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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:A Name to Use with Fear and Reverence
Text:LD 36 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 3rd Commandment (God's name)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 8:1,2                                                                                                 

Hy 2:1,2,3

Reading – Psalm 20; Matthew 10:27-33

Ps 20:1,2,3,4

Sermon – Lord’s Day 36

Ps 145:1,2

Hy 23:1,4,5,6

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved, whenever we listen to God’s law, we could compare it to a checklist. Picture a list of the commandments, and beside each commandment is a little box. Have we kept this rule? No? Then we put down an X. Have we kept this rule? Then we give ourselves a checkmark.

Beside the first commandment, for instance, we’d have to put an X: “You shall have no other gods before me.” For we’re all proficient at idol-making. If anyone here looked honestly at their life, he or she would find a closet-full of idols. We place far too much importance on our physical appearance, or on our home, or the approval of others, or career success, or on four-wheel driving, or even on our family.

Beside the second commandment, we’d have to mark another X. For our worship of God isn’t always pure. When it comes worship and church life, we sometimes serve God on our own terms, in a way that suits us. If we skip ahead to the other commandments, we find more X’s to mark our disobedience. Fourth commandment: broken, by our distracted hearts and minds during Sunday worship. Fifth commandment: broken, by our lack of respect for the civil government, or for our parents. Sixth, seventh, eighth commandments: broken by nasty words, lustful thoughts, greedy desires. Right to the very bottom of the list, we haven’t done well at all.

Backing up, what about Commandment #3? “You shall not take the Name of the LORD your God in vain.” We hesitate: have we done all right here? Especially when we read this Lord’s Day again, we think: “Now, that’s not so much of a problem for us.” For it talks about blaspheming or abusing God’s name by “cursing, perjury, and unnecessary oaths.” Those are things we just don’t do. Calling down God’s wrath, breaking our oath, letting slip an ‘Oh my God’—we just don’t do that. Perhaps we can fill in that box with humble checkmark…

But God’s law is always about much more than refraining from obviously wicked actions. It’s not just about NOT killing, NOT committing adultery, NOT stealing—the law is also about actively seeking our neighbor’s good, and being Christ-like in marriage, and erring on the side of generosity. So for the third commandment: we could say that we’ve obeyed it in some respects, yet we’ve still got work to do. For God wants us to constantly put his Name to good use, to speak it rightly. This is our theme for Lord’s Day 36,

Let us use the holy name of God with fear and reverence:

  1. rightly confessing Him
  2. calling upon Him
  3. praising Him with our words and works


1) rightly confessing him: When we speak of “confessing” the name of God, our thoughts turn to the confession of faith we make every Sunday. We sing Hymn 1 or Hymn 2. We read the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed. That’s our confession, because we know: “With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Rom 10:10).

Or ‘confessing’ makes us think of the special occasion every year when young people make a public profession of faith. They stand at the front to affirm that they believe in the Word of God as summarized in the confessions, and that they desire to serve Jesus Christ as their Lord. That’s another confession.

Both these kinds of confessions are very good and very worthwhile. They bring glory to God’s name, because his people are recognizing him and expressing confidence in him as LORD. Yet we should understand ‘confession’ of God more broadly. Our confession of his holy name should be more frequent than what occurs in a worship service once per week, or on a special occasion once per year—or indeed, only once in our lifetime!

For to confess God is really to acknowledge the importance of God in your life. Confessing him means that we’re open about the fact that we have a relationship with the Lord, and that we care about this relationship. It is to ‘show and tell’ that you’re committed to God. We do that by our songs and worship. We also do it by our conversations and our conduct.

How do we know that God wants us to confess his name, and broadcast it widely? God has told us He wants this! The Scriptures are full of God’s children making a confession of his glory. Like David does in Psalm 40:9-10, “I proclaim your righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you, O LORD, do know. I have not covered up your righteousness in my heart; I have declared your faithfulness and salvation; I have not concealed your loving devotion and faithfulness from the great assembly.” Not hiding it under a basket, not concealing it modestly, David wants to share God’s name, to speak it aloud, to pour out his good confession.

For our God isn’t just the God of Sundays. He’s not merely the God of formal worship or carefully crafted creeds. God is the glorious One who has revealed himself, given us a stunning glimpse of his character and capability, who has even told us his holy name as Saviour and Lord.

That’s actually the miracle of it, that we’re even allowed to know the LORD. When we fell into sin through our first parents, we forfeited our right and holy knowledge of the Lord. That should’ve been the end. God certainly didn’t have to shine into the darkness, but He did, and He told us about his saving plan. And then He came near again and again, sharing his covenant name, revealing his glory.

God did all this because God wants to be recognized: He delights to be known, and loved, and confessed! That’s the positive duty here, that we not only refrain from tarnishing his glory, but—much more—that we see his glory clearly, and speak of it openly.

Our confession of God’s name can be simple—sometimes simplest is best. Like when we’re standing in the beauty of God’s creation: we gaze up at the radiant moon, we marvel at the driving rain, we stop and listen awhile to the birds’ cheerful song. We take in these things, and we confess, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. You have set your glory above the heavens” (Ps 8:1). We confess God’s name, and the works of his hands.

There is more to our good confession. For God also reveals himself as the generous provider, the overflowing fountain of all good. It is right that we confess that. Surveying everything you possess, tucking into another meal, receiving your monthly pay, this should be your confession: “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it” (Ps 24:1). Sounds simple, seems obvious, yet so vital. Making that confession just might help you remember not to rely on yourself so much. It might help you not to take what you have for granted. And it’s a confession that gives God the glory that He deserves.

And what more is God doing in your life? Think about how He’s leading you. How He’s teaching you through the trials He sends. The third commandment calls us to confess these things, to gratefully acknowledge how the Father is involved with our lives at every moment. “I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.’ My times are in your hands” (Ps 31:14-15). That’s a good confession—that’s a confession for every day.

God has shown us the glory of his great name. And He is near and gracious. But don’t we still have a hard time to talk about him? We can talk about a lot besides God: about the weather, our work, upcoming holidays. So why don’t we speak his name, whether that’s to our work colleagues or neighbours, or even to our fellow believers? Maybe we’re scared of a bad reaction, like being laughed at. We fear sounding foolish. We hate to open ourselves up too much or say something that could be taken the wrong way. A child of God knows his name and his great works yet can hesitate to speak about him—we hang back with our confession.

So there is a good encouragement for us in Matthew 10. Jesus said it to the disciples in their special task, but it applies equally to us as prophets for the Lord, who are called to confess him. Jesus said, “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in your ear, preach on the housetops (v 27). Tell what you know. “Make mention that God’s name is exalted” (Isa 12:4). Then Jesus urges the same thing, and gives his promise: “Whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven” (v 32).

We should confess him, because, when you think about it, we have so much to say. Tell how God has been faithful to you. Speak of the joy He has brought you. Share your desire to serve the Lord. Acknowledge his mercies and goodness in Christ.

Our words about God don’t have to be eloquent or high-sounding. For God knows what’s behind our words; He knows the hearts that confess him. And what God desires, more than anything, is a heart that finds security in him.

In the words of Psalm 20, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (v 7). We remember God’s name: there’s an ongoing remembrance of what God says and who God is. We call it to mind again and again, and we believe, and we confess. The good things God has done for us, we acknowledge to others, and we acknowledge to God. As it says in Hebrews 13:5, “Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.”

When faith is living, this kind of confession becomes more natural. Faith in God fills the hearts of those who trust in him, and then overflows into our words, into worship, into our life, and into our prayers.


2) calling upon him: “Call upon me in the day of trouble,” God promises, and “I will deliver you” (Ps 50:15). That’s a powerful statement of God’s love for his children, for He tells us that He is only a prayer away. Our Father is only a few simple words from coming near in our times of need and helping us. ‘Call upon me!’

We’re used to that idea, of course. We know about prayer. Yet we should hold up this precious gift for moment, to think about how we can actually turn to God, be heard, and even answered. Because not only has God revealed himself to mankind, spoken into the darkness and announced that He is the one who made heaven and earth, the God who is eternal and infinite and unchanging. In itself, we said, that is an amazing gift: to know God. But now for us to pray to this God—to humbly speak with him on his heavenly throne—that is something even more marvelous! God says, ‘Call on my name, and I will answer.’

Comparisons can be dangerous, but maybe compare it to knowing the President of the United States. Of course, we all know of him. We recognize the President as the most powerful man in the world. We’ve seen video clips of his massive aircraft carriers and many fighter jets. His opinion carries great weight with millions, and in some ways, he has the ability to move world events. We can confess his ‘greatness,’ yet he always remains a man at a distance.

Yet imagine that the President suddenly gave us his undivided attention. This most powerful man suddenly wants to listen to what we have to say. He desired to hear our concerns, and vowed that he’d use his great power to fulfill our requests. You see this would be very different from simply knowing about the President, for suddenly this man would be a part of our life: we would know him, and he’d know us! We could call him up, and he’d answer.

In like manner, God—the Almighty Lord, who dwells in a high and exalted place, surrounded by myriads of holy angels—this God isn’t at a distance. He seeks fellowship with his creatures, desires that we walk with him, desires that we call on him. And God promises, ‘I will answer you. I will use my great power for your good.’ For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13).

This is the miracle of prayer, that our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Our indescribable privilege is that we may call on the LORD and that this great God won’t dismiss our prayers, but listen and respond. God told us his name, so that we can use it. He showed us where to find him, so that we can seek him. God opened the door of prayer through Jesus, and the door is always open.

We show what we think of God’s holy name by the way that we pray. How great is God’s name to you? Your dependence on him is revealed by how often in a day you call on him. Your love for him is revealed by how you praise him. Your humility before God is shown by how you open your life to him, and confess your sins to him, and your needs, and your desires. You hallow God’s name by your prayers, the prayers of faith.

Just like with our confessions of trust in God, our prayers don’t have to be masterpieces, full of elevated language and impressive in length. But our prayers must be driven and shaped by our trust in his name, as we turn often to the LORD. We have troubles, we have struggles, we have sins, but we also have confidence in God’s name. David says in Psalm 20, “May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; may the name of the God of Jacob defend you” (v 1). When you know his name, you know that you have a tower, a stronghold, a rock that will not crumble.  

God welcomes the prayers we offer. He is glorified when his people turn to him, even with those simple petitions, sent up in a matter of seconds—‘Father, please give me strength here! Lord, please show me your ways and teach me your paths! God, I thank you for this precious gift.’ For in that moment, God’s name is being used in a way that delights him. We call on him because we trust him, love him, fear him, and want to praise him.


3) praising him with all our words and works: If God has one purpose and goal, it’s his own glory. That’s what He desires in all his works. The LORD says in Isaiah 48:11, “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.” He seeks his glory, because He alone is worthy.

We said that God is glorified when we confess our faith in him. He is glorified too, when we pray to him from the heart. And He’s also glorified when we put this faith to work. That’s why the Catechism speaks of praising God’s name “in all our words and works” (Q&A 99).

Our family used to live in London, Ontario, and the city police there had a motto written onto all their cars. It said simply, ‘Deeds not words.’ I think it’s a good motto, because it’s about the police being active for the good of the community. They didn’t just encourage others to be good citizens, but they tried model it themselves.

It’s a very good saying for Christians too: ‘Deeds not words.’ Or ‘Deeds, not just words.’ If we love God, we won’t just make a verbal confession of him here in church, or even acknowledge God by mentioning him at our workplace. Such words can be good and meaningful, but there’s more. What are we saying about God the rest of the time? What are we saying by our deeds? The truth is, we make a powerful statement about God by the way we act.

For example, when we’re with our friends, at school, at a party, we have the opportunity to praise God by our actions. When we say, ‘No, I will not take part. I won’t put that person down by gossip, or lose self-control.’ When we do that, we’re not saying that we’re better than everyone else. Rather, we’re giving God the praise. It’s an acknowledgement: ‘He is my Lord, so I will obey him.’ Even if we haven’t said a word, such a confession will be obvious in how we resist sin or how we do good: ‘Deeds, not just words.’

Or say we’re confronted with some trouble in our life, a crisis, some bad news. By our reaction, we can bring God the glory. Do we panic when faced with a trial? Do we become bitter? Will we throw accusations against God or other people? Or will we pray for strength, and follow God’s direction? Faith in action, by which God is praised: ‘Deeds, not just words.’

And then there is so much of our life that is not seen by others. So much stays concealed in our minds, hidden in our quiet moments, shown only in those times when no one else is around. Then too, we need to praise God’s name by our works. Will we obey his commands, even when nobody is around to see it? Will we confess God’s name, even when God is the only one to hear it? In those private times too, we prove the worth of our commitment to God. We show that we love God enough to obey him at every moment. “Deeds, not just words.”

In all this, the third commandment calls us to think about the message we’re broadcasting about God’s glory. Earlier we said that none of us would blaspheme God’s name. Perhaps we wouldn’t, not with our words or text messages. But it’s possible to blaspheme in another way. For just as we can confess God by our actions, so we can also deny him by our deeds. What do our lives really say about God? What does our behaviour announce about the Lord we worship?

Scripture warns us not to be two-faced Christians, like the ones condemned by Paul, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him” (Titus 1:16). Claiming to know God, but by our actions denying him—that is blasphemy, and a deep dishonour to the Lord.

When the Catechism explains the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, it says the same thing. “Hallowed be your name” is the first petition, which is closely related to the third commandment about God’s name. Because if we say, “Hallowed be your name,” the Catechism teaches that we must offer the heartfelt prayer, “Grant us… that we may so direct our whole life – our thoughts, words, and actions – that your name is not blasphemed because of us, but always honoured and praised” (Q&A 122).

That’s a deadly serious request: may we not dishonour God’s great name by the way that we live! It calls us to be consistent. May we not ridicule God by the sharp difference between our actions on Saturday night, and our actions on Sunday morning. We should be the same person, if God’s name is upon us. Neither scorn Christ by the contrast between when we’re with others, and when we’re alone. Nor blaspheme God by the way we speak so piously of him, but then speak so rudely to others.

This commandment gives a serious warning. And it comes also with a beautiful obligation. God has told us his most holy name, written his name on our lowly hearts. And God has given this name for us to use, told us the name which is above every name, that of Christ.

So may his great name fill all our lives. May we be praising God’s name here in church, and praising God’s name at this time tomorrow. May we meditate on his name in our thoughts, and use it in our prayers, and speak it to our neighbours. May we bring honour to God’s holy name in everything: in our deeds, not just our words!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2022, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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