The Giving Tree

Passage: John 15:1-17

Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

Sermon Summary

On Jesus’ final night, he sought to reframe his disciples’ view of growth, assuring them that they could continue to grow, and flourish in his work, even after he left to go to his Father. The key to their continued growth would be their “abiding” in Jesus.

Drawing upon rich Old Testament imagery, using the image of a vine and its branches, Jesus taught that he himself was the source of all life and growth for his disciples. If we remain connected to him through “abiding in him”, we will “bear much fruit” (15:8). If we don’t abide in Jesus, however, we will be removed, like a dead branch. This only makes sense, for on our own “we can do nothing” (15:5). True Christian growth, then, isn’t about adding more things into our lives, but is “inside-out” growth—it starts with and is sustained by the internal transformation that Jesus brings, through our connection to him and his work on our behalf.

Jesus makes clear that we abide in him by keeping his commands: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (15:10). We shouldn’t think of this as transactional, however, as if we “earn” God’s presence through our obedience. Rather, Jesus is speaking here about being included in what he is doing—which brings us great joy (15:11). When we keep the commands of Jesus—doing the very things he does—he is including us as agents in his work of redemption, just as his own Father included him in his great work. This is the joy of obedience and the joy of inclusion.

Ultimately, we have every reason to want to abide in Jesus. Recognizing his great love for us, and how much he is “for us”, gives us the desire and the motivation to abide in him. Though we did our worst to Jesus, even to the point of cutting off his life, he died and rose so that we could be reconnected to God and flourish anew. Truly, “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (15:13). If we abide in this unsurpassable love of Christ, we will grow!

Sermon Outline:

  • The Meaning of Abiding in Jesus (15:1-9)
  • How We Abide in Jesus (15:10-17)
  • The Power to Abide in Jesus (15:13)

Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide

Re-read the passage(s): John 15:1-17

The Meaning of Abiding in Jesus (15:1-9)

1) Re-read John 15:1-9, and meditate on these verses together:

• How is the imagery of vine and branches used? What does it communicate about the nature of growth? Of spiritual life? Of bearing fruit? Of discipleship?
• How would you describe the tone of this passage? And what about the warnings? What is Jesus warning against?

2) How deeply do you truly believe that “apart from Jesus (you) can do nothing”? (15:5). What goes wrong in our life when we forget this truth?

3) In John 15:3, Jesus says that even the fruit-bearing branch he “prunes, that it may bear more fruit”. How have you experienced God’s pruning in your life? How has God’s pruning helped you to “bear more fruit”?

4) What is your most significant practical obstacle to abiding in Jesus in this season? How can your Small Group help with it?

How We Abide in Jesus (15:10-17)

5) Re-read John 15:10-17, and meditate on these verses together:

• How do these verses refine what it means to “abide in Jesus”?
• What is the essence of “keeping (his) commandment?
• What is the difference between keeping Jesus’ commandments as a servant and keeping his commandments as his friend? What difference does this make for our day-to-day experience of following Jesus?

6) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that our abiding in Jesus is expressed through keeping his commands. Is that how you’ve typically thought of what it means to “abide in Jesus”? Why or why not?

7) In the sermon, Pastor Bobby said that by telling us to keep his commands, Jesus is actually “including us” in his mission—which is a great sign of his love for us, and can bring us great joy. Where have you experienced being included in Jesus’ mission? How has this inclusion nurtured your relationship with him, and helped you to abide in him? How has it brought you joy?

The Power to Abide in Jesus (15:13)

8) Re-read John 15:13. How does Jesus’ deep love for us motivate us to abide in him?

Additional Application Questions

Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?

Prayer

Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.

X