Tuesday, July 27, 2010

False Advertising

Growing up, I never swore or cursed.  Raised Catholic, I was all too familiar with the Ten Commandments.  To me, breaking the third commandment was just as bad as breaking the sixth.  Let's assume I was lucky enough to be behind you at the Wal-Mart 10 items or less lane.  For me to mumble "Jesus Christ"; while you paid for your 23 groceries items with food stamps,  paid for your beer with a check, and talked on your IPhone, would be no worse than beating you to death with the register.

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

What does is it really mean to "take" God's name in vain? Interestingly, it has nothing to do with speaking, much less cursing.  The word 'take' in this verse has the same meaning when describing someone who "can't take it anymore."  The Hebrew word used is nasa'.  The word means to lift, bear, carry, or take.

So does the third commandment forbid lifting or carrying large billboards that spell "JESUS"?  The Hebrew word for 'name' is shem.  In English, I would say my name (shem) is Steven.  In our Western mind, my name has nothing to do with my nature.  It doesn't describe me, it just identifies what I am called.  If you wanted to describe me, you would be describing my character.  In Hebrew, the word for 'character' is the same word, 'shem'.  It carries the same meaning as used in the idiom, "make a name for oneself."

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14

In Biblical times, a name wasn't just something on your driver's license.  It was the essence of who you were.  Your name was a word picture of your character.  The third commandment wasn't about using God's name inappropriately.  It forbade carrying the character of God in vain.  The word for vain in Hebrew is the word 'shav', and it simply means fruitless, useless, or nothingness. So what does it mean to carry God's character FOR NOTHING?

Let's assume I was participating in a rescue mission tasked with bringing food and water to some folks lost in the mountains.  After traveling 5 miles, they are now in my sights.  Just before reaching them, I carelessly trip over my own feet and lose all of the water and food down the side of of a cliff.  From everyone's perspective, I hiked 5 miles for nothing.  In the end, it was fruitless and useless.  My intentions were good, but my actions during the home stretch wiped it all away.

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! Revelation 3:15-16

What happens when you combine Christ-like "talk" with a secular "walk"?  If I was to pour boiling hot water into a pot of ice cold water, it would cease to be either.  Have you ever met a Christian whose walk didn't represent their talk; or how about their talk not lining up with their walk.  One of the most important jobs of a Christian is to "protect your cargo."  The Bible teaches that a Christian is the "temple" of God's spirit.  We are the carriage that carries the King.  We are called His vessels.  We are ambassador's of Christ sent out to "carry" His "name" into the nations.  How fruitless would it be to drop our cargo just as we arrived?  Have you ever gotten to know a Christian only to discover they were much more appealing when you only saw them once a week?

In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” And immediately the fig tree withered up.  Matthew 21:18:19

To understand this verse, we have to have to understand fig tree growth in first century Jerusalem.  There is an important relationship between leaves and fruit on fig trees.  Figs appear at the same with leaves.  As Jesus approached the leafy fig tree, he had no reason NOT to believe he would find fruit.  From the perspective of a "hungry" Jesus, the fruitless tree was useless.  It would be like hanging a piƱata for bunch of excited kids only to discover that it was empty.  How cruel is that?

Remember how important names are in Jewish culture?  Well the Greek city of Antioch had a name for these people telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.  They decided to call them "Christians".  You see, back then, they would call YOU that.  Today, we assign it to ourselves.  On some days, we need references.

However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles about the Lord Jesus. The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord  Acts 11:20-21

.......It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians. Act 11:26