Have everyone take their shoes off before entering your meeting area. If this is your first time together, ask group members to introduce themselves and share what they’re each hoping to get out of this study. (You can ask this second part even if you’ve been together for years.) Then dive into your discussion time (leaderspeak is in itals):
We all bring a lot to this group, so let’s begin our time together by recognizing that—by sharing a little about where God has already taken each of us. As you came in today, you took off your shoes—because every place we encounter God is holy. We want our time together to reflect that, because we too are gathering before God. Turn to a partner and take about five minutes to discuss this question:
- What’s your holy ground—in other words, the places where you know you’ve encountered God? How have you been changed by those encounters?
After five minutes, regain everyone’s attention. Ask for a few volunteers to share their experiences.
What you’ve just shared is one of the most significant things you’ll ever share in this life. We’re preparing for an eternity with Christ, and our encounters with God give us a small taste of what’s to come—and help others see and taste it, too. What’s more, those encounters change us and prepare us for that eternal life. We have a new identity in Christ, right now. This week has been about laying down our old identity so we can put our new one on. Let’s begin exploring that together.
Ask for a volunteer to read Romans 12:1–2.
- Practically speaking, what does it mean to be a “living sacrifice”?
- How does that transform us so we can know God’s “good and pleasing and perfect” will—and actually do it?
Have someone read the following excerpt, then discuss the question that follows.
[W]hen we talk about laying down your sin, it’s not just, “Hey you, stop doing things God says are wrong.”… It’s also laying down the sin you want to openly express but don’t. It’s laying down the sin that has been expressed upon you, by others—even the sin that hasn’t been expressed but you know is there. It’s saying Jesus died for all of it, and beginning to live in that truth.
- Which sins are harder for you to lay down: the ones you commit outwardly, the ones you want to commit outwardly but don’t, the ones committed upon you, or the sins you just know are out there waiting to get you? Why?
Ask someone to read Galatians 2:20–21, then discuss:
- What holds us back from living like this is really true?
- What things or actions do we tend to substitute for living by faith? How do those things reveal how we’re depending on ourselves instead of Christ?
Thanks for your willingness to share so far today. These are tough questions, especially for a first session, but no-one ever said dying to self would be easy. The fact is, it’s a process. It’s something we have to do each day. As we lay down the “obvious” stuff in our lives, God brings up even deeper things to us—and we’ll need to lay those down, too. Don’t feel bad if the answers come too easily—and don’t feel superior if they haven’t, because your time’s coming. So let’s move forward, by re-opening a “case study” from our last entry.
Have a couple volunteers read Luke 5:1–11 and John 21:4–7. Then discuss:
- Which version of Peter do you identify with more right now—one who’s overwhelmed by sin or the one who’s overwhelmed by Jesus despite his sin? Why?
Ask everyone to find a partner, and to put some space between them and the other pairs. If you have an odd number of group members, putting three people together is OK. Allow a minute for group members to partner up and make space, and then continue.
Earlier this week, you reflected on your “life passage,” as well as a few questions including, “What’s the one thing that most needs transforming in my life—that God wants me to lay down right now?” We’re going to take that a step further today. The person(s) you’re sitting with will be your partner(s) throughout this study. Of course, the rest of the group is here for you as well, but the people you’re with right now will be helping you lay down that one thing—or more. You’ll partner up at the end of each session, so use your time well. Also, try to find ways to connect with each other during the week. Then, watch what God does with it.
In your new groups, read the following excerpt from Day 1, and Romans 6:8–14. Then discuss question 8 together. Make your answers your prayer for one another throughout the week; try to pray for each other today, if you have time. We’ll come back together in ten minutes.
We have not died with Christ because we think we have, or because we agree that we have. We have died with Christ. Our old life is done. We need to truly realize that, and live in that new reality.
The tough part is living this out on a daily basis—or rather, dying it out.
- What’s one area of your life Jesus is calling you to “consider… dead” (Romans 6:11)—and leave dead—right now? Share as much as you’re willing.
Bring everyone back together. Then, pray for your group members. Ask God to help each of them to lay down the “one thing” they shared about today, and to be open to what God is trying to do in each of them. Pray also for the new relationships that they’re forming, and for what God wants to do through them.