*** Me: not a fan of putting clothes on in vain.

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8 Comments

Filed under musings on the Word, obedience

8 responses to “God d—it! doing stuff in vain

  1. Good stuff Brett. While I despise hearing God’s name in the way you mention, I also despise-maybe even more so-the use of His Name invoked by those who have no intention of living for Him or as a passing thing in an award show. I have got to believe that when someone says they want to thank God for the junk they did, God has to be up there saying, “Hey, don’t blame me for that!” So important to be holy. Good to hear from you again.

    • thanks, bill. it’s odd that God can be both so popular and so unpopular in the same culture at the same time. everybody wants to thank God in the award show you’re talking about or after a sporting event. but he’s not so popular elsewhere it seems….

      • Jason

        Of course, that is civil religion, not actually anything to do with Christianity. You use the right vocabulary and let everyone fill in the blanks themselves.

        On your topic, however, what about changing the moment into a chance to bless. Is it possible (you’ve heard me try) to do this? Or is it just a misguided side-stepping in your opinion….

  2. John

    I’m not arguing for a works-based salvation. But I very much am arguing for salvation-based works. HEY BROTHER BRETT. WHAT WOULD THIS LOOK LIKE? IS IT JUST “BEING” THE WORKMANSHIP HE HAS MADE US, LEAKING OR DOING THE WORKS HE PREPARED IN ADVANCE FOR ME TO BE AND DO? OR IS IT STRIVING AND HOPING I HAVE DONE ENOUGH OR DONE IT GOOD ENOUGH – THE THINGS THAT WE ATTRIBUTE TO “FAITHFUL” FOLKS?

    I’m not suggesting man can merit his own righteousness — but I very much am suggesting God intends to make us righteous after calling us as much. IS IT A MATTER OF MAKING US RIGHTEOUS OR THE PROCESS OF SANCTIFICATION – MAKING US LOOK MORE LIKE CHRIST? SINCE WE ARE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD ALREADY, MAYBE IT IS THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT IN US MAKING US LOOK MORE LIKE JESUS.

    There seems to be more to Christianity even than receiving God’s grace. I WONDER, WHAT COULD BE OUTSIDE OF GRACE? IF YOU LOOK AT GRACE THE WAY WE HAVE TRADITIONALLY LOOKED AT IT – FORGIVENESS OF SIN – I AGREE WITH YOU. BUT, IF YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT GOD’S AMAZING GRACE THAT GIVES US LIFE, SUSTAINS US, DELIVERS US, HEALS US, EMPOWERS US, GIVES US EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING, THAT GIVES US ALL THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, THAT GIVES ME THE ABILITY TO DO THE WORK HE HAS CALLED ME TO DO, AND THE LIST GOES ON, THE ANSWER I COME UP TO IN MY WALK TODAY IS, IT ALL COMES FROM GRACE. THE ONLY THING I CAN THINK OF OUTSIDE OF GRACE IS – MAN’S STRIVING TO ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING ON HIS OWN. THIS COULD VERY WELL BE MAN SAYING AND DOING THINGS IN VAIN. Just one of your old brothers keeping you sharp. I love you brother and pray God’s richest and most amazing grace in you and for your living!!

  3. Brett! (I couldn’t find your email address, and I have a question, sorry for invading your blog comments) Do you know the name of the book you had at your house about reading body language? I think it had a blue cover.

  4. Ike

    Romans 11:20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. Paul is speaking of the Jews in contrast to the Roman Christians. This is one of those important Scriptures that help us balance our view of eternal security with the need to believe. Christians are told to fear because there is potential that God will not spare us who have believed. According to v. 22 we experience God’s kindness, rather than His severity, provided that we “continue in his kindness. Otherwise [we] too will be cut off.” How are we eternally secure, then? We are eternal secure because God works in His true believers so they believe such warnings and “continue in his kindess.” Eternally secure believers are not eternally secure because they believed once; we are eternally secure because we continue to stand fast through faith by the grace of God. This is a way to believe in eternally security without watering down these warnings.

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