Mustard Seed Games
The following ideas concerning the Bible Study questions are here to help you reflect.
They are by no means exhaustive or full answers. There may be different views expressed as you study; it is good to consider different opinions, and to weigh them by putting them alongside Scripture.
- Creation manifests the wonders of God. St Paul tells us that we may see God through His marvellous works in creation (Romans 1:19-20). The Psalmist tells us the same thing with regard to those who travel on the sea. They see first hand the ‘wonders of the deep’. There were particularly terrifying storms that swept the Mediterranean and these reminded the peoples of that region of the ‘primeval chaos’ before God’s hand was upon the waters (Genesis 1:2). Then God took control and created order out of the chaos. This was a wonderful example to the Israelites of the power of God to keep and save (Psalm 32:6).
- This question is a time for the sharing of personal experiences and reflections.
- Sometimes God brings storms into our lives for the express purpose of instructing us or correcting us (Hebrews 12:4-13). At other times He may allow trials if they are of use to Him. Every bad thing that happens to those who love God will be used for good (Romans 8:28).
- The people in the boat were terrified, they could see no way out and they faced the knowledge that they were probably going to die. They were being thrown about by the storm and were intensely miserable.
- Reflect and talk about your responses to trials that appear like a storm out of nowhere.
- They called out to God, but only after they had panicked!
- God heard their cries for help and stilled the storm, bringing them safely home to the harbour.
- Chances are that every believer will suffer a storm at some time in their lives. These can be used by God to show us His power to rescue and restore. Give examples from personal experience where God has safely brought you through trials and the things you have learnt from them. It is good to remember that the deliverance that comes as a response to prayer is sometimes a process as we learn all the lessons God has to teach us.
- The two accounts are similar in that the sailors panicked, Paul prayed for deliverance and God saved them though not the ship.
- The sailors obeyed Paul’s requests. Similarly if we are in a storm, we need to obey God as He leads us through.
- Paul knew that God could save the ship, so he prayed and believed the angel’s words. He continually encouraged the crew to trust in the Lord and keep going.
1.The false vine can be anything from money, pills, the world’s advice gurus, our own wisdom to the hairdresser we confide in each week. It is anything we rely on apart from God.
2. It is important that we understand what Jesus meant by ‘clean’ here. The disciples had been forgiven and the washing of their feet signified the continuing need for cleansing from sin. However, ‘clean’ also means here that they were fit for use by God. Plus it also means that they were obedient to God’s laws and not participating in any ‘unclean’ or worldly idolatry.
3. Abiding in Christ is likened to being a branch of a vine plant. Just as the sap flows from the core of the plant to the branches so that they may produce fruit, so also God’s Holy Spirit can flow into our lives to make them fruitful for God. Just as a branch which has been broken off cannot survive without the vine; neither can the believer live effectually for God without abiding in Christ.
4. Fruit here could be seen in two or more contexts. The disciples were to go and make disciples of all nations; we too are part of that commission. Here fruit is seen in terms of lives saved by the gospel. Fruit can also refer to becoming more and more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit produces His fruit in us as we obey His commandments (Galatians 5:22-23). Can you think of any other sorts of fruits? Then talk on a personal level about the sorts of fruits you can see in your life.
5, The consequences of abiding in the vine are: we will be pruned, our prayers will be answered and we will produce fruit for God.
6. Pruning removes any dead bits of a plant that cannot produce fruit. Likewise God will remove any parts of our life that are unproductive. Think personally about any areas of your life that you think may need pruning.
7. Obviously we can do something for God without abiding in Christ. There are many people who call themselves Christians and who work for the church, yet who do not have a personal relationship with God. I think that Jesus was referring to works which have His input. This is where He chooses the works for us, rather than us choosing by ourselves what we want to do for God. Then He empowers us to do these works and supernaturally produces results. The ‘nothing’ in ‘without Me you can do nothing’ may refer to God’s express will done in His prescribed way. Without Christ leading and empowering us, we do not know exactly what He would have us do and how we should do it. Or it may be a statement of the fact that with out Christ in this life we live in the nothingness of a living death.
8. We can prove we are abiding in Jesus by considering our lives. Do we see a change in ourselves over say, the past year? Are we becoming more like Christ? Are we more able to love God and others? Are we producing fruit for God? Are we being obedient to His commands? If we refuse to abide in Christ by not doing what He wants, then we are in danger of being thrown on the scrapheap (v.6). This is a vivid picture of what might be and will hopefully be enough to dissuade people from rejecting Christ?
9.We abide in God’s love by doing what He asks us to do.
10.Jesus wanted His followers to know they are loved, to understand that God will answer prayer if they abide in Him and to be full of His joy.
- God hates injustice. This is seen in minute terms, even in what we consider to be insignificant things like some weighing scales being set wrongly so the trader can make a little extra. This tells us that God does not miss the smallest injustice, and requires recompense for the wrongs done. However He delights in fairness and justice, when people are totally honest and for example, go at 30 mph even on an empty road when no one in looking! God sees!
- God expects us to be just and fair in the smallest things we do. It is a definite case of ‘what would Jesus do’ in every circumstance we find ourselves in. And we are to do as He would do!
- We can rarely know all the facts about any given situation. We make a value judgement about a person based on what we have seen. It is likely we are not totally correct in that judgement and we tend to label people unfairly. This then colours our view of them and we often pass this view onto others. This is like an unfair weight, as we are not judging that person correctly, and they are being short-changed. They may not be as bad as we think they are! These sorts of judgements are very dangerous as they can cause the person being judged untold misery and pain, plus making them appear bad in the eyes of other people.
- Share personal experiences.
- The essence of Matthew’s teaching is that God will judge us in the way in which we judge others. We think we see another’s sin clearly and should instruct them about the rights and wrongs of what they do, yet Jesus makes the point that every human being is a sinner and falls short of God’s standards. The particular sin we see in another is very little compared to the quantity of things we do wrong. Therefore we have no right to judge because we are all sinners. It is only when we truly know that we are forgiven sinners, who know what God requires of us, that we might be able to help a brother or sister who is in obvious sin.
- Correct judgements are made by firstly admitting that we cannot make them by ourselves as we are flawed and fallible. Next we go to God and ask Him what the correct judgement is. Often we find that in the Bible, but when it is non-obvious, it is best to wait until God plainly shows us what He would have us do. Remember that He promises to do that!
- Share personal experiences here.
- Forgiveness is essential in a world where we all have to tendency to make wrong judgements. We all need to realize that at sometime we have all been guilty of making these. And if someone has badly wronged us, we must remember that God will judge that person and vindicate us in the end, Therefore we must not seek our own revenge or hold onto bitterness in any form as it can take over our thinking and destroy us.