In the real man program I run in schools, I talk about the Vegas Rule – What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Let’s do the same thing for the 2020 rule – “What happened in 2020 stays in 2020”
“Ships don’t sink because of the water around them, ships sink because of the water that gets in them”
This morning, the first Sunday of the new year, the first Sunday of 2021, we all have the same opportunities to start afresh, we all have the same opportunity to step into a new season.
As a Church, we stand at the beginning of a whole new season, with a new building, with new opportunities, to create fresh vision, see greater impact.
However, as we step into something new, we also are all stepping out of a past season.
It’s impossible for us to move into 2021, but still be negatively influenced by 2020.
It’s possible for us to move into the new building, but aside from being in an awesome new space, internally nothing changes.
It’s possible as individuals, to be on the edge of a new season, but because we carry with us all of the pain of the past, we fail to capitalise on the opportunity we are presented with.
So, this morning, I want us to look at the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt, which sets the title for my message this morning – “Leaving Egypt”.
To set the scene – a quick overview of the Israelites journey.
God had given the Israelites a promise way back in the days of Abraham.
Their promise was a land they could call their own. A land of blessing. A land of favour. The promised land.
Right at the beginning of the Bible in Genesis, God promised Abraham that he would be blessed and He would give him a promised land.
He then confirmed that promise to the next generation, to Abraham’s son Isaac, and then again to Isaac’s son Jacob.
But in between the promise and the fulfilment of the promise, the Israelites are taken as slaves by the Egyptians.
Sound familiar? God gives you a promise, and on the journey, on the way to seeing the fulfilment of that promise, things get worse before they get better.
For over 400 years, generation of the Israelites were held in captivity as slaves in Egypt by Pharaoh.
The Israelites, who God promised their own land, were held captive as slaves.
Moses is called by God to go to Pharaoh and rescue His people and finally he is able to take the Israelites from Egypt and they cross the Red Sea and between them and their promised land is a journey through the wilderness.
I’m almost just flippantly reeling off the story as if its just an everyday story of going to the shops to buy milk, but this journey is marked by miracles, by God’s hand of provision, by God doing amazing signs and wonders.
Moses sees a burning bush and God speaks to him.
He drops his staff on the ground and it turns into a snake.
He picks up the snake and it turns back into a stick.
Then the people of Israel find themselves almost free and God splits the Red Sea.
Pretty epic adventures and God’s hand was very obvious.
As can be the case in our own personal story, we often forget about what God has done for us and tend to focus on the negative circumstances we face right now.
The Isaraelites, who had been held captive as slaves for 400+ years, who had a promise from God that they would have their own land of promise and favour, are rescued through the leadership of Moses, miraculously cross the Red Sea and find themselves in the wilderness on the way to their promised land.
The journey through the wilderness should have only taken 11 days – however ended up taking 40 years!
The biggest challenge that the Israelites faced was that while they had left Egypt, Egypt had not left them.
There’s a quote from an unknown author which sums up perfectly what was happening for the Israelites.
What does that mean for us?
While we are leaving 2020, will we allow 2020 to be carried with us and impact our journey moving forward?
While we are moving from an old facility into an amazing new facility, a new season, are we going to allow things of the past to hold us back from stepping into all God has for us as a Church?
For you personally, stepping out of your past, are you going to carry it with you, the pain, the challenges, the hurts, the mistakes and impact your life moving forward?
As we look at what caused the Israelites to be held captive, we need to look at what I believe are the three key areas for God’s promises for us.
- Our identity – how we see ourselves.
- Our mentality – what we believe and how we see the world.
- Our activity – what we do. Which will create our reality.
Firstly, I want us to look at what not to do.
Then contrast that with God’s example – Moses, one of the greatest leaders of all time.
To the Israelites:
The Israelites had been held captive as slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years so the generations leaving Egypt had never known anything else – they had never lived free from slavery or bondage.
While they may have heard stories passed down about Abraham and the promises God had given them, they had lived their whole lives as slaves.
They were an oppressed people.
Forced to do hard labour, building cities, erective monuments, constructing roads, working in quarries, without their own freedoms.
The environment and circumstances they had grown up in shaped their identity – how they saw themselves.
While they were Hebrew, and they were God’s people, ultimately, they saw themselves as slaves.
Their identity was that of a slave. They had been born as slaves. They were controlled by their captors. Their whole world and who they were was defined by external negative factors.
Their experience, their environment, the circumstances surrounding their existence, had formed their identity.
Often, we can allow our environment to shape our identity. The circumstances surrounding our birth, the experiences we have had.
Our experience can be one of brokenness therefore we see ourselves as broken and unfixable.
Our experience and environment can be one of failure, therefore we see ourselves as a failure.
Our experience and environment can be one of addiction, therefore we identify as an addict.
Our experience and environment can be one of chaos, external negative factors outside of our control, therefore we identify as a victim.
Two of the most powerful words in the English language are “I am..” and what follows will impact the trajectory of our lives.
The Israelites identity as slaves then flowed on to impact the mentality and their mindset.
Slave identity creates a slave mentality.
Mentality is your thinking, your beliefs, your expectation and your focus.
According to research studies into Slavery and Slave Mentality, after slavery was abolished in the United States often slaves chose to remain with their masters as they didn’t know what to do with their newfound freedom.
Slave mentality is particularly characterised by dependence and passivity as we can see with the Israelites.
While they weren’t free, at least they knew what to expect.
They couldn’t be disappointed, because they had zero level of hope. They could depend on and had a level of certainty around their treatment and their existence.
Numbers 14:2-3 (NIV)
“All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assemble said to them, If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?
Numbers 20:2-5 (NIV)
They quarrelled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why dd you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”
It’s almost as if they forgot what God had just done to rescue them from their captors in Egypt.
They left Egypt with pockets full of gold and jewels. They walked across the floor of the Red Sea as the waves parted either side. It was forgetfulness. It was who they were. It was their ingrained mentality. They had zero hope for things to be better. Their world view was framed by survival mode.
Their mentality was one of fear. Their mentality a slave mentality.
Exodus 6:9 (NIV)
When Moses told this to the Israelites, they were too discouraged and mistreated to believe him.
Combine your identity with your mentality and it will shape your activity.
While now according to their environment and their circumstances, they were free – no longer slaves in Egypt, and being guided by God, literally by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
Their journey through the wilderness is marked by complaining, murmuring and disobedience.
Their identity as slaves impacted their mentality and their outlook on life which drove their activity and behaviour.
Fear led to disobedience and that caused the Israelites to wander in the wilderness for forty years.
The ultimate goal of the wilderness experience in the end, was to, once and for all, get Egypt out of the Israelites.
- As a challenge to us, what will we choose to carry with us from 2020?
- What will we choose to carry with us from our past?
- As a Church, what will we bring with us into this new season?
Now, the contrast – our model and our vision for 2021.
While the Israelites identity was that of a slave, God’s plan for their rescue was to have one of their own raised as royalty.
Moses enters the scene after being dropped in a river as a baby and found by Pharaoh’s daughter and was raised in the palace.
Moses was a Hebrew, he was born to Israelite parents, but Pharaoh has just made a decree to kill all baby boys under two years old, (if you’ve seen the movie Prince of Egypt”) his mother made a little basket, dropped him in the river and he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter.
Moses’ identity was that of royalty!
How we approach 2021, and how we leave 2020 behind. How we move into this new season as a Church, how we each stop into the promises that God has for us personally starts with our identity.
How do you see yourself?
Do you see yourself as a slave? A slave to sin, a slave to circumstance, a slave addiction, a slave to people?
Or do see yourself the way God sees you, the way He created you?
As royalty, as His child, as a person with great power and authority, as the head and not the tail, as influential, as supernatural!
Moses would have seen himself very differently. Imagine being raised as royalty.
Acts 7:22 (NIV)
Stephen testified: “Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians and he was a man of power in words and deeds.”
I loved the old school Planetshakers song “You call me beautiful”.
There is a line in the song: “I am not my mistakes, I am a child of God.”
It paints the picture perfectly. That is how God sees you.
Our identity is as a Child of God, adopted into God’s family.
Ephesians 1:3-8 (NLT)
3All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”
You are a child of God. God’s identity for you is not based on your environment, your circumstances, your past or your pain.
Your identity according to God’s word is that of royalty. Someone who He chose for himself. Someone who He created in His own image. Someone who He has paid the highest price to be in relationship with. Someone who is loved by God.
We need to shape our identity, the way we see ourselves, on the truth of how God sees us, because from our identity, our mentality is formed.
Moses being raised as royalty would have had a very different mentality – a very different outlook on life, a very different outlook on his ability to influence circumstances and what was happening around him.
Our mentality is essentially our belief systems.
- How do you see yourself?
- What do you believe?
While the Israelites were complaining and murmuring, Moses was hearing God’s voice, seeking God for the next instruction and direction.
Moses was one of the greatest leaders of the Old Testament and his life is one
marked by faith.
While he had moments of self-doubt, he was a man of great faith.
Hebrews 11:27 (NIV)
By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.”
Moses belief was one of faith. He didn’t look at the circumstances or his environment, but he looked to God and believed God according to His word.
He wasn’t perfect, he had questions, he doubted, he had moments of fear, but ultimately, he did three things:
- Spent time in God’s presence
- Sought God’s voice
- Came into agreement with God’s Word
Agreement both in his heart and then in his activity. He heard and obeyed.
- How do you see yourself?
- What do you believe (about yourself, about God’s plan for your life, about the future ahead of you)?
These all combined together will ultimately dictate how we behave.
Moses being raised as royalty would have had a very different mentality in his daily activity. A very different outlook on life, a very different outlook on his ability to influence circumstances and what was happening around him.
The biggest differentiating factor between the Israelite slaves and Moses in their behaviour was obedience.
The Israelites saw themselves as slavery, they had a fearful, self-serving, survival mentality, which caused them to disobey God. They didn’t do what He wanted them to do.
Moses on the other hand saw himself as royalty, as powerful, as a man called and chosen by God, he had faith, he believed God at His word which caused him to act in obedience.
As we leave 2020 and step into 2021, as we move into a new season as a Church, as we each personally move into the plans and purposes God has for us, firstly we must leave the past behind.
Leave 2020 in 2020.
Leave our challenges behind.
Leave the pain in the past.
Leave our old identity behind.
Leave our old mentality behind.
Leave our old activity and behaviour behind and step into the future.
Step into the future as royalty.
Step into the future in faith.
Step into the future with our ears open to hear and our hearts quick to obey.
The big challenge for us as we look to the future.
- How do you see yourself?
- What do you believe?
- Will you hear and obey?
Suggestions for discussion
- Can you step out of 2020 and look forward to a better 2021?
- Do you see your identity as royalty in God?
- Do you see yourself as a slave to your circumstances?