Identity theft has become one of the most rapid crimes sweeping across America. It is occurring at unprecedented levels. Criminals are finding creative ways to rip the Social Security numbers and basic biographical information of a person and then use that information to assume the unwitting person's identity.

It was reported that a 31-year-old Chicago woman's purse was stolen earlier in the year, and with it three vehicles have been purchased by thieves assuming her identity. When she received a card thanking her for buying a car she'd never purchased, she knew her thieves had struck again. Something similar happened to us a few years ago when someone used mine and my wife's identities to purchase electronics, phone service and other items before we discovered what happened.
However, it's worse when someone has the nerve to steal the identity of God. I mean, who would be willing to assume matters about His identity? Yet across this country, there are those who are misrepresenting God's identity. Don't look around now, friend, but somebody has stolen God's identity.

In many pulpits across the country, some are guilty of stealing God's identity by misrepresenting Him.
1. There are those who have stolen His identity and replaced it with a prosperity God. They are saying His chief concern is our wealth and health. Somebody has stolen God's identity.

2. There are those who have stolen His identity and replaced it with a universalism God. They are saying everybody is saved and that all roads lead to heaven. Somebody has stolen God's identity.

3. There are those who have stolen His identity and replaced it with a fast-food God: a have-it-your-way relationship, attempting to redefine sin as a lifestyle, elevating love at the expense of holiness. Somebody has stolen God's identity.

4. There are those who have stolen His identity and replaced it with a limited God. They insist evil in the world is the result of a limited God who can't do anything about it—called open theism. Somebody has stolen God's identity.

5. There are those who have stolen His identity and replaced it with a political God. They try to make God a politician, as if He is running for office, elevating social issues above everything else. Somebody has stolen God's identity.

6. There are those who have stolen His identity and replaced with a legalistic God. They try to make God into a list of dos and don'ts (e.g., If I keep the list, I'm good; if I don't, I'm not. Somebody has stolen God's identity.

They have stolen God's identity, and today we come to recover who God really is. The struggle with stealing God's identity is that if the truth were told, most of us want a God who serves us rather than a God we serve. We want to create a designer God who has all the parts we like and deletes the parts we dislike.

Today, just for a little while by the power of the anointing and based on the truth of God's Word, I want to talk about "The True Identity of God." To find out the true identity of something, you have to start with the original. In Exodus 34:6-7, God fills out His own birth certificate and describes to us who He really is. It is this self-description that is referenced time and again for the rest of Scripture. This is the identity that ought to shape our preaching. Our preaching ought to be shaped by the true identity of God. Our preaching is not to be shaped by what's in style or what draws a crowd, but rather by the true identity of God. Hear these words about God's true identity (Ex. 34:6-7, NIV).

In Exodus 33:18, Moses makes a request of God to show him His glory. God replies that no one can see Him and live, but to put himself in the cleft in the rock and He would pass by and cover him as He passed by, thereby showing Moses His back. I believe Exodus 34 is a continuation of that event, as God continued to show Moses Himself. In the opening verses, the Lord tells Moses to chisel out two stone tablets for a second time. Moses is on his way up Mount Sinai, and as he's going up, the Lord came down in a cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed His true identity.

He starts with "The Lord, the Lord" or "Yahweh, Yahweh El." God begins by reciting His own name twice followed by "El," the biblical designation for "Deity." This is the only place in the Bible where this repetition is found, but it serves two purposes.

1. It causes us to pause and take notice as He announces His name twice. This is to emphasize the name of God and reminds us of His name "I am that I am" (e.g., Martha, Martha; Peter, Peter).

2. It connects us back to the first description of his name with Moses in Exodus: "Moses, we have had this same conversation before" (vv. 3:13-15).

He restates the name He had given to Moses already: "I am was. I am is. I am will be." He doesn't stop there, but then begins to unpack what the "I am that I am" means.

I Am a Compassionate and Gracious God.
God tells us that He is a compassionate and gracious God. He is compassionate in that He loves and cares for us as a mother would her children. This word for compassion means "womb," referring to the maternal nature of mothers. It can be broadened to include the care of fathers and mothers, but foundational is the image of a mother caring for her children. God grabs holds of an image of a mother as she cradles her children, nurses her children, teaches her children, holds her children, puts her children to bed, tends to them when they are sick; and He says, "That's who I am: I am compassionate; I care and am concerned about you." This describes a God who lovingly cares for us although we are weak.

His grace means He comes to the aid of the weak. God innately cares and is concerned for the weak, though this care is undeserved. There is no reason for Him to care for us. He is the stronger coming to the aid of the weaker, but it is only at His own initiation. He cares; He is compassionate; and He is involved in our lives and our world though we don't deserve His care or concern. He gives it by His own gracious action. We need to understand compassion and grace are not what God does but who God is. The word gracious is used 13 times in the Old Testament—11 times in this section. God cares for us with no ulterior motives, and we never can repay Him. This is just who He is.

What's a picture of God? As God describes Himself, Moses probably is listening intently and hears those two words—compassionate and gracious—and begins to think about all the occasions of when God was concerned about His people and graciously intervened in their situations. There was Israel's story: Most recently picking up with the difficult oppression by the Egyptians beginning in Exodus 1; but in Exodus 2, the people groan their prayers to God because of their great pain, and God "looked on them and was concerned about them." God cared enough to hear their prayers, but then graciously got involved and rescued them.

If that were not enough, Moses had his own story. In Exodus 1, he was scheduled to die when all Hebrew boys were to be killed; but in Exodus 2, God cared enough to get involved and kept him alive so the basket in which he was placed could float to the right house at the right time in the right stream to the right woman. God cares, and He cares graciously.

God cares. He cares graciously and goes beyond all expectations. When God puts compassion and graciousness together, He reminds us that He cares for us extravagantly; and He does so, knowing there is no way we can repay Him.

The enemy will cause you to question God's care. When you leave the hospital after visiting someone on life support, when you watch believers suffering miscarriages, when cancer strikes someone you love, when drug abuse hits close to home, when divorce visits those in whom you've invested, when those who have helped build the church enter hospice care, when you don't want to share because of a broken heart—remember God cares!

In 1904, in Lestershire, N.Y., the Rev. W. Stillman Martin, a well-known Baptist evangelist, was invited to preach at a church some distance from the Bible school. That Sunday morning, Mrs. Martin suddenly fell ill and was confined to her bed, making it impossible for her to accompany her husband to his preaching engagement. Mr. Martin seriously considered cancelling his speaking assignment, because he would have to be away for a considerably long time.

However, their young son spoke up and said, "Father, don't you think that if God wants you to preach today, He will take care of Mother while you are away?" Agreeing, Mr. Martin kept his preaching appointment, and the service proved to be unusually blessed by God, with several people professing Christ as Savior.

Returning later that evening, Mr. Martin found his wife greatly improved in health. In fact, while he was gone she had been engaged in preparing a new hymn text, inspired by the chance remark of their young son earlier that day. That same evening, Stillman Martin composed the music for his wife's words just as they still are sung today.

Be not dismayed whate'er betide,
God will take care of you
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.
God will take care of you,
Through every day, over all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.

A year later with help from friends, Mrs. Martin also wrote "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." The God of Scripture is a caring and gracious God.

I Am a Loving and Faithful God.
He now draws on the covenant language and uses the Hebrew word hesed, which means "unfailing love" or "loyal love." This refers specifically to the commitment God has made to His people in the covenant. Here God's covenant love is connected with the Hebrew word for faithfulness (emet), which also means "truth" or "truthfulness." God's covenant love means God is consistent with His character. He had a covenant with Israel, and God is bound by His Word.

He is a God who loves us with a love that never fails. He is a God who loves us and is committed to His Word. He is a God who loves us and is faithful beyond comprehension. His is a loyal love that is forever committed and forever unfailing.

Isn't it interesting that God describes this love on the heels of another episode of Israel's betrayal and disobedience? He gives this definition of His loyal love only after Israel has seen evidence of who God is. They have betrayed God in Exodus 32 by creating an idol, a golden calf, simply because Moses was taking too long talking to God on Mount Sinai. Because of their impatience and inability to be faithful to God in their leader's absence, God gives Moses a fresh understanding that He remains faithful to His Word.

Moses himself had dealt with unfaithfulness; after all, in his hands at this very moment in Scripture were two stone tablets he had hewn, but the reason he was carrying them was because he had broken the first pair due to the unfaithfulness of the Israelites.

Moses needed to know about the "the loving faithfulness" of God. Moses needed to know this was the God he was serving. Moses heard "loving and faithful," and it was music to his ears. It was as though everything Moses ever imagined he found in God.

God so described Himself that Moses' only response when He finished the definition was to bow down and worship. All he could do was worship and ask for His presence. Friend, the same thing will happen to you when you preach the true identity of God; the only thing you will be able to do is worship!

You need to know God's loyal love is with you. God's loyal love will sustain you.
• We live in the days of cohabitation.
• We live in the days of prenuptial agreements.
• We live in the days of the fine print.
• We live in the days of church free agency.
• People change church almost as often as they change clothes.
• Everybody is looking for a better team!
• We live in the days of rising divorce rates.
• We live in the days of lack of commitment and loyalty to anyone or anything.
• Businesses fail; marriages fail; families fall apart…

We are so accustomed to unfaithfulness, but God defines Himself by saying, "I'm faithful."

He says: I'm faithful.
1. "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Josh. 1:5).
2. "His compassions fail not; they are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness" (Lam. 3:22-23).
3. "God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful" (1 Cor. 1:9).
4. "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man; and God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He also will provide a way out so you can stand up under it" (1 Cor. 10:13).
5. "The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it" (1 Thess. 5:24).
6. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

People need something they can depend on, given all the fluctuations of life.

Politicians come and go. City officials come and go. Jobs come and go. Health comes and goes. Relationships come and go. Friends come and go. Pastors come and go. However, God comes along and tells us He's here to stay.

Dependability, reliability, consistency, integrity and faithfulness is found in God. He is the consistency we need in our lives; in other words, "He will last."

He will last through health problems.
He will last through family problems.
He will last through legal problems.
He will last through job problems.
He will last through money problems.
He will last through a recession.
He will last no matter who's in office.
He will last through it all.

He will last! "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:1-5).

He will last! "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isa. 40:8).

He will last! "Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God" (Ps. 90:1-2).

He will last! "From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised" (Ps. 113:3).

He will last! "Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today and forever" (Heb. 13:8).

He will last! He lasted through 430 years of bondage. He lasted through parting the Red Sea. He lasted through desert wanderings. He lasted through stormy seas. He lasted through imprisonments. He lasted through floods. He will last!

I Am a Forgiving and Just God.
"…forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation" (Ex. 34:7).

In Minneapolis, Minn., in February 1993, Mary's son, Laramiun Byrd, was shot to death during an argument at a party. He was 20 and Mary's only child. The killer was a 16-year-old kid named Oshea Israel. Mary wanted justice. Tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 and one-half years, Oshea served 17 before being released recently. He again lives in the same neighborhood, next door to Mary in the same complex. Mary lives at 904 and Oshea lives at 902.

A few years ago, Mary asked if she could meet Oshea at Minnesota's Stillwater State Prison. As a devout Christian, she felt compelled to see if there was some way, somehow, she could forgive her son's killer.

"I believe the first thing she said to me was, 'Look, you don't know me. I don't know you. Let's just start with right now,'" Oshea says. "I was befuddled myself."
Oshea says they met regularly after that. When he got out, she introduced him to her landlord, who—with Mary's blessing—invited Oshea to move into the building. Today, they don't just live close; they are close.

Mary was able to forgive. For Oshea, it hasn't been that easy. "I haven't totally forgiven myself yet. I'm learning to forgive myself, and I'm still growing toward trying to forgive myself."

Mary not only lifted a burden off Oshea by forgiving him, but she then invited him into her world. That's what God did for us. He forgave us, but then He invited us to live with Him.

The word forgive is nasa, meaning "to lift up, carry, to take away." Israel needed a forgiving God because the people had a tendency to complain, grumble and doubt God. Most recently, they had created a golden calf to worship. Although God had proven Himself on timeless occasions, they still had a tendency to sin and were guilty in every way. Thanks be to God that He is a forgiving God!

When you examine the track record of the Israelites, they needed a forgiving God; but I don't have to look at them. I can look at my own life. My thoughts, actions, ways, habits, struggles weaknesses, pride, lies, lust and attitude—I don't have to look far back—I can look at this morning and say, "I need help." I can look at myself on my best days, and I am still so far from God's standard. Thank God He's a forgiving God! He has lifted; He is lifting; and He will lift those sins away.

His forgiveness is seen in us. The reason I can stand and preach the true identity of God is because He has forgiven me. Moses knew God's forgiveness because of his own struggles. Moses needed a forgiving God because of his own past (murderer). God was forgiving before the law was given. God was forgiving in the Garden of Eden. God was forgiving; God is forgiving; God will be forgiving. Thank God that He is forgiving right now.

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12).

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

"I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. Put Me in remembrance; let us contend together; state your case, that you may be acquitted" (Isa. 43:25-26).

The text reveals that His nature is to forgive, but it reveals He also punishes. Along with His forgiveness is His justice. His forgiveness does not excuse His judgment. Yes, the text tells us He is "slow to anger" and patient with us. He gives us time to turn around. He gives us time to get it right.

Momma used to say it this way: "Boy, I'm going to give you one more time. Now I don't like have to repeat myself. Now if I have to come back, I'm coming back with my belt. Let this be the last time I have to call your name."

The text also reveals that if we do not repent, God will not leave the guilty unpunished. It almost sounds as if there's a contradiction in the verse between God forgiving and God punishing, but the link is that the forgiveness occurs for those who repent, while punishment remains for those who refuse to repent.
In perfect balance, God extends forgiveness and punishment. The unrepentant face the greatest consequences because they reject a God who is gracious and loving. Some misinterpret His consequences to think God punishes the children for the father's sin, but the point is that children suffer because of parent's sinful decisions. God does not reverse this; it is a natural consequence of our actions. Think of the alcoholic parent, incarcerated parent, abusive parent, unbelieving parent…Blessing and consequences always have a generational effect.

After going through an episode of identify theft, I saw an advertisement and decided to subscribe to a service called LifeLock. LifeLock is a service that promises to secure your identity and prevent anything going on your credit without your prior authorization. After enrolling in the program, every time my wife or I attempt to open a new line of credit, immediately my mobile phone rings as a representative from LifeLock is calling me to ensure it really is me or her making a purchase. Only when I authorize the transaction will LifeLock allow the transaction to go through. My identity first has to be verified.

After my identity was stolen, in order to clear my credit report, I learned I personally would have to go to the police department to provide evidence of my identity. I asked, "Can I send somebody?" I asked, "Can I mail it in?" I asked, "Can my wife come?" I asked, "Can I go online and complete a form?" No, to all of the above; I had to show up in person.

So I gathered my birth certificate, social security card and my credit report and headed to the police department, where I filled out a police report for the case of identity theft and began the process of reclaiming my identity.

Well, 2,000 years ago, after His identity had been stolen on one too many occasions, God decided to reclaim His identity. He decided enough was enough and made His way to reclaim His identity.

He couldn't send someone; it had to be Him.
• A prophet could not do it.
• A priest could not do it.
• An earthly king could not do it.
• An angel could not do it.

He decided to come Himself in human flesh in the form of Jesus Christ to reclaim His identity.
• Jesus Christ born in the town of Bethlehem;
• Jesus Christ born to a virgin, Mary;
• Jesus Christ, who started His ministry around age 30…
• "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father."
• Jesus Christ—full of compassion…
• Jesus Christ—full of grace…
• Jesus Christ—full of love…

What did Jesus show us about the identity of God?
• He was compassionate.
• He was gracious.
• He was loving.
• He was faithful.
• He was patient.
• He was forgiving.
• He was just.
• Jesus Christ was put through a fixed trial.
• Jesus Christ was wrongly convicted.
• Jesus Christ carried His own cross.
• Jesus Christ made His way up the hill called Calvary.
• Jesus Christ's hands were nailed.
• Jesus Christ's feet were pierced.
• Jesus Christ's head wore a crown of thorns.
• Jesus Christ's side was pierced.
• Jesus Christ's hung from the sixth to the ninth hour.
• Jesus Christ hung His head and died.
• Jesus Christ was placed in a borrowed tomb.
• Jesus Christ stayed there…
• But Sunday morning, He got up!

Thank You, God, for reclaiming Your identity!

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