The Root and Fruit of Discipleship
We have seen in the first five lessons that following Jesus is not for the half-hearted or nominal pretenders. Discipleship is hard. It’s costly. In fact, in our own strength, it’s impossible. But the good news is that we’re not called to follow Jesus in our own strength. Instead, we need a supernatural power, one that is in abundant supply for those “branches” that remain attached to the “vine.”
1. Read John 15:1-17 twice. Write down any key ideas or phrases that catch your attention. What are the key principles you believe we ought to draw from this text? Why did you choose those principles?
2. Read verse 1. What did Jesus mean by referring to himself as the “true vine?”
Describe what a “false vine” might look like.
What did Jesus mean by referring to our heavenly Father as the “vinedresser?”
3. A major theme of this text is the necessity of Christ’s followers to bear fruit. What does the vinedresser do with those branches that do not bear fruit, according to verse 2? Why?
Why does a gardener have to prune the flowers and plants in his or her garden? In light of that observation, describe what you think it means to be pruned by God?
4. What does it mean to bear fruit? (See Matthew 5-7; Matthew 28:16-20; Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 4:17-5:1; Colossians 3:1-17; and Romans 12 for help.)
5. Jesus plainly taught that a branch cannot bear fruit on its own. What dynamic must be operative for a branch to bear fruit (vv. 4-5)?
Every day there are unbelievers, (branches not connected to the vine), who exhibit admirable character and do good deeds. What did Jesus mean, therefore, by his statement in verse 5, that apart from him we can do nothing? (See Hebrews 11:6; 1 Corinthians 10:31)
We can agree that this would be a very unpopular message in our culture today. How would you explain, to an unbelieving friend, the necessity of being “in Christ,” as a key to one’s fruit-bearing being pleasing to God?
6. What happens to branches that do not abide in Christ (v. 6)? Why?
What do you think “fire” is a symbol for (v. 6)? (See Isaiah 30:27; Matthew 3:12; 18:8-9; 25:41.)
7. Read verse 7. What does it mean to “abide” or “remain” in Christ?
What does it mean for his words to “abide” or “remain” in you?
Think about the first five lessons of this study, regarding the cost of discipleship, the danger of half-hearted commitment, etc. If a person really desires to follow Christ and bear fruit for him and his Kingdom, why is it essential for them to abide in Christ and for his words to abide in them?
8. If a person is abiding in Christ and his words are abiding in them, how will their prayer-life be transformed (v. 7)?
9. According to Jesus, in verse 8, what brings glory to our heavenly Father?
What does this prove?
10. The ESV Study Bible says, “mutual love between believers and Christ is another element of this ‘abiding’ relationship.” How is our obedience to Christ’s commands an expression of our love for him (v. 10)? (See also: John 15:14; 14:15, 21, 23, 24)
Was Jesus teaching works-righteousness here? That is, do we have to obey his commands in order to earn a right relationship with him? If not, what was he teaching?
11. Jesus commanded the disciples to love one another as he loved them. This love reflects the love between God the Father and Jesus the Son. Read verses 12-17. How did Jesus describe what this love looks like?
How would Jesus later show his disciples what this love looked like? (See Philippians 2:1-11 and John 3:16)
12. Based on the Scripture in this lesson, would you say that bearing fruit for Christ and his Kingdom is optional for those who claim to follow Christ? Explain.
13. On a scale from 1-10, (1, being very poor, and 10, being very well), grade how you’re doing abiding in Christ and letting his words abide in you (see Colossians 3:16).
Practically speaking, what does abiding in Christ and his words abiding in you, look like in your life?
How can you grow in this indispensable area of discipleship? In the space below, write down your plan and when you will put it into practice.
14. What are three practical ways love can be expressed among disciples of Jesus Christ?
Name one disciple of Christ you know, and one way you will express the love of Christ to them this week?
A Warning Against Hypocrisy
1. Read Matthew 23:1-12 twice. Write down any key ideas or phrases that catch your attention. What are the key principles you believe we ought to draw from this text? Why did you choose those principles?
2. According to Matthew 23:1-12, what was the main reason Jesus warned his disciples not to follow the leadership of the Pharisees?
3. Verses 13-39 of Matthew 23 contain the “seven woes” of Jesus, directed to the scribes and Pharisees. In the space below, write out each “woe” and then rephrase it in your own words.
What was the primary concern of Jesus in these woes? Explain your answer.
4. Using a dictionary, write down the definition of hypocrisy.
The charge of hypocrisy is often leveled against Christians in our culture today. Why do you think that is?
Do you think most people who accuse Christians of hypocrisy understand what it is? Do you think they understand what Christians believe? Explain your answers.
5. Based on the actual definition of hypocrisy, why would Jesus not want his followers to be hypocrites (or, follow hypocrites)?
6. Read verses 1-4. Why did Jesus tell the crowds and his disciples to “do and observe” whatever the scribes and Pharisees told them?
What did Jesus mean by, “Moses’ seat” (v. 2)?
What did Jesus tell the crowds and his disciples not to do (v. 3)? Why did he tell them not to do those things?
7. Some people have said Jesus came into the world and abolished the Old Testament Law. Read Mark 7:8-13 and Matthew 5:17-48. Based on these texts, what is the real target of Jesus’ criticism? Explain.
How do these texts relate to what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 23:4?
According to Jesus, what happens to people when they attempt to live according to these extra-biblical traditions (v. 4)? Why does that happen?
8. What motivated the seeming religiosity of the scribes and Pharisees (vv. 5-7)?
Was this true holiness before the Lord? Why or why not? Find at least one verse of Scripture to support your answer.
9. What was Jesus’ reason for telling his disciples not to seek to gain authority over one another as teachers or masters (vv. 8-10)?
10. How does Jesus summarize his teaching on hypocrisy in verses 11-12?
Paraphrase these two verses in your own words.
How did Jesus fulfill this teaching in his own life?
11. How would you respond to a relative or coworker who said he or she did not want to become a Christian because of all the hypocrites in the church? How is their concern valid? In what ways is their concern invalid? Explain your answers.
12. What does it mean to be under authority? In what ways are Christians under authority today? Which of these ways are legitimate and which are not? Explain.
13. What might the “appearance of piety” look like in our day? Have you ever been guilty of presenting yourself as godlier than you really are?
What were some of your motivations for doing so?
What are some reasons people try to present themselves as someone they aren’t? What are three things you can start doing today to help prevent you from putting on airs?