I can’t say that it’s a sin if we don’t do this, but neither can I say that it shows great Christian maturity if we don’t. I can’t say that it’s a sin, because those two words are found together in the New Testament only twelve times, and exactly a third of them come from the lips of the Lord Jesus Himself. But, when we move back into the Old Testament, the tally is quite different. Not only do we have Jehovah and Elohim called “my God,” over a hundred and twenty times, we also have a host of related possessive statements. We have references to “my King,” “my glory,” “my shield,” “my buckler,” “my deliverer” and so on. David liked to sing: “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength – in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” Why don’t we talk like that outside the walls of the House of God? Why do we sometimes sing those kinds of words but not speak them?
Let me go back to the sinful exclamation “Oh my God!” for just a moment. Why does nearly all of Christendom profess that the Ten Commandments form the basis of God’s law, and yet nearly all of Christendom breaks the second of those commandments with sickening regularity? Exodus 20:7 – “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
What is it to take the name of the Lord in vain? It is to use the Lord’s name in a manner unbefitting to the most holy God. It is related to outright blasphemy. It is to use the Lord’s name in a way that does not bring Him the glory to which He is due. Taking the Lord’s name in vain might be nothing more than saying it without meaning it. The word “vain” refers to emptiness and uselessness. To say “God” a dozen times in a ten sentence prayer is taking the Lord’s name in vain. This sin can come in a hundred different forms. And what do those words “the Lord will not hold him guiltless” mean? It means that God judges that person as guilty – he sins every time he says that Name meaninglessly. And we must remember that the wages of sin is death. If there is any proof that the country in which we live is not the Christian nation that it claims to be, it is the fact that everywhere we turn we hear the words “Oh my God, oh my God” as if it is acceptable language. It is uttered when something bad is happening, and it is uttered when something good occurs. But by making it an ejaculatory exclamation, it is not good – it is sin. I hear six-year-olds say it, because they hear their parents say it, and they think that it is appropriate. But it is never appropriate. I hear atheists say it, professing Christians say it, and even genuine Christians say it. I hear it in advertising, on the radio and on television; I read it; sometimes I even sense it. But the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless for repeating it. God’s name is too holy for such irreverent misuse. And don’t think for a moment that you are forgiven for saying silly things like “gosh” “golly!” “Jeez,” or even “gee” or “my goodness.” Those terms come from a long list of minced oaths which over the years have been modified from their original, more accursed, form. A child who knows that he will be spanked for inappropriately saying “Jesus,” might think that he’ll get by with the diminutive “gee.” He might get away with it before his mother, but he won’t before the eternal Judge. Having said all of this – oaths and minced oaths are not my subject this morning.
Without the least bit of swearing, the Apostle Paul, referred to “my God.” He often referred to his prayers and his praise by saying “I thank my God….” On one occasion he said, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” The foolish woman who takes the Lord’s name in vain, often has no true concept of the Person that she is blaspheming. But I can assure you that the Apostle Paul most certainly did.
After Paul had said, “I thank MY GOD through Jesus Christ for you all,” he could have moved into a six hour discourse on One he called “my God.” Paul believed that his God is the One who spoke the universe into instant existence. I know that he believed that Jehovah is the Creator because he has told us that is what he believed. And he believed that God is absolutely sovereign over that creation, and that His will is unstoppable. He believed that God is a spirit making Him both eternal and incapable of death. “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” He believed that this mighty God of his is the source of the destructive hurricane, but he also could tell his companions in the midst of such a storm that God would keep them all safe and sound. Paul believed that God commands an army of angels. These are not just Old testament things to which he referred, but they were his own declarations. He believed that God could, and would, and had, raise the dead. And he believed that following those resurrections, God would judge every last human soul. Paul believed that Jehovah is a God of wrath for sin, peace for the repentant and comfort for the submissive. He believed that God is holy, just and good just like His law.
In simpler words, Paul believed what this church now believes about the God of Heaven and Earth. If it was necessary for him to have one, his doctrinal statement might have looked just like ours. But there are natural problems with doctrinal statements and Baptist Confessions of Faith. They can become dry and unappealing, or they can become cruel and harsh. They can be nothing more than a piece of paper to which people point from time to time, but never read and never live for. One person can read Paul’s theology and become delighted, while another might become terrified.
But it’s not what Paul believed ABOUT God that concerns us here this morning. What I would like us all to consider is Paul’s RELATIONSHIP to this almighty and sovereign deity. Paul called Him “my God,” and I am of the opinion that unless we can do the same, we are in very serious trouble. So keeping in mind, all the things that I’ve just said about the Lord, and much more that I haven’t said, let’s think about what it means to be able to call Jehovah “my God.”
First it needs to be said that no one has an INTRINSIC RIGHT to call the Lord “my God.”
The only exception might have been Adam, for a short time before he committed his first sin. From that time on, there were other gods in his life. There was his wife, to whom he held more allegiance than Jehovah. Then there was his own appetites, followed by a long list of other things, including some specific sins. A person’s god, is the one whom he worships, serves, obeys and honors. Adam chose to make Satan his god of choice, and as a sinner and father of sinners, all this descendants have been born children of their father the Devil. We know that to be the case because the Lord Jesus told us so. So Paul was, for more than half his life, a child of the Devil, and a servant of Satan, the god of this world, the god of fallen religion. And that is the way all of us were – or still are.
But in Paul’s case, the Lord graciously called him unto Himself. He gave that man a new heart – that is – the Lord regenerated him; saved him; Paul was born-again. Furthermore he was adopted into the family of God. “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Ephesians 1:5 says that God “predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”
I was trying to think the other day, if any of our kids’ friends, ever called me “Dad,” or “Father” or “Daddy.” I can’t think of a single case when that ever occurred. There were a couple of times when children raised in Catholic churches, called me “father,” but that was different. In same way that only my children and their spouses have a right to call me “Dad,” only those people whom the Lord has called, saved and adopted have any right to call Him their “Heavenly Father.” And in exactly the same way, they are the only ones who have a right to call Jehovah “THEIR God.”
In this statement Paul was testifying that He too, just like his readers, was a redeemed saint of God.
Hand in hand with that idea is the corollary that there was PEACE between God and himself.
King Solomon was musing in himself one day and said – “I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.” At the conclusion of the 96th Psalm God’s people sang: “Say among the heathen that the LORD reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.”
There is only one way for any man, because of his native sinfulness… There is only one way for anyone to call the righteous and perfect Judge of all humanity “MY God.” That man, must somehow know that there has been a peace established between himself and the Lord. There has to have been a reconciliation established. It’s not that Jehovah is not the God of all the children of Adam – righteous and wicked, but only the righteous should be bold enough to say “HE is MY God.” For Paul and the saints in Rome there had been a reconciliation – a return to God had been created. He once wrote: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.” I wouldn’t for a moment imply that Paul could march up to his God as the Lord’s equal. There is no equal to God the Father except the other two members of the Trinity. Nevertheless, because the Lord Jesus has satisfied the demands of the law against us, we have access to and fellowship with the infinite and holy God. With Jesus as our Mediator, we have the ability to call upon the name of the Lord in prayer and in praise. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Also, when Paul called the Lord “my God” he was acknowledging he had DUTIES under His dominion.
Jehovah is God, King, sovereign, and absolute ruler over every aspect of His creation. Every event and every human action is carried out under the Lord’s orders or with His permission. Even the most wicked and evil of the deeds of man pass through the divine will in one fashion or other. That does not tarnish God with guilt in their sins, because He will correct, punish and reverse the evil effects of all those deeds. Nevertheless, there is nothing that takes place in this creation on which the Lord does not have his finger in some fashion or other. But obviously, the murderer can not honestly say that he is taking another man’s life in obedience to God. The adulterer cannot say that the Lord commanded him to commit his wicked lewdness. Not even the liar can say that what he is doing is under the authority of Jehovah “his God.”
But for Paul to say that Jehovah was “his God,” he was also saying that he was living in obedience to His will. All of those things which the Lord has forbidden, Paul was striving to keep out of his life. And all of those things which the Lord has commanded, Paul was attempting to perform. I am not going to tell you that it was with perfect flawlessness that Paul obeyed his Lord. He confessed his own failings on several occasions. And all honest Christians since then will have to make the same confessions. But only a fool would call Elohim “my God” if he was not trying to live in obedience. For example, only the man whose God is the Lord, can say, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” It is essential to be able to say that Jehovah is “my God” before quoting II Corinthians 6 because of the way that passage ends. “What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” As the Book of Revelation nears its conclusion the Lord utters some awesome thoughts. “It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Paul could call the Lord “my God” because he had been given water from the fountain of life – Christ Jesus, and because he was not living in unbelief, idolatry, deceit or other overt sins. And because he was an overcomer through the grace and power of his Saviour.
But it wasn’t that God was his God simply as a pleased judge or a satisfied Lawgiver.
When Paul called Jehovah “my God” it was because loved Him.
It wasn’t out of fear that he used those words – it was with joy. There are tens of thousands of people who are bowing before their idols today, because they believe that if they don’t they will be somehow struck down. Once again this last week Indonesia has been hit with a 7.1 earthquake, killing many people. But that was actually the third of the week, with the previous quake being a 7.6, and the first being 8.1. And you can be sure that the 235 million Muslims and Hindus of Indonesia are cowering in fear before their army of false gods. But not only is it people like those folk who quail before their gods in fear. There are millions of people hiding under the blanket of Christendom who do the same, while people next to them bow in indifference and others bow out of habit. All of them might call some deity “their god,” but it was not with the same heart that Paul used those words.
I suppose that most professing Christians know the words of Matthew 22:37. But they know them only as sounds carried on the wind. They don’t know them as the greatest, and most important, of all the commandments of God. “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” When Paul said that Jehovah was “his God,” he did so in accordance with Jesus’ words in Matthew 22. But when Paul said that God was “his God,” it wasn’t in order to obey Jesus or Moses – who first uttered them in Deuteronomy 6. The original law of God often comes across in a confusion of emotions and Deuteronomy 6 is no exception: “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
Paul’s God was at the center of that man’s heart in response for all the grace which God had poured upon him. It was for all the common blessings that so many of our neighbors enjoy – health, peace and prosperity. But it was also because Paul knew exactly how wicked his heart was. He knew exactly what it took to deliver him from his sins and from the wrath of God’s law and justice. He couldn’t help but to love the Lord because God had saved him – redeemed him – delivered him. In His Heavenly Father’s house there was a mansion awaiting him, graciously prepared by Christ Jesus. Christ had “made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
And even Paul who was once alienated and an enemy of God through wicked works, had been reconciled to God by the death of Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” How could he not love the Lord who first loved Him? How could he not claim this saving God as his one and only God.
It is no small thing to be able to say Jehovah is “MY God.” Can you say it in the same way that Paul did? Have you been reconciled to God by the death of His Son?