If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Some of us spend the majority of our golf career on the same golf course and 18 holes. We have developed a comfort and a feeling of homeliness there. Other courses require a certain amount of imagination because we are forced to rely upon instincts rather than from our past experiences. We have gained confidence at our home course after having played there hundreds of times and can rely upon that history of performance. Many times, we can depend upon our course knowledge more than upon our own actual skill during a “home game.”
If we aren’t careful, we can have these same false spiritual reliances with the physical church and other people in our lives. Just as our heart is deceitful, our position within the church and comfort among its people can give us a false spiritual confidence. Is this confidence grounded upon a relationship with our Lord or upon a position or the style of a certain preacher? What happens when the preacher retires or if our “social click” in the congregation moves away and a new group enters? It is easy to feel comfort among people we have worshiped with for a lifetime. Moreover, we have an additional confidence if we hold a leadership position within the church. However, we must not base our spiritual condition on these relationships or titles. We must ask ourselves why our form of worship does not travel when we visit another church on vacation or even within our same community? Are we not worshipping the same God? Relate this feeling with the warning against a self-dependence in times of temptation. Peter and Judas both had supposedly secure positions and relationships with Jesus prior to their “testing.” However, both found themselves succumbing to temptations of varying degrees when their faith was tested. They had a false sense of confidence because of a misplaced dependence.
When our faith is grounded upon a position, a pastor or even a denomination, we become a branch that Jesus spoke about in John 15:6. We are spiritually nourished and strengthened only when we are the vine connected and attached to Jesus. He understands our temptations as He experienced them all during His life and ministry. Our worldly reliances are deceitful because they can be self-centered and apt to moving with the changing vices of our society.
Our faith is to always be found grounded and rested upon a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and nothing else. Our relationships with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are necessary for support and assistance in our development. However, in times of temptation and trial, it is only our faith in Jesus and guidance of the Holy Spirit which is able to resist and thwart further entry into temptation. It is helpful to constantly examine our spiritual dependencies. Do they wax or wane because of the presence or absence of certain people? Do we feel we have a greater confidence on our “home church”? Certainly, we all feel more comfortable around people with which we have a relationship. However, our spiritual strength is to be centered on Christ. We are reminded in Psalms 73:26 that, “my flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” This Christ-centered faith is never failing and will always give us the confidence necessary to prevent entry into temptation or a deceitful self-reliance.