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Talk

Share an experience when you felt loved. What happened, and how did that experience encourage you?

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I went through a really bad breakup right before I started college. After a few months of depressed introspection, my hunger for relationships returned. I went through a period where I tried to keep myself feeling good, worthwhile, by always dating someone. First I dated Sarah…that relationship ended painfully after a year. Then I dated Kathy…we broke up after a few months. Next came Cheryl...I had to be dating someone at all times. And I was always starting a new relationship as soon as the old one ended. Sometimes, in very awkward ways, the beginning of a new relationship overlapped with the ending of the old one, like when I started dating Kathy before I had actually broken up with Sarah. (Yeah, not my finest moment.)

If I didn't have someone to go out with, I knew I would be unhappy, that I would have to face what I was feeling. I didn't want to do that. So when I wasn’t with a girlfriend, I filled my time with other distractions like TV shows and music (my headphones may as well have been surgically attached to my ears). I escaped into the parties at my frat house too.

But the harder I tried to fill the emptiness with dating, sex and the emotional and physical connections that those things provide, the deeper the emotional hole I dug myself.

I guess I was only trying to feel loved. But it wasn’t working. I wasn’t feeling loved by people. And I certainly wasn’t feeling loved by God.

Talk

What is something that keeps you from feeling loved by God?

Context

Love means different things to different people. This study looks at how Jesus talked about love, God’s love in particular. At this point in the book of John, the disciples had been traveling and ministering with Jesus for a long time. Jesus was mere days away from dying on the cross, and he knew it. So he prepared the disciples for his death by providing them with comforting words about his return and instructions on how to proceed in life and ministry after his departure.

Read

Take turns reading verses from John 15:9-17.

Talk

  1. How does Jesus define love? How does he demonstrate love?
  2. How did Jesus know God loved him?
  3. Why was it important for Jesus to talk about his love?
  4. What is the key to remaining in Jesus’ love?
  5. In these verses, what is the relationship between obedience, love, and joy?
  6. Why does Jesus identify his disciples as friends, not servants? How are they different?
  7. According to verses 16 and 17, what additional responses to his love is Jesus expecting from his followers?

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One summer during college, my friend Dan invited me to go to Ocean City, New Jersey for a week of fun and sun on the beach. What I didn't know was that each evening there would be a speaker who would urge us to commit our lives to God. Midweek, the president of the sponsoring organization spoke and his challenge to come home to God moved me deeply.

I will never forget the inner struggle I felt that night. My highly educated family was sometimes quite hostile toward simple faith. I knew if I returned home to my family after the trip as a Christian believer, I would not get a warm reception. I also knew there were things in my life that would have to change. But at 3:00 a.m., I came to the end of my rope and met God mano a mano under the boardwalk along the Jersey shore. My life has never been the same.

The next afternoon, with about 200 other people hanging out on the beach, my group leader was talking about how to begin a relationship with God. In the middle of his presentation, he crooked his finger and beckoned me over. I didn't want to go, but when I got to where he was standing, he thrust a microphone in my hand and strongly urged me to tell what God had just done in my life. Haltingly, even incoherently, I began to speak. After a few minutes, our leader invited all who decided to become a Christ follower that week to join him in the surf. He baptized 40 of us that afternoon amid the crashing waves.

What a beginning! I felt God's presence deeply. I experienced God's love through friends like Dan who didn't quit on me, even when I had tried to quit on him. And when I shared what God had done in my life, even though I did so incoherently and reluctantly, I then felt alive, full of God, loved, and like I could have an impact on my world.

Affirmations

Take turns reading aloud each way you can know God loves you, taking 5-10 seconds of reflective silence between each affirmation.

  1. I know God loves me because he tells me he loves me.
  2. I know God loves me because his Son laid down his life on the cross for me.
  3. I know God loves me because he calls me his friend.
  4. I know God loves me because Jesus shares with me what God shares with him.
  5. I know God loves me because he chose me.
  6. I know God loves me because he appointed me to go and bear fruit that will last.
  7. I know God loves me because he promises to listen to me when I ask in his name.
  8. I know God loves me because I can love and be loved by other Christians.

Reflecting on these affirmations, have you personally experienced God’s love in any of these ways? Are there any of the affirmations in particular where you need to experience God’s love?

Watch

  1. How do you respond to Trevor's vision?
  2. How could you be part of God’s movement to change the world by paying forward the love of Jesus?
  3. Before we meet again, how can you spread God’s love to one person with a significant act of kindness or help?

Bible Study

Read John 15:1-17 and record your answers to the questions below.

  1. What stands out to you about this passage?
  2. What do you think it means to abide in Christ?
  3. How might you abide in Christ?
  4. How do you think abiding in Christ relates to being able to love others?

Affirmations

Read each of these affirmations aloud to yourself every day this week. Take about 10 seconds of reflective silence between each one.

  1. God has shown he loves me by telling me he loves me.
  2. God has shown he loves me by making his home in me and becoming my intimate friend.
  3. God has shown he loves me by being there for me all the time.
  4. God has shown he loves me through the other Christians he put in my life.
  5. God has shown he loves me by laying his life down for me.
  6. God has shown he loves me by sharing with me what God the Father shared with Jesus.
  7. God has shown he loves me by giving me a meaningful purpose in the world.
  8. God has shown he loves me by listening to me.
  9. God has shown he loves me by doing whatever I ask that would increase my service and impact in the world.
  10. God has shown he loves me by commanding me to love others and multiplying the impact of his love in the world.

Reminder

What next step can you take to follow through on the act of kindness or love you committed to perform this week?

Video

The cross tells you how high, how wide, how long and how deep is the Father’s love for you. This engaging sermon by Pastor Matt Brown of Sandals Church in California highlights seven ways you can know and experience that love.

Be reminded of who God has made you to be. Your identity is in him and he loves you as you!

Books

God longs to tell you how much he loves you, and he’s just a breath away if you seek him. This book contains very practical advice about how to know God personally and intimately.

In our self-reliant era, surrendering to an external power or authority can seem threatening. Not so, especially when the One to whom we surrender is the epitome of goodness and love. Through Scripture and reflection on the Christian tradition, Benner shows how God bids us to trust fully in his perfect love.

Put your ideas about God to the test to see if they match up with what Jesus himself reveals about God in Scripture. Smith leads you through specific activities aimed at making these new narratives real in your body and soul as well as your mind. Supplemental material and podcasts available here.

Spend time in the lavish love of your Father. Look along with Nouwen at a reproduction of Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal Son and be challenged to experience God’s love.

Learn to be free to enjoy Christ's love while no longer basing your self-worth on your accomplishments or other people’s opinions of you.

Audio

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle preaches on what it means to abide in Christ from John 15:1-17.