About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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In The Name Of Jesus



Jason and Richard had just graduated from the police academy and began working with the local police force.   They pledged to uphold the law in their profession as well as in their private lives.  If they didn't, their work as police officers would be in vain.


One day while investigating a robbery, Jason and Richard had a dispute.  They discovered that a mutual friend was the culprit.  Richard suggested they tamper with the evidence to protect their friend.  Jason refused, knowing that this would mean he wore his badge in vain.  He would not be representing the law as he pledged.  Jason would therefore uphold the law, even if that meant arresting a friend.    


A few minutes later, two other officers arrived at the crime scene and Jason returned to the police station.  While Jason headed for his car, Richard tampered with the evidence.  When the other two officers approached the evidence, they had no idea it had been tampered with.  Eventually the truth of Richard's tampering was exposed.  He was subsequently fired.  He failed to uphold the law by misusing the authority given to him.  He wore his badge in vain.    


Throughout the New Testament we see the phrase, "in the name of Jesus".  We often associate these words with the way we end a prayer, a formula for water baptism, and more.  The real meaning to these words are not simply a matter of speaking them.    


Jason and Richard represented the law in their community, and for that reason they bore its name on their chest.  In like fashion, Christians represent Jesus in their communities.  We bear His name, not on our chest, but on our lives.         


Will we bear the name of Jesus as Jason bore the name of the police department, or as Richard bore the name of the police department?  Will we represent Jesus in vain?  The word "vain" reminds me of the third commandment.  It states, "you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain". (KJV)  I like the way the NIV puts it.  "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God."  Richard took the name of the police department in vain because he misused the authority given to him by defying the law.  As Christians, and as the church, we often do the same.  We misuse Jesus' name in how we represent Him to the world. 


Taking the name of Jesus in vain has little to do with using bad language, ending a prayer, or a baptismal formula.  In a traditional marriage, a wife takes the name of her husband.  In salvation, we take the name of Jesus.  It's our responsibility to represent His name as He wants, not as we want.  When we promote ourselves, our ministries, our denominations, our doctrinal distinctives, our programs, or our buildings, more than promoting Jesus, we take His name in vain.  If we represent Jesus poorly, we take His name in vain.  If we fail to preach the real Jesus, we take His name in vain.  All these things and more are a blatant misuse of the name of Jesus.  No wonder the world can't see Jesus.  It just sees us and how we misuse His name.


Moses understood that he represented the God of Israel to the rest of the world, and he didn't want to do anything that would give a false representation of God.  He was so concerned about this that at times He thought that God Himself wasn't representing His own name properly.  If you read Exodus 32 and Numbers 14 you'll see Moses telling God that if He kills Israel in the desert because of their sin, it would make Him look weak in the eyes of the world.  God could miraculously deliver Israel from Egypt , but couldn't keep them alive in the desert.


I know Moses had other reasons for speaking to God so boldly, but he was concerned about how other nations perceived the God of Israel.  We should have the same concern.  How the world views Jesus is a direct result of how Christians and the church represent Him.  If we fail to represent Jesus properly, the world will fail to see Jesus as they should, and it will be our fault. 


This may bother some, but during a recent water baptism my friend and I performed, I used no specific or traditional formula.  I simply said, "Jesus has given us the authority to baptize you, so here goes", and under the water he went.  He was baptized in New Testament fashion.  Simply saying a traditional set of words as we push someone under the water isn't what baptizing in the name of Jesus is all about.   


"In the name of Jesus" isn't a magical phrase.  These words  simply mean that we as Christians have been given both the authority and responsibility to bear the name of Jesus as we represent Him to the world.  Representing Jesus is more than preaching, as important as that is.  It includes such things as keeping your home and property looking nice in your neighbourhood.  You'd be surprised how many Christians fail to represent Jesus in that respect.  It means treating your family members with love and respect, being honest in business, and countless other things that occupy every second of our lives.  First and foremost, it means actually being given the name of Jesus in salvation.  Not all who say "in the name of Jesus" have been given His name, and, when it comes to water baptism, being called by His name is more important than a formula. 


How we live out our responsibilities of bearing the name of Jesus will determine how the world views Jesus.  If we fail in our responsibility, "we take the name of Jesus in vain". 


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