My Life Group lesson for April 23, 2017, using Lifeway’s “Bible Studies for Life” curriculum.
If someone was going to give a speech about you, what three things would people tell them about you?
What is your favorite word or phrase that someone has used to describe you?
Does your identity change if you’re at home, at church, or at work, or are you the same person all the time?
Most of us struggle with our identity at some point in life. Not knowing who you are can really mess up where you are and what you do.
UNDERSTANDING THE CONTEXT
*** Over the next six weeks we’ll see what God says about who we are and who we can be in Christ.
*** In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” How these men saw Jesus changed their lives because it changed how they saw themselves.
*** The same is true of us. Our identity in Christ alters our identity at church, in our homes, at our places of work, and everywhere else. We will always be unique, but those roles are transformed by our life of faith—our true, defining identity.
18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” 20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” 21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
*** Jesus Christ Superstar!
--- During the short period in which the disciples were with Jesus, they saw Him do amazing things—feed the hungry; raise the dead; heal the lame, blind, and diseased; and more.
--- Jesus went from an unknown carpenter in a small town in Galilee to the biggest celebrity in all of Palestine.
--- As with any figure who is well known, many people came to love Him, yet others despised Him.
--- Their opinions differed, but they all shared one thing in common: Jesus was somebody of importance.
*** Who am I?
--- Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am?” They responded with the various opinions people had about Jesus’ identity.
--- We hear similar responses today. To your Muslim neighbor, Jesus is a prophet. To your Buddhist friend, He’s an enlightened teacher. Even many atheists regard Jesus as a person of inspiration.
--- All of this is interesting, but the real question—the one Jesus would ask each of us—is the one He asked His disciples: “Who do you say I am?”
*** Question – Why do so many people speak admiringly of Jesus while still denying that He’s God?
*** Shhhh, keep it secret.
--- Even as Peter correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah, it is surprising what Jesus told Peter and the other disciples to do with that information. He told them not to tell anyone.
--- Aren’t we called to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah?
--- Yes! Later Jesus gave the disciples the Great Commission to tell everyone about Him (Acts 1:8).
--- At this time, though, Jesus didn’t need the full truth announced.
--- “Messiah” was a loaded term in those days, and a lot of would-be revolutionaries used it for themselves.
--- At that point, the disciples probably believed, as most Jews did, that the Messiah would be a political leader who would free them from the oppressive rule of Rome in some type of military victory.
--- The disciples likely were crushed to hear that Jesus would not lead them to military victory, but instead He would suffer and die as part of God’s plan.
--- He also predicts that He would be raised from the dead, which the disciples seem to have forgotten by the time of the resurrection.
*** Question – If someone were to ask you who Jesus is, what would you say to them?
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
*** Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
--- Luke 9:23 is one of the most important verses for any follower of Jesus.
--- If you say yes to Jesus, you have to say no to yourself.
--- Every day we must say no to our desires, our wishes, and our dreams, and say yes to God’s will for our lives.
--- To take up the cross means we renounce our selfish ambitions and our way of life.
*** What is a wish or desire you’ve had to say “no” to, in order to follow Christ?
--- We live in a “me first” world.
--- We live in a world that caters to self. By the world’s standard, everybody is in it for themselves.
--- As a result, everyone is drowning:
--- Drowning in broken relationships because we demand everything be centered on us.
--- Drowning in debt because we have to have it all.
--- Drowning in illness and disease because we have to eat or experience it all.
--- How many times have you seen people work at jobs they hate to buy stuff they don’t need so they can impress people they don’t even like? How many times have you been in that cycle yourself? Jesus calls us to be different.
*** Question – Why is this so difficult to do in our culture?
*** It’s can’t be a secret.
--- Jesus calls us to make a decision about Him. But it can’t be a private decision.
--- Nobody can be a Christian and keep his or her faith completely private.
--- Jesus calls us to die to self and publicly proclaim our faith in Him.
--- Luke 9:26 - “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”
*** Question – How is Jesus’ definition of happiness different from the world’s?
REVIEW AND TAKE-AWAY POINTS
If you were in the witness protection program and had to create an entirely new identity for yourself, who would you be? Would you choose a simple life? A life of mystery? A life of action?
In your life right now, who are you? That’s an interesting question. An important question.
But you’ll never find the best answer without understanding that your identity is directly tied to Christ.
Our take-away points:
*** Research. Take some time to read through your church’s statement of faith. (You can start with the church website, or with a staff member.) What are some specific truths that statement teaches about Jesus?
*** Surrender. Saying yes to Jesus as Lord means saying no to yourself. Do a self-examination and surrender any areas of selfishness to Him.
*** Share. We are called to tell everyone who Jesus is. Think of someone you know who needs Jesus. Pray as a group for this person to come to know Jesus, and pray about your part in that process: sharing your testimony, inviting him or her to church, answering questions, and so on.