Friday, March 21

Moses: Part III—The Problem

Living By Faith

Before we can set out on the journey of faith, we must deal with the issues revealed in the life of Moses. We must recognize that we are dependent upon God for everything. We must also understand that God has the answer to any excuse we might use. He patiently answered the objections of Moses, but the stubborn persistence at rejecting God’s call reveals a deeper problem that we sometimes refer to as self-image.

This is probably one of the hottest topics in man’s thinking today. Unfortunately, much of what has been written is foolishness. One example is the idea that we need to learn to love ourselves. Nothing could be further from the truth! The basic assumption of Scripture is that we already love ourselves too much. Hence, Scripture records, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Romans 13:9, Matthew 19:19, etc.)

People who have self-image problems do not suffer from a lack of self-love. They may have a warped sense of it, but they definitely have self-love. In fact their over-active sinfully corrupt self-love is part of the problem.

If we are going to gain the victory over this issue, we must recognize it as a sin problem for that is exactly what it is. We must then look to God for victory and understand two concepts:

1.) We are not alone (I Corinthians 10:13)

Many people have had problems with self-image and have overcome them. Moses is just one example.

2.) The problem of self-image is self

Sometimes the simple and obvious truths are the most difficult and profound. Much of the literature misses the real problem, which is self. Someone has rightly said that “I” is in the middle of sin. We have a sin nature and one of the ways this nature manifests itself is in a self-oriented life which results in self-image problems.

I.) Two Categories of Self-Image Problems:

A.) High Self-Esteem:

The first category is high self-esteem. According to the world, this is not a problem. In fact, most counseling is directed toward achieving this position, but, unfortunately, as Christians this merely undoes what God is trying to accomplish in our lives. The first thing God wants to do is lower our self-esteem.

Moses began with high self-esteem. It was so high that he thought he could single-handedly deliver his people from the Egyptians (Exodus 2:11-15). Of course, he failed. God is not interested in feeding our ego (II Corinthians 4:7). Like many of us, when our high self-esteem fails, he fled out into the wilderness, where God lowered his high opinion of himself and humbled him.

This is a primary goal of God in the life of each believer. He wants to humble us.

Scripture: Proverbs 21:4 and 11:2

An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.

When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.

There are literally dozens of similar verses. God desires to lower man’s high opinion of himself. He wants to lower our self-esteem. The wilderness is the school that God uses.

B.) Low Self-Esteem:

The second category is the one that seems to most concern us. We think this is the real issue. We think we can solve all our problems if we just have high self-esteem. Instead, we should understand that low self-esteem merely indicates that God is working. He first lowers our self-opinion, but that is not the end. He does not desire His people to have low self-esteem. This is only a stopover on the way to victory.

God took Moses from a position of royalty in Egypt to lowly shepherd in Midian. In the process, Moses lost his self-confidence. He went from extroverted leader of men to introverted tender of sheep who was afraid to even speak in front of people.

Previously, we said that the problem of self-esteem is self. Now that we have laid the groundwork, let us demonstrate this.

The Difference Between High and Low Is This:

1.) High focuses on our strengths.

2.) Low focuses on our weaknesses.

Both share a common denominator. Both focus on self.

II.) The Solution:

The solution to the problem is to change our focus. We need to stop looking at self. Instead of focusing on my strengths or my weaknesses, God wants me to focus on Christ. He expects me to die to self and live to Christ.

Scripture: Galatians 2:20

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

This is not some religious platitude. Paul was not an ignorant hypocrite, telling us to do something that he knew nothing about. He, like Moses, began with very high self-esteem.

Scripture: Philippians 3:4-6

Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Observe that esteem issues stem from our trust in the flesh. When our trust appears well-founded, we have high self-esteem. When it does not, we have low. It is our trust in the flesh that creates the issue. Instead of walking by faith, we walk by sight and suffer this as a consequence.

Prior to salvation, Saul, who later became Paul, trusted in his self. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews. He was a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). Gamalial was His world-renowned teacher. He was zealous in his religion trying to keep the Law for salvation. Then He met Christ on the road to Damascus.

Scripture: Acts 9:1-6

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

On the way to kill Christians, he met Christ and fell to the earth. We may think we are something, but that will change when we meet Him. Saul made his boast in the Law. He thought he could keep it and save himself. He rested in his self-confidence and self-control. But this self-esteem condemns us to hell, because it does not reckon with our sin nature. We substitute zeal and effort for perfection, but God is holy (I Peter 1:16).

Scripture: Romans 3:23 and 6:23

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Face to face with Christ, he recognized his own inadequacies in measuring up to the perfect standard of God. He fell to his knees as Saul, the self-righteous, but arose as Paul, the crucified with Christ—dead to self and living by faith in the Son of God.

To be victorious over self-image as Christians, we must recognize and believe two truths:

1.) For without me, ye can do nothing (John 15:5)

2.) I can do all things with Christ (Philippians 4:13)

This is how I deal with my self-image problems. If I feel inadequate, I simply trust the promise of Philippians 4:13 and ask God to help me. If I get puffed up, I remind myself that without Christ I can do nothing and confess my pride as sin.

It is not he flesh that counts, but God’s Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). We are merely the vessels that God has chosen to use. Our job is to allow God to displace self with Himself. The solution then to self-image is God-image. If we have a proper image of God, we do not have to worry about self. We just need to trust Him.

III.) The God-Made Man:

Both Moses and Paul were God-made men. Trusting in self left them defeated and humbled. Trusting in God made them great.

So how did God accomplish this great feat?

Scripture: Exodus 4:13-14

And he said, O my LORD, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.

These two verses are the turning point for Moses. Four times, he objected and four times God answered. Still Moses resisted. Then God provided two motivators.

Two Motivators:

1.) God became angry (vs. 14a)

First God became angry. This put the fear of God into Moses and that [fear] is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). This healthy fear of the Lord is much like a child’s fear of his parent. We spoke out of turn and expect the rod of chastening to fall. We desire to please Him and the discipline serves to reinforce in our memory that we have displeased Him.

God loves and cares for us (Psalm 103:13). He will patiently deal with us, but sooner or later, obedience is demanded (Hebrews 11:6) Trusting the promises of God’s Word is simply a matter of determining in our minds that we are going to obey regardless of our feelings or doubts. Victorious Christians are not without ill feelings or doubts, but they do not allow these to defeat them.

2.) God gave companionship (vs. 14b)

Second, God gave companionship. The text says that God brought Aaron to meet Moses and help him. Much effort in Christianity fails because we try to go it alone. It is interesting that Paul never went anywhere by himself. He always had helpers, because he recognized the value of godly companionship.

There is nothing like good fellowship to overcome self-image problems. Godly friendship does not put other people down. It is self-sacrificing (I Corinthians 13) and it turns our attention away from self. That is one of the advantages of a godly marriage. We have built-in companionship.


—Gaining victory over self-image problems is a matter of changing our focus. Instead of concern for self, we need concern for others. Instead of self-image, we need God image. We need to:

1.) Fix our eyes on Christ (Hebrews 12:1-3)

2.) Spend time in God’s Word (Romans 10:17)

3.) Seek out Christian fellowship (Hebrews 10:24)

4.) Do for others (I Corinthians 15:58)

Paul sums it up in a sentence, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).”

Next Lesson: The Resurrection


Jeff Finkelstein said...

I agree with you that God sent Moses and the Israelites into the wilderness to learn lessons that can't be learned anywhere else.

It's actually the topic of my wife's new book that's coming out in a couple of weeks, God in the Wilderness: Rediscovering the Spirituality of the Great
Outdoors with the Adventure Rabbi (Doubleday; 978-0-385-52049-2; $11.95; on sale April 8, 2008).

In a nutshell, the wilderness was where God gave the Jews the Ten Commandments and the Torah (known to Christians as the 'Old Testament'). Their 40-year journey in the desert transformed a group of ragtag slaves into the nation of Israel. Concepts such as our modern court system, the ethical treatment of animals, and a weekly day of rest, stem from
this time of wandering in the desert.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative post. I came across recently and i found out that they have plenty of guides on building confidence. I find it really useful. Any opinions?

Pastor Tim Hitchcock said...

The difficulty in confidence building courses is one of misplaced trust. The problem is that of placing trust in self. II Corinthians 4:7 speaks of our bodies as earthen vessels, which is something that is, inherently, fragile. We may place our confidence in our thinking ability, but a bump on the head can turn it to mush. Our limbs can be damaged and our bodies diseased. Our abilities cease or are insufficient. Sooner or later, everyone of us will face this. In contrast, God has the ability to help in any situation. Our resources and abilities are limited, but His are not. If we put our confidence in Him, He will not let us down. The reasonable thing to do is to recognize our limitations and turn to the One, who is not limited for help. We do that by confessing that we are sinners in need of a Savior and asking Jesus Christ to save us.