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Grooming Our Relationship With Christ

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Text:  John 15:1-16


            In our text, Jesus continues His last night of teaching.  Before He engages in the last battle against the prince of this world, He teaches His disciples by means of a simple metaphor about the demands of being His disciple.  Here He teaches about three relationships each of us have: our relationship with Jesus (v. 1-11), our relationship with other believers (v. 12-17), and our relationship with the indifferent and hostile world that surrounds us (v. 18-27).

            Our relationship with Jesus is vital.  Therefore what we can learn in this passage to help us groom that relationship is something we can individually apply.  Every relationship needs cultivation if it is to stay healthy. 

Weeds can pop up anywhere if the gardener is not diligent about cultivating.  The implications of Jesus’ allegory of the vine have more depth than what is seen on the surface.  Familiar words often lose their impact if you do not pause to meditate on their personal applications.  So let’s pause on this passage and glean all we can to nurture our relationship with Him who supplies our every need.  Read Text.

            In the Old Testament the vine is used as a metaphor of Israel.  Ps. 80:8-11  The fruit expected from the vine was a righteous life and nation.  Here Jesus extends the metaphor of the vine to include believers. 

1.      When Jesus states that He is the vine, that defines the relationship the branches have with Him: we are to get our sustenance from Him.  What’s the dangerous result of seeking spiritual sustenance from any other source than Jesus?  (It can lead our walk away from Christ; it may not contain all that we need for our individual growth.)     Jesus also states that He is the true vine.  What examples can you think of for false vines?  (Cults, the world, or anything that promises a way to Heaven other than through Jesus.)  John 14:6; Gal. 1:6-9
Believers in Jesus are limbs of His body and share in the life He gives us.  We have no source of life within ourselves; therefore we must stay joined to the Vine.  This truth is saturated in the words Jesus spoke in chapter 6: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”  That same truth is emphasized here.

2.      What real hope is there for us when Jesus states that the Father is the gardener (vinedresser)?  (No one else has greater skill in nurturing our growth than the Father; He will give us exactly what we need and won’t prune too harsh.)  Isa. 27:2-3

3.      What does pruning represent in this metaphor?  (The Father’s discipline of His children; His cleansing of things in our life that don’t produce godly fruit.)     Is pruning painful?     Is pruning good for us?     What would happen if the Father did not prune us?  Heb. 12:4-11     

4.      Does the Father prune once and He’s done, or do we need constant pruning?     What does He look for to know whether He needs to prune or not?  (The absence of fruit.)     Does He prune even if there is fruit on the vine?
Insight: There are two Greek words in verse 2 that shed more light about the pruning process than we see in the English.  Airei means cut away, and kathairei means cut back.  There are things in our life that don’t belong at all, and so the Father completely cuts them away from our life.  But there are times He cuts back even healthy branches so we can become even more fruitful for Him.

5.      What is removed in the pruning process?  (Dead wood – that which does not produce fruit.)      What is done with what is pruned away?
Insight: Pruning does not threaten the salvation of any believer.  It makes it all the more possible!  The branch of the grapevine has no use but bearing fruit.  The stringy wood cannot be carved or used in building.  It can only be thrown out and burned.  We are useless to Him if we do not bear fruit.  Bearing fruit is what we are “called” to do.

6.      What takes place in a vine after it is pruned?  (There is a surge of sap through the vine and branches to heal the pruned branch; that sap heals the branch and also feeds it, thus producing more fruit.)  Gal. 2:20

7.      Verse 3 uses another word in reference to the pruning process.  What is it and what are the implications?  (Cleansing – discipline is a cleansing process.)     How did Jesus say He cleansed them in this verse?  (By the word He has already spoken to them.)
Insight: Every word the disciples heard from Jesus’ lips, every answer to their questions, every rebuke they received for their stupidity and arrogance was a loving act of His pruning.  His Word still has a sharpness to it, and we feel it’s surgical value in our lives.  And when we feel the poking of the Holy Spirit in our heart because of our similar foolishness, the surgical Word of God is still pruning and cleansing. Jn. 17:17; Eph. 5:26

8.       According to verse 7, what’s the value of abiding in the vine?
Insight: When the very Spirit of Christ is flowing through our spiritual veins, our prayers are effective.  When we remain in Him we are sensitive to His leading and we will then pray in His will.  Such prayers God answers!

9.      Is producing fruit a heady, prideful kind of thing?      Who is to get the glory?  15:8     Producing much fruit is proof of what?  Ps. 92:12-15; Isa. 60:21; Matt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 2:12; 4:11
Insight: The Father is not only glorified when we bear fruit, but it’s the proof that we truly are a disciple of Jesus Christ.  We could never do that without an intimate, dependent relationship with Jesus.

10.  In verse 10 there are two more evidences that we are connected to the vine.  What are they?  (Love and keep His commands.  We can obey Jesus only when we respond to the love Jesus has shown to us.)

11.  Jesus begins to wrap up this section in verse 11 by stating that these things He has spoken, when followed, will make His joy complete, and our joy will follow.  How is “joy” an appropriate word describing Jesus’ response to our abiding in the vine?  Isa. 62:4l; Jer. 32:41; Jer. 33:9; Zep. 3:17; Lk. 15:4-6

12.  To what extent does verse 12 impress you in expressing your love to others?
Insight: The dignity and joy of our vocation as disciples is fully seen to the extent that we lay aside our agenda and our very life for each other.  Indeed, those in this group are friends, and I see you laying down your life to serve our Lord and each other.  You make my joy complete when I see you serving like Christ.


            On the basis of abiding in the vine, obeying His commands, loving each other sacrificially, Jesus now states that He can no longer call us slaves, but friends (v. 15).  Such an intimate disclosure of what was in the mind of Chris could never be made to slaves, but only to friends who were chosen to pass on to others the love He had shown them.  To be a friend of the Savior…to be a friend of God…is there any higher calling?

"Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God.” Ja. 2:23

            Because of the love that was laid down for them at Calvary, each of the disciples would then go to the ends of the earth and lay down their own lives for others.  They were not coerced to do so, but compelled because they had an intimate relationship with the Son of God.  They felt a burning in their bosom of a divine commission, and with it the assurance that every action brings joy to the One watching from above. 

            Abiding fruit is yielded because we have the Spirit of Christ flowing through our veins (sap through the branches from the Vine) and it is a response to the love that He shows to us.  Your fruit is the proof that the love is mutual.

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