Spend the week studying Genesis 3 and Romans 12:3-8. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | Discovering your identity requires answering core questions about who you are, where you belong and what you’re supposed to do.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
In the Reset series your group discussed Romans 12:1-2 and what it means to experience God’s best in your life. The key truth in that passage is that transformation comes when we align our lives around Jesus and His Gospel. To be sure, Romans deals with theology (the study of God and His Word), but it’s also very practical (living out God’s truth).
Like all New Testament writers, Paul believed our understanding of God directly affected the way we see ourselves and how we live. We will continue Paul’s thoughts in Romans 12 by focusing on verses 3-8 in this series called Selfie. You will explore core questions we all ask ourselves related to our identity and purpose. Therefore, for this study we ask that you be open to these questions and discovering who it is God made you to be.
What do you remember about the Reset series? What were some important takeaways?
What do you associate with the term ‘selfie’? How does it reflect our current culture?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
There are plenty of people who will try to tell you who you are. You don’t have to search long to find an opinion. And, yes, many of these people have good intentions in what they say. Truth is, our desire to be accepted and approved by others often leads us to find our identity in what they think about us.
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Who am I really?” you are not alone. At one time or another we’ve all asked that question, because it speaks to the truth that we were made for something more. God created you with a purpose in mind. He has a plan for your life, and He wants to reveal that plan to you.
If you can answer the question, “Who am I?” then you open up the possibility of discovering joy and peace in life, enhancing your relationships and living out God’s design for you. Of course that’s not an easy question to answer. That’s why God has given us His Word. It leads us to discover who we are and what God made us for.
Can you recall a time when you made a decision based on what someone else thought about you? If so, share it with the group.
Three core questions
In his book, Living On the Edge: Dare to Experience True Spirituality (Howard Books, 2011), Chip Ingram provides three core questions people are seeking answers to:
- Who am I?
- Where do I belong?
- What am I supposed to do?
Chances are you’ve asked these questions at some point in your life. Let’s take a look at each question and what they relate to in terms of your identity and purpose.
Who I am?
This question deals with your identity. It addresses who you are (or who you see yourself to be). Many find their identity in their work or role in life (i.e., what they do). I’m a doctor, teacher, mom, accountant, coach or waiter. If you meet someone, what do they typically ask you? They ask, “What do you do?” That might be a good question to get to know someone’s background, but it doesn’t answer the core question, “Who am I?” That’s deeper. Who you are is different than what you do.
Why is it easy to identify yourself by what you do?
What would it look like to find your identity in who you are rather than what you do? What would be different about your life?
Where do I belong?
This question speaks to your sense of security. We all want to belong somewhere, and we want to fit in. That desire causes us to seek a community where we belong and are accepted. That’s why people join country clubs, identify with a political party or are active in their children’s P.T.A. Just fill in the blank. Because we are communal creatures, we long to be known in a community where we are loved and welcomed.
What are some of the benefits of finding identity in community? What are some of the dangers?
What communities do you identify with? How do they make you feel a sense of belonging? How have they shaped the way you think and act?
What am I supposed to do?
This question speaks to other questions: “What am I here for?” “What makes me different?” “What can I offer others that is unique and special?” How you answer these questions reveals a lot about yourself. It reveals your view of self and your own self-worth. It reveals your view of God and how He sees you. And it reveals what you think about your gifts and abilities.
How does this question reveal your view of self and your own self-worth?
What’s the difference between someone who sees their gifts and abilities as something valuable to God and someone who does not?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
Difficulty in answering these questions – Going back to the Fall
Many people avoid addressing these questions. “They’re too difficult.” “I don’t want to dig up bones about my past.” “I don’t have the time.” Whatever the reason, many will make excuses for not answer- ing these core questions.
Why do we avoid something so crucial to our identity and purpose? To answer this question we need to go back to the beginning of our story. Genesis 3 tells us that the first man and woman lived in a garden in an intimate relationship with God and without sin. If you’re familiar with this story, you know things changed dramatically. Adam and Eve seized the opportunity to take life into their own hands and believed they—not God—knew what was best for them. Because of that, sin entered the world and the history of humanity changed forever.
Before they sinned, Adam and Eve had identity, belonging and purpose. In an instant that was lost. In their sin they hid from God and tried to shift the blame for their actions. Instead of feeling a sense of belonging, they felt shame. Instead of ruling over God’s creation and living out their purpose, they (and all humanity) would experience the consequences of the Fall. Sin marred everything- relationships, work, identity and purpose. And we continue to struggle with the aftermath of what happened in the garden.
What do people miss out on by avoiding these core questions?
In your own words, describe sin’s affect on identity, belonging and purpose.
Three barriers to discovering you who are
The Fall created barriers to discovering who we are and what our purpose is in life. Ingram identifies three main barriers that were created: 1) fear rooted in shame, 2) hiding rooted in insecurity and 3) blame rooted in denial.
These barriers affect our relationships with God and others, and they determine how we see our identity and purpose in life. Only God can help you overcome these barriers. Only God can give you the courage to come out of hiding, find your ultimate security in Him, take ownership of your failures and trust that He gives you real, satisfying purpose in life.
Do you identify with any of these barriers? If so, which ones do you identify with and why?
How would overcoming these barriers improve your relationship with God and others? What would be different in those relationships?
Select 1 question from this section to answer.
Taking the next step
Answering these core questions is challenging. Why? Because they address issues and relationships that have shaped us and how we see the world. Therefore, we encourage you to take the next step in the right direction. And the next step we suggest would be to spend time thinking about Ingram’s three questions and any barriers you’ve created to answering them.
Do you have any reservations in taking this next step? If so, what are they?
What change would you like to see in your life by addressing these questions?
Begin by thanking God for His grace and goodness towards you in life; that He wants you to discover true identity, belonging and purpose in life. Ask Him to reveal that to you and everyone in the group. Pray for wisdom and the willingness to be honest and teachable moving forward in the study.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Read Romans 5:12-21 and reflect on the differences between what Adam brought in into the world and what Jesus, the Second Adam, brought into the world.
Ask the group to share anything significant they have discovered through their exploration of the three questions and barriers mentioned in the guide.
Identity rooted in grace.
Paul begins Romans 12:3-8 by stating, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Grace humbles us and gives us a right perspective of God, others and ourselves. Without it, we would either think too highly of ourselves (arrogance) or too lowly (self-hatred). God’s grace should lead us to marvel that, despite being unworthy of God’s goodness and favor, we have received it in Jesus.
No room to compare.
In searching for identity and purpose we often compare ourselves to others. Sometimes we even resent the success of others. Paul makes it clear in Romans 12:4-8 that God doesn’t want us to do that. There is diversity in the Body of Christ, and each member of the body serves its own function. Therefore, we shouldn’t measure our worth compared to what others do or achieve.
More on the three barriers.
The first barrier, fear rooted in shame, speaks to how we live out our relationship with God and others. This barrier causes us to avoid being vulnerable with others in fear that we’ll be exposed. We may say, “If I open up, you won’t like what you see or you’ll reject me.”
Overcoming this barrier requires honesty. There’s bravery in admitting you don’t have it all together; that you fail and don’t measure up to God’s standards. That takes humility.
The second barrier, hiding rooted in insecurity, speaks to how we view ourselves. Our shame causes us to hide from others. We put on a good face and try to mask what’s really going on inside of us. In one way or another we isolate ourselves from others or keep them at a distance. So we work hard to achieve more and find success in hopes that it will take away our insecurity.
Overcoming this barrier requires finding security in God, not yourself. Only He can give you the security to be comfortable in your own skin. Only He can help you see that you don’t have to prove yourself to Him or others. As a believer you are loved and accepted by God far beyond your wildest imagination.
The third barrier, blame rooted in denial, speaks to how we shift blame for our actions. We rationalize our actions and blame God and others for our failures in life. This barrier causes us to never take an honest look at ourselves. In blaming others we avoid responsibility. Because of this, our relationships—with God and others—suffer.
Overcoming this barrier requires owning up to your shortcomings and trusting that God is bigger than them. If you are a child of God, your failures do not define you. God does. Therefore, shifting blame is unnecessary, because you have been forgiven in Jesus.