Question: How much is a painting worth?
Answer: Whatever someone is willing to pay for it.
To ponder: How much are you worth to God?
Icebreaker: Have you ever felt the satisfaction of a job well done, especially after completing a project? What did it feel like to be proud of your work?
1. Prayerfully read Genesis 1–3. Retell the story in your own words.
2. Draw a picture of one of the events in Genesis 1–3. Stick figures are fine.
3. How many times does the word “good” appear in these three chapters? Note the one time when “very good” is used.
4. Do you see any cause/effect relationships? What contrasts/comparisons do you see?
5. In 2:18, what does it mean to be a “helper suitable?” (The NET Bible renders this “indispensable companion.”) How did the man and woman complement each other?
6. What do you think is meant by the phrase “created in God’s image?” What does the fact that you are created in the image of God say about your worth?
7. God created Adam and Eve, blessed them, and commanded them to subdue the earth. A) What does it mean to subdue the earth? B) How do you feel you are managing the resources and responsibilities that God has given you? C) How do you think this verse should influence our thoughts about environmental concerns?
8. How might it have been different if the man and woman had obeyed God?
9. Notice that the first couple’s response to sin was to hide (shame) and to blame. List some ways in which you hide and blame in relationships.
10. How do you think God felt about the man and woman hiding from their creator?
11. List some ways that God showed mercy to the man and woman. If God had not been merciful, how might your life be different?
12. If you are married, imagine being totally exposed (emotionally and physically) before your mate and feeling no shame. List ways in which you need to be less defensive/shameful and ask God for His grace to help you.
13. What does it look like to “leave” father and mother? Is “cleaving” to a mate more than just sexual? Explain. (The way the Hebrew is worded here, “leaving and cleaving” are not commanded. It is more like “that is why a man leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife.” It is assumed as a natural part of maturing.)
14. Both Adam and Jesus are called “sons of God.” In what way are Adam and Jesus sons of God unlike any other humans? Read Romans 5:12–21. How has Adam’s sin affected you, your mate (if you’re married), your friends, your children?
15. Genesis teaches that both men and women are created in God’s image. Do you view yourself as having the dignity worthy of one of God’s creations, or do you need to change how you view yourself?
16. List ways in which, by God’s grace, you as a fallen creature can still reflect His image. Spend some time in His presence asking for the grace to overcome the Fall and its affect on your character.
Icebreaker: Is it wrong to have a makeover? An “extreme makeover”? Why or why not? How far is “too far”? Why did you answer the way you did?
1. Read prayerfully Psalm 139. Summarize in one sentence what you consider the main message of this psalm, which is attributed to David.
2. A) List the ways in which the psalmist says God knows him (2–5). B) What is the psalmist’s response to this knowledge (vs. 6)?
3. A) List some ways in which the psalmist tries to run from God (7–10). B) What are some ways we try to run from God? C) What do we learn about God in vv. 7–10?
4. In the ancient world, many believed that hell was the one place where God’s presence did not exist. What does verse 8 suggest about this?
5. Have you ever pretended you were blind, or tried to walk in a pitch-black room? What was it like? In verse 12, note all the light/dark contrasts. What is this verse saying about God?
6. In verses 13–16, what words reveal God’s loving attention to every detail in creating you?
7. What do verses 13–16 tell us about the sanctity of human life?
8. What is the psalmist’s response to how God made him (vs. 14)? Take a moment to echo his response to God in prayer.
9. A) If we really believe every human is a unique and beautiful creation of God, how should that affect the way we view people whom our society considers mistakes, disposable, worthless? B) What are some ways that we, as Christ-followers, can show that we value human life? C) How should the Bible’s teachings on human dignity affect how we treat others? (Read Matthew 5:21–24.)
10. If you truly believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, how will you view yourself? (The way the Hebrew is structured here, we could also translate “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” as “I am an awesome wonder.”)
11. Verse 16 refers to the psalmist’s “substance” – probably the embryo. How might this affect our view of experimentation on and destruction of human embryos?
12. Verse 16 refers to God’s book. Do you think this is literal or figurative? Either way, what is the point the writer is making?
13. According to verses 17–18, what is God’s attitude toward you?
14. If God created us as we are, how should we view our moles, crooked teeth, body parts that don’t work? Can we change our hair color or is that an insult to Him? To think others need to improve their looks? Why did you answer the way you did?
15. Read verses 19–22. It might seem strange to us that the writer would insert a section here about his enemies. Notice, however, how his knowledge of God’s greatness in the preceding passages evokes a response about protecting God’s reputation. What do you think is his point?
16. A) What is the psalmist’s final response to God (vs. 23–24)? B) Pray through verses 23 and 24, speaking to God about your belief in them. C) Knowing God is all-powerful such that he can create creatures so beautifully complex, what cares do you need to give to the Lord? D) Do any “wicked ways” come to mind that you need to release to Him? If so, list them here and pray for God’s grace to let them go.
Why does it shock us when our bodies begin to sag and fail? God’s Word guarantees that we will “outwardly waste away” (2 Cor. 4:16). The renewal experienced inwardly through the power of the Holy Spirit provides the hope and peace we crave. True transformation occurs on the inside (Rom. 12:1–2).
C.S. Lewis noted that if we saw how glorious we all really are as creations of God, we would be tempted to bow down and worship the very people we slander.
Icebreaker: Share about a family you know (perhaps your own) who adopted a child. What was the day of adoption like?
1. Read Romans 8:13–17, 23; Galatians 3:26–29, 4:4–7; Ephesians 1:4–5.
2. Summarize what these verses say.
3. What is God’s attitude toward us, according to the above verses?
4. Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses; Hadassah (Esther) was adopted by her uncle. How does human adoption picture God’s adoption of us as His children? How are human and spiritual adoptions different?
5. What does the fact that God adopted us mean about how He feels toward us?
6. What does this teach us about the character of God?
7. How do the verses listed in number 2 above make you feel about God’s choice of you? Talk with Him about it.
8. Notice the references to God’s choice of His children (key words: adopted, chosen, and predestined). Where do these appear?
9. Do adoptive parents want anything different for their children from what biological parents want? Why do you think God chose adoption as the analogy to show His love rather than emphasizing His creation of us?
10. In Romans 8:23, what tense is used? Note the tense used in Ephesians 1:4–5. In what sense is adoption completed, yet still future?
11. What is exciting about the implications of God giving the Spirit to each of us who has trusted in the name of Jesus? Of our being heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17)?
12. A) Think of different adoption scenarios. How might an adopted child view differently his or her adoptive parents than would a child with biological parents? (For example, knowing she was adopted from a foreign orphanage, or knowing he would not have otherwise known a father)? B) How might this affect the parent-child relationship? C) What spiritual ramifications does this observation have?
13. How might God’s choice of you affect how you relate to His other children? What should be your attitude toward those who are not His children?
14. Why do you think the Bible does not say “we are all children of God” (i.e., only those who have trusted Christ “have the right to be called children of God”—John 1:12) even though every person is God’s creation?
15. What is the hope communicated in Romans 8:24? Read Revelation 21:1–7 to get a picture of the future realization of our current status as “chosen and adopted sons.” (Do you wonder about the gender of being adopted as sons, when we are women? Using inclusive language for the translation here would diminish the picture that’s being presented of our benefit: at the time in which the Book of Romans was written, sons received a far better inheritance than daughters.)
16. What do the truths in these passages tell you about how God wants you to view yourself?
17. Spend time in prayer thanking God for choosing you and adopting you as His child.
Icebreaker: Whether or not you’re a parent, what do you think are the hardest parts of parenting? What did you find most difficult about being a child?
1. Share a time when you had a tough time disciplining a child or being disciplined by a parent.
2. Prayerfully read Hebrews 12:5–13.
3. What stands out to you? What family terms do you see?
4. Read Prov. 3:11–12. How is it similar to Hebrews 12:5–13? What is the point being made?
5. Compare the two passages. What changes do you see?
6. What does discipline mean (vs. 7)? Do you think we should consider all hardships as discipline from God?
7. What two unhealthy responses can we have toward God’s discipline, according to vs. 6?
8. God associates discipline with love, and punishment with acceptance (vs. 6). Why is it sometimes hard to see it that way?
9. Hardship is a form of discipline. What forms of hardship are you currently experiencing? What hardships have you experienced in the past?
10. According to the above verses, why is the absence of God’s discipline far worse than the presence of discipline? How might these verses help us to stop envying those whose lives seem trouble-free?
11. The writer of Hebrews assumes we respected our earthly fathers when they disciplined us and did what they thought was best. Is that true in your case? Explain. If you had an unpleasant earthly father, to whom can you look as a good father model?
12. Regardless of your earthly father’s discipline, what reason does Scripture give for you to feel safe and confident when your heavenly father disciplines you?
13. What does Hebrews 12:5–13 teach us about God’s character?
14. For what does Hebrews 12:5–13 remind us to be thankful?
15. Why is it that the way we respond to God’s discipline can result either in healing or serious disability (vs. 13)?
16. Reflect on the hardships you currently face. How do you think God wants you to adjust in your thinking or actions?
17. If you are suffering, this passage teaches that God has His hand on your life and wants to make you more like Him. How should trials affect our view of our identity as children of God?
18. Take a few moments to thank your loving heavenly Father for his disciplining care for you, and ask for His grace and parental assistance to endure.
Icebreaker: Have you ever witnessed a reconciliation? What was it like?
1. Read Luke 15. Retell the story in your own words. (In Luke’s day, tax collectors were Jews who collected--usually unjustly--from their Jewish brothers and gave tribute to the Romans, who oppressed the Jewish people. Tax collectors were disallowed from serving as witnesses or judges because they were considered untrustworthy.)
2. Jesus showed the Pharisees that they were unloving. Despite their care in the following the letter of the law, they were being exclusive. What was the Pharisees’ objection to Jesus? (Eating with a person in that time demonstrated more than mere association – it indicated acceptance and endorsement.)
3. In what ways are we like the Pharisees? In our relationships? In our criticisms? In our exclusions?
4. List the three lost things in the three parables about losing and finding something precious.
5. What is the response when the lost item is found (vs. 5 and 9)?
6. Have you ever found something that you thought was lost forever? How did you feel once you recovered it?
7. What if the father had chosen to disown the son (which he had every right to do)? What might have happened to the son had he not repented and returned home?
8. Is there anything in your past that seems like an unforgivable sin?
9. Read Acts 7:54–8:1. A) What was Saul’s (Paul’s) involvement? B) Read Phil. 3:12–14. C) What if Paul had said, “I can’t do anything – I’ve murdered Christians?” D) What was his view on the past and future? E) Is there anything in your past that you need to quit dwelling on and “leave behind?”
10. In the prodigal son story, what was the father’s response to the “lost” son (vs. 20–25)? List all the ways the father welcomed home his son.
11. Why do you think the father does not even wait for his son to finish his speech?
12. How is the father’s view of the son different from the son’s view of himself?
13. In what ways do you think you view yourself differently from how your heavenly Father views you?
14. In what ways did the son take the short view (instant gratification) instead of the long view (delayed gratification)? In what ways do we seek immediate gratification?
15. The father does not minimize the seriousness of his son’s actions (vs. 24), nor does Jesus minimize the need to repent (vv. 7, 10, 17–20). How do these two sobering realities give added meaning to the rejoicing?
16. What was the older son doing when the party started (vs. 25)? How did he find out his brother was back?
17. Why did the older son respond the way he did? Have you ever felt resentful when someone less deserving received recognition and you were “left outside”?
18. What is the father’s response to the older son’s outburst? Does the father favor the unfaithful son? What does this tell you about how much our performance factors into God’s love for us?
19. How does this lesson relate to the theme of our study, which is your worth in Christ? If you were to end this story (which Luke did not do), where would each young man’s worth be found? How would he now face his future?
20. With which person in this story do you most identify and why?
21. Peter, who was forgiven for denying the Lord, later writes to tell Christians to “grow in grace” (2 Peter 1:2). We must move from receiving grace to being like the father, who gave it away. Who needs to receive a touch of grace from you?
For further reading: Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son.
In this section of Romans, the apostle Paul is writing to the church in Rome to teach them solid doctrine about their standing before God.
Icebreaker: Imagine that someone you know inherited $4 million a decade ago but still lives in a rat-infested shack with an outhouse and bums money from you. What is wrong with this picture?
1. Pray for insight. Then read the designated verses in Romans 6–8.
2. What stood out to you as you read? (Romans 6 follows this argument: All have sinned, but where sin increased, God’s grace abounded.)
3. What is the logical question that follows in Romans 6:1? How does Paul answer his own rhetorical question here?
4. Based on Romans 6:2, what is a believer’s relationship to sin now? What is the great promise in Romans 6:5?
5. What is the conclusion in Romans 6:11? (First Paul tells his readers that they are dead to sin – a fact to know. Then he goes a step further. Based on what he has just taught, he tells them to consider--or reckon--themselves dead to something and thus alive to something. Then they must decide to yield.)
6. According to Romans 6:15–23, we are all slaves to something. What are the options given here for whom we can serve?
7. In what way is yielding to something equivalent to being a slave to it?
8. To what sins do you find it easy to be enslaved?
9. Read Romans 7:1–5. Why is a marriage partner free to remarry after the other partner dies? How does Paul use this marriage analogy to picture our relationship to sin?
10. Contrast the before and after pictures for a Christian according to Romans 7:4–5. (Use one column for “then” and one for “now.”)
11. Read Romans 8:31–39. How has God demonstrated that he is “for” us (vs. 32)?
12. List things for which the accuser could justly criticize you before God – things for which you are guilty.
13. According to 8:33, what is God’s response to our list of faults? How does God see us, based on this verse? (To be justified is a legal term which means the negative balance against us on the ledger is wiped out and a huge deposit--equal to Christ’s righteousness--is credited to our account. So imagine the faults being first wiped away and then replaced by huge deposits.)
14. List some of the condemning voices in your life. Perhaps some of family members are “travel agents for guilt trips.” Maybe the condemning voice is your own. What are the voices saying?
15. According to verse 34, what assurance do we have in the face of such guilt?
16. Read vs. 35. What does Paul list as things which cannot separate us from the love of God?
17. Read Psalm 44, which Paul quotes in Romans 8:36. The point of the psalm is that, although the psalmist is living right, God is still allowing the trials to get harder. How might relentless trials make us feel we are separated from God?
18. According to Romans 8:37, who are we as believers? How is this possible?
19. Read verse 38. Paul continues the list of items which we might feel would separate us from God’s love. What are they? What is the grand promise in this verse? (Angels, principalities, and powers are all terms which generally refer to the spiritual--often evil-- realm. See Eph. 6:12.)
20. Spend a few moments repenting (turning from sin), then thanking God that you have been declared righteous. Offer yourself to Him for His glory. Spend a few more moments expressing your appreciation that nothing can ever separate you from His love.
Icebreaker: Name a time (which could include ongoing circumstances) when life didn’t turn out as you’d hoped it would.
1. Prayerfully read 2 Cor. 12:1–10.
2. According to 12:7, why might Paul have been tempted to boast? (In Paul’s day it was common to speak of three heavens. The first was where the birds fly; the second was where the moon and stars are; and the third was where God dwells.)
3. What did God do to keep Paul from being prideful about his great spiritual experiences? (The word “messenger” could also be translated “angel.” We are not totally sure which Paul meant. But either way, it is clear that even what Satan intended for evil, God used for good.)
4. Three explanations are often given for the meaning of “thorn in the flesh.” Some say it was a physical ailment, such as bad eyesight. Others say it might have been a great temptation. Still others say it was persecution and opposition. Most commentators assume it is a literal physical ailment, based on Galatians 4:15. What do you consider the greatest “thorn in the flesh” in your own life?
5. Paul prayed three times that God would take away his difficulty. What was God’s response? (Grace is unmerited favor or enabling strength from God.)
6. God told Paul “no” three times. What does this say to those who teach that all Christians who are truly walking with God will have disease-free, trouble-free lives?
7. Share a time or circumstance in your life when you felt weak but found God’s grace sufficient.
8. What was Paul’s resulting response to God’s words?
9. List areas of your life in which you are having to depend on God to prove Himself strong in the face of your weakness.
10. Take a moment to pray through these areas of your life, asking for grace to endure and to glorify God through your weakness.
11. List areas in your life in which you are sometimes prideful. (This can include the pride of false humility.)
12. Read 1 Peter 5:5–6. To whom does God give grace? Take a few moments to repent of pride and ask Him to give you grace.
13. Prayerfully read 2 Cor. 1:3–7. What word is repeated?
14. Share a situation in which you received God’s comfort.
15. How can you use your past and present difficulties to comfort others?
16. What changes in your thoughts and heart would take place if you truly believed the principles taught here?
17. Who do you know who is currently experiencing a difficulty that you understand from personal experience? What will you do this week to comfort that person with Christ’s comfort?
18. Why do you think it’s important to God that we be broken but usable?
19. Read Hebrews 4:14–16. What command is given? Take a moment to do what it says.
20. Read Phil. 3:3–6. List Paul’s accomplishments.
21. Now read Phil. 3:6, 8. What worth does Paul assign to his abilities and background? (Note that Paul uses the vulgar word for “dung” to make his point. In Paul’s day that word referred to both excrement and the part of the sacrifice that was thrown away.)
22. What abilities and experiences are sometimes the source of your pride and even identity?
23. What is the only thing Paul considers “worthy”?
The topic of our study has been our worth in Christ.
Read Ephesians 1:1–14. Do you know who you are?