“Strengthening your Soul – Sustaining Grace” – Ian France – 21.1.2024
John 15:1-4
Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.

John uses a symbol in this passage that would have been familiar to his readers. God is often spoken of as a vine to symbolise His people throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. There were many vines in Israel and a golden vine had been placed in front of the Temple indicating Israel was God’s vine. Jesus emphasises that He is the true vine and His followers must be rooted in Him (not Israel). A vine also symbolised the Messiah – the true vine.

The picture Jesus paints reveals the total dependence Christ followers have on Him. They constantly need to be connected to Him for without Him they are helpless and anything they do in their own strength will be futile. Jesus encourages people to remain connected with Him. God Himself nurtures and cares for the vine and the branches. Those who follow Jesus will have a relationship with the Father too. The verb translated ‘cut off’ can mean to take away or to lift up. Those who cared for the vines in ancient Israel would often lift up branches of the vine which were not bearing fruit off the ground so they would receive more sun and begin to bear fruit again.

The word translated ‘prune’ is also used elsewhere to denote cleansing. In this way the vine-dresser cuts of any dead or withered part of the branch thus enabling it to bear more fruit. If a vine is not cared for in this way it will produce a great deal of growth which does not bear a crop. Any dead wood will be cut away to prevent disease and decay from infiltrating the plant. Pruning is essential for a good harvest.
This pruning had already begun for the disciples for they had heard and accepted much of Jesus’ teaching. God continually cleanses those who follow Him from sin, inspires them to live holy lives and empowers them to do so. (Ephesians 5:26)

The criterion here is a mutual relationship between Christ followers and Jesus. Jesus knew He was about to leave the disciples when He was arrested but He reassured them that He would still be with them – and they had the choice to remain close to Him or not. It is a decision every Christ follower has to make.

What energises you? How often do you do whatever this is? What happens when you don’t do it for a while?
Jesus used several ways to strengthen His soul and fill His life with sustaining grace. How do you do these in your daily life:
o   Prayer
o   Relationships
o   Socialising
o   Community worship
o   Reading and studying Scripture?
Which of these do you find the most helpful to you in your spiritual life? Which is the most challenging?
Looking back over your spiritual journey how much focus have you had on grace? And what about works? Is there a balance? What would you say the ratio is grace:works? Are you at peace about this or does it need to change? If a change is needed, what changes will you make?
What does the sustaining segment of the cycle of grace look like in your home life? If you have children, how can you help them to live their lives open to the sustenance God offers them? If you do not have children – how about other members of your household – or you yourself if you live alone?
What spiritual practice will you do this week as a start to be more deeply connected with Jesus, the true Vine? How will you do this?
How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?
Pray for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time, and in regard to other needs of the group.

If your group is big enough, divide into threes. Agree to be accountable to one another (in threes or as a group) in regard to the spiritual practices you have identified. Encourage one another throughout the week. Make time next week to share how your week went as a result.

*Notes from the video clip:
There were many ways Jesus was sustained in His relationship with His Father.
o   He prayed;
o   He had a close circle of friends;
o   He spent time in fellowship sharing meals, attending parties;
o   He worshipped in community;
o   He knew and quoted Scripture (the OT) often;
o   How many more can you think of?

The cycle of grace thickens as there is more input into it. It is not only humanity that needs sustenance – it is encouraging that Jesus needed it too.


John Chapter 15


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