Stay Connected to Me … and You Will Do Awesome Things
How many of us are on a journey trying to become the best versions of ourselves – trying to make our lives work? We work hard to succeed in sport, school, relationships, whatever. Dressing up our outsides and our resumes, but never really changing who we are – just what we do. We can’t change the kind of people we are. No self-help or positive thinking will do that. Only when we come into contact with Jesus and abide in Him do we really start becoming the people we were created to be.
Every generation has its own gods that it likes to worship. You can tell what they are by looking for the things that achieve untouchable, almost sacred status in the community.
Here’s one I think our generation loves to bow down to: The I-can-do-anything-I-want-on-my-own god. It’s the belief that I can achieve everything I want on my own.
How well do you think this speaks for your generation?
‘From the moment I could understand words, people have been telling me I’m special and unique. It’s been pretty hard to fail anything at school. Overall, it’s kinda hard to escape the conclusion that if I try hard and pull together all the right resources, or just rely on my own specialness, I can achieve anything I want. And if I don’t want to achieve anything that special, well that’s ok too…”
Jesus rocks that little god with a pretty radical and inconvenient statement:
‘Without me you can do nothing’
Sure, we might be able to succeed at school, or enjoy friendships or do well at sport or music or something. But when it comes to being able to enjoy real life – the eternal kind Jesus spoke of, and in the process becoming the best version of yourself – the real you God made you to be; when it comes to being able to really do the things God wired you to do, if we don’t stay connected to Jesus, we’re lost.
Here are some questions I hear a lot from young people: Where is God? Why do I feel so distant from God? I’ve been falling back into old ways and habits that I really wish I could get away from. What can I do about that?
Jesus nails the problem and the solution with something he says in John 15:
“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
Ok, so what does it mean to live ‘in’ Jesus?
Grapevines might not be part of your everyday life so maybe think about this: What’s the first thing you open up on your phone or computer when you wake up? Where do you go to check what new statuses or photos or links have been posted by your friends? What’s the one social media platform you go to to express yourself or draw comfort from? Facebook, BBM, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram… Anyone remember the days of Mxit??
When we live ‘in’ something it somehow feels part of life: always there, never offline.
Back then the best analogy Jesus could use was a grapevine. The core of a vine is the thick stem that grows straight up out of the ground. The branches spread out sideways from the stem and are the things that actually produce grapes. Jesus told his disciples that they were just like branches. They had to stay firmly connected to the central stem and draw all the good stuff from the stem if they wanted to stay healthy and producing grapes.
Two really good things happen when we ‘live in’ Jesus:
1) We get to experience God making his home in us. This truth is a great mystery that Paul reckoned we really need God’s help to understand. Jesus promises that if we choose to anchor ourselves in a relationship with him, then Jesus and his Father and the Spirit – the whole of the Trinity – will choose to come and live in us too. Here’s how Jesus said it in John 14:23:
‘if anyone loves me, they will do what I command. Then my Father will love him and we will come and make our home with them.’
‘Live in me, stick around with me … and I will come and live in you. I’ll stick around in your life.’
Jesus never forces himself on us but waits at the door of our lives ready to come in when we invite him in. Jesus invites us to invite him to be at the center of everything in our lives …
2) We bear much fruit…
The second promise is that we will be like vine branches that actually produce what we’re supposed to. I think there are two aspects to ‘bearing fruit’ the way Jesus meant it. We ‘bear fruit’ when we are changed on the inside, and when we get to do meaningful stuff with our lives
What you become:
Check out this list of characteristics: Patient, loving, kind, gentle, self-controlled, good, joy-filled, peaceful, faithful.
Choose any one of those and imagine you had just a bit more of that quality in your life. Wouldn’t that be good? This isn’t about becoming the Super-Christian at school that everyone would honestly rather stay away from. This is about being someone who is attractive to others because, well – you’re just a good person to be around. This kind of person has good friends. They are comfortable in their own skin. They don’t need to prove anything.
That’s what begins to grow inside you when you make Jesus the source of your life. You bear fruit that grows naturally from what’s going on inside you.
What you get to start doing:
The other really cool thing about bearing fruit is that God begins to be able to use us to do meaningful and significant stuff with our lives.
Here’s another question I get asked a lot: what is God’s will for my life? All (well, most?) of us want to have something significant and meaningful to do with our lives. When we invite Jesus (and the rest of the Trinity) to live inside us, we discover how God has wired us to do things that make our lives count. We discover things to do that bring us joy and a sense of purpose.
Becoming the best version of ourselves, getting something significant and lasting to do with our lives…
Who wouldn’t want that?
In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.
Download a PDF version of this session here
Have you ever tried really hard to get something right, but ended up getting it wrong anyways? We live in a culture that says if you try hard, you can do almost anything – but we’ve all probably got experiences (school, sport, friends…) where we tried our hardest but failed anyways.
Think about your relationship with God: have you ever been really on fire for Him and really keen to get to know Him better, but you ended up far away from him. Or where you tried really hard to walk away from a sin pattern, but ended up going back to your old ways? Why do you think it was that you weren’t able to follow through on that?
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)
o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?
o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?
Read the post in The Story tab.
Here’s Brad Fish taking us through invitation number 2… On YouTube here
Maybe you’d really like to have a source of strength and energy that didn’t seem to run out as easily as your current one does; maybe you want to become the kind of person who bears good fruit – the one that builds the people around them up. Maybe you just don’t like what your life looks like now, and you’d like it to be more rooted in Jesus.
Some questions to help you replay your story:
o How do you feel about what you encountered in this session – encouraged, discouraged, hopeful, disappointed, anything different?
o Did anything seem like particularly good news? Anything that was not so great news for you, or hard to understand?
o Imagine you were connected to Jesus like he says in John 15. How might your approach to challenging stuff in your week (people, schoolwork, etc) change?
Re – draw your picture of Jesus
We don’t often think about Jesus as being arrogant, but that’s almost what he sounds like in this passage: ‘Without me you can do nothing.’ He must think he’s got something pretty important that we lack.
Jesus isn’t afraid to speak the truth that sometimes we need to hear – not because he wants to make us uncomfortable, but because it’ll really help us if we hear it. That’s love. What do you think of a Jesus who loves even when it isn’t the easy or the convenient thing to do?
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?
In Romans 12v2 Paul says:
‘Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
That’s repentance – learning to think and live in a more God-shaped way.
For lots of us, repentance might look like figuring out what we’ve been anchoring ourselves to, and asking God to help us put them more in Jesus instead. That’s where we can start to experience real life.
Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!
Some questions to help you remix your story:
o What would being more connected to Jesus look like practically for you this week?
o Is there one thing you really want to do, but have kept feeling like you’re not able to – no matter how hard you try? Try asking Jesus to come check that out – is it the kind’ve thing he wants you to be doing? If you think it might be try asking him to help you do it out of the life he gives you
From the WordSpace
Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:
Jesus says, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15v5) That last bit is awesome. Apart from God we’re pretty lame. And it’s encouraging to know that when you’re being attacked on every front, God loves you and invites you to walk with him – remain in him.
As Christians we have the Holy Spirit – God in us. He is infinitely more powerful than Satan and his schemes. Also, the fruit of the Spirit is patience. Satan doesn’t have the Spirit so he doesn’t have the fruit so he doesn’t have patience. So when the waves are battering your boat: be patient. Remain in Him. Stand firm. You will bear much fruit.
John 15 here: http://bit.ly/1dhzvip
There is this band from Canada called Thousand Foot Krutch. They have these great lyrics:
‘I wanna be so far gone in You, so far nothing else will ever do I wanna be lost in You’ (So Far Gone. Listen here: http://bit.ly/1eNvVf2 )
I really like that! Jesus said that tight connection with himself was like a vine: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’ John 15v5
You belong with Jesus! Awesome, hey?! Ever felt like you are drifting through life? Like you don’t have a purpose or that there is no plan for your life? Then take comfort from John 15 (read it here: http://bit.ly/1dhzvip)
As the branches in a vineyard are intertwined; so can you be with God.
‘I feel like I’ve lost my connection with God. I don’t hear anything when I pray. I don’t even really feel like praying or worshipping or whatever ‘
That a familiar feeling for you?
A deeply spiritual woman called Julian of Norwich long ago wrote this honest prayer: ‘Lord, I don’t love you. I don’t even want to love you. But I do want to want to love you.’
Maybe that’s the place to start. Tell God how you’re feeling. Ask the Spirit to spark that desire to connect with him again.
Talk to God (and maybe someone else) about stuff that might be getting in the way. And rest in this knowledge: God’s deep love for you never changes.
Read Psalm 13 here: http://bit.ly/1bM8VHB
The movie Gravity was definitely worth seeing (trailer here: http://bit.ly/1fhqAJx .) Sandra Bullock and George Clooney get stranded in space after their shuttle gets destroyed. Suddenly all kinds of connections become very important: a radio connection to ground control; a cable between them as they drift; their connections to oxygen…
Jesus said our connection to him was just as vital. Without it we drift into a void (John 15v5-8 http://bit.ly/1dhzvip).
And yet it can be so tempting to try live as if we don’t need God – especially when life is good. It’s then that we start to lose our way…
Time to check the status of your connection to Jesus?
God, I’m often so afraid of confrontation. I don’t want it to break down relationships. This week it seems you showed me that confrontation happens so that I can go on believing the best about others. And that’s why you confront me too, right? So that the lies that I believe about myself or others can be shown for what they are (lies)… and to assure me of your love the whole time!
Thank you that you want our relationship to grow… for us to stay connected – even if I sometimes don’t understand what you’re doing.
Read Psalm 139v23-24 here: http://bit.ly/1mP1N3m