98904_000_011“And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; … I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Rev. 3:1).
This scripture jumped out at me as I was preparing a lesson on the book of Revelation. I thought that perhaps there were in the ancient Church in Sardis members who should have been carrying in their hearts the name of the One who lived but instead had become dead to his lifestyle. To me it meant that these people called themselves Christians but were, in fact, spiritually lifeless.
I contemplated how essential worthiness is to those professing to be called Christian. A week earlier in Sunday School, our Gospel Doctrine teacher had touched on Alma’s concept of receiving the image of God in our countenances (see Alma 5:14, 19). This had reminded me of an excerpt in Revelation I had been studying which spoke of those who overcome.
“Him that overcometh will I … write upon him the name of my God, … and I will write upon him my new name” (Rev. 3:12).
I realized that sincerely taking the name of Christ upon us should cause us to make significant changes in our lives. Alma described this as having a “mighty change” in our hearts (see Alma 5:14).
These ideas were running through my head as I prepared my lesson. I wondered how often the concept of unworthily taking the name of Christ appeared in the standard works. I went to the scriptures on my computer and did a search of all verses that contained both the words take and name. Much to my surprise, the first scripture that appeared on my screen was Exodus 20:7 [Ex. 20:7]: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
Suddenly the significance of what I was contemplating filled me with astonishment. I had previously understood that the meaning of this commandment was not to abuse the name of Deity. While this interpretation was not incorrect, to me it was now no longer complete. To take upon myself the name of Jesus Christ while not striving to make the necessary changes in my life through repentance was not only a misuse of the Savior’s name but a grave sin. I saw it as mocking God.
That afternoon during the prelude music for sacrament meeting, I looked for my 16-year-old son. I saw him sitting at the sacrament table with two other priests, one of whom had recently joined the Church. I realized that this new member would bless the sacrament for the first time, and I wondered if he was nervous.
After the sacrament hymn, I carefully listened to this newly ordained priest as he read the words of the prayer over the bread. As he said the words “They are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them,” my heart pounded (D&C 20:77; emphasis added). I was about to renew my covenant to take upon myself the name of Christ. Was I worthy? I reflected on the third commandment, which had taken on a new meaning for me. Could my partaking of the sacrament be construed by the Lord or anyone else as mocking God?
I thought painstakingly of my actions during recent weeks. Was I worthy to take upon myself the name of Jesus Christ? Was the image of God in my countenance? Was I deserving of the label “Christian”? Or was I like the members referenced in ancient Sardis—spiritually dead?
For the first time in my life I realized that thoughtlessly taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ is not right and could even be sinful. Partaking of the sacrament took on a whole new meaning for me. I have a weekly opportunity to contemplate my actions, my behavior, my intents and desires. As I take upon myself the name that “livest,” I must honestly seek not to be spiritually dead.