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?
The Cost of Following Jesus
1. Read Luke 9:57-62 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. Our Scripture in this lesson provides a picture of just how rigorous the life of discipleship Jesus calls us to, really is. In these brief verses we observe three people agreeing to follow Jesus, under their terms. Jesus teaches us that following him must never be according to our terms, but his.
The first person to approach Jesus said he would follow him wherever he went. How did Jesus respond to him (vv. 57-58)?
What did Jesus mean with his seemingly peculiar response (See John 5:18; 6:66; Matthew 8:34; 27:33)? What had the person perhaps not understood?
3. Read Luke 9:51-56. How does this story of the Samaritan village help explain the words of Jesus in verse 58? What might such rejection look like today for those who follow Christ?
What are some ways disciples of Jesus can prepare themselves to experience the solemn warning of Christ in verse 58?
4. What was the second person’s reply to Jesus, upon being called to follow him (v. 59)?
5. Read Matthew 15:1-9. Based on this text, do you think Jesus had a problem with a person honoring their parents? Explain.
What did Jesus discern as the real motivation behind the person’s response (Luke 9:60)?
6. Compare and contrast the would-be follower of Jesus in verse 59, with Levi, in Luke 5:27-28.)
List three ways people today respond similarly to way the person in verse 59 did.
Have you ever responded like that? Why?
7. On the surface, the request to bury one’s father was reasonable, as was the request made by the third person in verse 61. Reread verse 61. What, in the way the request was phrased, do you think raised a red flag of caution for Jesus?
8. How did Jesus reply to the person’s request (v. 62)?
What are some key principles we need to learn from our Lord’s response?
9. Having a divided heart is one of the reasons we continue looking back, instead of putting our hands to the plow and moving forward with Jesus. Read 1 Kings 18:21; Philippians 3:13-14; 2 Timothy 2:21. What do these verses teach us about becoming “fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62)?
10. List three principles the interactions in Luke 9:57-62 teach us about the priorities of the Kingdom of God? (See also Matthew 6:33.)
11. Read Luke 14:25-35. Once again, Jesus plainly told those who followed him to count the cost of doing so. Many who followed Jesus throughout his public ministry did so because he fed them or because they saw miracles. But, as Pastor Kyle Idleman has pointed out, there’s a big difference between being a fan of Jesus and committed follower of him.
What did Jesus say in this text to make that point?
12. Do you think it is important to be up front and honest with people about the cost of following Jesus? Explain.
How do some churches and/or evangelists you know of, hide the costly nature of following Jesus? Why do you think they do so?
13. Have you ever been guilty of “hiding the cost” of following Jesus when sharing your faith with others? Explain.
14. Did you know the cost of following Jesus when you first started out on your faith-journey with him? Share a little about your experience.
15. Based on what you learned in this lesson, how would you share with a family member or friend what it means to genuinely follow Jesus?
Leave It All Behind
2. What did the rich young man ask Jesus in verse 16? What are some of your observations about the question?
3. How did Jesus answer the man’s question (v. 17)?
4. Upon hearing Jesus’ answer, the rich young man asked Jesus which commandments he must keep. Jesus pointed him to the commandments related to the love of neighbor (see Exodus 20:12-16 and Leviticus 19:18). In the space below, write down the commandments Jesus listed in verses 18-19.
5. How did the young man respond to Jesus, after Jesus listed the commands (v 20)?
What does his response tell you about his understanding of the commandments? Where do you find this same view of God’s commands today?
6. Jesus identified what this man’s idol was and responded accordingly. What was the exchange this young man needed to make, according to Jesus? Why?
7. What did the young man’s response in verse 22, reveal about him?
8. In verses 23-25, Jesus told the disciples that it is difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven (to have eternal life). What is it about wealth that makes salvation so difficult?
9. Indeed, the picture Jesus painted in verse 24, of a camel and the eye of the needle, wasn’t intended to suggest, “it’s really hard,” but that it’s impossible. Thus, the disciples were “greatly astonished” (v. 25). Based on their realization of this impossibility, what was their question to Jesus? Why do you think they asked him that?
10. In verse 26, Jesus responded to their question by sharing with the disciples the only hope for the wealthy, as well as anyone else who wants eternal life. What did he say?
Read Matthew 27:57 and Luke 19:1-10. How do the two men in these texts reveal the power of God that Jesus was talking about in our Scripture lesson?
What change of perspective did each of these men make, compared to who they were before they decided to follow Jesus?
11. Read verses 27-30. Peter made a case for why he and the other disciples did what the rich young man would not do. Peter wanted to know if there would be any reward in store for their faithfulness. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus said much about the difficulty of being his disciple. Those who would follow him must count the cost and deny themselves.
In verse 28, Jesus said the disciples would indeed be rewarded for leaving everything to follow him. He then followed up in verse 29 by saying all who did likewise would also inherit eternal life. What things did Jesus list that must be left behind to follow him (v. 29)?
What does that “leaving behind” look like, practically?
12. Some scholars believe that Matthew 20:1-16 was a subtle rebuke by Jesus, related to Peter’s comments in verse 27. Read Matthew 20:1-6. How does it relate to this lesson? Do you see why some believe it is a rebuke? Why or why not?
13. Take another look at the commands you wrote down in Question 4. Based on what you know about the teachings of Jesus, write down what each command really means. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7) for help. (Also, Questions & Answers 104 – 115 of The Heidelberg Catechism are very helpful on this matter. You can find the catechism online for free.)
What are three key points you would make if you were explaining to a friend what it means to keep the commands of God?
What response should a proper understanding of the true nature of “keeping God’s commands” elicit from a person? Why is that an important response to have?
14. What, in your life, would Jesus have told you to leave behind, in order to follow him? In other words, what is your idol that is holding you back from fully and faithfully following Jesus?
What can you do, beginning today, to remove that idol from your life? Will you do it?
15. Do your issues with money ever hinder your walk with Christ? Explain. What does Jesus say about serving two masters in Matthew 6:24?
What can you do in your life, with God’s grace, to help you resist the temptation of making money your master, instead of Christ?
Jesus Calls Matthew
* Review and Report on last week’s Walking Points questions and next steps. Thoughts? How did you do? Share any victories and/or struggles you may have had following through with your plan.
1. Read Matthew 9:9-13 twice. (Also read Mark 2:13-17 and Luke 5:27-32) 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. Describe what happened in this text.
3. Why would Jesus calling for Matthew (Levi) to follow him, be a big deal (v. 9)?
Reflect on our last lesson. What does it mean to follow Jesus? How does Luke 5:28 describe Matthew’s response to the call of Jesus?
4. Read John 6. Jesus had a large crowd following him. Why were they following him?
What happened to the large crowd of “followers” by the end of the chapter? Why?
We can’t read people’s minds nor are we to judge the motivation of people’s hearts, but what might John 6 teach us about why some people follow Jesus today? How is that different than what Jesus means when he commands us to follow him?
Do you ever find yourself resembling those who made up the large crowd of followers, in John 6? Explain.
5. Matthew 9:10 says many tax collectors and sinners were at the table with Jesus. The Bible teaches us that we are all sinners. Matthew, however, had something different in mind in his use of the word, “sinners.” What would the Pharisees have meant by their use of the word, “sinners” (v. 11)?
6. Skim through the four Gospels and find three examples of Jesus “hanging out” with tax collectors and/or sinners. Write down who they were. Describe the interaction.
List three things you learned from each encounter.
7. How did Jesus respond when he heard the Pharisees’ question (v. 12-13)?
What did he mean?
Was Jesus teaching that some people are not in need of his mercy and grace? Explain.
8. In Luke 5:32, Luke added that what Jesus calls sinners to is, “repentance.” Read the following verses and describe what they say about repentance – what it is and why it’s needed.
· 2 Chronicles 7:14 –
· Matthew 3:1-2 –
· Acts 2:37-38 –
· Acts 3:19 –
· Romans 2:4 –
· 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 –
9. Based on the Scripture in the previous question, how would you define “repentance” to a friend? And, how would you describe to him his need for repentance?
Do you think it is possible to faithfully communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ without a call to repentance? Why or why not?
10. Why do you think repentance is so important? What does our need for it teach us about…
· God –
· The work of Christ –
· Ourselves –
11. What is the hardest thing about repentance for you?
In what area(s) of your life do you find it most difficult to repent?
Why is repentance so hard for people to practice on a regular basis?
12. What are three key principles you learned about following Jesus in this lesson?
Write your plan for putting each principle into practice this coming week. Be ready to share your plan at the beginning of the next lesson.
Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus
1. Read Luke 9:18-27 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. In verse 18, Jesus is praying. At some point during that prayer, Jesus turned to his disciples and asked them who the crowds said he was. What answers did they give him in verse 19? Why would they have given the names they did?
3. Jesus then responded by asking his disciples who they thought he was (v. 20). How did Peter answer? Why was his answer significant?
What are three prevalent errors people believe about Jesus in our culture today?
4. In verses 21-22, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man who would suffer many things, be rejected, be killed, and be raised on the third day. Read Daniel 7:9-22 and Isaiah 52:13-53:12. What do these two texts teach us about the Son of Man and the Suffering Servant?
Why did Jesus use those designations about himself?
The New Testament tells us repeatedly that Jesus came to his own (the Jews) but they rejected him. Why do you think so many rejected him? What hints do the Daniel and Isaiah texts give you?
List three reasons why people reject Jesus today.
5. According to Jesus, a person must do three things if he would come after Jesus and be his disciple (vv. 23-24)? Next to each one, describe what it means and what it should realistically look like in practice.
· Deny yourself –
· Take up your cross –
· Follow Jesus –
6. Read verse 24. How do you save your life by losing it? How do we lose our lives for the sake of Jesus?
7. Explain verse 25 in your own words.
Give three examples of how a person might “gain the whole world” and lose or forfeit himself.
How does this verse motivate you? Explain.
8. What does it mean to be ashamed of Jesus and his words (v. 26)?
How does Jesus say he will respond to the person who is ashamed of him (v. 26)?
Have you ever been ashamed of Jesus and his words? Describe the situation as fully as you can?
9. Who do you say Jesus is? Why?
Why does it matter what a person thinks about Jesus’ identity?
10. Suppose you’re writing a letter to a friend to explain who Jesus is. Write down three different titles (example: Lord), accompanying Scripture, what the title means, and why you would want your friend to know that about Jesus.
11. What are three misunderstandings people in our culture have regarding what it means to be a Christian? Why do you think they have those views?
12. How are you doing when it comes to denying yourself, taking up your cross daily, and following Jesus? In what areas are you doing well? In what areas do you struggle? Explain.
What are three things you can begin doing today to help you more faithfully obey this command of Jesus?