Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship.
Jesus came to have a relationship with us and to restore our relationship with our heavenly father. The church is not an organisation it is an organism. We are put together to help us to grow together to become more like Jesus. For me it came through a relationship, a friendship with a colleague, that I first came to know about Jesus, and later to know God personally. Throughout my life different relationships with other Christians have helped me through times of doubt and troubles. I needed people who were really honest to help me to know that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t perfect. There were people that I will never forget that were significant in my life. Through the years different relationships have helped me grow in my faith or at least help me over the hurdles, and hopefully I have been helpful to others growth. Maybe you can think of significant people in your life. It may be your Sunday School or youth group leader or someone later in life.
One of Jesus closest friends and disciples, John, records Jesus last words at the end of his last supper with his friends. Knowing he was about to die he chose his words carefully. These last few words are all about relationships. You can read this by clicking here
The gardening analogy is very clear. There is a lot of talk about cutting and pruning. Branches that are useless are got rid of. Others that are fruitful are pruned to improve fruitfulness. Then the call to remain a part of Jesus. We need to get connected and stay connected. If we do we will be fruitful. So how do we remain in Jesus? It is a relationship. Relationships thrive with time, communication honesty, appreciation and love. Jesus wants us to lead fruitful lives and this is not possible if we are separated from Him. He tells his friends that if the vine doesn’t bear fruit the braches are hacked off and burnt. Used for fuel. Nor useless but when spent just ashes whereas fruit remains for those in relationship to Jesus. The fruit gathered and consumed and seeds used for a new crop maybe. Jesus says that it is when we bear fruit that we demonstrate that we are his disciples. He urges us to stay connected to Him.
Then Jesus changes focus and tells them to love one another. In the same deep and sacrificial way that he loves them which would be expressed as he lays down his life.
Colin Sedgewick reflects on the way we express this love in our churches, in his article “Love isn’t something you do at polite arms’ length” published in the Baptist Times. You can read this by clicking here
This is challenging stuff. Fruit and love are the evidence that we are Jesus disciples. We need to take this seriously.
The next chapter in John Gospel starts with the words; “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away”. We all know of people who have fallen away. Staying connected to Jesus and to each other is essential if we and our friends don’t fall away. We need each other. We need to express love each other; serious sacrificial love like His.
If you would call yourself a Christian then we need to get connected and stay connected; to Jesus and each other. Jesus bought together a group of 12 people; within that group he had 3 closer friends. He knew the best way to grow his disciples. This was how the rough edges got knocked off. This was where they showed their true colours. This was where they were accepted and grew. We have opportunities for adults to get connected with others and develop relationships with others to grow each other’s faith. We call them Life groups. If you are not is a group then check out that area on the website.
We are also keen that our children and young people are given the opportunity to encounter Jesus. This gift day is about raising funds to employ someone to lead and develop the work with them. We want them to get connected and stay connected with Jesus so we need to invest in them. This gift day is a sacrificial expression of our love to demonstrate in a concrete way how much we love them and their families.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your small group)
1. Having read this Passage through which word or phrase resonates with you the most? Why do you think that is?
2. Think about the people that were significant in your spiritual journey. How would your life have been different if they had not been there for you? Have you had opportunities to be that for others?
3. Can you draw a diagram of how close/ distant you have felt to Jesus over the years. Is it a straight line or does it fluctuate? If it fluctuates what do you think the factors are that affect your “abiding”?
4. Jesus spent time in solitary places and in silence so that his ministry came out of abiding in the Father. What things could you put into place to help you deepen your relationship with God?
5. Jesus talks a lot about bearing fruit, what do you think that fruit is? Do you think that it is the same for everyone? Why?
6. How can we develop more authentic loving relationships in the church?
7. What are the steps that you will take as a result of this study?