by Gavin Bennett
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief the teaching in triads (10 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into “triads” (small groups of 3ish people each, ideally same gender) and talk through the following debrief questions from the teaching:
- Did you listen to the teaching? What did you think?
- What was most challenging?
- What was most encouraging?
Debrief last week’s Practice as one large group (5 minutes)
- Any stories from the last week’s Practice that you would like to encourage the whole group with?
- Any “aha” moments of breakthrough?
Read this overview
The Bible says that those who are in Christ are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5v17). This means that as followers of Jesus, we have been given a new identity. No longer are we defined by what happened in our past, whether it was done to us or by us; instead, we are a people of the future. The more you read the story of God in the Scriptures, the more you will see that this new identity is inseparably intertwined with that of God and the people of God, our brothers and sisters. As a result of the fall (Genesis 3), shame entered the world. Shame is the belief and internalization of a lie about our identity. Shame can make it difficult for someone to hear or believe a true identity over herself/himself. This is why we lean into the reality that our identity has been fused together with that of God and our sisters and brothers. By God’s grace, we have been made in and for relationship. Community is the place in which true identity is spoken to combat and disarm false narratives, internalized lies, and shame.
Our words can quickly tear someone down, but, in conjunction with the Spirit, they can build people up. This building up is more than encouragement, though it is not less than that. The freedom of true identity is the forge in which we find power to defeat darkness, shame, lies, and the deceit of the enemy. Underneath the heaviness of false identity is a real person, who was created on purpose and with purpose. And before we can know fully with what purpose we have been created, we want to press into what we already know to be true and find in the Bible. The heart of the Father is for each of us, his children, to come to know and believe who we are and who we have been made to be – to know our gifts, passions, limitations, hopes, dreams, and calling. It is in Community with others and in the Scriptures that we begin to learn and internalize our inheritance as children of a Good Father who wants to show us the good identities he has for us.
Open to the Bible together (10 minutes)
Have somebody read Ephesians 4v22-25
Talk about the following questions:
- Whether it was 30 years ago or last month, think back to when you gave your life to Jesus. What kinds of things were a part of your ‘old self,’ that are not now a part of your ‘new self?’
- What caused these shifts for you?
- Because apprenticeship to Jesus is lifelong, how are you currently ‘putting off your old self?’ What kinds of things are a part of your ‘new self?’
Do this Practice as a Community right now: (45 minutes)
For this week’s practice, we’ll speak truth over each other in our Community. As we read earlier, community can be a significant place of internalizing our true identity and healing from our past. This practice will involve two parts:
- Listening Prayer: In our Listening Prayer Practice, we learned that the purpose of Listening Prayer is always to strengthen, encourage, and comfort. Spend some time asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you about this person’s identity. Remember that God created our imaginations and has access to them, so oftentimes what the Holy Spirit wants to tell a person will come to us in the form of an image or short film of sorts, a word or phrase, a song, a passage of Scripture, or a sensation or feeling.
- Blessing: In your experience with this person, you’ve likely seen or noticed something significantly good about them – their character, their passion, their person. Spend some time calling those things to mind and then speaking it out loud to them. And be specific. For example, if you want Sarah to know that she is a really good leader, tell her that and then share a story of a time or two that you saw her showing great leadership.
You have two options: either do this as a community, in which case it might take you a few weeks to listen for and bless each person (plan on about 15 minutes a person). Or break into triads again and do it all in one night. Either way is great.
Once you decide, here’s how to do it:
- Break into triads and designate a time keeper/facilitator for the group. Put away your phones, or any other distractions, and get comfortable.
- Pick someone to go first. Have someone invite the Spirit to speak to you all about him/her. Simply ask God: “How do you see ________?” or “What do you want to say about ________'s identity?” and then listen to see what he says.
- After a minute or two of listening, spend 5-10 minutes sharing what you heard the Spirit say over him/her and blessing them.
- Have someone pray and thank Jesus for this person.
- Pick the next person to go and repeat the above steps until everyone has been prayed for/blessed.
Come back together as a large group and have someone pray and thank Jesus for the gift of Community and that the Spirit would help remind us this week of the things he spoke to us through these people.
Read over this coming week’s Practice before you call it a night: (10 min)
Exercise 1: Guided Questions for Listening Prayer
- Spend time alone this week in prayer, asking Jesus who it is he has made you to be and what it is he’s called you to do. When you’re in a quiet place and have turned off or put away all distractions, take a deep breath and invite the Spirit to speak to you. Spend some time with each of the following questions:
- Are there any sins or patterns of mind and body that are holding me back from the life you have for me?
- Is there any truth I’m missing?
- Are there any lies I’m believing?
- Are there any specific tasks you want me to do right now?
- What do you want me to focus on in the next season?
- What is next for me in my calling?
- Who do you say that I am?
Exercise 2: Our Identity and The Bible
- As we talk about identity, it is integral to remember that it is not all nebulous. Some of our identities are clearly laid out in the Scriptures. Spend some time this week reflecting on those identities. Once you’ve picked a day and time to do this exercise, here’s how to do it:
- Create a space free of distractions (i.e., no phone) and invite the Spirit to speak to you during this time.
- Read slowly through the list of identity statements from the Scriptures (below), asking yourself the question with each one: Do I believe this?
- If you don’t believe the statement or you find it hard to believe that statement, go to the passage it comes from and read the verse.
- Ask the Spirit the following questions:
- How does this statement make me feel? Is it true?
- What is keeping me from believing the truth? Is it a lie about myself? About God?
- Who would I be if I let go of the lie?
- Ask the Spirit to help you believe that identity. Give him the space to speak to you and ask him: What would it look like for me to believe it?
- Thank him for the ongoing work of transformation that he is doing in your life.
- Over the next week, share one of the identities you have trouble believing from the Scriptures with someone in your community and ask them to pray for you to receive it.
- Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of identity statements from the Bible about those who are in Christ:
- I am the salt and light of the earth. (Matthew 5v13-14)
- I’ve been given a spirit of power, love, and a self-control – not fear. (2 Timothy 1v7)
- I can find grace and mercy in time of need. (Hebrews 4v16)
- I am hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3v3)
- I am complete in Christ. (Colossians 2v10)
- I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. (Colossians 1v14)
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4v13)
- I am a citizen of heaven. (Philippians 3v20)
- I know that God will complete the good work he started in me. (Philippians 1v6)
- I may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3v12)
- I am God’s workmanship. (Ephesians 2v10)
- I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 2v18)
- I have been adopted as God’s child. (Ephesians 1v5)
- I am a saint. (Ephesians 1v1)
- I am a minister of reconciliation for God. (2 Corinthians 5v18-21)
- I am a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5v17)
- I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God. (2 Corinthians 1v21-22)
- I am a member of Christ’s body. (1 Corinthians 12:27)
- I have been bought at a price. I belong to God. (1 Corinthians 6v20)
- I am God’s temple. (1 Corinthians 3v16)
- I am God’s coworker. (1 Corinthians 3v9)
- I cannot be separated from the love of God. (Romans 8v35-39)
- I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit. (John 15v16)
- I am Christ’s friend. (John 15v15)
Work through these discussion questions (10-15 minutes)
- Any thoughts, creative ideas, or feedback on this coming week’s Practice?
- What about these exercises feels daunting? Exciting?