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.***