“Hallowed Be Your Name”
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“Hallowed Be Your Name”

Luke 11:1–4  (ID: 2144)

We know that names are significant—indeed, many cultures associate them even more directly with a person’s identity than we do! Reflecting on the language of the Lord’s Prayer, Alistair Begg explains that to “hallow” God’s name means to address and describe Him correctly, to practice active and God-assisted worship, and to add to His Kingdom by evangelism. If we are truly His children, we will seek to glorify His name in everything we do.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Luke, Volume 7

When You Pray, Say… Luke 11:1–13 Series ID: 14207

Sermon Transcript: Print

Please turn with me once again to the eleventh chapter of Luke, where we look at the instruction that Jesus has provided on this important subject of prayer. Luke 11:1—in the Bibles that are around you, page 735 if you would like to follow along: “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’”

As I’ve shared with you before, I was always grateful when I sat in the school classroom struggling to understand and when someone asked the question that I was afraid to pose. Sometimes, in a very perverse form of posturing, I would then turn and look at the individual, conveying by my face the whole idea that went along these lines: “I can’t believe you don’t know the answer to that question!”—only to be intercepted by my school teacher, who quite embarrassingly, then, catching my gaze, said, “Well, Begg, why don’t you answer the question, since you seem so full of yourself in knowing it?” And then, of course, I was caught out, because I so desperately needed the question to be asked, because I didn’t know the answer myself.

Now, I have a sense in which the individual in this incident here in the opening verses of Luke 11 is doing his fellow disciples a great favor by making a request with which each of them is able to identify: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” This is in the plural, you will notice; he doesn’t say “Lord, teach me how to pray,” but he speaks, as it were, on behalf of the others who are in need of this instruction. It is in response to this request that Jesus then provides a form of words for his disciples to use. And last time, we paid particular attention to the address, the intimate way in which Jesus encourages his disciples to speak to God, describing him as “Father.” And we took time to make sure that we understood that the way in which this terminology is provided here is an indication of those who have become the spiritual children of God through faith in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ—that as we believe and receive the Lord Jesus, so, we discovered, we’re welcomed into a family to which we do not belong by nature. And we also tried to make it clear to one another that one of the reasons that the Lord’s Prayer is used in such a perfunctory fashion and renders so much insignificance in the lives of those who have routinely said it from their youth can be traced to the fact that they do not know God as Father. And so, unless we are able to begin the prayer in an understanding of the fatherhood of God, then it is no surprise to us that the ensuing elements of the prayer will be at best a superficial matter to us.

Now, I don’t want to turn you all around the Bible this morning, but I do want, on a couple of occasions, to make sure that you see these verses. And in Romans 8:15, can I point out to you the nature of this fatherhood that is referenced here in the Lord’s Prayer? Romans 8:15. And the apostle Paul is addressing the matter of what it means to be a son of God. And then he says this to his readers: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”

Now, hold it there for just a moment. This is so vitally important. What the Bible is saying is this: that what we are not by nature, we become by grace; and as a result of the miracle of God’s working within our lives, we do not simply exchange one set of external circumstances for another—one posture for a new religious posture—but in actual fact what happens is a divine transaction that is eternal in its significance, it is spiritual in its implications, and it is life-transforming. And as a result of this, the Spirit of God Almighty comes to take up residence in the lives of those who trust in him. And as a result of this, the Spirit of God testifies to us that we are the children of God—that when we sing hymns, and when we read the Psalms, and when we think of these things, there is this amazing transaction and dimension in our lives which says to us, you know, “This is true of you.” Or when we read Romans 8:15, the Spirit of God says, “And this is describing you!” It is not for the religious individual who has decided to strap onto their earthly pilgrimage the externals of religious interest to discover the reality of this truth, but only those who, having come in repentance and in faith and having received Christ, have been given the power to become the sons of God.

Now, I don’t want to spend further on it than that this morning, but I daren’t go on without underscoring it. “He came to his own; his own received him not. But to as many as received him,” said John, “to them he gave the power to become the children of God, even to those who believe in his name.”[1] And there is a great mystery in this. It’s expressed in all kinds of hymns.

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me has been made known,
Nor why, unworthy as I am,
He sought me for His own.
But “I know whom I have believed.”[2]

Now, how can a person say that? Is this arrogance? Is this presumption? Is this religious hyperbole? Or is this what is being described in Romans 8? “You have not received the spirit of fear which brings you into slavery once again, but you have received the Spirit of sonship, whereby from your very core of your being you declare God to be Father, and the Spirit testifies to you in your life.” That’s exactly right: you can call him your Father, for your Father he is.

Now, that remains, then, the crucial question in considering this prayer. And I pose it to you once again: ask yourself, “Is then God my Father? Do I know God in this way? When I sing the songs, does the Spirit of God reach into my life and assure me that despite all of my wanderings, and all of my futilities, and all of my sometimes disinterest in these things, that at the very center of my life I have been turned the right way up, and God is now my Father?”

What’s in a Name?

Well, without that, everything else that follows is going to seem extraneous at best—and certainly the whole idea of “Hallowed be your name.” You know, to the average person in the street, you could give him a sheet of paper and say, “Write down on it ‘Hallowed be your name’” and say, “What do you think about this?” The person would say, “I think absolutely nothing about it. I think I’ve heard it in the Lord’s Prayer somewhere, I think I said it the other day at church, but it means absolutely nothing to me.” Because without the intimacy of knowing God as my Father through faith in his Son, then I will not understand the absolute necessity for reverencing his holy name.

Now, every so often someone will notice our cornerstone, which is out there at the main entryway on the left-hand side as you walk into the building, and may stand and look at it and see there Psalm 138 and part of verse 2: “You have exalted above all things your name and your word.” And we’ve taken this as a verse in order that we might remind ourselves that it is God’s name that is to be hallowed, and nobody else’s name; that it is ultimately God’s name that is of significance, and ultimately no one else’s name; that it is God’s Word that reveals to us the nature of his name, and that it is in a consideration of his name that we come to understand and appreciate his Word.

When we think of God’s name, we think of God. You cannot think of his name in isolation from his essence, from his character, and from his attributes. 

Now, the reason that this is significant I want now to explain to you. Because God’s name essentially stands for God himself. When we think of God’s name, we think of God. You cannot think of his name in isolation from his essence, from his character, and from his attributes.  Because it is by means of the disclosure of the name of God that we are made aware of the fact that the Lord is the faithful one, the Lord is El Elyon, that the Lord is Jehovah Tsidkenu, that the Lord is Jehovah Jireh—that he is our Provider in all these things. How has he made this known to us? He has made this known to us by making his name available to us. Moses, crying out in the book of Exodus, says, “Who is like unto you? Majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, and working wonders.”[3]

Now, the reason that I think this is difficult for most of us to conceive of is because, in direct contrast to this biblical emphasis, we tend to use names merely as a means of identifying one another and distinguishing between one another. Indeed, sometimes we may pay more attention to the naming of our pets than we pay to the naming of our children. If you look at some of these kennel club things and look at the names of some of these dogs, you say, “Goodness gracious,” you know, “this is just a dog, you know.” “Theodore Leopold Louis the Fourteenth,” you know, so on. Oh, come on! Fido will do fine. “Oh, no! Don’t you be saying that about my dog.” And then cats! Well, I daren’t even start on cats, but T. S. Eliot in his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, or whatever, he’s got it all there, you know:

The naming of cats is a difficult matter.
It isn’t just one of your ordinary games.
You may think at once I’m as mad as a hatter,
If I tell you a cat must have three different names.
First of all, there’s the name that the family used daily,
Such as Bailey, Adolphus, Alonzo and James, [4]

and so on; he goes into this huge big thing. And I finished the thing, I said, “It’s only a cat, for goodness’ sake!” “Oh! Oh, don’t you say that about my cat.”

But by and large when you shout out “Emily, make your bed!” you’re not thinking of the character, the essence, the nature of this individual; you’re just trying to distinguish between three beds and the one that is in need of attention. So then, the nomenclature is directly related simply to identity. Now, this isn’t true, for example, in China. In Southeast Asia, people give names to their children in a much more biblical framework. The same is true in Africa. You meet people from Nigeria or from Ghana, you meet people from the Ivory Coast, from Tanzania, and you discover that these individuals are concerned to make sure that names matter.

In fact, just this week I came across an encounter described between an American visiting in Tanzania and being encountered by a member of the Maasai. And the Maasai do not bandy their names around. And this American, being an American, was simply being congenial and kind and warm and friendly, and so was seeking to make sure that he was communicating with this individual in using his name with great frequency. And suddenly the man turned on him and he said, “Do not throw my name about. My name is important. My name is me. My name is for my friends.” In other words, what he was saying was what our mothers told us: “Remember who it is you’re speaking to.” Didn’t they say that to us? “Don’t talk to me like that! Remember who it is you’re talking to.”

Let me say to you that one of the reasons for the phenomenal wholesale disrespect amongst the average child in elementary school in America is directly related to the fact that nobody understands the significance of “Hallowed be thy name.” You say, “Well, that’s a big leap.” I understand it’s a big leap. But until a society learns to revere the name of Almighty God, it will not then be able to make the shift to revering father and mother . “I honor my father and mother.” Why? “Because they are in the place of God.” Who is God? “He is the almighty one to be reverenced.” “I pay attention to this individual in society.” Why? “Because he is in the place of God, exercising jurisdiction in the state,” and so on. Children are completely dismissive of this.

In fact, I came across a fairly trivial illustration of it in going through this big biography of one of my soccer managerial heroes. And this individual, who is phenomenally successful as a manager of Manchester United over a number of years, it describes in the course of this biography—on page 186, actually—a relationship that he enjoyed with another soccer manager of great note. He was the manager of the Scottish international team, and he was the manager of Celtic in Glasgow, and other things. Alex Ferguson, whose biography it is, describes the awe that he felt in relationship to this man, Mr. Stein, and how when Jock Stein had asked him how he was enjoying being a player at Dunfermline, says Alex Ferguson, “It made me feel very significant that this man would know my name and would address me in that way.” And this is what he said: “I had never spoken to Jock in my life, but he knew me. Of course, he was a familiar figure to me, but I wouldn’t go and say, ‘Hello, Jock, how are you doing?’ I was only a young man at the time. He was an established person. It’s about respect.” Then he says this: “Coming up the stairs at Old Trafford recently”—which is the stadium in which Manchester United plays—“coming up the stairs at Old Trafford recently, a young player, one of the sixteen- year-olds, called me Alex. I said, ‘Were you at school with me?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Well, call me Mr. Ferguson, then.’”[5]

Why? Because it matters. And one of the reasons for the manifold confusion in our culture stems directly from this—the breakdown in the armed forces; the disintegration of law and order; the confusion within family life; children who have more to say for themselves in their infancy than ever anybody would want to hear from them if they lived to be a hundred. And people exonerating themselves by the phrase “Well, you know, I just speak to everybody in the same way.” There’s the problem! “I just speak to everybody in the same way.” Oh, you mean you speak to almighty God in the same way? “Hallowed be your name.”

Now, there is a sense in which no name is actually capable of expressing perfectly who and what God is. As part of your homework you should read Judges 13, and there you will have the record of the birth of Samson and the story of the encounter between Manoah and the angel of the Lord. And what you have there in Judges 13 is a theophany—a preincarnate revelation of God. And in the course of this encounter, Manoah, who is to become the father of Samson, says to this angel of the Lord, “What is your name?” And the reply comes, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.”[6] In other words, ultimately no name can convey the totality of God.

Now, when you think about that, it will perhaps help you to consider the encounter between God and Moses recorded for us in Exodus chapter 3, where God appears to Moses in the burning bush. Moses, then, in encountering God’s greatness, takes his shoes from off his feet, and in the ensuing dialogue, as he is instructed to go to Pharaoh and say, “Let my people go,” Moses understandably asks the question, “Who will I say sent me?” And God says, “Tell Pharaoh that I Am sent you.”[7] “Now,” you say, “well, why would God use the verb to be to convey his name?” “Say that I Am has sent you.”

Well, the answer to that, I think, is fairly straightforward. By means of using the verb to be—“I Am”—he distinguishes between all the other little gods, which ought to call themselves “I’m not.” Right? They should be called “I am not.” The craftsman makes an idol, and he fashions it with wood or with stone or with ivory, and he puts it up on a pedestal, and he fastens it with little bits of string and nails and things. And it topples over, and he carries it around on the back of his cart and everything else and sets it up.[8] It’s so patently futile. We ought to call this “I am not.” Put a little sign under it: “I am not.”

But when we think in terms of the Creator of the ends of the earth, it is justifiable and right that he should be known as I AM. For he is like no one else. He did not have a creation. He is completely self-existent. He is completely self-fulfilled. He is in need of no one. He is in need of nothing. He sustains the whole universe by the word of his power. And as it was in the beginning with him, so it is now and so it will be forever.[9] And so the name I AM points to his perfection, points to his eternity—that what he has always possessed, he still possesses; that what he has now, he’s always going to have; that with him there is neither a beginning nor an end, all of his promises he fulfills, and he is the God of limitless life and power.

Now, we must go on to some points of application. I hope that is enough to whet your appetite to go away and say, “I need to think more about this notion, ‘Hallowed be your name.’ Because frankly, I just skip over it along with most of the other phrases.”

Hallowing God’s Name in Our Words

What then will it mean for an individual or for a congregation to take seriously the significance of this phrase? Let me consider it with you in three dimensions. First of all, in relationship to our words—in relationship to our words.

This, if you like, in the Lord’s Prayer is the flip side of the third commandment of the Decalogue in Exodus 20:7: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” Now, the Jewish mind understood this and should understand it. That is why the name of God, I Am, you will find, when you read old books, expressed as Y‑W‑H‑W, without any vowels. Without any vowels… it’s almost impronounceable, right? Of course it is. Why? Because it wasn’t supposed to be pronounced. They were not going to take the name of God on their lips in a way that was superficial or casual or anything else. And that’s why in the Old Testament you have these two vowels added to make it a name that is ultimately pronounceable, Yahweh or Jehovah.

Now, when you take that as the framework and you think about the way in which we use the name of God today… Let’s set aside for a moment the big and obvious ones, where people drop a hammer on their foot and invoke the name of God in a way that is wrong. Those are easy. Let’s set aside the equally wrong, totally stupid remarks that are made on putting greens and on fairways that have to do with the Deity. If I had a dollar for every time somebody tells me that they thought, given my job, I’d be a better golfer than I am because they assume that the Deity was somehow uniquely interested in my backswing, I would be getting richer by the day. The fact of the matter is, such comments are ultimately blasphemous. But let’s leave aside the obvious ones.

We are always fallible in our apprehension of God’s will.

How about this: how about the way in which we are tempted to invoke the name of God to explain to people why it is we’re going somewhere, not going somewhere, taking a job, marrying Sadie, or moving to Australia? And when the individual says, “And why is this that you’re doing this, marrying her, going here, or taking that job?” the answer is “Because the Lord told me to.” Now, I want to be very tender with you, but I also want to be very direct: I suggest to you that you beware of this phrase. Beware of it! Except when you’re saying anything that the Bible has clearly said. This is what the Lord told us: He told us that we should be holy as he is holy.[10] He told us that we should go to the ends of the earth.[11] We can say that with absolute conviction and clarity. But the subjective stuff we should be very aware of, lest by our terminology we fail to hallow—treat with reverence and with awe—the name of God. Because frankly, we are always fallible in our apprehension of God’s will . We’re always fallible in our apprehension of God’s will. It may be that from the vantage point of time we will be able to look back and say, “God clearly ordered our steps.” But let us be careful of leading with that phrase, invoking God’s name.

Secondly, using God’s name in an illegitimate way to impress or influence others—using the name of God in an illegitimate way to impress or influence others. Let me give you again a little Old Testament homework: the book of Genesis, chapter 27—the story of Isaac in the conferring of his birthright, which he is going to give to Esau, you will remember. “Esau,” he says, “I want you to go out, hunt some game, bring it back, make me a lovely, tasty meal, the kind I like to eat.”[12] And so Esau goes off in order that he can fulfill this obligation. Rebekah, the mother of Jacob, has overheard the dialogue and says to Jacob, “Hey! Here’s a chance for you to get the blessing that is due to your brother. You go out, get a couple of goats or lambs,” or whatever it is—I can’t remember without turning to it—“a couple of beasts, bring them in, I’ll make a fabulous meal. Then you take it in to Isaac, and hey—presto! You’ll get the blessing before Esau even comes back with the things that he’s killed.”[13] And so that’s exactly what they decide to do.

There are a number of problems, of course, because Jacob’s voice was different from Esau’s. He banks on the fact that his father is old and his hearing’s not as good as it once was. But what is he going to do about the fact that he is so smooth and his brother Esau is so hairy? Because as the King James Version says, that Jacob was an “smooth man” and Esau was an “hairy man.”[14] And since the back of his neck would be so smooth, and since his forearms and his hands would be so smooth, if his father in conferring the blessing put his hand upon his neck or touched him on his hands, then the game would be up.

They had an answer for that. They took goat skins, laid them on the back of his neck, he wore Esau’s clothes so that he would smell like Esau, and he put hairy goat skin stuff up the front of his arms. So he looked the way some of you look. (And when I see you in the shower, it makes me wonder just once again about the evolutionary hypothesis. But, nevertheless, tremendously, tremendously hairy customers. And you’re saying, “Jealousy, jealousy, jealousy Begg,” and I’m saying, “Absolutely true, absolutely true, absolutely true.”) Nevertheless, they made him a hairy man so that he could go in. And in he went. He said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn.” True or false? False. A lie. “I have done as you told me.” A lie. “Please sit up and eat … so that you may give me your blessing.” Father sits up and then asks this question: “How did you find it so quickly, my son?” In other words, how did you get back here so fast? Answer: “The Lord your God gave me success.”[15]

He chooses to abuse the name of God, refuses to hallow the name of God, invokes the name of God in order to underscore his deception. We’re not beyond that, loved ones—very skillful ways in which we can drop in the name of God and make the inference that the reason we’re doing this, or the reason we’re going there, or the reason that this is justifiable is somehow or another because God, you see, is in it. Beware, lest we fail to hallow his name.

Let me give you one final one in relationship to our words. You can find it in Mark 7. The custom was that a son would have responsibility for his elderly parents. Jesus encounters the Pharisees and he says to them, “You fellows are overturning the law of God by your traditions.”[16] And he uses as an illustration what this young man chooses to do. Here is a young man who has resources. He has a mom and dad who are in need of his help. Because they’re in need of his help, he’s going to have to take his money and actually give it to his parents. He’s selfish and doesn’t want to. How should he get out of it? He declares his resources corbancorban; in other words, “devoted to God.” So, he takes his bank balance and he declares it devoted to God. And once an individual had declared that devotion, it was not possible for them to break the corban and to remove resources and to disperse them elsewhere. And so what he does is he very subtly uses the name of God to prevent him from doing what the law of God so clearly says—namely, to minister to the needs of his mom and dad. And again, the danger presents itself at every point that in my words—despite the fact that I may routinely say, “Oh, Lord, Father, hallowed be your name”—I fail to do so in light of these and other dimensions.

Hallowing God’s Name in Our Worship

True worship is focused on God and not on ourselves. The test of worship which hallows God’s name is not whether it pleases us, but whether it pleases him.

What about “Hallowed be your name” in relationship to the fact of our worship—our worship? What is worship? It is “worth-ship.” It is declaring the glory of God. “What is the chief end of man?” says the Shorter Scottish Catechism. The answer is, “[The chief end of man] is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”[17] True worship is focused on God and not on ourselves. And the test of worship which hallows God’s name is not whether it pleases us, but whether it pleases him. 

You see, this would be a major revolution in many of our lives if we attended upon the opportunities of worship with our primary thought being, “O God, I hope that you will be pleased as a result of us gathering today and hallowing your name. Whether I’m actually pleased or not is secondary or tertiary in relationship to the question, because I realize that the whole reason for my existence is that you, O God, may be glorified.” Now, ask yourself the question: As you drove to worship this morning, was that the kind of thought that was in your mind? If we’re honest, many of us are saying to ourselves, “Well, I hope this is good this morning. You know, I hope this is okay. I hope we have some songs I want this time. I hope he doesn’t take so long on his first point like he did last week. I hope that it is comprehensible for once. I hope this, and I hope that, and I hope the next thing.” Do you see how easy it is to do it? I can be hoping the same thing in relationship to other elements. What a difference when fifteen hundred or two thousand people move towards the place that we’re going to meet with God saying, “O God, I hope today that this brings glory to your name. I hope that your name is hallowed in this. I hope that you get glory to you, and I hope that you are pleased by this.” This is a totally different dimension!

You see, this would clear up much of the nonsense that is present—the travesty that is represented—in the behavior of those who constantly complain about a process of worship, a method of worship, an expression of worship, a style of worship, and who often tramp from church building to church building to church building looking for the agreeable, acceptable method of worship.

Let me ask a question: Agreeable to whom? Acceptable by whom? If I am the end of the worship, then I have a legitimate right to ask whether it is agreeable and acceptable to me. But if he is the object of my worship, then I have no legitimate right to ask anything other than whether this is acceptable and agreeable to him. It’s all the difference in the world, you see! I may not worship by choice in a framework that is liturgical, but I can and I will. I do not routinely say the General Confession, but I may do so with complete confidence. I do not routinely recite the Apostles’ Creed, but I am happy to and I will. I enjoy the presence of instrumentation, but I can also worship in the west coast of Scotland in the Highlands, where they believe it is a travesty to have even an organ playing in the process of worship; that to sing anything other than the Psalms is actually to contravene the instruction of the Bible; that everything else, be it an old hymn, a new hymn, a hymn we like or we don’t like, all of that contravenes it all. That’s not my understanding, but I may worship there. Why? ’Cause “‘Lord, I want to know you, I want to live my life to show you all the love I owe you.’[18] These are not my songs. This is not my style. But these are your people, and this is your place, and this is your day, and this is for your glory. Hallowed be your name.” See?

Now, I say to you, loved ones, when we get an inkling of this we are getting close to being able to record the notion of Parkside at praise. But until we do, it would be foolishness to do it. For when I sit among you, it makes me want to run a hundred miles. ’Cause I have sat with some of you men at Browns games, and I’ve been with you at the Cavs, and I’ve seen you in other places, and I know you have a voice. Would you not use it to hallow God’s name? Are you a bystander here? You come here simply to jingle your change in your pockets and leave it up to the person on left and right? Oh, but you’re sitting there and you’re saying, “I haven’t a clue what he’s talking about. I don’t even care what he’s talking about.”

No, let me tell you what it takes to be a worshipper. Number one, you have to be alive. ’Cause dead people can’t sing. And if you don’t know God as Father, you’ll never unleash your tongue to praise him. And if you’re not a singer and you’re not a worshipper, you ought to examine yourself to see whether you’re actually a believer. Dead people don’t sing. You need to be spiritually alive.

You need to be spiritually assisted. “Don’t get drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Holy Spirit and so speak to yourself in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”[19] “God, I don’t want to praise you. You’re gonna have to assist me.” Ask him—he will! He loves to get glory to his name.

So, I need to be spiritually alive, I need to be spiritually assisted, and then I need to be spiritually active. I have to actually use my tongue. I actually use my voice. I actually make sounds—audible sounds, out of my mouth!

You see, we changed purposefully the words of that song, “I worship you, Almighty God. There is none like you. I worship you, almighty God, that is what…” Now, when it’s written, it reads “that is what I want to do.” You’ll notice (those of you who are awake) we didn’t sing that. We sang, “That is what I ought to do.” Because if we’re honest, half the time it isn’t what we want to do. So we sing lies! And we feel bad about singing them. And that’s why we’re half-hearted. So I want to make it as easy as possible for us to sing truth:

I worship You, Almighty God,
There is none like You.
I worship You, O Prince of Peace,
That is what I [ought] to do.[20]

“And I’m here because I ought to be here. And I thank you for making me alive, and I want you to make me assisted, and I pray that you’ll help me to be active.”

See, the question as you go this morning about worship is not whether you enjoyed it; it’s whether God enjoyed it. When we hallow God’s name in worship, we’re not focusing on personalities or on performance, or even in the exercise of spiritual gifts for our own enjoyment. What we aspire to is the experience that God is really among us.

I read this week of an incident at the time of the Cultural Revolution in China when a group of believers had gathered for worship. As the worship went on in praise and song and testimony and the teaching of the Bible, it eventually came to an end. As it ended, five young men stood up on the front row, and they turned around, and they told the congregation they had something to say. And they identified themselves as having been sent there by the Chinese government, and the reason that they had attended worship was in order that they might observe, that they might identify the ringleaders, and that they might arrest them. And they stood up and said, “Now, having been with you, we know that God is really among you, and instead of arresting you, we want to join you.” It’s not going to happen in the average half-baked worship service.

Hallowing God’s Name in Our Witness

“Hallowed be your name” in my words, in my worship, and finally, just in a phrase or two, it makes an impact in my witness—on my witness. What is the principle motivation in telling others about Jesus? The answer is the hallowing and the honoring of God’s name. Because it is by proclaiming the gospel that we bring God’s name before the nations. So, we actually hallow God’s name when we seek to see unbelieving people become the committed followers of Jesus Christ. And what does a committed follower of Jesus look like? A worshipper. A worshipper.

The real objective in evangelism is not that people would be converted, but that God would be glorified.

You see, evangelism is never an end in itself. Evangelism is never an end in itself. In John chapter 4, Jesus says that the Father is seeking worshippers.[21] Not converts. Worshippers ! How do I know that I’m converted? I worship. “Open my mouth, that my lips may declare your praise.”[22] If we open our mouths and we don’t declare his praise, why in the world would we ever believe that we’re converted? He took us from a miry clay, and he put our feet on a solid rock, and he established our going, and he put a new song in our mouths, a song of praise to our God.[23] So when our friends and our neighbors have occasion to come and share in worship at Parkside, and they are so clearly observing—they’ve come as guests, they really have no understanding or interest—but when they look along the row to you, they must say, “You know, he worships.” Oh, we may not be extravagant. And we need not be. We may not be, in some particular way, effervescent. My father never was, my mother never was, but I always knew that I stood beside my parents who were worshipping. The real objective in evangelism—the real objective in evangelism—is not that people would be converted, but it is that God would be glorified.  

Well, that’s enough. That’s enough. Tonight, we’ll come to “Your kingdom come.” For now, we will pause in prayer. And as you go out into this week, as we seek to live to God’s glory, let us remember that in our words and in our worship and in our witness we will seek to hallow God’s name.

O God our Father, forgive us for the casual way in which we approach you, for the indolence of our affections, for the diminishing of our zeal. We pray that we might be those who have been made by your Spirit spiritually alive, who have been filled with your Spirit and assisted, and who by divine prompting and an act of the will determine to be spiritually active in hallowing your name. Send us out, we pray, to love you and to serve you.

And may grace and mercy and peace from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one of us, now and forevermore. Amen.

[1] John 1:11–12 (paraphrased).

[2] Daniel Webster Whittle, “I Know Not Why God’s Wondrous Grace” (1883). Paraphrased.

[3] Exodus 15:11 (paraphrased).

[4] T. S. Elliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (Orlando: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1939), 1.

[5] Alex Ferguson, Managing My Life: My Autobiography (London: Hodder, 2000), 186. Paraphrased.

[6] Judges 13:18 (NIV 1984).

[7] Exodus 3:14 (paraphrased).

[8] Isaiah 40:19–20 (paraphrased).

[9] Gloria Patri (paraphrased).

[10] See Leviticus 11:44–45, 1 Peter 1:16.

[11] See Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15.

[12] Genesis 27:3–4 (paraphrased).

[13] Genesis 27:8–10 (paraphrased).

[14] Genesis 27:11 (KJV).

[15] Genesis 27:19–20 (NIV 1984).

[16] Mark 7:9 (paraphrased).

[17] Shorter Westminster Catechism, Q. 1.

[18] Melodie Tunney, Dick Tunney, and Beverly Darnall, “Seekers of Your Heart” (1987).

[19] Ephesians 5:18–19 (paraphrased).

[20] Sondra Corbett-Wood, “I Worship You, Almighty God” (1983).

[21] John 4:23.

[22] Psalm 51:15 (paraphrased).

[23] Psalm 40:2–3 (paraphrased).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.