Faith’s Identity

Hebrews 11:24-26

Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? How do I get there? Ultimate questions, ones that most everyone gets to asking sooner or later. Super important to get the answers right, also. Rene Descartes, French philosopher, went back one step further questioning his very existence. Once he established that since he doubted his existence, he must exist – if he didn’t exist, he couldn’t doubt – next question is “Who am I?” Question goes far beyond what is your name. Is a question of identity – who are you, really, the real you, as an individual distinct from all others and yet related to others in variiety of ways?

The concept of the looking glass-self theory constitutes the cornerstone of the sociological theory of socialization. The idea is that people in our close environment serve as the “mirrors” that reflect images of ourselves. According to Cooley [American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929)], this process has three steps. First, we imagine how we appear to another person. Sometimes this imagination is correct, but may also be wrong since it is merely based on our assumptions. Second, we imagine what judgments people make of us based on our appearance. Lastly, we imagine how the person feels about us, based on the judgments made of us. The ultimate result is that we often change our behavior based on how we feel people perceive us. (http://www.popularsocialscience.com/2013/05/27/the-looking-glass-self-how-our-self-image-is-shaped-by-society/)

Cooley may be correct in his assessment: we imagine how we appear to others, we imagine the judgments they make, we imagine how they feel about us. What do we do then? Use those imagined bits of data to establish our identity – thinking about ourselves the way we imagine other people do. But is that how God and his word instruct us to determine and define who we are? Are we to rely on our imagination, our self-perception to reach an accurate conclusion about our identity? Let’s consider how Moses by faith thought about himself and his circumstances.

A. identity refused v.24

let’s consider what took place in Moses’ life: born to godly parents Amram and Jochebed, given up for adoption at 3 months

sure, continued to live with birth family for a while, approx. 3 years; in some ways, kind of like surrogate parents, formally adopted and named when taken to Pharaoh’s daughter (Ex. 2:10)

was to all outward appearances son of the palace from that point on: all benefits and advantages of royalty, trained and groomed sufficiently to become next Pharaoh

expected to look and think and act like an Egyptian for 35+ years – taken for granted that he was who he appeared to be

turned out to be quite an individual: “Moses was given the best education in Egypt. He was a strong man and a powerful speaker.” (Acts 7:22, CEV)

“when he became of age” “when he was grown” (Ex. 2:11; Acts 7:23) – 40 years old, took into his head to go see Hebrew slaves

cannot tell from biblical record what Moses had been told – were circumstances of birth kept hidden, often the case in adoptions

Stephen: “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel.”

who put it in Moses’ heart? did Moses think of them as his brothers? certainly it was God who moved Moses in their direction

acted on his desire, his impulse – left palace, went to nearby work site: Egytian supervisors (slavedrivers), Hebrew laborers (slaves)

confronted with situation – obvious injustice, someone in authority oppressing another human being without just cause

not much different from early 19th century southern US – white slaveowner beating up on black slave without good reason

Moses has choice: whose side will he take? only is not simple matter of racial discrimination, class warfare, law or economics

is family matter for Moses: will he continue to identify with Pharaoh, his adoptive family? or will he identify with birth family?

Moses made his move, did much of it wrong – even though have no record of God finding fault with Moses, he probably didn’t have authority to take law into his own hands

don’t lose sight of what he did – took a side, chose to identify with the Hebrew slave rather than Egyptian supervisor

that choice cost him his adoptive family – no longer considered a privileged member of royal household

if someone challenged him like Simon Peter: aren’t you one of Pharaoh’s daughter’s sons? Moses refused, rejected that identity

do not have to accept an identity others try to give us – can choose what identity we will accept

people try to put all sorts of identity labels on us, some accurate, some good, others not so much – we have option to refuse

may even be faced with choosing between two families: that of brothers and sisters in Christ, and the family that raised us

remember child of God was not born into God’s family – has been adopted, brought into the family… by God’s choice

B. identity embraced v.25

simply refusing to be called son of Pharaoh’s daughter wasn’t end of issue for Moses – how many times could you stand to hear “don’t call me that” before frustration… “all right, what do you want me to call you?!”

Moses didn’t stay over on side of refusal – rather, he instead actively chose different identity, then he embraced that new identity

can choose particular identity, plaster it on like a label, go on living life experiencing and demonstrating no other change

go back to playground days – two team captains, call out who they want on their team, kids just stand there…NOT! go line up behind captain, demonstrating team identity by action

Moses could have refused identity as royal son, still tried to retain identity as Egyptian citizen and live accordingly

instead, fully embraced newly declared identity, one that immediately put him at odds with everything his world stood for

for Moses to keep one foot in Egypt and other in his Hebrew family like guy standing w/one foot on boat, other on the dock – recipe for disaster

he knew what payback would be – he would be embracing life of privation, affliction, suffering, hardship, humiliation

all he had known for 40 years – life of highest privilege with little or nothing denied to him – only a memory, never to experience again, one he could never go back to even as God’s chosen leader

Moses made it plain new identity was more than simply a label, a checkbox on census form – was direct intimate connection between identity and lifestyle

to embrace something is to hold it close, hold it tight, refuse to let someone take it away, make it our own, live in light of it

here’s what that meant – yes, called a Hebrew, would live like one – eat, dress, talk, work, think, choose, going for full immersion experience, no holding back, no exceptions, no privileges

had powerful motivation for doing so: at 40 years old, had come to understand difference between what has substance, what does not

when faced with situation requiring choice, Moses opted for identity that had enduring, even eternal substance associated with it

embracing what was of substance required turning his back on all that would satisfy only for moment – the best Egypt had to offer would at most last for this life

had wisdom to grasp that what endures often comes at high price – suffering and affliction – yet benefits are well worth it

can choose to embrace a particular identity – for Moses, chose to identify as one of people of God, the true God, Yahweh

Moses had other options, selected the one he believed best; same true for us – all sorts of choices available… can even choose to have identity reassigned

what is identity you will embrace? for one who claims to be Christian, self-identity we embrace must be consistent with how God views and identifies you

notice there’s nothing in our text about what we imagine other people might think; what is important is what God thinks – are we by faith going to embrace our identity as people of God?

C. identity esteemed v.26

not case where Moses chose lesser of two evils, flipped a coin, was coerced into picking one over the other – chose purposely

considered options with eyes open, made reasoned thoughtful choice for one on which he placed higher value, of greater wealth

before you grab pencil and paper, start listing pros and cons, look at last phrase of v. 26: “for he looked to the reward”

not a decision Moses came to solely by force of reason; in fact, predominant factor in his choice was confidence in God’s promise – iow, by faith

v. 24 starts with declaration “by faith”, v. 26 ends with description of faith: his eyes were fixed on the reward God promised

ask Moses few decades down the road: “so, think you made a good choice of identity?” – his answer, resounding “YES”

Egypt’s gods completely humiliated by plagues; Pharaoh’s army thoroughly defeated/destroyed at Red Sea crossing

Egyptian empire and all it represented long gone from world stage today; people of God still alive and well, focus of God’s work in the world

can choose to esteem (or disdain) our identity

Moses made choice by faith to hold his identity as one of God’s people in high esteem, even something worth dying for if required

we can do same – choose by faith to place higher value on identity as child of God than on any other label we might be given

or… can choose at least for a time to place higher value on something else and disdain all God has to say and promise

like Moses, every child of God: bears image of eternal God, member of God’s family by adoption, full share of eternal inheritance in Christ, indwelt by omnipotent Spirit of God, members of royal priesthood, one of God’s own special people – that is who God says his children are, ours is to embrace and esteem that identity

Jesus made choice, too: Heb. 12:2for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He rejected what the world said, the identity they tried to give him: blasphemer, pretender, criminal of the lowest sort; after all, it must be true, right? He was crucified, you know! And even the law said “he who is hanged is accursed of God.” (Deut. 21:23)

Jesus refused labels the world tried to give him, even some good ones that were misguided and missed the point. He was the Son of Man who would be lifted up and draw all men to himself. Jesus looked to the reward, “the joy that was set before him”; he despised the world’s labels; he embraced identity and purpose given by his Father. Jesus’ life and choices matched the identity he embraced and esteemed. If we are going to follow him, same must be true of us – if we are going to identify with Jesus, must live for Jesus… by faith… in full dependence on him… following direction of his Spirit.

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