STUDY | Spend the week studying John 15:1-7. Consult the commentary provided and any additional study tools to enhance your preparation.
DETERMINE | Which discussion points and study questions will work best for your group.
PRAY | Pray for our pastors and this week’s message, the upcoming group time, your group members, and their openness to God’s Word.
LANDING POINT | To experience God's best for me, I must abide in Jesus.
Remember the 4 Rules for Small Group Discussion
- Confidentiality. What’s said in the group stays in the group.
- No cross-talk. Be considerate of others as they share. Refrain from side conversations and texting during group time.
- No fixing. We are not in the group to fix each other. Jesus does that part.
- Sharing. Be sensitive to the amount of time you share. Don’t talk too much or too little. Every person brings something valuable to the group.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
A Lasting impact
It’s remarkable how just a few words can change your life. “I love you.” “I’m sorry.” “The treatment worked.” “We’re broke.” “I’m pregnant.” “We’re getting divorced.” “I will graduate.”
In this series we’re looking at the powerful words Jesus spoke to His disciples on the night He was arrested. This week your group will discuss the next powerful word—abide—and how Jesus’ words (“abide in me”) can have a lasting impact on your life.
If you want to experience God’s best for you, you must abide in Jesus. When you abide in Him, you experience security, awareness and power that leads to a full and satisfied life with and in Him.
Q: What are some examples of words spoken to you that changed your life in a moment?
Q: What words do you associate with “abide”?
Select 2-3 questions to discuss as a group.
The vine and branches
Jesus has just told His disciples that He is going to leave them but He won’t leave them alone. He will send the Holy Spirit to be their Helper. Even though Jesus won’t be physically with them, His disciples can stay connected to Him. How? By abiding in Him. Always a great teacher, Jesus uses a familiar word picture for the disciples to illustrate what he means.
Jesus tells them, “I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser. You are the branches on the vine. Abide in me and live the life I want for you. You’re supposed to bear fruit, and you can’t bear fruit if you’re not connected to me. If you abide in me, you’ll bear fruit; you’ll live the life you were created to live. If you don’t abide in me, you’ll wither and die. Let my words remain in you. Ask anything in my name and I’ll do it. Glorify my Father and show others you are my disciples by being fruitful.”
Read: John 15:1–17. What makes you feel connected to God?
Q: Describe what a fruitful life looks like.
friends of jesus
Then Jesus returns to the theme of love. “I have loved you as the Father loves me. I want you to experience my love and joy. I promise to give you a full life, but you must remain in me. Abide in me and in my love. When you love me, you will follow and obey me wherever I lead you.”
The call is clear: abide in Him. But Jesus wants His disciples to remember that the full life is about loving God and others just like Him. “Love one another like I have loved you. You are my friends, and I will show my love for you by laying down my life for you. You’re not just my servants, you’re my friends because I’ve told you all these things. I have told you everything the Father has revealed to me. I chose you to live a fruitful life, and if you abide in me, you will do just that.”
Q: What are the differences between relating to someone as servant and as friend?
Q: How are loving God and loving others connected?
Select 2-3 questions from this section to answer.
Everyone relates to God in one of five ways. In his book With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God, Skye Jethani explains the first four ways:
Life from God – Wanting God’s blessings but not being interested in God Himself.
Life over God – Preferring proven principles and controllable outcomes instead of the mystery and wonder that comes from knowing God.
Life for God – Using God to give you a sense of mission and purpose.
Life under God – Using obedience to get blessings and avoid disaster in life.
Ultimately, these four ways misunderstand how God wants to relate to us. Jethani provides a fifth and better way: life with God. “Life with God is different because its goal is not to use God, its goal is God. He ceases to be a device we employ or a commodity we consume. Instead, God himself becomes the focus of our desire.”
Jesus shows us what a life with God looks like in John 15. It’s a relationship with deep connection and intimacy. With the word picture of a vine and its branches, Jesus shows you that you were made for a relationship with God. This is God’s desire—that you live your life with Him. He created you to be connected to Him, the true vine. When you’re connected to the vine, you have life. You grow and bear fruit.
Q: How do you live differently when living with God is your goal?
Q: What’s one practical way you can live with God this week?
Jesus tells His disciples that they can’t bear fruit on their own. They need Him to do something they can’t. Jesus is giving them a vision of life where they do the things they can’t do without Him and become what they can’t become without Him. The only way to do the impossible and become someone truly different is by abiding in Him.
Like the disciples, you have to remain connected to Jesus, the vine, in order to be who God made you to be and experience God’s best for you. A branch separated from the vine can’t receive the nutrients from a plant’s sap needed to grow and flourish. When you abide in Jesus, you get the nutrients you need. Let’s look at three nutrients in the “sap” Jesus gives you when you abide in Him:
S – Security – you move through life confident of who you are in Christ. You’re God’s child. You’ve been justified, redeemed and brought into God’s family. You internalize God’s truth by letting His Word take root in you. His Word reminds you of who you are, where you belong, what your purpose is and where you’re going in the future.
A – Awareness – You experience His presence in your day-to-day life. Jesus not only promises to be with you, He promises to be in you. His Spirit guides you toward the full life. When you’re aware of His presence, you learn how to flourish in any circumstance. You know a full life isn’t determined by circumstances. Awareness of His presence also gives you hope of change and greater things to come.
P – Power – You’re plugged into the power source. A power tool can make a job faster and easier, but only if it’s plugged in. We have a power source in the Christian life; the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in you (Eph. 1:19–20). God’s Spirit dwells in you to empower you.
Q: Which of the nutrients above do you need more of? Explain.
Q: Name some ways you can plug into God’s power source this week
Select 1 question from this section to ask your group.
THE FRUITFUL AND FULL LIFE
Jesus says that your goal as a branch is to produce fruit. He also shows you that fruit-bearing comes from loving God and others. It’s not more complicated than that. If you love God, you’ll obey Him. You’ll trust Him and His ways. If you love others, you’ll see them as Jesus does. You’ll live to be more like Him and follow His example of sacrificing Himself for the needs of others.
The fruitful and full life is yours when you choose to abide in Jesus and allow Him to give you the nutrients (security, awareness and power) you need to grow and flourish.
Q: What does it mean to see others as Jesus does?
Q: Name some ways that your group can produce fruit together.
Pray that a life with God would be your ultimate desire. Ask the Father to help you understand what it means to abide in Jesus in your everyday life—at home, at work, in school, with others. Finish by thanking God for the security, awareness, and power Jesus gives you.
Midway through this week, send a follow-up email to your group with some or all of the following:
• Read Galatians 5:22-23. Consider where you see the fruit of the Spirit in your life and where you'd like to see more of it.
• Ask the group to share any stories or lessons learned where they see God at work in their lives.
A Familiar Symbol “The vine frequently symbolizes Israel in the Old Testament as failing to produce fruit (e.g., Ps. 80:8–16; Isa. 5:1–7; 27:2–6; Jer. 2:21; Ezek. 15:1–8). In contrast to Israel, Jesus is the true vine who genuinely and ultimately produces good fruit.”
God’s Pruning Jesus prunes the branches that don’t bear fruit. “Branches are pruned so they will become more fruitful. God’s ‘pruning’ is his gracious way of directing the flow of spiritual energy in order that his plans for our lives will be realized. While pruning is painful, it serves the necessary purpose of removing those branches that would otherwise absorb our time and energy in unproductive pursuits.” God loves us and prunes us in life to protect us and make us more fruitful.
Emphasis on Love “What issue results from remaining in Christ? Joy, and lasting friendship with Jesus. Up to this point in Scripture, only Abraham had been called God’s friend; but now the circle widened and the Lord invited eleven disciples in. Notice again the emphasis on love. Described in an earlier chapter [in John] as a testimony to the world (13:35), love now becomes an absolute command for believers, the chief fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23), and the essential quality for all ministry.”
1. Skye Jethani, With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 102.
2. D. A. Carson, “The Gospels and Acts,” in NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 2185.
3. Robert H. Mounce, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, vol. 10 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 574.
4. Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 284.