So who are you? What do you say about yourself? What is your identity?
Most of the time, we answer these questions taking our cues from the people around us. We think we are what everybody else thinks and says we are. Apart from what you see in the mirror when you look in it, what the bio or info says about you on your ID, what you really say or think you are and what everybody else says about you, God sees and knows that there is more to who you are than all of the above. The true definition of your identity is found in what He thinks and says about who you are. He truly sees and knows the essence of your identity—who you really are inside.
So what does God say or think about who you are?
First, He sees you as special and unique because you are created by Him in His image, with a personality and individuality so unique that there is no one in the universe that is an exact match of you.
Second, He loves you so much that He gave His Son to provide forgiveness for your sinful deeds in order to gradually restore in you His divine character through His grace.
Third, because you are part of His church family, He loves you and longs to take you home with His people to spend eternity with Him when His plan of redemption is complete.
You may have had a terrible past filled with mistakes and sin. You may still have some sinful habits that you are not proud of. Sometimes these are obvious to people around you and cause them to hate who you are. These things make you feel bad about your identity and look down on yourself, and for good reason. Despite all of these, the Bible is very clear on what God thinks about who you are: You are His beloved and that is the most important part of your identity. He loves you so much and He has done a lot to prove it (Isaiah 43: 1-4; Jeremiah 31:3; John 3:16; 16:27; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4: 9, 10, 19). Though people around you may accuse, hate you, and look down on you because of your imperfections and defects, God’s love reaches out to you in forgiveness, draws you to Himself, and sets you on the path to restoration from the destructive power of sin. This is what His grace does. As seen in the stories of the prodigal son (Luke 15:20-32) and the adulteress (John 8:1-11), though God hates sin, He loves the sinner and His grace is greater than all sin. Nothing you do can change what God thinks and says about you. Nothing but your choice can separate you from His love, which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:37-39). Even that choice wouldn’t make Him stop loving you. But He loves you too much to force you to live with Him.
So who are you? What do you say about yourself? What is your identity? Apart from all you see in the mirror, apart from all your bio info on your IDs and vital documents, apart from all that people say and think about you, do not forget to make central this part of your identity: “I am the One whom Jesus loves.” This is the part of your identity that matters the most and that makes all the difference.
What do you think about the statement “image is everything”?
Discuss the implications of its importance in the world and then for the Christian.
Assume that evolution was true and there was no God, what are the implications for one’s self-esteem? Would it make any difference in our identity? Would there be any other good reason to feel special apart from God?
What would the world be like if everyone had a healthy identity rooted, founded, and centered on God? Imagine and discuss.
How do you feel about yourself? Why do you feel like this about yourself? Give three basic reasons. Do you see yourself differently after understanding what God thinks of you?
Apart from the fact that you are God’s creation and redemption, what other aspects of your life and person are you grateful to God for? What are the things you appreciate about yourself? You can share the answers in the areas of your gender, nationality, race, family background, spiritual gifts or talents, etc.
DISCIPLE IN ACTION
What are the things you do not like about yourself? Write them out on a sheet of paper. What things on the list can you change or improve upon? What things on the list cannot be changed? In your devotional and prayer time, think of what you can do to make the necessary changes on the things you can change and pray about these changes. Try to see the things you cannot change from a positive point of view.
This week find five or ten people, either in your home, neighborhood, school (college), office, or church, and tell them what you like about them. Compliment, appreciate, and encourage them. Try to do this especially for those whom people do not usually compliment or appreciate.
The questions in bold print are to be answered from the Bible verses or passages supplied. Group members are to read these verses, which have the answers to the questions asked. Try to make sure that everyone in the group is involved in reading the Bible and finding the answers.
The fill in the blanks/matching activity above also involves reading the Bible to find the answers. Encourage all to participate.
The leaders can summarize and present the key points of each DIG DEEPsection within the time limits provided. The session should close with a prayer.
Session 6b: Developing an Individual Identity in Christ
To develop an individual identity in Christ, I am:
surrendering my heart and will to God.
learning that God places infinite value on me.
recognizing my continual need for God’s forgiving and empowering grace.
inviting the Holy Spirit to guide in my ongoing reflection and actions.
embracing cultural expectations that are aligned with God’s Word (the Bible) and replacing those that are not.
To know that we are created in the image of God, and He sent His Son to die for us because we are of infinite value to God. We should respond to this love by aligning ourselves with our Creator.
You are priceless because of the value God has placed on you.
Look: Gen. 1:26
Memorize: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
Activity: Have your participants write two or three phrases that describe themselves. Put all the descriptions in a box. Pick one, and read it aloud to the whole group. Then everyone has to guess who the person is.
Leader’s Hints: You can have people volunteer to pick out of the box, read it, and guess who it is for a small group where everyone is familiar with each other.
If someone asked, “Who are you?” most of us would respond by giving our name. But you are more than just a name. You are more than just your mother’s child. You are more than just a young person. Do you know who you really are? I have never met you, but I know you. I know where you came from. It’s true. I can trace your origin. Let’s do it together!
What does the Bible say about the origin of humanity?
Genesis 5: 2
Isaiah 43: 1
So, we see that God did not just create people; He made us in His own image. And yet, that is only the beginning of your story.
Ellen White says, “Man was the crowning act of the creation of God, made in the image of God, and designed to be a counterpart of God…. Man is very dear to God, because he was formed in His own image. “In order to understand the value which God places upon man, we need to comprehend the plan of redemption, the costly sacrifice which our Saviour made to save the human race from eternal ruin. Jesus died to regain possession of the one pearl of great price. . .” (Lift Him Up, p. 48).
Besides making us of such great value to Him, God made us of great value to the world. He gave us a purpose for being here. Again, what does the Bible say?
Matthew 5: 13
Matthew 5: 14
Philippians 2: 15
The imagery Jesus uses is just powerful! What does salt do? It gives taste and it preserves. What does light do? It shatters darkness.
God has given us a great task and great potential. But how do we unleash this power? Consider a light bulb. It has the power to dispel darkness – but only if it is connected to the power source. Consider salt – if it has no savor, it is useless. So, how do we accomplish our purpose? This is the part where many of us get stuck. It’s time to come out of the trance and fulfill our role. But first, “What is our power source?”
Search and Discover
2 Samuel 22:33
1 Chronicles 16: 11
Psalm 18: 32
How do tap into the power?
We must wait: Psalm 86:16
We must pray: Isaiah 26:4
We must trust: Proverbs 10:29
We must follow His way: 1 Peter 2:21, 3 John 1:11
Have your group members make a human maze. Blind-fold a volunteer and have him or her attempt to walk through the maze, following the directions of another volunteer. Then have another volunteer lead another blindfolded volunteer through the maze.
Leader’s Hints: You can vary the size and complexity of the maze based on the size of the room and the number of people. You may even use chairs or trash cans in the maze.
Life can sometimes bring some unexpected twists and turns, and we feel like we are walking blindly through a maze. Isn’t it nice to know that we have our own personal guide leading the way?
Now that you know who you are, do you know where you are going? Things that are of great value require special attention. That is why God took the time to write us a love letter and, just in case you missed the point, He sent us the Spirit of Prophecy. He gives our lives direction and He provides sign posts along the way.
How do I know which way is God’s way?
Am I following God’s way?
Should there be exceptions to the rule? (e.g. cultural differences, personal taste, etc)
Where do you draw the line between “fitting in” and standing up for Jesus?
Without God, we are as valuable as the dirt on the ground. In God, we are worth the value of His Son. We are precious and protected. We are so precious to Him that He left detailed instructions to ensure our happiness. When you look in the mirror you should not only see blue eyes or brown eyes, or freckles or pimples. When you look in the mirror, you should see a child of God – made in His image; you should see the one He gave His life for. You should see the one He is counting on.
I know. It is mind-boggling to think that we matter to God. But we do. We matter so much that He even counted the strands of our hair. He plotted the course of our lives. The ball is in your court now. How will you play it? Here are some suggestions:
1. Begin each day with God.
“Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend. Not that it is necessary in order to make known to God what we are, but in order to enable us to receive Him. Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him” (Steps to Christ, p. 93).
2. Study the Bible Daily.
“Search the Scriptures for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39 KJV).
3. Discover the Joy of Sharing Christ.
“God might have committed the message of the gospel, and all the work of loving ministry, to the heavenly angels. He might have employed other means for accomplishing His purpose. But in His infinite love He chose to make us co-workers with Himself, with Christ and the angels, that we might share the blessing, the joy, the spiritual uplifting, which results from this unselfish ministry” (Steps to Christ, p. 79).
God’s plan for our lives includes our mission – our ministry. He saved us so that we may serve Him and our fellow men. But He does not leave us to stumble around in the dark. Through Scripture and inspired writings, He gives us hope and comfort.
Read the following quotes from Ellen White and consider how they may apply to your life.
Helping the Tempted
“The lost coin in the Saviour's parable, though lying in the dirt and rubbish, was a piece of silver still. Its owner sought it because it was of value. So every soul, however degraded by sin, is in God's sight accounted precious. As the coin bore the image and superscription of the reigning power, so man at his creation bore the image and superscription of God. Though now marred and dim through the influence of sin, the traces of this inscription remain upon every soul. God desires to recover that soul and to retrace upon it His own image in righteousness and holiness” (Ministry of Healing, p.163).
“But Jesus did not bid the disciples, "Strive to make your light shine;" He said, " Let it shine." If Christ is dwelling in the heart, it is impossible to conceal the light of His presence. If those who profess to be followers of Christ are not the light of the world, it is because the vital power has left them; if they have no light to give, it is because they have no connection with the Source of light” (MB 40.2).
“For sinful men, the highest consolation, the greatest cause of rejoicing, is that Heaven has given Jesus to be the sinner’s Saviour. . . . He offered to go over the ground where Adam stumbled and fell; to meet the tempter on the field of battle, and conquer him in man’s behalf. Behold Him in the wilderness of temptation. Forty days and forty nights He fasted, enduring the fiercest assaults of the powers of darkness. He trod the “winepress alone; and of the people there was none with” Him (Isa. 63:3). It was not for Himself, but that He might break the chain that held the human race in slavery to Satan” (Our Father Cares, pp. 209, 210).
Session 7: Understanding that God is the Source of Life
To understand that God is the Source of life, I am learning that:
God is the creator and sustainer of the universe, including all people created in His image.
God is a triune God consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God reveals Himself to us in many ways, but most clearly through His Son, the incarnate Word.
God is love and He desires from me a response of love for Himself and for others.
the God-given purpose of humanity is to glorify God through daily life, work, and relationships with others.
The great Creator God had a purpose in creating this world, and He has a purpose for my life.
Look: John 1:1-5; 1 John 2:7-11
Memorize: “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. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:1-5).
God as Source of Life
You can probably say Genesis 1:1 from memory: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” You may have been able to say this when you were a small child. What does it mean? Are there new thoughts to be found in this small text?
Of course you believe God is the Creator. If you pay any attention at all to the daily miracles of life on this planet (the sun comes up exactly when and where we expect it every single day, no matter what, for one of millions of examples), then you have no trouble believing that such a God could have created everything in a moment, let alone six days, and could also have made everything look as old or as new as He chose. But you could believe all this without actually knowing this Source of life. In fact, you could believe all this just because somebody told you so, without ever having examined it for yourself.
If you read on in Genesis 1, you find that the Spirit of God “moved upon” (KJV), “was moving over” (NASB), “was hovering over” (NIV), “was moving, (hovering, brooding) over” (Amplified), or “brooded like a bird above” (The Message) the waters. What’s all this about? Well, it gives a whole new feeling to the bare statement of fact of verse 1. Have you ever seen a chicken or other bird on a nest? The bird goes into an almost trancelike state. She gets up only briefly once a day to eat and drink. The rest of the time, 24/7, she gives herself entirely to the all-important task of keeping her eggs warm, turning them regularly, and waiting for them to grow. Nothing else matters to her. Mother birds have been found dead, spread over eggs or babies (often still alive and safe) after a fire or other disaster. The lives of their babies mattered more to them than life itself. This word, “brooding,” in English, is the one the author chose to describe what the Spirit of God did at the beginning of time.
Reading further, you find that God speaks into existence light and lightning bugs, galaxies and grasshoppers, tides and tigers and tiger lilies and, by the way, the space/time continuum. But not people. This hovering, maternal-sounding Maker bends down and scoops up dirt (which He made not long before) and water (ditto) and carefully sculpts a person “in Our image and likeness” or, as The Message puts it, “in Our image, . . . reflecting our nature.”
1. What thoughts and feelings arise in you when you think of the phrase “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. What thoughts and feelings arise in you when you consider the Spirit brooding like a mother bird?
3. What does it mean to you that humans were created in God’s image and reflecting His nature? What are some ways we can still see that likeness today? What are some ways we can no longer see that likeness?
Good luck understanding or explaining this one! You’ve probably heard several analogies—a three-ply cord, an apple (skin, flesh, core), an egg (shell, white, yolk), the three states of water (liquid, frozen, steam). They help. Maybe. Some. The fact is, we don’t get the idea of a three-personality person! We either tend to think of them as three different, separate Gods, which gets us in trouble with the whole doctrine of monotheism, or we think of one God with three different faces, which gets us in trouble with. . . well, to Whom, exactly, was Jesus praying? And Who did He say was coming after He left?
Fortunately, we don’t have to understand fully in order to love fully, or we’d all be in trouble, because who fully understands their spouse or child? We get that the Father/Maker/Defender is, as the Old Testament commonly puts it, “God above all other gods.” King of Kings. “That without which there would be nothing at all.”
We get that the third Person of the Godhead is Spirit—all-pervasive, all-encompassing, all-knowing, all-loving. The one who “lives in us” while at the same time in Whom “we live and move and have our being.” Okay, we don’t exactly get that, but we accept it. And thank God for it!
Most of all, we thank God that He gave Himself a face. Jesus, we get. Mostly. He was a man, a Jew, probably tanned and bearded, probably dark-haired. Maybe long-nosed. He had hands and feet and a smile that embraced the world and eyes that you could drown in.
And He loves us. He/They love(s) us. This we know!
1. What are some of the analogies that help you try to understand or explain the Trinity? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. How much does it matter to you how well you understand this concept? What helps you to love anyway, without fully understanding?
We’ve already studied many ways to know God. He reveals Himself to us in nature, in each other, in His Word, in music and art, and the inexplicable peace that comes when we simply point our hearts toward His and open them. But we know that one of the most important ways God reveals Himself is in the fact that He came and lived among us. There are unnumbered lessons in the incarnation. Here are three important ones to consider.
This is a pretty amazing fact, all by itself. The very idea that an infinite God could step into His own creation is kind of like Mary Poppins and the chimney sweep stepping into their sidewalk art—only, even less believable. How did He do it? That, we’ll never understand. Why did He do it?
Ah, now that’s the truly amazing thing! Because He didn’t just chalk a picture on the sidewalk and then decide to care about the little cartoon chalk beings. He didn’t make toy robots in His lab and then decide to enter their mechanical little world. He didn’t even make pets, with actual personalities, and then fall in love with those. He made beings “like Himself” and fell in love with them. He invented people with minds and hearts, and the capacity to stare into a sunset with awe. He gave us, if you can believe it, a little spark of His own creativity, so that we can take bits of the “stuff” He left around for us to play with and make paintings and create dances and name babies and write silly rhymes and invent tiny little devices that can hold thousands of those paintings and songs and dances and pictures of the babies.
So, when these beings started using their creativity to talk to snakes and make weapons and hit babies and dance to demons, He came.