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John 15:1-16

I am the Vine (j):
Receiving the sap - Reading the Bible.

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John 15:1-16

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

We have begun to look for more clues from Jesus that will help us move closer to him. Display ‘us in Christ’ picture.

We saw in verse 5: We must learn to depend on Christ more.

Now we’ll look at the first part of verse 7 – we looked at the second part in our last study.

7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you

That’s an odd phrase. John uses it again in his letter: 1 John 2:24

24 See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.

We must not neglect God’s words. (Display ‘us in Christ’ picture with this as a heading)

Let’s do some background study – we need to know what it is we mustn’t neglect.

What do I mean if I speak of ‘The word of God’?

After suggestions have been given, display just the following bold words IN THIS ORDER and ask for (or suggest) an appropriate scripture

Let’s deal with these one at a time. Remember we must not neglect God’s words.

1. Jesus: this is the supreme method of God’s communicating with man. The whole point of these studies is to bring us closer to Jesus, so hopefully we are not neglecting him.

2. God’s word’s spoken in power: rather than neglecting this there are those who deny that God spoke at all. Do we believe that God created the heavens and the earth by the word of his power?

3. God’s word’s spoken to individuals: this would be a very dramatic way for God to communicate with us. Does God still do this? Hopefully no-one would neglect words spoken in this way!

4. God’s words spoken by humans: what is your view on prophecy today? What are we told in the New Testament?

1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.

And in 1 Corinthians 14:26-32 we have instructions for the use of prophecy:

What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. 29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.

Here we enter a difficult area, so let’s break it down.

  1. First we have a word of prophecy given to an individual. When this happens God speaks directly into a situation and it would be a very foolish person who did not listen.
  2. Then we have someone standing up and giving a word of prophecy in church (sometimes even adding ‘thus saith the Lord’ to give it authority). How do we respond to this? Having tested the prophecy and found it to be true it is our responsibility to accept it and where appropriate to act on it.
  3. Now we have our own minister who brings us God’s word Sunday by Sunday. Do we believe what I just said? What sort of responsibility does a minister have? To wait on God, and to discern what God wants him to say.
    What responsibility does a congregation have? To discern what God is saying – and act on it – not to neglect it.

5. God’s words in written form: This is in some ways the best method that God could have used to communicate with us today.

- We no longer have Jesus walking on this earth

- We do not hear God’s words spoken in power but can only observe their effects.

- God’s words spoken to individuals are uncommon, even in scripture, and if God did speak today, we would not be sure that our understanding of it, our memory of it and our subsequent report of it was totally accurate. And those to whom we reported it may be sceptical.

- God’s words spoken by his prophets and ministers today are of value and we can listen again to tapes, or read the sermons of Wesley, but that has to be secondary to the study of God’s own written word. Why is that? The word of God is living and is interpreted to us by the Holy Spirit.

So let’s look at some scriptures

Deuteronomy 11:18-21

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 20 Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

Deuteronomy 30:9-14

9 Then the LORD your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The LORD will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, 10 if you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so that you may obey it.

Deuteronomy 32:45-47

45 When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”

Psalm 40:6-8

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced;

burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.

7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll.

8 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 119:11

11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Jeremiah 31:33

33 “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord.

I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

This all suggests not only that the Bible is important, but that it should be in our hearts and minds continually.

Last time we asked what our prayer life was like. This time we need to ask the same questions about our reading of God’s word.

This is probably less threatening than asking about prayer so let’s share first of all:

How do we read the bible?

First: Does anyone have a calendar with tear-off bible verses? Apples of Gold? Keswick? Something else?

Does anyone use daily bible reading notes? Scripture press? UCB? Every day with Jesus? Something else?

Does anyone follow a scheme of reading the bible in a year?

Does anyone have any other method which effectively dictates which passage to read?

How else do we read our bibles? Randomly, regularly reading through, topically etc? If STUDY or MEDITATION is mentioned, tell people we will look at that in a minute)

Could anyone tell us what is helpful or unhelpful about the way they read their bible?

One of the biggest problems is that there is a tendency to be told what the passage contains for us. Or to read a passage without stopping to consider what the passage has for us.

Often a difficult passage will be skipped entirely

How do we Study the bible?

Does anyone have a method of study that they use rather than simply bible reading, or using notes? (Try to keep study separate from meditation – covered next)

Is there a benefit in group Bible study?

What are the benefits and disadvantages in using commentaries?

How can we enlist the Spirit’s help in understanding the words he has written?

How do we Meditate on the Bible?

What’s the difference between what we’ve looked at so far and meditating on God’s word? Meditation is not a group activity. You can only meditate as you get alone and allow the Spirit to apply his words to your spirit.

How long should it take? As long as you are detained!

It may be that a passage stays with you for several days and your meditation continues from time to time.

How do you choose a passage to meditate on?

Personally I find that if I read a passage, or study a passage, sometimes something will attract my attention and I have to stop and meditate on it for a while.

How do we Learn passages of Scripture?

In order to ‘Hide God’s word in our hearts’ it seems that we need to learn it first. Now I have to admit that I have a problem here. Passages I learnt as a child I can still remember, but my memory is deteriorating and I find that learning new things is more and more difficult.

But if I’m honest, it really depends on how hard I try and how important it is to me. Over the last few years I’ve learnt my new e-mail address, three passwords, two PIN numbers, and several names and phone numbers. The more I recall them the easier it is to remember them.

So reading, studying, learning and meditation actually overlap. It’s not important how you read the word. It’s important that you do.

If anyone would like a challenge, I can suggest two verses for learning and meditation: (print on card and hand out. There is a link HERE to a PDF with four sets that can be cut and folded to stand up on a desk)

1 John 3:1-2

1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

John 15i John 15k NIV Copyright