A follower of Jesus becomes more dependent on Him as the Holy Spirit aligns our loves and longings to what God desires and wants. As we die to self and find life in Christ, we steadily become more like Him.
What does it mean to be dependent on and find life in Jesus? When we depend on Jesus we acknowledge that He is our life and we submit everything—finances, parenting, work, relationships, our circumstances—to Him. Jesus Himself gives us a beautiful picture of submission to His Father. From Paul Miller’s A Praying Life, we are reminded that: “Jesus is, without question, the most dependent human being who ever lived. Because he can’t do life on his own, he prays. And he prays. And he prays…When Jesus tells us that ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5), he is inviting us into his life of a living dependence on his heavenly Father.”
Growing in maturity as a Christian is learning how to become more dependent on Jesus. In theological terms, we call this sanctification. It is the Holy Spirit teaching us to die to self and learning to rely on Jesus or as Michael Horton puts it: "the Spirit is the guide and the Son is the destination." The byproduct of learning to depend on Jesus is that we start to become more like Him. The video teaching below highlights our struggle with depending on Jesus and how we try to achieve our righteousness apart from him. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus makes us righteous apart from anything we do. Jesus is not only the One who justifies us but is also the One in charge of our sanctification.
Foundational verses provide the biblical basis for each character trait. Read through these verses together as a group when you first begin exploring this trait. You might also consider memorizing one of the verses together.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 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 15:4-5
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”—Ephesians 3:16-19
“What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.”—1 Corinthians 2:12-13
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”—Proverbs 3:5-6
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”—Galatians 2:20
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” –Colossians 2:6-7
On Your Own
- Read this post from Scott Sauls and be encouraged by the work of the Holy Spirit as you interact with the Bible and listen for how God is speaking into your life.
- Read these verses and ask the Holy Spirit to help you treasure Christ and His love for you: Isaiah 53:4-6, Ephesians 1:3-6, Ephesians 3:16-19, Titus 3:4-7, 1 John 4:9-10
- Consider engaging regularly in this practice to grow your dependence on Jesus: “Our definition of the good news is that we are so sinful and flawed that we deserve eternal punishment but that we are more loved and welcomed than we could ever hope. Think back over your day and try to identify where this gospel truth intersected with your life. Were you consistently aware that what you deserve has been replaced by what Christ has given? Were you aware of and thankful for this identity transfer?” (Elyse Fitzpatrick, Because He Loves Me, p. 62)
- Use the YouVersion Bible app to stay connected in a consistent way with the Bible. The app has many different reading plans and short devotionals designed to help you consistently read and engage with Scripture. We recommend this devotional.
With Your Small Group
- Use one small group meeting to discuss this lesson as a starting point. The lesson is used in conjunction with James Madsen’s video on the cross chart (scroll up to watch the video).
- Book study recommendations:
Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick. This book is filled with practical encouragement for resting on God’s love for you in Christ. There are questions at the end of each chapter to challenge you to make the content of the book real in your life.
Saying Yes to God: How to Keep in Step with the Spirit by Tim Geoffrion, CPCer and president of Faith, Hope, and Love Global Ministries. This book offers hope to all those who earnestly want to know God better and to live Christ-centered, Spirit-led lives. Work through this book together using discussion questions written by Tim.
3. Read this blog together and be encouraged to shift your gaze to Jesus rather your circumstances. Here are some questions to think about as you process this article together:
- What is the main truth?
- Why is this significant for us personally?
- How does the Lord want us to respond practically?
Use these questions before, during and after working through the resources to help your group have conversations about how you’re growing together in this disciple character trait:
- In your small group, how do you help each other apply the gospel to your lives? How can you bring the gospel into your casual conversations?
- What kind of care needs to be given to help each person in your small group apply the gospel to their whole lives, rather than just the “spiritual” areas?
- Have each group member respond to this question personally: If you feel dependent on Jesus, how does that play out in your daily life?
As you are thinking about these questions, here’s an example of what dependence on Jesus might look like. Elyse Fitzpatrick, the author of Because He Loves Me, offers this encouragement: “When it seems as though I’ve wasted an afternoon waiting for a repairman, I can temper my response in light of heavenly realities: Christ is overwhelmingly patient with me. . . The irresponsibility of this repairman is nothing in contrast to mine, and yet I’ve been chosen and loved by God, so I can be merciful and patient with others. Responding graciously to this repairman is not simply a decision of my will, but it is also a recognition of Jesus’ gracious response to me.” Our response to an ordinary situation can flow out of either our human instincts or out of our decision to depend on Jesus and the grace He provides in the everyday stuff of life.