Why you Must Worship God His Way!

Could you be taking God's name in vain?

Here's an in-depth look at the neglected Third Commandment.

by Paul Kroll

Home Page www.british-israel.ca

Could anything be more important than properly worshiping God and receiving His blessings?

The apostle Paul tells us, "He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews11:6).

God rewards those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Certainly, we would all want to be rewarded by God and be pleasing in His sight. How, then, should we worship God?

The Third Commandment shows the way. It says: "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).

Understanding and following this commandment would totally transform the world!

The way to worship God

The first four of the Ten Commandments show us how to properly worship our Creator. (The last six show us how to love our fellowman.)

The First Commandment tells us we are not to worship any other gods (verse 3). This would include anything that we might trust in and love more than God, such as wealth or family.

The Second Commandment instructs us not to use any kind of image in our worship (verses 46).

The Fourth Commandment says we should keep the Sabbath holy so that we do not forget God is the Creator of all that exists (verses 8-11).

The Third Commandment directs us to avoid the false worship of God. But what does it mean to take God's name "in vain"? Here are several synonyms for vain: futile, useless, of no value, of no effect, to no purpose. We are not to take or use God's name in a way that is useless or doesn't bring the right or intended result.

Now, what does it mean to "take God's name" in a futile manner? Certainly it means, in part, that we are not to curse using God's name.

While the children of Israel were in the wilderness, a certain Israelite blasphemed God's name. The Eternal told Moses this person should be stoned: "When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death" (Leviticus 24:10-16).

Using God's name phonetically in cursing or oaths is a serious offense. But the Third Commandment goes far beyond being a command against phonetic infractions against God's name.

When a person takes, calls upon or invokes God's name, that person is claiming to follow, to rely on and to worship God. To use God's name in vain is to worship Him in a useless manner, in a way contrary to His instruction.

To use God's name in vain is to worship God according to our own ideas.

False worship is actually a thoughtless attempt to recreate God in our own image. This contradicts the very heart of God's purpose for us, which is to recreate us in His image-to recreate His thought process within our minds.

People today claim to worship the true God of the Bible. The problem is that these people worship as they think best. That's why there are so many varying sects and denominations in Christendom. But worshiping God the way we think we should, instead of the way He commands us to, is taking God's name in vain!

Only one nation knew God

The true God revealed Himself to only one nation, ancient Israel. He told Israel exactly how He was to be worshiped, in the first five books of the Bible.

In spite of the knowledge Israel had, they refused to worship God in the manner He prescribed for them. The people took or used His name, but worshiped Him according to the rules they set down. God roundly condemned their manner of false worship: "Hear this, 0 house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel ... who swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth or in righteousness" (Isaiah 48:1).

God told the Israelites: "Do not learn the way of the Gentiles ... For the customs of the peoples are futile [or vain]" (Jeremiah 10:2-3). But they wouldn't listen. They began to adopt pagan customs and worship as the heathen did, in a completely vain and useless manner.

The problem of vain worship was not limited to ancient Israel. Embedded in the psyche of every human is a built-in antagonism to the true God: "The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7).

Rise of false religion

We read that, during the days of Enoch, "Men began to call on the name of the Lord" (Genesis 4:26). This verse has been translated as "men began to call themselves by" God's name or "began to proclaim his name." While the exact meaning may be a bit uncertain, the point is clear.

Humans began using God's name by claiming to worship Him. On the surface, it might have seemed like the beginning of a noble religious revival. But this worship was useless because the actions did not coincide with the standards God demands.

At the time men were calling on or worshiping God, they were also sinning or transgressing His law (I John 3:4, Romans 3:23). We read the following about conditions in the pre-Flood world: "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). And again: "God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth" (verse 12).

Here were "God-fearing" people worshiping the Eternal-but in a vain manner. If they had truly worshiped God, the Flood would never have occurred!

Strange as it may seem, it's quite possible to fear and worship God and yet do it all in vain. The book of II Kings records two apparently contradictory points about the people brought into Palestine by the king of Assyria. "They do not fear the Lord" (II Kings 17:34) and "These nations feared the Lord" (verse 41). How can one fear and not fear God at the same time?

At First, these heathen worshipped their own gods in the land of Israel. But wild Lions ravaged them. The people thought this tragedy had befallen them because they didn't worship the God who supposedly was in the area. So they sent to the king of Assyria, saying, "The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land" (verse 26).

Strange as it may seem,

it is quite

possible to fear

and worship

God-and yet do it all in
vain!

They asked that someone be sent to instruct them in the mode of worship of the people who had previously lived in the land. That would have been the people of Israel, who had always worshiped idols and false gods. Their worship had always been completely in vain (verses 7-18).

An Israelitish priest was sent to teach these peoples "the rituals of the God of the land." So they learned certain modes of worship in which they invoked the true God's name. Obviously, they would not have learned to worship God in a pleasing way from priests who had not obeyed Him in the first place.

The outcome was not surprising: "Every nation continued to make gods of its own ... They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods-according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the lord, nor do they follow ... the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded" (verses 29-34).

The bizarre conclusion was that "these nations feared the Lord, yet served their carved images" (verse 41). They feared the true God and began to take and use His name in worship. However, they didn't really fear or respect God because they worshiped Him according to their own ideas. In effect, their worship was vain or useless.

Now someone might reason, "These were heathen who worshiped wood and stone, people who didn't know the true God or have His Word, the Bible. Surely Christians couldn't worship God in vain, could they?" The answer is yes, they could!

False worship of the Pharisees

In Jesus' day, the Pharisees claimed to follow God's law. They were so zealous in their worship of God that they even added their own oral precepts and traditions to His written law. If anyone worshiped God correctly, it certainly would have seemed the Pharisees did.

In fact, however, the Pharisees widely missed the mark of the Third Commandment and became metaphors for misguided zeal. Jesus said the Pharisees were worshiping God in a futile manner. He quoted Isaiah 29:13 to them: "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."

Then Jesus added, speaking directly to them: "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men ... All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition" (Mark 7:6-9).

We mustn't assume the Pharisees rejected God's law. On the contrary, they were its most vociferous exponents. But their interpretation of the law was off base. The Pharisees' manner of worship contradicted God's intent and distorted the law, which expresses God's mind.

When Jesus warned the Pharisees and scribes that they worshiped God in vain by substituting their own traditions for the intent of God's Word, He was telling them they were breaking the Third Commandment.

Not enough to call on God's name

Jesus also warned against worshiping the true God with false religious practices. He told His disciples: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, `Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' " (Matthew 7:21-23)

Consider what this means. It is possible to worship Jesus, to work for Him, to proclaim His Gospel, and yet do it all in vain! A person may actually accept the truth of God and be zealous for it-and still do so in a useless manner.

But how?

In I Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul said one could have all faith, give all his goods to the poor, even give his or her body to be burned for some Christian cause. But if these actions were not done through the love of God working in that human mind, "It profits ... nothing."

False worship in end time

Jesus warned in Matthew 24:5 that worshiping God in vain would be a special end-time problem. Many individuals would worship Jesus, stand up and proclaim His name, and many others would follow. Both proclaimers and followers would believe they were worshiping the true God. But both would be deceived.

In fact, these people would persecute Christ's true followers, thinking they were worshiping God (John 16:2-3). Zealousness

for God in and of itself does not necessarily mean a person is worshiping God in spirit and in truth. The apostle Paul, before his conversion, was a prime example of this paradox.

The life of Paul

As a Pharisee, Saul (later called Paul) was a paragon of human zeal for God (Philippians 3:4-6). We read in Acts 8:3: "He made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison."

Saul thought he was worshiping God. But it was all in vain. He had to be struck down, humbled and changed in heart through the power of the mind of Jesus working in him. Then and only then did his spiritual works count.

Paul realized how vain his past worship had been: "Although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man ... I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief" (I Timothy 1:13).

Paul warned, through inspiration of God's spirit, that the end time would see a resurgence of worshiping God in vain. He told Timothy, "Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come" (II Timothy 3:1). People would exhibit "a form of godliness but denying its power" (verse 5).

On the surface, it would not always be apparent that this vain or useless worship was really disobedience to God.

Paul explained why when he described those who falsely worshiped God: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness" (II Corinthians 11:13-15).

Such people might even use the terminology of the Bible and uphold the cultural traditions associated with Christianity. They certainly invoke the name of Jesus and God. But their worship is false and in vain!

False spiritual veneer

The works of useless worship may not always appear to be vain. That's why the Bible constantly warns against deception from others, and about self-deception.

A person will not escape the allure of deception unless the very spirit of truth from God is operating within his or her mind.

Those few who truly live their lives by the power of God will discern true from false or vain worship. Jesus said of those days, "Then if anyone says to you, `Look, here is the Christ!' or `There!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:23-24).

But the elect will not be deceived. They will recognize true worship from false. But not by intellect nor through human understanding. Neither will circumstances always make the right choice evident. The holy spirit in their minds will lead them to worship God in truth, and will discern for them those others who are doing the same.

Jesus put it this way: "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers" (John 10:4-5).

What you must do

In the coming years, it may become increasingly difficult to sort out true worship from false. Only one force will save humans-you included-from worshiping God in vain and being deceived by those who do.

It will be the spirit of God, given to those whom God has specially called (John 6:44, Acts 5:32)! They will have taken the steps to obey Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23), and will have asked for His holy spirit (Luke 11:13).