Engage Groups March 20-23
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17
Leaders: Be sure to review the Faith in Action you set as a group last week, then continue to the icebreaker question for this weeks study.
What book or movie has influenced you greatly? How?
"To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24
Change. Some of us welcome it, want it, and even get frustrated when it takes too long to happen. Others of us, fear change and resist it. Regardless, when Jesus shows up, change happens. The word used often to describe this change is the word: Metamorphosis. The root word morphoo means "form" or "nature." It refers to the real inner essence of a person and thing. When the word is applied to us, it tells us who we really are, what makes us tick, what our motives are, what our intentions are, and how this dictates our actions and behavior. Now add the other half of the word to this definition, the Greek prefix "meta" to it, which means "to change the essential nature of something or someone." So when the nature of someone or something is changed then so does their actions and behavior. Therefore, metamorphosis is a complete change. This study will emphasize how God completely changes us by the power of His grace.
How to Change a Habit for Good: According to Neuroscience
By Elisha Goldstein, PSYCHALIVE
Many scientists agree that we are interdependent with our environments and our brains are constantly making snap judgments based on internal and external cues. The notion of willpower, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, or manning up fails to take the psychological and scientific realities into mind. Alcoholics Anonymous has it right, if you’re addicted to substances you need to get them out of the house and begin to change your relationships. This was certainly my experience with my own struggle with substances years ago.
Considering the impact of our environments on our ability to be happy and make the changes we want to make, can drastically facilitate more adherence to whatever habits you’re trying to break or create. Years ago, UC Berkeley Researcher Marian Diamond conducted a study where she randomly put mice in a few different cages. One had toys and playmates, one had playmates and one had neither. After a few weeks, they found that the brains of the mice that had toys and playmates had thicker cerebral cortices than the other two. This part of the brain is associated with higher order functions like cognitive processing. In fact, the one without toys and playmates showed the thinnest layer.
This is just to say that our environments not only impact our behavior, but also impact our brains (which impact our behavior). So what’s the secret sauce? If you want to make a change, whether it’s breaking a bad habit or creating a healthy one, you need to make sure your environment supports it.
Our surroundings shape us. As we can see, that which we interact with, influences us, for the good or the bad. However, throughout His word... Whenever Jesus shows up, our environment changes, and more importantly, we change. Just as the article above tells us that to make a change of an attitude or a habit, we must begin the process by changing those people we associate with and the environment we put ourselves in. Jesus is THE powerful way to do this! God wants to become our environment as much as possible. As much as we let Him. Back then, He showed up physically through His son Jesus. Today, it's through the Holy Spirit, through His word, and through His people. The more we flood our environment with these things, the more of God is there and change in us happens.
"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 36:26
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20
Read Luke 19:1-10. In this passage focus and discuss how hungry Zacchaeus was to see and interact with Jesus, how this changed him and how this change benefitted him as well as others. Finally, self-reflect to see how often (or not) we have Zacchaeus’ attitude. Consider the follow questions to help:
- Why do you think it was important for this passage to point out that Zacchaeus was a tax collector and rich?
- How hard do you think Zacchaeus was seeking Jesus? How do you know this?
- What do you think was in Zacchaeus' heart that made Jesus take notice and stop?
- Why do you think Jesus wanted to go to Zacchaeus' house?
- Why do you think He did not choose or point out anyone else?
- What do you think happened during Zacchaeus' encounter with Jesus that brought change?
- In your own words, considering this passage, if you want change, how does it happen?
PERSONAL: Faith in Action
Leaders take time to discuss things we desire to see changed in ourselves as well as what specific ways we can bring God into our environment this week. Be specific.
Pray that God will change us through His Holy Spirit and His word. Pray that we would be strong to change our surroundings and invite Him in no matter how difficult it may be and how it can strain some relationships that may not be spiritually healthy.