What Does It Mean to Abide in Christ?: two essentials for bearing fruit

vine and branches

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener….Remain in me as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4)

The theme of this passage is God’s people bearing fruit as living “branches” within Jesus the “vine” as tended by the “gardener,” who is Father God.  At various places in the Hebrew Bible, Israel is referred to as a vine: a vine transplanted from Egypt (Psalm 80:8), God’s vineyard intended to develop a harvest of justice and righteousness (Isaiah 5:1-7), and a once living vine now shriveled in exile (Ezekiel 19:10-14). Here in John 15, amidst the upper room discourse, Jesus describes the new community formed around Him as branches sustained by a vine, which is still called to bear fruit.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing….This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)

Again the theme returns: a calling upon God’s people to bear much fruit for the Father’s glory. The key to such fruit-bearing is remaining, or abiding, in the vine, who is Jesus. There can be no fruit-bearing apart from Jesus. To not remain in Him is equivalent to becoming lifeless, and this lifelessness leads to a fiery end. Remaining in Jesus is the key to fruit-bearing, as well as to having effective prayer-communication with God. The question, of course, is what does it mean to remain or abide or continue in Jesus? the first clue comes in verse 7: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” To remain i Jesus is linked to His words remaining—or abiding or continuing—in us. There is a parallel here: remaining in Jesus means letting His words remain in us. Perhaps it is easier to understand this if we use the word “continue.” If we want to continue in Jesus, we will need for His words to continue in us; not just informationally but transformationally in our lives. This parallel between remaining in Jesus and His words remaining in us is followed by another parallel in the next verse: bearing much fruit is linked with showing ourselves to be Jesus’ disciples.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command….This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:9-17)

In verse 9, the metaphor switches from gardening to relationships. Along with that the concept of “remaining” switches contexts from branches remaining in a vine to friends remaining in the love of the ultimate friend. Jesus is the ultimate friend because He loves to the ultimate extent: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (15:13). Jesus does this because He keeps the Father’s commands and remains in the Father’s love (15:10). The connection between remaining through keeping commands and remaining in love is tied so tightly that it is difficult to see how one could exist without the other. Like the individual strands of a braided rope, it is hard to know whether to call it “rope” if they are not all there braided together as one.

So, Jesus says, if we want to remain in Him and bear fruit to the Father’s glory, it will involve obedience to His commands/word while also abiding in His love. His command ultimately is “Love each other as I have loved you” (15:12, 17). While there is certainly a sort of experiential mysticism of remaining in Christ’s love here, it is vacuous of true remaining if it does not simultaneously translate into remaining in Jesus’ commands through practical obedience. Or, as the Apostle James wrote, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17).

Teach me, Lord, to truly remain in You,
like a branch in the vine that bears fruit,
like a friend sustained in love to a Friend
through overflowing love.

Sending (discussion questions)

jesus-on-the-move-series-gfx_app-squareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Sending,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series, “Jesus on the Move.” The text for this week are from Luke 9:1-6, 57-62; 10:1-24.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When did you really become a follower of Jesus in your life? What was the decisive moment for you? If it hasn’t happened yet, what has lead you to this point?
  2. As we continue the series “Jesus on the Move” this week, we will study three stories from Luke 9 and 10. Before you begin this study, ask God to speak to you from His Word. Then, whether you are alone or with a group, read Luke 9:1-6 and 10:1-24 aloud.
  3. These two episodes parallel one another. At a purely observational level, what is different about these two different stories of sending?
  4. In Luke 9:1-2 & 9:6, what do you notice about Jesus’ commissioning of the Twelve apostles and their fulfillment of that mission? Now compare what is similar or different about the commissioning of the 72 in Luke 10:1-3, 8, & 17.
  5. Jesus calls the disciples to have a lean ministry as they go out (see 9:3-4; 10:4-7). Why do you think Jesus instructed His disciples in this way?
  6. Now, turn to the third episode in Luke 9:57-62 and read it aloud. What is the key issue for the first of these three potential followers of Jesus (9:57-58)?
  7. What is the significant issue for the second follower (9:59-60)? What would you say is the meaning of Jesus’ response to this follower?
  8. The third potential follower encounters Jesus in 9:61-62. What is his key issue and what is Jesus addressing with him?
  9. Which of these three potential followers do you most relate to and why? What is one way Jesus’ words about following Him apply to you today?
  10. What is one thing that God is speaking to you personally through this study? If you’re on your own, take some time to write it down and share it with someone later. If you are with a small group, share it with one another.

  


Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we are arranging a weekday reading plan through this entire series with the Gospel of Luke. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Follow along with the reading plan below, through the Eastbrook app, or on social media.

Feb. 6             Luke 9:1-9; Mark 6:7-13
Feb. 7             Luke 10:1-16; Matthew 11:20-24
Feb. 8             Luke 10:17-24; Isaiah 14:12-15
Feb. 9             Luke 9:57-62
Feb. 10           Luke 14:25-33

Sending

jesus-on-the-move-series-gfx_app-wide

This weekend at Eastbrook Church I continued our series, “Jesus on the Move,” with a messaged entitled, “Sending” from Luke 9:1-6, 57-62; and 10:1-24. These texts describe the sending out of the Twelve apostles and the seventy-two, with a brief description of three challenges of discipleship. I largely focused on apostleship and what it means that there are still some with the calling and gifting of apostleship today.

You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Also, join in with the weekday reading plan for this series here.

Sent, part 1 (Luke 9:1-6)

Sent with power

Sent with a mission

Sent with faith

Sent with opposition

 

Reality Check (Luke 9:57-62)

Following Jesus is costly

Following Jesus has priority

Following Jesus requires constancy

 

Sent, part 2 (Luke 10:1-24)

A larger sending

Prayer and opposition

The blessing of involvement in the sending

Teaching (discussion questions)

jesus-on-the-move-series-gfx_app-squareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Teaching,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series, “Jesus on the Move.” The text for this week are from Luke 6:17-49.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is one of the most important lessons you have ever learned?
  2. We continue the series “Jesus on the Move” by looking at an extended teaching from Jesus. Before you begin this study, ask God to speak to you from His Word. Then, whether you are alone or with a group, read Luke 6:17-49 aloud.
  3. Jesus is teaching on a plain, or plateau, near the hillside where he recently selected His twelve apostles (see Lk 6:12-16). This famous sermon contains some of the most well-known teaching of Jesus. Who is present to hear it, why are they present, and to whom is Jesus really speaking (vss 17-20)?
  4. In vss 20-26, Jesus contrasts what it means to experience or not experience God’s blessing. What do you think it means to be blessed? Write up a one-sentence definition of what it means to be blessed according to the Bible.
  5. These contrasts relate to physical, social, and spiritual conditions. What are the contrasts, what is the future hope, and what would you say is the dividing center point between these lists?
  6. Vss 27-38 focus on the way of love. To whom should we extend love according to Jesus? How does this contrast with other standards or human nature? Why is this important to Jesus?
  7. Jesus finishes this section by addressing the concept of judging others. What sort of judgment is Jesus talking about here? In what way do you think this relates to Jesus’ teaching about loving our enemies?
  8. Who is someone you struggle to love or not judge? Why is this difficult for you? What do you think it looks like to extend Jesus’ love to that person this week?
  9. Jesus’ teaching concludes with three pictures of what life with Christ looks like (vss 39-49). Which of these is most striking to you personally? What is Jesus saying in the teaching? What is He saying to you in particular through it?

  


Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we are arranging a weekday reading plan through this entire series with the Gospel of Luke. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Follow along with the reading plan below, through the Eastbrook app, or on social media.

Jan. 16            Luke 6:17-19; Matthew 5:1-2
Jan. 17            Luke 6:20-26; Matthew 5:3-12
Jan. 18            Luke 6:27-36
Jan. 19            Luke 6:37-42; Matthew 7:1-2
Jan. 20            Luke 6:43-49; Matthew 7:15-23

Teaching

jesus-on-the-move-series-gfx_app-wide

This weekend at Eastbrook Church I continued our series, “Jesus on the Move,” with a messaged entitled, “Teaching” from Luke 6:17-49. This is Jesus’ famous sermon that has had such a tremendous impact on our world, even credited as one of the most important speeches in all of human history. I focused primarily on Jesus’ words about what it means to be blessed by God and the heart of His message about loving others.

You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Also, join in with the weekday reading plan for this series here.

The Great Reversal (Luke 6:20-26)

“Blessed”

Contrasts of blessing and woe

The Son of Man at the center

 

The Radical Love of Jesus’ Disciples (Luke 6:27-38)

Radical love for enemies

Radical love with intent

Radical love reflecting God

Radical love free of judgment

 

3 Pictures of a Disciple’s Life (Luke 6:39-49)

Student and Teacher: the way

Tree and Fruit: the heart

Buildings and Foundations: the center