MARCH 21 & 22
LIFE GROUP RESOURCES
You’re God’s Handcrafted Masterpiece
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
- Your life points to God as your Creator
- Give an example of an object that clearly reveals its designer’s creativity and imagination.
- What words or phrases in this passage describe God?
- Which words or phrases have you seen or experienced in your own life?
- What are some ways your life points to God as your creator?
God might work in mysterious ways, but he is not a mystery. Scripture is clear about who God is. God is love, the giver of life, our creator, and the one who knows us and loves us the most.
- Your life finds purpose in Jesus
- What are some ways you’ve looked for purpose or meaning in life?
- How do verses from Ephesians 2 remind you of your friendship with Jesus?
- What words or phrases in this passage describe who you are?
- What words resonates with you most now? Why?
- Which word do you want to define you as you get older? Why?
We all want to belong, to feel accepted by our peers, and to be loved by the people around us. We sometimes allow ourselves to be defined by how people see us or interact with us. But we don’t have to be defined by these things. We can be defined by the love, grace, forgiveness, and life that Jesus gives us. That’s how we find our true purpose and place in life.
- You can live like a masterpiece
- What is your families most valuable or meaningful object?
- How is living like you’re a masterpiece different from living like you’re a mistake?
- Why do many people find it easier to live like a mistake than a masterpiece? Which one do you tend to lean towards?
We Need Each Other
How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!
For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe.
Harmony is as refreshing as the dew from Mount Hermon that falls on the mountains of Zion. And there the Lord has pronounced his blessing, even life everlasting.
- We are not made to be alone
- What’s the longest amount of time you’ve ever spent alone? How did you feel when it was over?
- How long do you think you could go without communicating with anyone?
- What are the top three character traits you look for in a friend, and why?
- What is so “wonderful” and “pleasant” about your good friendships and solid connections with other people—including other followers of Jesus?
- What’s the difference between wanting some “alone time” and being isolated from other people?
Sometimes we want time to ourselves, away from others—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But other times we isolate ourselves because we want control or because we simply don’t realize the benefits of these connections. Spending time alone to get rested and renewed is good, but God created us to experience community—meaningful connections with others. God doesn’t want us to be isolated or disconnected
- Life is more fulfilling when we’re connected to other people
- Name three things you can’t do by yourself but can do with help from at least one person.
- Talk about a specific way your life is more fulfilling because of your connection to another person or a group of people.
- Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12—how do solid friendships with other Christ-followers help you as you follow Jesus?
- When you’ve gone through a tough situation and really needed someone, who was there for you?
In our verses from Ecclesiastes, Solomon is sharing powerful life lessons. He imparts some of his God-given wisdom by saying that life is better when people are connected together—and this connection is even stronger within the context of a relationship that includes God.
- Harmony point people to Jesus
- Why is life so miserable when it seems like everything is in turmoil?
- Harmony doesn’t mean that everyone agrees about everything. Living in harmony means we agree on our purpose: following Jesus and pointing others toward hi. Why is it important to understand what harmony is and isn’t?
- Give us an example of what harmony looks like in real life—and tell us what you’ve learned from that example.
- Read John 13:34-35. When have you seen the power of love and harmony and friendship among followers of Jesus?
Psalm 133 describes a wonderful and pleasant experience when God’s people live together in harmony. Ecclesiastes 4 says that we are better in relationship with one another and with God. And John 13 reveals that true love among followers of Christ will point people to Jesus. Just as each musical instrument in an ensemble or a symphony may play different notes during the song yet still be in harmony, individuals carry out different roles as they live with the same goal. And that’s what makes harmony so wonderful and pleasant.
I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
- We discover that Jesus is “The Way, The Truth, and The Life” when we “taste and see” what he’s really like
- What are some of the best ways to get to know someone for who they really are?
- How do you know you’re experiencing the “real person” when you’re getting to know someone?
- Jesus told people that they’d have to “eat his flesh” and “drink his blood” if they really wanted to know him—what do you think he meant by that?
- What are some words that describe your “taste” of Jesus?
- How can you be sure those words accurately describe who Jesus really is?
When it dawns on us WHO is bringing the good news that we can be forgiven for our sins and have a restored relationship with God for eternity, the WHO actually overshadows the WHAT of the message. But don’t take my word for it—let’s explore for ourselves why Jesus called himself “the way, the truth, and the life.”
- Answering the “Oprah Question” about Jesus
Oprah Winfrey has a favorite question she likes to ask the people she interviews: “What’s one thing you know for sure?” We can take that question and morph it a little into this: “What do you know for sure about Jesus from this passage?” Let’s take a short passage that recounts something Jesus said to his disciples and “taste and see” who Jesus really is. In Matthew 10:37-39, Jesus says: “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”
- What do you know for sure about Jesus, based only on this passage from Matthew 10? Go ahead and look at the verses in your Bible, if that will help you consider the question.
- Pursing The Way, The Truth, and The Life
Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface of who Jesus really is. If we’re determined to “taste and see” who he is at his core, we’ll have to slow down and pay much better attention to what he says and does. So let’s dig in a little—and when we do, we discover that he showed up at the “Harvard” of his day when he was just 12 and amazed all the “professors” with his knowledge of God and his wisdom. When he began his ministry he told his first disciples to chuck their careers and learn how to “fish for men” instead. He kicked off a ministry of miracles with kind of a party trick—turning water into wine. When he saw people in the Temple—a sacred space like a church—using the language of religion to line their pockets with cash, he made a whip and chased them all away. Once, he promised a desperate woman she’d never thirst if she took a big drink of him. And, of course, toward the end of his time with the disciples, he boldly described himself as “the way, the truth, and the life.” Let’s REALLY slow down for a moment and consider what he was saying here.
- If you ask someone for complicated directions to a far-off destination, that person could tell how to get there, or he could lead you there himself—how does this illustration help you understand what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the way?”
- If Jesus is “the truth,” then everything we call “true” must have its source in him—so, what are some things in our culture that we call “true” that Jesus would never say or do?
- We depend on air, water, and food to live—how is Jesus like air, water, and food in your life?
The Meaning of the Cross
1 PETER 1:13-25
So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.
Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.
You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.
As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.
- When we’re kidnapped by sin, we can’t return home.
- Imagine being forever separated from your family, unable to ever return home. What would that be like? What would be most difficult about it?
- Describe what it would be like to be at home with God.
- How does sin kidnap people from their relationship with God?
- Which sins seem to entrap people the most in our culture today?
- The Apostle Peter wrote this Scripture—what do you know about his desire to be close to Jesus?
- How did Peter’s sin steal him away from God?
Being unable to return to our earthly families would be painful and tragic. But in a similar way, all of humanity experiences this kind of separation from God. This is our reality in sin: We have been stolen away from God. Unless God comes to get us and ransom us, we are unable to return home.
- We can be set free through Jesus, who has completely paid the ransom.
- Look at verses 18-19. What is most powerful about these statements?
- How does Jesus’ death on the cross pay the ransom for our sin?
- What does it mean that Jesus was “the spotless Lamb of God?”
- Look at verse 20. What kind of planning did God put into this rescue?
- Based on these verses, consider how much God loves you—how much are you worth to him?
God loves you so much. God values each of us enough to send Jesus to die on the cross to ransom us from the sin that has abducted us. If we’re offered that kid of rescue, it would be silly for us to resist, right? If we accept his rescue, then we can have a different life from what we had before. We will be able to live free.
- Trusting in what Jesus did on the cross produces changed lives.
- Look again at verse 17. What does Peter mean that we are “foreigners” on earth?
- Read verses 21-23 again. How does the Cross enable you to live a new type of life?
- Describe how Jesus’ crucifixion helps us to be “born again.”
- Do you find it natural or intimidating to tell others about how much Jesus loves them? Why?
A Faith of my Own: Begin the Journey
John 8: 31-37
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message.”
- It’s all about your faith, not your parents’ faith
- What are some things you have because of your parents?
- What traits or characteristics do you enjoy sharing with other family members, and why?
- What have you learned about Jesus from your parents?
- Describe a time when you had to unwillingly share something. What are some benefits of having your own stuff?
- Why do you think Jesus wants a personal relationship with everyone individually?
The people in John 8 were still banking on the faith of their ancestors, just as the Old Testament people did. It’s awesome when our parents help teach us about Jesus and help us grow in our own faith. But that’s not always the case, and it’s definitely not required. Jesus wants a personal relationship with each of us, and that’s the first step in a faith journey.
- It’s all about your faith, not your works
- List some things that “good” Christians tend to do. Why do you think these are—or aren’t—required to have a relationship with Jesus?
- What are some sinful motivations that sometimes might underlie good behavior?
- Respond to his statement: It’s easier to do “good” things than “bad” things.
- Why doesn’t Jesus say, “The right things you do will set you free?”
In verse 31, Jesus said, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.” He didn’t say this happens if you do all the right things. To have a faith of your own, Jesus says to begin your faith in him and be faithful to his teachings. It’s OK to mess up; everyone messes up. It’s what you do after you mess up that’s important. Make it right with Jesus and continue nurturing a faith that lasts.
- Your faith happens because of Jesus
- Describe a time someone made a sacrifice for you. How did you feel? How did you respond?
- What does Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross mean to you personally? How can it impact the relationship you begin—or already have—with him?
- What does it mean to you to be set free from sin? What does that look like on an everyday basis?
Tough Parables: The Lost Sheep and Coin
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
- Jesus values the sheep that never wander off.
- What do you find most challenging or unclear about this passage of Scripture?
- Why would Jesus compare us to sheep? Is that insulting or are there some good qualities about sheep? Explain.
- Why was it risky for this shepherd to leave the 99 sheep?
- It doesn’t say specifically in this passage, but how might the 99 sheep stay safe while the shepherd was gone?
- The shepherd knew the 99 sheep would be safe in the sheepfold. In a similar way, how can we care for each other?
Today, there are sheep in the sheepfold—people who have a growing relationship with Jesus—and lost sheep—people who are spiritually lost and don’t have a relationship with Jesus. The shepherd knew the 99 sheep were safe together. In fact, sheep don’t like to be alone. Similarly, God created an incredible plan for us: As the church, we are called to lift each other up, encourage each other, and walk together through life.
- Jesus values the one lost sheep.
- Why would this sheep—or any other sheep, for that matter—leave the safety and protection of the sheepfold?
- Give examples of life distractions that can windup getting us lost.
- Why is there so much joy in finding one lost sheep?
It’s surprising that a sheep would leave the sheepfold since sheep like to be together. It’s safer for the sheep to remain together, and they like being together. So something had to distract the sheep. Satan loves to distract us with things and ideas and temptations that draw us away from what Jesus wants for us. Once distracted, we can easily become discouraged and defeated. If Satan can cause us to be lost, he has won. But that’s not the end of the story! Jesus, the Shepherd, is willing to search for us and pursue us to come back to him.
- Jesus values you.
- Tell us about a tie you served passionately, even frantically, to find someone you lost. Why was that item meaningful enough to justify that kind of search?
- Look at verses 8-10. How does it feel to know Jesus pursues you personally, like this woman searched for her lost coin?
- In what ways has Jesus pursued you? Be as specific as possible.
- How do you ow it was Jesus pursuing you?
It’s odd to be compared to sheep, but the beauty of the first parable is that we do have a Shepherd. A shepherd spends all waking hours caring for the sheep and often sleeps outside with the sheep to be sure they’re safe. Jesus leads us and wants to have a growing relationship with us. He seeks each of us out and knows when we’re lost. He rejoices—in fact, all of heaven rejoices—when someone begins following Jesus. That’s what both of these parables teach us.