A Faith that Relieves & Releases

A member of our church paid me a great compliment this week. She said, “I’m discovering a trend among MainStreeters I am getting to know. I keep hearing people say, ‘Well, Jeremy challenged us to do such and such and here’s what resulted.” She quickly qualified her statement with, “Don’t worry, its the good kind of challenge that is helping us grow.”
I was grateful for her qualification because there’s a fine line between a healthy challenge that enables us to let God’s Spirit move in our lives, and a burdensome challenge that prods us like a bully and weighs us down with guilt.

So, why am I so often challenging you all to step out of your comfort zone in faith? Because this is precisely what Jesus has been doing in my own life all these years. Following Jesus is not a walk in the park. He is constantly calling us out onto the waters of risky obedience, to let go of our obsessive desire for control, to let him lead us upstream, against the cultural currents into the Kingdom-kind-of-life. Jesus said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am” (Luke 9:23 MSG). 

As a shepherd of God’s precious flock at MainStreet, I’m always striving to be both the gentle hand nursing a wounded lamb back to health and the strong protector with staff prodding at-risk sheep away from the dangerous cliff ahead. Each Sunday sermon is trying to do both, and its hard to both shout urgent warnings and whisper lovingly all at the same time. I believe in the maxim: “Jesus went around comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable.” (Unfortunately, the pastor is not always sure who is who when she mounts the pulpit each Sunday!)

So, why am I so often challenging you with my sermons? Because the Scriptures clearly warn that “the time will come when people will not put up with sound teaching. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim 4:3). Beloved, there are many people seeking churches where the Sunday sermon only reassures, comforts, and makes us feel good about our lives. Like an itch that just wants to be scratched and relieved, we go to church desiring the sermon will reaffirm all our beliefs, approve our lifestyle choices, relieve us of any feelings of discontent or conviction, and just make us feel better about ourselves.

Yes, we need to be washed weekly with the word of God’s grace and forgiveness, and some need steady reminders that God really does love them just as they are. But many more of us need a weekly jolt out of our complacency, and fresh challenge to seek first God’s Kingdom while putting our own kingdoms aside. We need a gospel that both relieves us from burdens and then releases us into God’s service. Thankfully, we have a savior who both comforts us in the mud pits of our own making, and empowers us to go attack the gates of Hell in the power of the Spirit.

How have you been challenged by Jesus this past year? How has God used your church to drive you to greater dependence of God?
MainStreet is not into scratching itching ears. The gospel does not “suit our desires” but rather gradually transforms them so they align with God’s desires. We will keep challenging you as long as Jesus continues to challenge us all — always, I pray, with both grace and truth. Our savior takes our burdens away but also gives us a yoke and a cross to carry. But he walks with us each step of the way!

“Cast all your cares upon the Lord because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

“Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

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