By Design

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Ask the group the questions in black.

Words in italics are written to help give some guidance and ideas.

Read out loud the text in blue.

Have someone read out the Scripture passages.

Introduction

If God guaranteed you an answer to any question, what question would you ask?

Gather thoughts. Ask why? This is not the time to answer those questions, but just to get people thinking.

People are curious about many things, but when it comes down to it, two of the most basic questions of life are: Who am I and why am I here?

Can you answer those questions with total confidence?

Who am I?

The question “Who am I” is a question of identity. Your identity is simply who you think you are.

When you think about your life, what influences have shaped your identity (who you think you are)?

This could be parents, teachers, sports coaches, pastors, friends, the world etc.

Share something about who you think you are.

Let people share at whatever level they are willing. Simply listen.

We all begin creating our sense of identity from birth, mainly based on our interactions with other people. The things we believe about ourselves can be both positive and negative.

So for now, we know that the “who am I” question is about identity. Over the coming weeks, we are going to explore this more.

Why am I Here?

The second question “Why am I here?” deals with our sense of purpose.

Think about things that people have created and their purpose? What comes to mind?

Share ideas. Choose any examples such as toasters, cars, lightbulbs, roads, houses etc.

Can you think of anything that has no purpose at all?

There is nothing that has been created that has no purpose. Things like space junk may seem to have no purpose now, but they did once have a purpose.

We have been created, so what is our purpose?

Gather thoughts. Ask, “what makes you think that?”

Does something that is created have the ability to determine its own purpose?

Use an example from above to pose the question. Can a toaster decide to be a jug instead?

Design

We can only come to a true sense of identity and purpose when we first understand our design. Think about a lion.

What is a lion designed to do?

To hunt animals. No healthy lion defies its design to become a vegetarian! It never happens.

What gives a lion the ability to be a hunter?

Its whole body is designed to hunt from tooth to claw. The lion’s identity as a hunter comes from its design.

In the same way, our sense of identity and purpose is connected to our design.

Do we begin life with an understanding of our design?

No, newborn babies have no knowledge or understanding of purpose or design.

How do babies learn about their physical design?

Babies and infants learn their physical design by watching people around them. In fact, studies have shown that if an infant does not hear someone talking, they will not learn to talk. If they do not see a person walking, they will not learn to walk.

The same is true spiritually. When we first begin to follow Jesus and are born again, we are like spiritual infants, and we learn our design by looking at people who we consider “spiritual.”

In our spiritual infancy, how can we be sure that the people around us are or were actually living in their spiritual design?

We really can’t be sure. Babies do not have the capacity to question their design. Because they are so vulnerable, there is a great responsibility to protect babies and nurture them in truth.

What if we have not truly learned our design? Imagine that you discover an object you’ve never seen before and you don’t know what it is designed to do.

How could you find out?

You would ask the person who made it!

Read these Bible verses together:

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Who is the Creator of the universe and of us?

God.

As our Creator, we owe our existence to God. We are not random products of chance. We have been wonderfully created by a God who has a clear design for our lives. And as our Creator, He alone holds the answers to those questions “who am I and why am I here?” The only way we can discover our design is to ask the One who designed us.

So, how does God reveal our design to us?

Gather thoughts.

Our Mirror

Look up the following passage in James.

James 1:22-24

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

What is the purpose of a mirror in the natural realm?

To see what you physically look like.

So, if you want to see a spiritual reflection of yourself, what is the spiritual mirror that you look into?

The word of God.

The Word is a spiritual mirror that shows us our natural face. The word “natural” used in this verse is the Greek word “genesis” meaning “source, origin or birth”. You could say that when we look into the mirror of the Word, we see our genesis face. We see our true identity and purpose as God originally designed it.

Summary

There are two questions we need to answer: Who am I? and Why am I here? These are questions of identity and purpose. Only our Creator has the right to determine who we are and why we are here, our design. So, over the coming studies, we are going to look into the mirror of the Word to find out how God answers these questions.

Questions for Further Discussion

Has there ever been a time in your life when you consciously asked yourself Who am I? or Why am I here?

Do you have any early memories of believing that God is Creator?

What do you think spiritual infants need most?

 

1 In the Beginning—Homework

Reflect

Read these verses from Psalm 139 and reflect on the questions below.

Psalm 139:13-14

For You formed my inmost being;

You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will praise You,

for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

What do these verses reveal about the value of your life?

What does it mean for you to be a unique creation?

Is it important for you to know “who am I” and “why am I here?” Why or why not?

Do you spend time looking into the mirror of the Word? Is this a focus for you?

Pray

As you begin these studies, ask God to reveal your identity and your purpose/design in life to you in a fresh and deeper way. Share with Him your desires for your own spiritual growth.

Our experience of life is shaped by the way we think. All the thoughts that we have about life and the outside world combine to form our worldview. As children we go through the wonder of having a blank canvas for a worldview. Our first years are a discovery of the world and our place in life. Through our experiences we paint our picture of what we think the world is like. The worldview we create then helps us to make sense of life as we grow and mature.

Matthew 18:2-4

And calling to him a child, he [Jesus] put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

In order to possess the kingdom of God, we need to be willing to become like little children again. We need to be prepared to start over and let Jesus paint a new picture of life for us. As He teaches us, we will begin to see life as He sees it: a sacred gift of great wonder, power and blessing.

Proverbs 23:7a

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Just as we have thoughts about the outside world, we have thoughts about the inner world of who we are in our heart and soul. These thoughts combine to form our identity. Our identity is simply our unique perspective on our own unique personality. When we look at the person in the mirror, all the thoughts that run through our mind are insights into the identity we have created for ourselves.

We start creating our identity from birth. I have a friend who has been fostering a young girl since she was three. From birth, this girl was tragically neglected by her parents. She shared her room with a number of cats and rarely saw her parents. As a result, she spent the first three years of her life believing she was a cat. She ate cat-food, meowed instead of talked, moved like a cat, and licked her arms to mimic the way cats would clean their fur. In the absence of a healthy human model, this beautiful young girl developed her sense of identity by watching the cats around her. When she was taken into her new home, she had to unlearn everything that she previously believed about her life. Instead she had to learn what it truly means to be human.

This is one of the basic problems with identity. It is part of our human nature to create our identity from what we see around us. Even though the human design is biologically encoded within all people, it is only by studying and interacting with our parents that we learn what it means to be human. We know that we are designed to walk on two legs, but unless a child sees people walking, they will not learn to walk by themselves. We need a model to impart vision and the desire to change.

This process is known as imprinting and it works well when the parents are healthy. However, in our infancy, we have no way of knowing whether the people who raise us are accurately modelling true humanity to us. In fact, as infants, we lack the ability to question if our models are even human at all. As a result, there have been children who have been raised by dogs or monkeys or cats and have grown up living and acting exactly like the animals who raised them.

This principle is exactly the same in the spiritual realm. As we grow spiritually, we imprint on those around us and we build a spiritual identity for ourselves which is based largely on what we see in other people. But what if everyone has been living in something less than God’s design? How do we know if the people we copy are getting life right?

Imprinting on the World

2 Corinthians 10:12

But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.

Comparing or measuring ourselves to others is deeply unwise. Like my friend’s foster daughter, we can look at those around us and think we are doing well, yet live in a reality far below God’s design for our lives. Instead of forming our sense of identity by looking at the people around us, we need to measure ourselves according to God’s specific design for our lives.

Romans 12:1-3

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Do not be conformed to the world… In other words, do not imprint on the world. Do not let the world define you. Do not let it shape your identity. Why? Because the world has a deeply distorted image of what it means to be human. The world tells us that we exist for our own benefit.[i] It raises us in a culture of selfishness and strips us of our sense of purpose. And in our infancy, we simply accept what we see as true. The world tells us we exist to work, play, buy and die. We believe the lie and grow up expecting to get a job so we can make enough money to entertain ourselves and build our material wealth before we die. We have no reason to question the call of the world to live for ourselves. Indulge yourself. Secure your own future. Do what is best for you. The message of selfishness so permeates our culture that it influences the way almost every person thinks. Because of this, as we form our sense of spiritual identity, it can be easy to mix the selfish with the spiritual.

Be transformed by the renewal of your mind…Like little children, we need to ask the Spirit of God to transform us by renewing our worldview and our identity. A key part of this renewing is exploring the reason why God created us and the world we dwell in.

When we create something, we always design our creation to serve a specific purpose. Clocks are designed to tell the time. Cars are designed to transport us places. Houses are made to give us shelter and provide a space for us to live. Every created thing has a purpose and design that is defined solely by its creator.

So what is God’s design for us? What does a life as God intended look like? If God’s goal was that we would spend eternity with Him in heaven, then why did He not simply create us in heaven? There must be a reason why we are here on the earth. These questions can be rolled into two basic questions that we all need to find the answers to:

  1. Why did God create us?
  2. Who are we?

The first question deals with our design and purpose, the second with our identity. We cannot answer the second question before the first because identity always stems from design. We can see this in the natural realm. A lion does not get to choose its identity. It is a hunter because from tooth to claw, a lion’s whole body is designed to hunt. Because of this, no healthy lion defies their design and stops eating meat. On the contrary, like us, a lion can only find its ultimate satisfaction by living according to its design. Sheep are not hunters. Sheep are designed to mill around and eat grass. If a lamb was to grow up thinking it was a lion, it would experience a frustrating, confusing and short life. In the same way, if we are to come to a true sense of identity, we need to firstly discover God’s design and purpose for our lives. Only when we know why God created us, will we be able to look into the mirror and see who we truly are.

God has created everything for a purpose beyond itself. Therefore, the more we focus on self, the more we lose sight of our purpose in life. I wanted to explore this with my children, so one day I asked: “Can you think of anything that has been created only for its own benefit?” My younger children thought about the question for a few moments and then lost interest. However, my eldest son Jacob spent the day thinking about it. At the end of the day, he had no answer. Everything he could think of was created for a reason outside itself.

“So if everything has a purpose, imagine that one day you found a strange machine that someone had invented. How could you figure out what it was created for?” Jacob paused and then answered simply: “Ask the person who made it.”

Like the strange machine, when we look at our lives, it can be a puzzle trying to learn why God has created us. Yet in the search for identity, we cannot discover who we are by getting to know ourselves better. We cannot find our identity in the people around us or in the things we do. We cannot find our identity in our age, in our beauty, in the color of our skin, in our sexuality, in the country we live in, the media we watch, in the religion we follow, or in the language we speak. The only way we can form a true sense of identity is by discovering our design.

And this is what makes this adventure so simple. If we want to learn about our design and find out why we were created, there is only one thing we need to do. We simply need to ask the One who made us.

 

Reflect

Why would God create anything?

Does everything have to have a purpose?

What things give me a lasting sense of satisfaction and fulfilment?

Are these things a part of God’s design for me?

Imagine

Ecclesiastes 2:11

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

 Imagine living without purpose and striving after the wind. Now imagine coming to know your true design and identity. What is that design? What does it look like? How does it feel to move from a place of vanity into a place of meaning and purpose?

 


This post is taken from the first chapter of First Love. Get your free copy.


 

[i] The philosophy of selfishness is passed down to the next generation through our education systems. Western education teaches us that we evolved by chance through countless random changes to our genetic code. According to evolution, it is the “selfish gene” that is the driving force behind all life, motivating us to protect our own lives and pass our genes on to the next generation. Yet we cannot teach a creatorless evolution without exploring the impact of such a belief on our design, ethics, purpose and value in life. Evolution values people according to the quality of their genes. If you are strong, beautiful, intelligent, or physically symmetrical then you are more valuable than other people. If you are weak, less attractive, homosexual, infertile, disabled, or less intelligent than others then you have less value to society. To the selfish gene, it is not personal. It is just the way it is: if you cannot contribute positively to the next generation then you have little or no value in the big picture of life.

Thankfully, the reality is that the universe did not create itself. It was created by a God of love with a specific design and purpose in mind. As part of His creation, God has said that all of us are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that each one of us is immensely valuable to Him. In order to experience the value that God has invested in us, we need to embrace His design for our lives.

 

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