Read an Excerpt
Altar Ego Study Guide
By Craig Groeschel
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2013Craig Groeschel
All rights reserved.
OVERCOMING THE LABELS THAT BIND YOU
World conditions are constantly at work eroding the high profile specifics of each person into a flat and featureless generality, identified by label: Introvert, Elder Material, Ectomorph, Unsaved, Anorexic, Bipolar, Single Parent, Diabetic, Tither, Left -brained. The labels are marginally useful for understanding some aspect of the human condition, but the moment they are used to identify a person, they obscure ... the unprecedented, unrepeatable soul addressed by God.
Eugene H. Peterson, Subversive Spirituality
Welcome (5 Minutes)
Welcome to Session 1 of Altar Ego. If this is your first time together as a group, take a moment to introduce yourselves to each other before watching the video. Then let's get started!
Video: Overcoming the Labels that Bind You (12 Minutes)
Play the video segment for Session 1. As you watch, use the accompanying outline to follow along or to take notes on anything that stands out to you.
Negative labels: You are not who others say you are.
God's truth is bigger than other people's opinions about you.
An altar ego is who God says you are.
Two helpful thoughts to establish a God-centered view:
1. God can give you a new name.
"You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow" (Isaiah 62:2).
You will grow into your new name.
2. God will give you a new purpose.
Simon means unpredictable, unstable, unfaithful. Jesus gave Simon the new name Peter, which means rock.
God often takes our greatest weakness and makes it our greatest strength.
It's time for you to become who God says you are.
Group Discussion (40 Minutes)
Take a few minutes to talk about what you just watched.
1. What part of the teaching had the most impact on you?
The Labeled Life
2. Briefly recall a few of the people you encountered in the last day or two—family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, restaurant or store staff, strangers you passed in your daily travels, etc.
What labels went through your mind as you encountered these people? Consider positive, negative, and neutral labels. For example: team player (positive), freeloader (negative), clerk (neutral).
What similarities and differences do you see between the labels you applied to people over the last day or two and the labels you imagine these same people may have applied to you?
When you think about any negative labels you may have for people you know well, what makes it especially difficult for you to let those labels go or to see the "unprecedented, unrepeatable soul" behind the label?
3. Craig described struggling with two kinds of labels: idealized, people-pleasing labels like good son and good student; and negative, confining labels like tightwad and Scrooge. He failed to live up to the idealized labels and couldn't seem to live down the negative ones.
What labels come to mind when you think about your own struggles? For example, what idealized images have you wanted people to believe about you so you could fit in and win approval? What negative characterizations have left you feeling trapped by past behavior?
How have these idealized or negative labels—which are largely about how others see you—impacted the way you see yourself? For example, how might they have led to self-defeating thought patterns that keep you stuck or mental labels that you use to beat yourself up?
4. The alternative to a labeled life is an altar ego. Developing an altar ego requires sacrificing false labels in order to discover your true identity in Christ. The apostle Paul describes how this happens in his letter to the church at Colossae:
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1–3 NLT).
When Paul writes that our real life is "hidden," he uses the Greek word krypto. Krypto is the root word for several English words, including the word "encrypt," which means to encode and make secret. Encryption is a form of protection—it guards sensitive information by making it inaccessible to anyone who doesn't have the key to unlock the code.
How does the idea of encryption help you to understand what it might mean that your real life—your true identity—is "hidden with Christ in God"?
Why do you think God hides your true identity? From whom or from what might your true identity need to be protected?
How would you describe the decoding "key," the means of accessing and understanding your true identity?
5. In the Bible, an altar is a place where people encounter God—primarily through sacrifice and worship. An ego is an identity—the unique collection of thoughts, feelings, traits, and behaviors that makes you you.
Briefly describe your associations with altars or any personal experiences you have of altars (for example, in your church or a cathedral you visited). Are these associations and experiences mostly positive or negative, meaningful or insignificant, recent or distant, etc.?
How have experiences of personal sacrifice—intentional decisions to surrender something important to you—shaped your identity? For example, consider time, resources, or something of yourself that you have willingly surrendered to God or offered to others. How did these willing subtractions influence your outlook, values, or decisions?
Based on your associations with altars and your experiences of personal sacrifice, what intrigues you or concerns you about pursuing what Craig describes as an altar ego?
A New Name
6. An altar ego is a God-centered identity—one we both receive as a gift and grow into over time. A biblical example is the apostle Peter, whose given name was Simon. The name Simon means unpredictable, unstable, unfaithful—and it was an accurate reflection of Simon's impulsive character. But the very first thing Jesus does when he meets Simon is rename him:
Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter) (John 1:42).
Both names (Cephas is Aramaic and Peter
Excerpted from Altar Ego Study Guide by Craig Groeschel. Copyright © 2013 by Craig Groeschel. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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