BSF Study Questions John Lesson 20, Day 3: John 15:1-8

Summary of passage: Jesus says he is the vine and God is the gardener. God cuts off those who don’t bear fruit and prunes the branches that do bear fruit. Believers will only bear fruit if they remain in Jesus. Apart from Jesus, you can do nothing. Ask whatever you wish and as long as you remain in Jesus, your wish will be granted. For God’s glory you will bear much fruit.

Questions:

6)  Personal Question. My answer: My family, my job, my purpose in life. I could be doing more in writing my novel and helping others. I am failing in gentleness and self-control. These are my hardest areas especially since my heart towards the world and others is very hard. I can be brash and rude. Loving others is hard for me as well. I do have joy and peace though. I could always be more patient and kind. I’m pretty faithful though to God and others.

7)  Yes. No. Jesus says apart from me he can do nothing. He can bear no fruit. If believers stray, then they are leading lives of quiet desperation where nothing is being accomplished that God wants. Even if you are doing good but your heart is empty of God you are not growing and those around you are not growing or seeing God’s light. You are withering and you are empty inside. Eventually you will shrivel instead of bloom. God wants us to bloom and bloom for Him!  You must remain connected to God always.

8)  Personal Question. My answer: Well, you are constantly being cleansed and molded and growing if you abide with Christ and stay connected.  I hope I’ve been more fruitful. One, to you all. Two, to my family. Three, in my job. Four, in my personal life. I hope I’ve grown more mature and been more fruitful to others. I still have much to do though.  We have been abundantly blessed through Him.

Conclusions: Love this lesson! It’s great to reflect on how we are living out God’s calling in our lives and if we think we’ve grown or been more fruitful or productive in doing so. And the fruits of the spirit is something we all need to constantly ask ourselves and check in with how we are doing. Are we more patient? Kind? Loving? At peace? Etc. Great reflection time!

End Notes: [Same from yesterday]  Most scholars believe Jesus is speaking to the disciples here as they are standing in the upper room, preparing to depart.  Jesus only has a few more hours to prepare his disciples for the tumult ahead. These are his closest friends and he is about to leave them. He knows they will face fierce opposition, hatred, beatings, and execution. So, he reaches for an allegory to explain himself again.

One, grapes. They were just drinking wine. He says they must remain connected to him in order to bear everlasting fruit. Two, dead branches. They have lost their connection somehow and now useless.

The vine. Jesus’ 7th and last I am statement.  This would have stood out to both believers and unbelievers since everyone knew God as the great “I am”.  Jesus is equivocating himself with God in all these statements.

The vine was a familiar symbol. God repeatedly used a vine as a symbol of His people in the Hebrew Scriptures (Psalm 80:8-9). Yet it was often used in a negative sense (as in Isaiah 5:1-2, 7 and Jeremiah 2:21). Just in the previous week Jesus publicly taught about Israel being like a vineyard in the Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44).

Vineyards were everywhere in ancient Israel. There was a large golden vine set as a prominent decoration on the front of the temple communicating the idea that Israel was God’s vine. And it was a recognized symbol of the Messiah.

Jesus is the true vine. We must be rooted in him in order to bear fruit. The branch and the vine picture complete dependence upon one another as well. The vine in the Old Testament pictured Israel and God as the tender of the vine.

There are two understandings for verse 2. Either the branches are taken away because they were never abiding the first place (judgment) or they are lifted up (another possible translation of the Greek) to be taken care of.

The word for prunes does mean cleansing as well in the Greek. The vine will maximize its fruit if it is pruned. God removes the dead wood from his church and disciplines the life of the believer so that it is directed into fruitful activity. Good fruit in the New Testament represents a godly life (Matthew 3:8; 7:16-20) or virtues of character (Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 5:9; Philippians 1:11).

The work of pruning has already begun in the disciples as they listen to the Word of God. There is an initial cleansing and then more (John 13:10). Through the Word, we are cleansed (Ephesians 5:26). It condemns sin, inspires holiness, and promotes growth.

Abiding or remaining is a two-way street. Choose to abide in Jesus and he will abide in you. You have to be connected to the vine, to Jesus, to bear fruit. Otherwise, it’s impossible.

Jesus repeats himself that he is the vine since so often they thought of Israel as the vine. The purpose of caring for the vine is to receive fruit. In this sense, we can say that fruit represents Christian character (such as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5). God’s work in us and our connection to Him should be evident by fruit, and perhaps by much fruit. Fruits contain seeds which are meant to be spread.

Jesus abides in us in an active way.

We can do nothing of real, eternal value without Jesus. You must remain connected to the master or you will fail.

Note you are thrown away, withered, and then burned–a slow progression of losing that connection with the Father. Fire is associated with punishment and eternal repercussions like the burning lake of sulphur in Revelation. It also was an Old Testament symbol of punishment.

Verse 6 Interpretations of the cast out branches:

1) Believes are the cast out branches who, though once true believers, end up in hell for lack of abiding and fruit. They were once disciples, but are now cast out

2) The cast out branches are ones who only appeared to be disciples, and who never really abided in Jesus, and therefore go to hell (like Judas)

3) The cast out branches are fruitless disciples who live wasted lives that are in effect burnt up, and this passage doesn’t refer to their eternal destiny (like Lot, Abraham’s nephew)

However, all agree that there are no true disciples who do not abide. The branch must remain connected to the vine or it has no life and is of no lasting good. Genuine salvation is evidenced by a life of fruitfulness.

Verse 7: Jesus connected abiding to the idea of faithfulness to His words (John 14:23-24) and answered prayer (John 14:13-14).

Spurgeon says “Prayer is the natural outgushing of a soul in communion with Jesus. It comes spontaneously from those who abide in Jesus.”

It is impossible to pray correctly apart from knowing and believing the teachings of Christ.

Abiding in Jesus means abiding in His words, and having His words live in the disciple.

Tenney explains: “The connection is maintained by obedience and prayer. To remain in Christ and to allow his words to remain in oneself means a conscious acceptance of the authority of his word and a constant contact with him by prayer.”

This faithful, abiding disciple should expect answered prayer as part of their relationship with Jesus. A failure to see prayer answered means something is not right in the disciple’s relationship. Perhaps something is not right in the abiding, and prayers are amiss and unanswered. Perhaps something is not right in the asking and there is no perception of what Jesus wants to do in and through His disciple.

Verse 8: We must remember bearing fruit is for God’s glory, not our own. When we achieve great things, it is God’s will and through God’s might not ours. We give credit to Him for we ourselves can do nothing.

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BSF Study Questions Revelation Lesson 20, Day 3: Revelation 15:5-8

Summary of passage:  Out of the temple in heaven came 7 angels with 7 plagues.  One of the 4 living creatures gave the angels 7 bowls containing the wrath of God.  God was in the temple and all were banned until the 7 plagues had been completed.

Questions:

6)  The tabernacle of the Testimony where 7 angels emerged wearing clean linen and gold sashes.  He saw one of the 4 living creatures give the 7 angels 7 golden bowls containing God’s wrath.  Then he saw smoke for God’s glory and power in the temple.

7)  Smoke accompanies God from His glory and power.  Exodus says God is a cloud from God’s glory and no one can enter the tabernacle when God is present.  2 Chronicles says the same thing:  the temple is filled with a cloud which is God’s glory and no one could enter.  Isaiah describes the temple as filled with smoke.  It also indicates God is about to act.

8 )  Personal Question.  My answer:  Been asked about comfort, help, and confidence so many times I’ve lost count. Basically because God is with me, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).  I live and breathe because of God and will continue to do so in heaven afterwards.  And for that I am unequivocally grateful.

Conclusions:  Very basic questions.  Passage is straight forward.

End Notes:  This is the heavenly temple referred to in Exodus 25:8-9 and Hebrews 8:9.  It was also the dwelling place of God during the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings (Exodus 40:34-5).  It’s name comes from the fact the tent contained the two tablets of the covenant law brought down from Mount Sinai (Exodus 32:15; 38:21; Deuteronomy 10:5).

The angels come from God so there is no doubt this is His judgment.  Their clothing reminds us that God’s judgment is pure and holy and righteous.

We see bowls of wrath in Isaiah 51:17, 22.

Conclusions to Revelation 15:  Even though God is patient He will not excuse sin.  Because He is holy and just He must judge sin.

BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 20, Day 4: 2 Corinthians 5

Summary of passage:  Paul still speaking:  If our earthly tent (human body) is destroyed, we have a building from God in heaven.  We groan because we wish to be in Heaven but God made us for this purpose (human form) and given us the Spirit as a guarantee of what is to come (Heaven).

Thus, we can be confident while in the body that we have a home in Heaven because of faith.  While we would prefer to be at home with the Lord, we must make it our goal while on Earth to please Him for we must all appear before the judgment of Christ for the good or bad things we have done while in the body.

We try to persuade men that Christ died for our sins, for EVERYONE, and we should no longer live for ourselves but for Him.

Thus, we must look at everyone from a heavenly standpoint since that is the goal and what matters in this world.  If you are in Christ you are a new creation since God reconciled us to Him through Christ.  We are thus Christ’s ambassadors for others to be reconciled to God and thus be righteous before God.

Now is the time for salvation and God’s grace.  Before it’s too late!

Questions:

11a)  The earthly tent is our body and the building is our home in Heaven.  As most of us know, a tent is not study and can easy fail, be broken and blow away, and in the end disappear altogether.  A house is much more sturdier, built to last a lifetime and in this metaphor for all of eternity.  We groan and complain while in the tent (the body), yearning for Heaven (the dwelling or home) when we need to remember God made us for this/His purpose.

b)  Personal Question.  My answer:  No.  I can’t say this.  I don’t feel like I’ve fulfilled God’s purpose for my life yet and it drives me every day.  Plus, selfishly, I’m not ready to leave my kiddos.  They need me right now and I want to be there as long as possible.

I can say I do make it my goal to please Him.  Admittedly, I fail.  But every day is new and I get to start over and try again and little by little I think I’m getting closer and closer to a God-centered life.

12a)  Reconcile according to Webster’s Dictionary means, “to restore to friendship or harmony; to make consistent or congruous; to cause to submit to or accept something unpleasant.”

b)  He has sent Christ to die for our sins; to remove our sins, cleanse us, so that we may be with God.  He has made us a new creation through the giving of the Holy Spirit.  We are now righteous before God.

c)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Yes.

Conclusions:  What I got out of this passage is the importance of living by faith (verse 7) since we are in the body and away from the Lord.  This is what prevents most people from not accepting Jesus Christ especially in today’s society.  Everyone is so negative and wary of scams that having faith to believe in the unseen is hard.  But it’s what sets religious people apart from others.  We can be confident of our home in Heaven and our righteousness before God because of our faith.

Paul calls us to give something to others because God has given us everything!  Live for Christ, serve others, remember our lives will be judged by Christ, and tell as many others as possible about Him!

BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 20, Day 4 Isaiah 45:1-13

Summary of passage:  The Lord says to Cyrus he will subdue nations for him, strip kings of their armor, open doors and gates, level the mountains, and give him treasures and riches so that Cyrus will know He is God.  God does this for Jacob’s sake (His people).  Cyrus will be the example for others so that they may know He is the only God; He alone brings prosperity and creates disasters; He alone forms the light and dark.  He gives righteousness.  God warns those who quarrel with Him and questions why they have been formed the way they were.  God created us and it is He who will command Cyrus to rebuild His city and free His exiles.

Questions:

8a)  Israel, God’s people.  Probably complaints about their punishment of exile to Babylon and being pillaged by them.  What do all children quarrel about?

b)  Basically, how dare the created challenge the Creator.  We are nothing to talk back to God.  God as the Creator has the right to do whatever He wants to the created for noble purposes and the common good.

c)  I think it’s acceptable to question God in everything.  Why? is a fair question.  You cross the line when you question God’s authority, competence, power–His character in essence.

9)  Personal Question.  My answer:  Moving, my purpose, pain in my body.  Through thanksgiving, prayer, and petition I will have peace.  He is faithful and will put me where He wants me and will provide what I need to accomplish His purpose.

Conclusions:  Easy day since it was the same passage as yesterday so I was left yearning for more.

I would love to know your thoughts on question 8c.  Do you question God?

BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 20, Day 2 Isaiah 44:24-28

Summary of passage:  The Lord reminds His people once again: He is the one who made them, who made all things including the heavens and the earth.  He makes fools of false prophets and diviners and overthrows the learning of the wise.  He fulfills the predictions of His messengers.  He tells the people Jerusalem shall be inhabited again and the towns and the temple of Jerusalem will be re-built and He will use Cyrus to accomplish these tasks.

Questions:

3a)  This is what the Lord says:  44:24, 45:1, 11, 14, 18  I am the Lord and there is no other:  45:5, 6, 18, 22

When God speaks I’d better listen.  He is the only one I should listen to.  No other is important.  I should believe all He says and have full confidence in Him.

b)  Past–He has made all things, stretched out the Heavens, spread out the earth, my redeemer, formed you in the womb.  Present–He foils the signs of the false prophets, makes fools of diviners, overthrows learning of the wise, and turns it into nonsense, fulfills the words of his servants and His predictions.  Future–Jerusalem will be inhabited, towns of Judah shall be re-built, dries up water, uses Cyrus, rebuilds the temple

4a)  Lord moved Cyrus’s heart to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem and allowed God’s people to return to Judah and commanded other nations to help them.  God gave Cyrus the kingdoms of the earth.  Cyrus returned the stolen treasures of the temple, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away.  Completely accurate.

b)  God has complete control over human history.  He can use anybody to accomplish His work.  We belong to God whether or not we believe or know it.  Current events are happening for God’s purpose unknown to us.

Conclusions:  Overarching theme:  God is in control.  He speaks; it happens.

Now, if I could only remember this, I’d worry a lot less and I’d experience that elusive peace of God that guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7