Exodus 3:1-15 (NKJV) Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”
4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”
And he said, “Here I am.”
5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” 6 Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.
7 And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8 So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. 9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
12 So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
13 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”
14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’

My wife and I love to camp, we love the outdoors. There is nothing like a fire when camping. We’ll be driving down the road and smell a fire and think about being alone in the woods, around a fire.

Fire’s are quite interesting as they are one of the very few elements that are both inviting AND terrifying at the same time. When there is a fire, we tend to be drawn to the heat, the light, the look of it, the sound, smell, crackle. A fire, contained, is a wonderful and inviting thing. Yet, we also take great care around fires.

We have a wood burning stove in our home, and that stove has a glass front door to allow us to see the fire. Our one bird, the white Cockatoo named Isaac, is always drawn to that fire. On more than one occasion, we’ve stepped out of the room for just a moment to return to find Isaac climbing up the front of that stove toward the fire; and we’re freaking out because the glass get’s very hot.

When we think about how a fire is both inviting and terrifying, we can understand why God often reveals Himself in this way; especially in the text, we are looking at. It only makes sense, as this is the nature of the God of the Bible.

The Bible shows us two distinctive parts to the nature of God. God is transcendent, or above us; and God is imminent; or among us.

When we look at the transcendent nature of God, we see that God is self-defining. He does not have to be defined, He’s already done that.

This is important because we live in a day and age where people think we can define God. You hear people saying, “I don’t think God would do [that]” or “Surely if there was a God He would be [this way]”. This is very dangerous because we don’t get to define God; God defines God. When we try to define God, what we’re doing is making God a concept and not a reality. We are bending God to fit our liking rather than seeing who He is in Scripture and bending ourselves around God.

The insanity of us defining God is like women who make a “list” of the perfect man they want to marry. They want a man who is tall, dark, handsome, a gentleman, a knight in shining armor, a provider, one who likes to help cook and help clean, etc. etc. etc. That man does not exist. The list that women make is a concept of a perfect man but not a reality.

This is the same as someone saying, “I think God is [like this]”, or “I don’t believe God would….” It doesn’t matter what we THINK God is, what He will do, or will not do. We don’t get to define God. He’s let Himself be known.

Exodus 3:14-15 (NKJV) And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.

What we see, in this text, is God introducing Himself with His Name. God has many titles but He only has one name, and that name is YHWH. Any time you see LORD in all capital letters, in your Bible, that’s the translation of YHWH.

He doesn’t just introduce us to His name, just before He gives us His name He makes the statement “I AM who I AM”. This statement, from God, really messes up the categories that we create.

When we say, “I am…” there’s going to be a category that follows. I am a husband, I am a pastor. I am a missionary. God did not do that. He said, “I AM who I AM.” He says this and then gives us His name in verse 15; which links the two to show us that He is a keeper of His promises.

Exodus 3:16-22 (NKJV) Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt; 17 and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’ 18 Then they will heed your voice, and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt; and you shall say to him, “The Lord God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst, and after that, he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. 22 But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

So, a war is about to break out between two “I am’s”. Pharaoh says, “I am the most powerful man on earth. I lead the most powerful armies. I lead the most brilliant nation the world has ever seen to this point. I lead the most technical logically advanced country on earth.” And God is saying, “I AM who I AM; and you will die, and Egypt will be plundered and destroyed.”

When God says, “I AM” we know He’s telling us that His promises can be trusted as true. We can’t say, “I am”. We do sometimes but we are better off saying, “I might”; because we don’t have control over anything. I can tell my wife that I MIGHT be home at a certain time. If I tell her “I WILL be…” and then I come upon an accident, where people’s world is burning to the ground, I’m not going to go up to them and tell them I MUST get by or two worlds will be burning to the ground. I can’t say, “I am” or “I will” because I really don’t have any control over it. Yet, God never says, “I may”

Likewise, God does not tell Moses “I AM” because He has some vague fore-sight of the future. He says, “I AM” because He determines the future.

Remember that the whole reason the children was in Egypt was that God told Abraham that his offspring would be slaves in Egypt (Gen 15:13). God set up Joseph with dreams (Gen 37:5) to tell his brothers so they would be jealous. He guided the sin Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery (Gen 50:20). God caused the famine in the land that would cause Joseph’s family to sell themselves as slaves (Gen 41:25-27; Gen 47:18-24). So, God is above us. His power is terrifying. (Demons believe and tremble)

Exodus 3:7-8 (NKJV) And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8 So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians,

He’s not just above us, not just terrifying, He’s also WITH us; look at verse seven. This God who is above and all powerful, who designs, makes, and controls the universe also see’s, hears, and comes down to us. He is above us but also among us. He’s powerfully above us and lovingly with us.

We must grasp both of these truths deeply. This understanding is distinctively Christian. We need to understand this fully, and deeply, not just intellectually. There are plenty of monotheistic religions that have God as transcendent but not imminent. They have God above us but not lovingly with us. They have God ready to strike us at any moment but not here with us to guide us, help us, and love us.

Then there are eastern religions that have God immanent but not transcendent. They have God in everything around us but not really controlling the whole universe; no one really to answer to.

These two different beliefs create a massive problem. If we only see God as all knowing, all powerful, self-defining, we don’t get to define Him; we’ll see Him as a God above but not with us; which means He makes no difference in our every day lives. He has not seen, He does not know, He does not come down; therefore, He does not care.

The other end of the pendulum is God being imminent but not transcendent. Think Avatar, where God is everywhere, even in my hair; and that is going too far. You’re not God, your dog’s not God, the tree is not God - God is God.

If you land too far on the immanent side, and forget His transcendence you, more than likely, will have a tee shirt that says, “Jesus is my homeboy”. There’s no seriousness about sin and you’ll live your life as if you will never have to stand before Him one day.

Getting ahold of those two truths, and getting them into our deepest parts, addresses the real decay going on within us. We need to avoid swinging too far one way or the other and need to get the truth of both of God’s natures within us; deep within us.

Exodus 3:11-12 (NKJV) But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
12 So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

Moses asked the predominant question. It’s the question that we can’t seem to answer; it’s crushing us… “Who am I?” When it comes to this question, here’s where we are today. We are a generation who loves to create our own identities. Especially in America, there is no root identity; it does not matter where you come from. You can change your job at any time, you can move anywhere at any time, you can re-make and re-define yourself any time you want.

When we have removed all the “institutions” that shaped our identity, we are only left with ourselves. When we are left to ourselves to create our own identity, we always enslave ourselves. Mark my words, if you have created your own identity, you have enslaved yourself. It may be an identity that you created or it may be one that you’ve accepted from others creating it. I want to expose some of these identities.

There’s the identity that says, “I’m in control”, “I’ve got this”. This identity is killing us. Why is it killing us? Because we are not in control; and life teaches us we are not in control. Yet, the more life teaches us we are not in control the more we try to control it; rather than saying, “It’s out of control; I can’t control this. Surely someone can control it!”

When your identity is “I can control this” you have no option but to be anxious or angry. Anxiety and anger will be the emotions you feel more often because you know you can’t control it.

The second identity is “I am what I own” or “I am what I do.” If your value in life is based on what you own or what you do you will always be depressed or in debt; or depressed AND in debt. When you are what you do then what happens to you when you no longer do that thing? Let’s say you retire. There’s no building with your name on it. When we retire, we’ll get a cake and they will return and replace our position; and in nine months we will not even be a thought.

If you are what you own then you’ll always be enslaved. You’ve got everything you need but then a friend, or family member, buy a new car, and new bike, a new camera, a new house, even small things like pets or new program or game; then all of a sudden you are depressed because you don’t have that and your identity is crushed. It’s a “Keeping up with the Jones’” mentality. “I don’t have these things.”, you think, “What a huge failure I must be!”. I don’t own a Cadillac, I own a Hyundai.

What’s sad is, our friend will walk up beside us and coddle our identity and tell us that they will stand with us, and believe with us for that new car; when there’s nothing wrong with the one you got.

It’s a weird “Gotta have more” mentality. Why? Because our value is built upon what we have; therefore we have a house we can’t afford, a car we can’t afford, wear clothes we can’t afford to impress people we don’t know and probably won't even like if we did know them.

There’s this time in which a major shift happened in America, starting in the schools. Everyone became very concerned with how children saw themselves. “You're great! I know you just made a 32 on your exam. You can just take it five or six more times, it’s ok. Here’s my key. You can just copy the answers to your page and we’ll give you a 100. We don’t want you to feel bad about yourself”.

When self-esteem washes over a culture, we believe our lives should be easier than they will actually be. When you believe your life should be easier than it is, you will walk in entitlement, bitterness, and sexual perversion. These things are directly tied to people who think life should be easy, marriage should be easy, children should be easy, work should be easy, play should be easy. We’ve bought into the lie that life is easy and the Bible does not guarantee a life that’s easy. There’s no text that says, “Give your life to Yahshua and all your dreams will come true.” No!, what it says is, “Give your life to Christ and He’ll be enough despite what comes.”

All the protesting, and anger is an entitlement syndrome that links back to a belief that “I deserve a better life.” The truth is… you don’t. None of us deserve a better life. We are sinners. All we deserve is death.

The fourth identity we are going to look at is one that sweeps through anyone who had to deal with some type of abuse, or believed they were wronged in life or people who have been in trouble. This identity is based on “I am what I’ve done.” or “I am what has been done to me.” This is when we let our past define us. This can come in two different ways, depending on the situation. One way is when our present does not seem as good as our past and the other is when our past is full of failures. You may not say it, but you think it, or others tell you and you believe it.

When you define yourself by your past depression is your predominant feeling. You often will enter a state of co-dependency. Looking to others for acceptance or looking to others as role models. Role models are not bad as long as you’re not trying to re-define yourself to them. When we have a role model, we typically have a “they can’t do no wrong” mentality. This is why people will parrot what their role model says without question and why they are extremely broken and lost on what to do when that role model falls.

The ultimate end characteristic to a mindset of “I am what I’ve done” is they return to the mire they were once in. They can’t see themselves past the identity of what they once did, or was done to them; therefore they return to that identity.

Many of you need to assume a posture of victory. Stop navel gazing, stop feeling sorry for yourself, stop taking on a victim mentality. Yet, you don’t want to be healed. The reason you don’t want to be healed is that if you lost this depression, this self-loathing, this feeling of lack of worth, you would lose your identity. You’ve been wrapped up in yourself for so long that you don’t know who you’d be if you were made whole. Stop being a victim and start being a victor.

Some reading this may be saying, “Yeah, but….” and then you’re thinking about all the problems you’ve gone through; everything you’ve done - as if your problems are unique to you. Your problems are not unique to you. You’re not the first to deal with it and you will not be the last.

Yeah, but you don’t know my situation
Yeah, but you don’t know what I’ve done
Yeah, but my finances are terrible
Yeah, but someone close to me died
Yeah, but I was done wrong
Yeah, but my boss is a jerk

Yeah but, yeah but, yeah but. The problem is you’ve got a big butt. That’s what’s keeping you from moving to a successful life; even where you are. Because you have a big butt; and you need to lose that but.

Here are the causes of your big butt:
Constantly seeking validation and acceptance from others for your issues
Not taking responsibility for your own life
Never risking anything to be successful and happy (even in your current condition)
Living with your emotions and feelings on your sleeves
Hanging onto your victim mentality

These things will give you a big butt every time and the only way to get rid of the big but is to realize your identity and give up all these things we’ve been talking about.

What if I offered you this twenty dollar bill? Would you take it? I bet you would. But, before I would offer it to you I’ve got to give you a warning. While a $20 bill can be used for a lot of good, chances are it’s seen a lot of bad. It might have a mind and it might have a bad conscience. Maybe it’s been used to do drugs. Maybe it’s been used to buy drugs. Maybe a drug deal went bad and someone died over it. Maybe it was used to fund a terrorist organization. Perhaps it was used for impure things; like to purchase a prostitute. Any number of things could have been done with the $20 bill. Would you still want it? Of course you would; because no matter what has been done with it or to it, it’s still worth $20.

Maybe I can take it and rip it, scar it, put marks on it that’s unfair and unsightly. Would you still want it? Sure you would; because an authority higher than us gave it its value.

It’s the same with you. No matter what you’ve been through or what you’ve done, you still have worth. It’s built into you.

There are things I wish I could go back in time and undo, redo, and not do at all; but I can’t. And even if I’m reminded every day, by people, and even my own conscience, that I did them I have to remind myself every day that someone with more authority gave me my worth.

Our worth, our value, our identity, is a major question to each and every one of us; and it was the major question of Moses.

Notice that God’s answer is not “Do you not remember I brought you out of the Nile into pharaohs house”. It is not, “Don’t you remember when I brought you through that bad relationship, when I brought you through those financial troubles, when I brought you through that abusive household, when I brought you through those drugs…” Instead He says, “I’ll be with you”. Moses’ question of “Who am I?” is answered by God with this… “But I will be with you.”

We can base our sense of wealth upon God, and we can be confident that He is here for us and He is here with us. But, He is also above us enough to protect, provide, and get us safely home.

Think about it this way.

Let’s say we are going to go to London and meet the queen. We figure we will knock on the castle door and ask to meet the queen, look around the mansion, even maybe see the secret rooms. We have this all planned out and we go and when we get there and knock on the door the guy answers and says, “Who are you?”.

I would tell him, “I’m Wayne Smith and I’m here to see the queen and tour the house; even the secret rooms.”

“Get out of here”, he would exclaim, “I don’t know who you think you are thinking you can just come in here and drop and name and we’re just going to open the house up to you. The queen is busy. Leave.”

That story was once true for Kate Middleton. At one time, a fifteen-year-old girl would have walked up and said, “I’d like to see the queen.”

They would reply, “Who are you?”

“Kate Middleton. I’d like to see the palace also and have full access to all the rooms. I’d like to come in and make myself at home.”

They would say, “Little girl, get out of here!” But, they don’t say that now.

Kate’s title is “her royal highness, the Duchess of Cambridge”. Now, if she wants to see the queen and they say, “Who are you?” She can point at her husband and say, “I’m with him. I’m the princess married to the prince.”

The “I’m with him” has moved Kate from “Who are you?”, access denied to “I’m with him” all doors open, even to the secret rooms.

This is the most commonly used illustration in the Bible that we are the “bride of Christ.” We are with Him.

Ephesians 5:25-27 (NKJV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

The church is the Bride of Christ. In the same way that Kate get’s access to the queen by saying “I’m with him”, we get access to God by saying, “I’m with Him”. Now we have full access.

Think about how this attacks and establishes itself as our identity. I’m not in control, I can see I’m not in control, but I’m with Him. When it comes to this life - I’m average. We don’t have this thing in our pocket. We are not as good as we may think we are. In life, the best we’re going to get is a C. Yet, I don’t have to be in control because I’m with Him.

I’m not defined by what I own or what I do - I’m with Him. What could you fill in the “I am” blank with that could not be taken in a second? I am a husband, I am a truck driver, I am a pastor. All of those things could be taken from me in an instant; but, it’s ok, I’m with Him.

I know life isn’t going to be easy, but it’s ok because I’m with Him. He’s with me, He hears me, He see’s me, He has come down.

It doesn’t matter what I’ve done; my past does not define me because I’m with Him.

Maybe you’re reading this today and God has pricked your heart, and you realize that you define God in how you want Him to be, and your angry and anxious because you try to control your life, and it’s not working. Maybe you're worried about how people think of you; so you project an image of strength. You feel enslaved and trapped. It’s by God’s mercy that you are where you are, and not in the grave like many you know. It’s by God’s mercy that you are here at this time, and you’ve got to see His word and truth enter your life. You have not out sinned the Grace of God. The “I AM who I AM” is available to all who will lay themselves down, confess their sins, and turn from their sins. From here, a new identity comes and we can call out… “I’m with Him!”