BEFORE YOU GATHER
- Familiarize yourself with this Group Discussion Guide
- If you missed it,CLICK HEREto watch the weekend sermon
- Read Isaiah 44:13-22
- Get a feel for the Book of Isaiah as a whole byWATCHING THIS VIDEO
- Sit in prayerful silence with God for a while, and ask the Holy Spirit if there is anything that he wants you to share during your group's time together.
ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL: SETTING THE WORLD TO RIGHTS
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There is a connection between idolatry and oppression. When we reject the one true God, we deny our role as people who reflect His character. God is the source of our very life and breath, so when we are no longer imitating the character of God, we lose our humanity. In the process, when the main goal of our lives becomes our own betterment and self-improvement, we neglect our neighbors.
Real idolatry and the Bible attests to this is not a matter of bowing down before an object made of stone or metal or wood. It has to do with trusting in our own wisdom, being self-reliant, and treating God and others as objects.
An idolater is someone who treats God as an object. And when you treat God as an object, you also treat the people who are created in His image as objects.
This plays out in all sorts of ways. For example:
- We know that it's wrong to humiliate or manipulate someone; it does great personal and psychological damage to us when we treat someone else like that. The only way that you can bring yourself to treat someone so poorly is to feel justified in your actions. In your imagination, your neighbor has to become something less than human. If we don't recognize them as a person who carries the image of God, then they are out of our circle of care, and now we feel justified in treating them poorly. This is what happens in a time of warfare people understand their enemies as something less than human, which gives their conscience the permission to bring them harm.
- When we no longer see people as fellow image-bearers, they become objects to satisfy our own wants and desires. We dehumanize them with our greed and lust and hunger for power. We maintain unjust systems that keep us rich and well-fed and powerful, and keep others subjected and subservient to our needs.
- We get excited by a store's low prices, but we forget that someone else is on the other end of the supply chain. In our globalized world, we don't see their suffering because they aren't our immediate neighbor down the street; they are a global neighbor in another part of the world making our goods with cheap labor in oppressive work environments. We save a dollar, while they live poor and undignified.
The Gospel of Jesus says NO to these kinds of values, calling us to recognize our neighbors as fellow image-bearers who are meant to know what God is like based on how we a community of Jesus followers are treating them. And so the Gospel asks of us: if our neighbors aren't getting fair wages and good treatment, how will they ever know the justice and mercy and gospel of the God who isn't just for us, but for them?
The Christian life isn't just about getting my "personal" relationship with God set right. When God sets me right, He intends to set the world right through me, and through everyone else who carries His name.
Read Isaiah 44:13-22 and Ask Yourself: After a heavy critique of idolatry, why does God remind His people that they have been saved and redeemed? If God has not only saved you FROM something, but He has also saved you FOR something, what about our lives should change? How can deep reflection on our salvation energize us for a life of justice and mercy towards others?
Opening Prayer: (1-5 minutes)
In light of what God is saying through this week's message, here's some suggestions of how your group can invite God into your time together.
As we get ready to discuss the subtle and secret power that idolatry can have upon our hearts and minds and lives, pray the words of David, when he asked God to run a full diagnostic on his heart and life. After you pray this prayer from Psalm 139, remain in silence for about 30 seconds, imagining a searchlight, or a diagnostic scan, examining every part of who you are: your thoughts, your motives, your actions.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead mein the way everlasting.
(Remain in reflective silence for 30 seconds, and then the discussion leader can say, "Amen.")
Quick Connection: (5 minutes)
Haveeveryone take 30 seconds each to share a phrase or a moment from this weekend's message that is still resonating with them. You also have the option to say "Pass."
Large Group Discussion: (30 minutes)
This weekend's message came from Isaiah 44:13-22. If everyone has a Bible, let's go there together.
- An idol is a false source of trust, protection, or love. They are poor substitutes for who God is meant to be in our lives. This week, we were reminded that many of our idols are inherently good things, but they took on too much weight and significance in our lives. What are some examples of good things that can take the place of God?
- (From v19) This weekend, we heard that "to know your idols is to know yourself." If God has helped you to discern the sorts of things that can become a false source of trust or protection or love, how will that help you to not be duped into relying on them? What is the danger in remaining unaware of the idols that hold particular sway in our lives?
- As a group, take some time to discern your idols. Have someone in your group read this list of questions, which can give us clues about the source of our idols. Don't answer these questions aloud, but reflect on your answer after each question is read:
- What gives me a sense of security?
- What is my greatest delight and joy?
- What do I fear?
- What themes and parts of the Bible do I avoid?
- What is it which, if God took it away, I would walk away?
As a group, remain silent for about 30 seconds.
- Before you start to give in to self-defeating thoughts, have 3 different people speak this Scripture aloud: "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." Isaiah 44:25
As a group, remain silent for about 30 seconds.
Then, talk about these questions: What does it say about our God that He doesn't want to blot us out, but instead, He wants to blot out our sin? How does this create the necessary space for us to bring our sins into the light, and let God heal and transform us?
CLOSING PRAYER (5-15 minutes):
In light of what God is saying through this week's message, here's some suggestions of what your group could talk about with God in prayer.
In prayer, take time to name your idols, and ask God to do what He must to set you free from them, so that He will be your "all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28).
End your time by praying the prayer of a Christian named Ignatius of Loyola.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.