STUDY | Spend the week studying Luke 15:11-24. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Many questions have been included in this guide. Read through this lesson to determine which questions will work best to encourage, push, and grow your group.
PRAY | As you prepare, pray for the preaching of God’s Word this coming weekend. Pray also for your time in this week’s study and your group’s openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | Jesus is the strength we need in our weakness.
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.
This week you will look at confession as an acknowledgement of addiction. When we admit that we have become dependent on things other than God, driving us away from relationship with Him, confession leads us back to life with God. It is here that we find freedom from the addictions that enslave us and the ability to depend on the only One who can truly meet our deepest needs.
Q: Do you know anyone who does something compulsively? What effect does that have on his or her life?
Q: How does our culture encourage or enable addiction?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
The prodigal son did not only pursue a sinful lifestyle, but he rejected the life he already had with his father. The fact that he went to a “far country” makes it clear that he wanted to distance himself from his father while living in rebellion. Rather than live as a good son in Jewish society and work on his father’s land, the younger son pursued a life of seeking individual pleasure. The prodigal son decided that pursuing his own passions would be more fulfilling than life as the faithful son with his father.
Sadly, as a result of leaving home with his inheritance, the prodigal son insulted his father, lost everything he had, and became a slave to his decisions. Without food, he had to take on the lowest of low positions, a servant tending to pigs, soon wishing that he could fill his stomach with the slop that animals eat. In his pursuit of a pleasurable life apart from his father, the prodigal son found himself lost, needy and ashamed.
READ: Read Luke 15:11-24. Why does the prodigal son leave home, and why does he come back?
Q: Have you ever pursued something you thought would be best at the time, but later left you empty? How did the thing you wanted end up hurting you or others?
The story of the prodigal son does not end in darkness. In his moment of deepest despair, the son recognizes his mistake. He left the very place that could provide for all his needs. With this recognition, he decides to humble himself and return to his father’s home.
Interestingly, though, he does not seem to understand the permanency of his status as his father’s son. He thinks that if he begs, his father might give him another low position as a hired servant. It wouldn’t be what he had before, but it would be better than feeding pigs. On his way home, he probably rehearsed what he would say to his father, making sure he was prepared to earn back his father’s favor. However, before he could reach his father’s door, his father sees him and greets him with a welcoming embrace. In fact, the father ran to greet his son (an undignified act for a grown man in ancient Jewish society) and threw a party to celebrate his son’s homecoming. His father’s grace was more than the prodigal son ever imagined, and his relationship with his father was fully restored.
Q: Have you ever underestimated God’s goodness? Please share.
Q: In what ways do you forget the goodness of life with God? How are you tempted to pursue your own desires over close fellowship with God?
Select 2-3 question from this section to answer.
Freedom from addiction requires repentance, which as we learned in this week’s sermon, requires three things: conviction, contrition and change. Let’s consider each of these in more detail.
In order to overcome our addictions, we have to recognize them as such. We have to see that our own desires have an unhealthy hold on us and we must be convicted that their control harms us. The prodigal son did not think he was an addict when he left home, nor did he think the life he was recklessly pursuing could take everything from him. But once he had lost it all, the empty reality of his pursuits became clear. He wanted freedom, but his actions made him a slave.
Not all addictions are obvious. We can be addicted to work, addicted to what others think of us, or addicted to money management. Many of addictions in modern day America don’t look like addictions on the surface because they have become normal in our society. Some are even seen as good! For this reason, we need to seek a perspective higher than our cultural context. We need God’s perspective concerning the things we pursue. To receive this perspective, we must ask God to help us see with His eyes, read scripture to understand His word, and seek the advice of other faithful Christians who can help us.
Q: What do you pursue compulsively? Which of your pursuits receive large amounts of your time?
Q: Has anyone ever helped you see that something in your life was harming you in a way you didn’t realize? Please share.
Along with conviction, we need contrition, or the regret that what we pursue compulsively has drawn us away from God. Contrition has two components: understanding the harm that comes from our addiction and understanding who God is and what He has in store for us. Understanding the harm of our addictions comes partly from introspection. We have to ask ourselves, who are we becoming as a result of our pursuits? Does my perpetual pursuit of a given desire or goal make me more or less like Christ?
Understanding who God is and what He has in store for us comes from following Him and by reading Scripture. One picture of God’s character in Scripture comes from the prodigal son’s father. In him, we see that God offers us unlimited grace. He welcomes us back into life with Him no matter how far we have strayed, and calls us sons and daughters. When we clearly see the depths of God’s goodness, the shallowness of other pursuits becomes apparent.
Q: Think of three things you desire and regularly seek after. As you pursue these things, do you find yourself becoming more or less like Christ? How so?
Christian psychologist Henry Cloud says that we begin to change when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. In many cases, it is true that when we hit rock bottom, the pain of our failure or loss pushes us to make the difficult steps toward change. But for some of us, if we are honest, our addictions aren’t painful enough to motivate change. When this is the case, change can come instead from realizing that God’s grace and power is greater than the power of our addictions. Whether or not our addiction takes us to rock bottom, we cannot change on our own. Instead, like the prodigal son, we must look to our Father to redeem us. As we begin to rely on His power and trust His way for us, He cleans up the mess we made and frees us from the bonds of our addiction.
Q: In what areas of your life do you struggle to rely on God’s grace or power? How might you trust Him more completely?
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
Confessing and repenting of addiction is not simply an internal decision. If we are to truly model freedom from addiction and dependence on God, our lives will look different. We won’t rely on temporary pleasures to distract us from the difficulties of life, but instead will find lasting contentment in following Jesus. We won’t live a self-seeking lifestyle, but will instead lead a life that serves others and God above ourselves. Living this kind of life won’t happen by our efforts alone, and it won’t happen overnight. It will take prayer for God’s help, practice in the ways of following Jesus, and a community of others who follow Jesus and want to help us do the same.
Q: Think of something that you compulsively pursue. What are two things you can do this week to practice resisting that addiction and instead depend on God?
Q: How might you need help repenting from your compulsions and addictions? How could your group support your efforts?
Spend time in prayer about the desires you pursue and those that hold the most sway over you. Pray for awareness of addiction in your life, big and small. Ask God for forgiveness, and for His help leading you to lasting repentance. Pray that God would show you His grace and give you the strength to change. Pray also for those in your community who suffer in your community who suffer from substance addiction, and consider how you might come along those in your church family who could benefit from support and loving accountability.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
Read Titus 2:11-14 and reflect on how God trains and purifies us.
Ask the group to share any stories or lessons they have learned about their addictive tendencies and how God offers a better life apart from addiction.
As we see in Luke 15:1, Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son to a mixed group of both tax collectors (considered notorious sinners) and Pharisees (religious leaders who distinguished themselves by extremely close adherence to the letter of Jewish law.)
The Younger Son
In the story, the two sons represent the two groups of people listening to Jesus. The younger son represents those the Jews would call sinners, unrighteous people who engaged in shameful work and/or lived debaucherous, sinful lives. In our day, these people would be people who have rejected following God in favor of other lifestyles.
“My share of the property” (Luke 15:12)
According to Jewish custom, sons inherited their father’s property. When the prodigal son asks for his share of the property, he is asking for his inheritance prematurely. To ask for this before his father’s death is not just to ask for a gift, it is to cut ties with his father all together and treat him as if he were dead. In a sense, the son is asking to be given what is his so he can be done with his father for good.