Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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The first thing Jesus himself ever taught me, in the summer of 1975, was that “taking the Lord’s name” means becoming a part of God’s family, or being converted. From the moment of conversion, the newly “born again” person belongs to a family that belongs to God and that is called by His name (e.g., “the people of the Lord” or “the children of God”); in other words, those who are converted have taken God’s name upon themselves.
So, to “take the Lord’s name” means to become one of the Lord’s people. Figuratively, this can be described as entering into a marriage covenant with God and becoming “the bride of Christ”. Old Testament Israel was regularly referred to by the prophets as the wife of God. And it was a frequent theme in the prophets that in worshiping foreign gods, Israel was being unfaithful to her husband (God) and was an adulteress (e.g., Ezek. 16). Then, to “take the name of the Lord in vain” means to become one of God’s people and then be unfaithful Him.
People often speak, with romantic flair, of “the promises of God”. There are even pretty little books written about God’s promises, usually with covers of lovely flowers and butterflies. But the authors of those books are very selective when choosing which promises to write about. Some of God’s promises are terrifying, such as the promise He made to believers who take His name in vain:
7b. For Jehovah will not leave unpunished whoever takes His name in vain.
In other words, faithfulness to Jesus is required of “the bride of Christ”. Jesus made that clear when he said to his unfaithful servant of his,
50. The master of that servant will show up on a day that he does not expect, and in an hour that he does not know,
51. and he will cut him off and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. In that place, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth!”
The terrifying judgment awaiting unfaithful believers is also a “promise of God”, but such promises do not fit easily into a book decorated with flowers and butterflies, does it?
When we take God’s name upon ourselves by becoming His, He requires us to live according to His will, and “be holy, for He is holy”. Entire Christian sects have been founded on the premise that such is not the case, that once a person is converted, he will be saved in the end regardless of how ungodly a life he lives afterward in this world. But we cannot escape the promise that God makes to those who take His name and then do not do His will. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Master! Master!’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Every account of the Day of Judgment found in the Bible tells us that we will be judged according to our deeds, not according to who we are or what we claim.
You are not “saved” yet. None of God’s children on earth are. You may be born again; you may have taken upon yourself the name of the Lord, but you have not received salvation. Salvation is the reward Jesus will give in the end to those who take God’s name and then are faithful to the name they have taken. As Jesus told his disciples, “He who endures until the end, the same shall be saved” (Mt. 24:13).