• Tony Birkhead

BHAG 2018



To Achieve More You Must Remain Attached!

INTRODUCTION

Remaining in Christ is the biggest thing Jesus asks of us. It also, becomes ones of the most difficult because we often want to do things our own way and make decisions apart from Him. What difference could it make in your life if you just chose to remain in Him?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (John 15:1-11)

1. When did your relationship with Jesus begin? What are some of the highlights of that relationship?

2. What image comes to mind when you think of the word “remain”?

3. How would you define the word “remain” in the context of your relationship with Jesus?

4. What did Jesus mean by trimming or pruning the branches, and how does that relate to God’s actions to believers? In what specific ways do you think God prunes His disciples?

5. Describe a time in your life when God pruned you so you would grow closer to Him. Was it a good process? Why or why not? What was the result of the pruning?

Verse 2 continues the vine metaphor and describes the process of pruning, when dead branches are removed and the decaying parts are trimmed away. As Christians, we’re represented in the branch that produces fruit but still requires pruning. This process of removing the dead parts occurs as God challenges us and disciplines us so we can continue to grow in Him. Pruning is a good process, and it promotes spiritual health and strong faith.

6. What does it mean for Jesus to abide in us?

7. Why are both remaining in Jesus and Jesus remaining in us necessary to produce fruit?

8. If you were abiding in Christ completely and without a doubt, what do you think you would pray for our church?

MOVING FORWARD

Let’s identify how these verses can apply directly to our lives…

  • What can you do to more closely and consistently abide in Christ? How can we as a group intentionally help one another with this effort?

  • What are some specific things we can ask God to accomplish through us? What step might He want us to take to accomplish this?

COMMENTARY

John 15:1-11

15:1. “I am the true vine” is the last of Jesus’ seven “I am” sayings in John’s Gospel. “True” contrasts Jesus with OT Israel. Joseph was called a “fruitful vine” in Gen 49:22. The reference to the Father as the vineyard keeper harks back to Isaiah’s first vineyard song, where God is depicted as tending His vineyard, only to be rewarded with sour grapes (Isa 5:1-7; cp. Ps 80:8-9).

15:2. Three types of believers are named or inferred in this first part of the chapter: those who bear no fruit, those who bear some fruit and, later in verse 5, those who bear much fruit. The fruit-bearing branches, it would appear from the text of this verse, represent true believers. But to whom does the text refer when it says, he cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit?

This passage is capable of dangerous interpretation, especially when the idea of fruit-bearing centers in evangelism. Some people teach that those who do not win others to Christ will themselves be snatched out of the vine. Such an idea is alien to the teaching of the New Testament. Perhaps Galatians 5:22-23 helps us here: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

15:3. The disciples, however, needed neither cutting off nor trimming clean because they had already been cleansed by the Lord’s word. One thing is clear at the outset of the chapter: this is not a passage on salvation, a topic John covered in earlier chapters. Here he dealt with requirements for a fruitful life on the part of believers.

15:4-6. Another key here is the word remain (abide) which appears no fewer than eleven times in the passage. It seems to suggest an effortless resting in the Lord, confident in the promised union between the vine and the true branches.

Furthermore, John used the word remain forty times in his Gospel and twenty-seven more times in his epistles. In the context of this passage, it seems to emphasize an ongoing faith and loving obedience to the Father and the Son that results in fruit. The fruit in this passage seems to focus on spirit-generated behavior of Christians, though again this is not the only interpretation. Many sermons have been preached on emphasizing fruit as other people who have been influenced by the gospel.

15:7. Jesus added a specific dimension to the mutual abiding of the Christian life (v. 7). He set forth the condition that His words abide in believers. On the basis of this condition, He made the promise of fruitful praying. An abiding life is an obedient life. My words abide in you points to a willing acceptance of Jesus’ authority as expressed through His teachings and commands. Words that remain ultimately become words that are obeyed. Whatever you wish defines the possible agenda of a believer’s praying. The agenda is unlimited. Any concern is a proper subject for prayer. We can pray for anything that Jesus desires and for which He would ask the Father.

15:8. When followers of Jesus bear much fruit, God receives glory. Since believers cannot bear fruit of themselves but only by means of Christ’s indwelling life, their fruitfulness is a manifestation of divine life. It thus glorifies God and serves as evidence of genuine, vital discipleship.

15:9. Next Jesus turned to a declaration of His love for His disciples. On the basis of His declared love, Jesus urged the disciples to abide in my love. He wanted them to live in the consciousness of being loved— rejoicing in its fact, depending on its undergirding, being careful not to betray it, and being faithful to all that delights it. That Jesus gave such a command suggests some can live without being mindful of Christ’s love for them. Thereby they miss out on the close fellowship between Jesus and His followers and on the obedience and joy that flow from it (vv. 8-9).

15:10-11. Jesus moved from the need to live in awareness of His love to the need to obey His commands (vv. 10-11). Remaining is dependent on obeying. Abide in carries the connotation of living in the awareness and enjoyment of divine love. Jesus then moved to teaching about joy. Wholehearted obedience leads to full-hearted joy. “I have told you this” refers to Jesus’ promise in verse 10 that obedience to His commands would lead to an awareness of living in His love. Jesus then explained further the desired outcome: “that my joy may be in you.” Jesus probably meant He would impart to them the kind of joy He had found through His obedience to the Father (15:10). The disciples would be the recipients of joy that Jesus gave them through His indwelling presence. The disciples gained a measure of joy through obedience to Jesus’ commands, and to that would be added the joy that came from Jesus.

The “commands” to be obeyed (15:10) are reduced in this verse to a single command. We are to love each other and to do it in the way and to the degree that Jesus loves, namely, as I have loved you. Jesus’ love for His followers sets the standard for His followers’ love for one another and furnishes the motivation for practicing mutual love. Having set His love as the standard for the disciples’ mutual love, Jesus described the highest manifestation of love. Willingness to lay down one’s life for others is the supreme test of love. Jesus’ saying no doubt referred primarily to His death as proof of His love for the disciples (“as I have loved you,” v. 12). Having mentioned “friends” as the ones for whom love prompts the giving of oneself, Jesus gave the qualification for people being His friends. The “if” clause in verse 14—you are my friends if—identifies the singular requirement for being His friend: doing “what I command.”

#achieve #remain

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